So often, I find this Top Ten list the easiest to write. There’s frequently a book or two above and beyond all others and nothing comes close. This year was a little harder than usual, with so many books that were very good but nothing that made me stop and catch my breath and think, “THIS.”
The list is a mixture of English-language and Japanese this year, which is always nice. ^_^ Without further ado, here is the Okazu 2014 Top Ten Yuri Manga List!
This collection from Team Pärvelö had so many qualities that I liked. Variety in art, and story and setting – protagonists of color in a queer manga anthology, how wonderful is that? (Finland seems especially good at diversity in representation.) Refreshing, delightful, fun, smart. Lepakkoluola is the kind of thing that gives me hope for the future of Yuri. I know Hanna-Pirita’s gonna have a heart attack when she reads this, but Team Pärvelö – you did good. Your collection is #10 on this years’ list. ^_^ Please keep drawing and writing!
Lepakkoluola is available by direct purchase from Team Pärvelö.
9. Gakuen Polizi
I wasn’t really sure that this was even a Yuri series after the first volume, but I liked the energy, and the characters and the use of the setting to tell some real, not always all that pleasant, stories about girls’ lives. And then it ended up being Yuri after all. And Morinaga Milk was once again able to draw girl cops. ^_^
8. Rock It, GiRL!
Tanaka Minoru’s Rock It, GiRL! was different. The art was intentionally ugly, the characters, too, and the story never went where one might expect. And in the end, it was a loopy, quirky, and kind of charming look at nothing anyone of us would ever see. This isn’t cute idols or meteoric rise to fame – this was a story about blood and guts and singing your heart out and hoping like hell someone might listen, then being told you’re not good enough. I liked it precisely because it wasn’t the same story we’d seen time and time again.
7. Anoko ni Kiss to Shirayuri wo
This story was a bit of a dark horse this year. I figured it was a one-shot, lame Maria-sama ga Miteru clone, with no real meaning, but I was dead wrong. Not only was it delightful, it continues!
I’m always pleased when I’m this wrong about a series. ^_^ If I’m stuck reading about school rivals, it might as well be this pleasant.
Amano Shunita’s Philosophia is, as I mentioned in my review, suited to adult tastes. It’s not going to be for people looking for sweet, cute or happy. There’s a decidedly bitter taste to the story, one that lingers long after the pages have been shut. I’m thrilled to pieces to have the whole collection now and savor that taste. In a world that so often is filled with fluffy, sugary confections, stories like this stand out as special.
Philosophia from Ichijinsha, available on Amazon JP.
I’ve raved about Takemiya Jin’s work a million times. I love, love, love her characterization, and she captures shocked realization in a way that I adore. What really sets this volume of her manga apart, is her unrestricted and unrepentant embrace of not only lesbian culture, but also otaku culture. This book is about us, with our fetishes, and our obsessions, our lusts and loves. Reading game is like looking into a disturbingly accurate funhouse mirror at ourselves, the otaku-rezu who read (and create and write and talk about) Yuri. ^_^;
game from Ichijinsha, available on Amazon JP.
4. Kanojo to Camera to Kanojo no Kisetsu
From volume to volume I had no expectations for this series. I never knew where it might take me. And right to the very end, I had no idea whether it was going to string me along and dump me, or lift me up. As an emotional roller coaster, it was pure brilliance. The art, the story telling and the tension all combined to make this series one of my favorite manga of the year.
Year after year, I find myself juggling and re-juggling the top three entries. Why? Because I ask myself, am I favoring art over story, skill over entertainment? I never know until the thing is actually done how it will come out.
Here are my top three manga for 2014.
3. Whispered Words
Whispered Words marks two major developments in English-language Yuri manga. A new publisher, One Peace Books, is setting up shop on the block and a major Yuri series that I didn’t think we’d ever manage to get over here is here! Sasamekikoto explores every possible Yuri trope all at once and manages to be sad and moving and funny and wonderful. And now we have it. I can guarantee that unless something *amazing* comes out in 2015, Volume 3 will be my top slot next year. ^_^ The ending is just that good.
In the mean time, we have Volume 1 and 2 and every possible tear has been wrung out of us. For all the Yuri all at once, Whispered Words makes my top three for 2014.
2. Couleur de Bijoux d’Amour
I’m unabashedly besotted with Nishi UKO’s artistic sensibility. Her people are people – okay, ridiculously beautiful people, but people, nonetheless. They can be petty, snarky, obsessed, in good moods and bad, hungry, lonely, and she communicates these emotions with simple, short stories, exquisite art and a mature aesthetic that is rarely found in manga, much less Yuri.
For all these reasons, it was a given that Couleur de Bijoux d’Amour would make my top three for 2014.
Couleur de Bijoux d’Amour from Hakusensha, available on Amazon JP.
And here we are, at last. After the dozens, maybe hundreds, of manga I read this year, my Top Yuri Manga for 2014 is….
1. Obento to Kase-san
There’s a load of expectations wrapped up the idea of “Yuri” right now. It will be a girls school story, it will be a coming of age story, about falling in love and lust. And I, like so many long-time Yuri fans, get a little bored with the whole thing. But every once in a while, a series comes along that is a cool, refreshing breeze, and makes one remember that even the tritest plots can be done well. “Kase-san” was that series.
Sure, it’s the same old story, but without being creepy or trite, without featureless moe faces, or featureless Yuri romance. Kase and Yamada’s romance is adorable and we can watch it develop without feeling like sick voyeurs, more like the adults we are, merely happy to see the children so happy together.
For being so very, very stereotypically “Yuri” and still managing to be delightful, Takasaki Hiromi’s Obento to Kase-san is the best Yuri manga of the 2014.
Obento to Kase-san, from Shinsokan, available on Amazon JP.
Yuri has come so far in the last 12 years. When I first began the Top Ten Lists in 2004, I scrambled every year for good, much less current, Yuri series. Yuri Shimai was just about a year old and we were planning a Yuricon in Tokyo event. Now Comic Yuri Hime is the last magazine standing and who knows how long that will last? But in the mean time, we’ve got a lot of very good Yuri to read, and the genre we love has survived – and thrived – despite everything. Here’s to a great 2015 for Yuri manga!