Yuri can describe any anime or manga series (or other derivative media, i.e., fan fiction, film, etc.) that shows intense emotional connection, romantic love or physical desire between women. Yuri is not a genre confined by the gender or age of the audience, but by the *perception* of the audience. In short, Yuri is any story with lesbian themes.
This is intentionally broad to allow fans’ perspective take the driver’s seat. In essence – if you (or I, or anyone else) think it’s Yuri, it is.
Here on Okazu, we have a slightly less broad concept around how I, personally identify Yuri vs something that I might identify as LGBTQ.
“Yuri is lesbian content without lesbian identity”
As I see it, once the character (or the characters around them) see the character as lesbian, that’s a door that can’t be closed. Any story I write about a woman who identifies her romantic partner as “her wife” is, by it’s nature, going to signify them as lesbian because, as we’ve learned in the last decade marriage is most definitely a political act for a same-sex couple. It’s political because, even if the country where it takes place doesn’t recognize the partnership, it forces everyone around the couple to related to them as a couple.
If I tell you I have a housemate, you may decide on our relationship to fit your level of comfort. When I say I have a wife, I have defined that relationship for you and now you must figure out how to deal with it.
All of which is to say that while Collectors, Volume 1 was a terrific Yuri manga, Collectors, Volume 2 (コレクターズ) is a terrific LGBTQ manga. In my review of Volume 1, I praised the series being grounded in reality, and especially in the reality of a relationship. As I said, “Life. What could be funnier, more poignant or more interesting?” In Volume 2, we get something more…something that I knew I was missing, but didn’t want to be demanding and ask for. We get lesbian identity.
Typical of creator Nishi UKO, the identity issue is integrated seamlessly into the narrative. No awkward Marvel-esque “She likes girls” banners, just a co-worker who casually notes that Shinobu and Takako are a couple, then talks away an acquaintance’s immature perspective on that fact. So Shinobu is out to at least this coworker or he’s smart enough to see the obvious.
But what actually lifts this book out of Yuri into LGBTQ (oh, nice hierarchical slam there Erica. Sheesh, elitist much?) territory is the entirety of the final part of the book. As Shinobu and Takako consider, not for the first time, moving in together, they have a fight. Not a snarky, bickery fight, but a real fight. Takako is insensitive, Shinobu is rude, Takako throws the contents of her glass at Shinobu and leaves, then leaves town to go to her family’s home. I cannot for the life of me remember any other chapter of any Yuri manga that so accurately portrayed a real fight between a couple, and I’m hard pressed to come up with too many other manga that have done so. (And now that I think about it, all of them are Josei.)
Takako disrupts her younger brother, Takeyuki’s, life by sticking around. He’s been clued in for a while that she has a lover, but has no idea who it is. When he sees the number calling her over and over on her phone, he calls back, surprised to find that it’s his sister’s friend Shinobu. He tells Shinobu he thinks his sister has had a fight with her lover. Shinobu says she’s on the way. The scenes of Shinobu taking the late train are some of the best panels I’ve ever seen in manga.
When Shinobu arrives, Takako comes outside to speak with her and, at last, the penny drops for Takeyuki. Although Takako has never said anything, Take and Dad take in the fight, the body language and the whole thing becomes clear. While they do not say, “I am a lesbian” at all during this, there is recognition of them as a couple by Takako’s father and brother and that, specifically, sets this manga apart.
This is followed by a touching ending. The final words of the series are “Let’s live together” with furigana that says it louder for the folks in the back -“Let’s get married.” ^_^
A magnificent end to one of the most deeply satisfying manga about adult women ever, by one of my favorite artists.
I look forward to whatever Nishi UKO-sensei has planned next, but for now, I’ll just bask in the glow of my choice for top manga of 2016 for all the right reasons.
Art – 10
Story – 10
Characters – 10
Yuri – 10
Service – 1
Overall – 10
Collectors was perfect. Thank you.