Archive for the Now This Is Only My Opinion Category


2017 Yuri Gift Guide, Part 2: Anime

December 10th, 2017

Part 1 of this year’s Gift Guide was all manga and comics, so it seems sensible that we take a few minutes to take a look at some anime that has come out this year in sets so you can populate your gimme lists with items that you can’t afford for yourself. ^_^

Title:  Sailor Moon S, Part 1 and Sailor Moon S, Part 2

What It’s About: Sailor-suited warriors for love and justice, the Pretty Guardians, take on invaders from Tau Ceti in order to save the world, but find themselves embroiled in a battle with another team of Senshi from the Outer Solar System as well. Junior racer Tenoh Haruka and and concert violinist Kaioh Michiru battle their fate.

Who Will Like It: Haruka x Michiru fans, fans of the original voice actresses, since they are all stellar here. Fans of Sailor Moon, because, let’s face it….

Beware: …it’s a 20-year old anime with  mediocre animation, repeated footage, Monsters of the Day and other cost-saving shortcuts.

 

Title:  Sailor Moon Crystal ,Season 3

What It’s About: Sailor-suited warriors for love and justice, the Pretty Guardians, take on invaders from Tau Ceti in order to save the world, but find themselves embroiled in a battle with another team of Senshi from the Outer Solar System as well.

Who Will Like It:  Fans of the Sailor Moon manga, new fans of the series.

Beware: Faster paced than the original anime, it loses important character development. But the animation has settled down and the new voice actresses do a great job. Haruka and Michiru get their manga moments as a couple which are different than the original anime, but satisfying.

 

Title:  Revolutionary Girl Utena: Complete Series

What It’s About: Having been saved as a child by a prince, Tenjou Utena wants to become a prince herself. Caught up in the Student Council duels, she finds that she is “engaged” to the Rose Bride and must, after all, become a prince. Where it all leads and how she gets there makes for a surreal and magnificent series.

Who Will Like It:  Fans of the surreal, fantasy fans, magical girl genre fans who don’t mind some darkness in their magic.

Beware: Sexual abuse, incest, violence and whole lotta unexplained symbolism.

 

Sets to look for in 2018:

Title:  Aria The Animation Collection

After a massively successful Kickstarter, all of the Aria series will be dubbed and released on Blu-ray.  Look for pre-orders announcements in 2018.

What It’s About: Akari trains to be a gondolier in New Venice. Lots of travelogue and scenery porn while she befriends people around town and learns their stories.

Who Will Like It: People who want to just calm the fuck down and look at pretty scenery, people who like pretty girls.

Beware: Nothing happens. Paddling around is the point. (And the end of the series is infuriating, IMHO.)

 

Title: Konohana Kitan

Not licensed yet, but I bet it will be.

What It’s About:  Fox girls working at an otherworld Inn help clients reach their destination, while boecming closer to one another.

Who Will Like It: Moe fans, animal-eared girls fans, fans of cute, sweet, schmaltzy stories. 

Beware: It’s got a pile of fanservice, including constant bathing, with occasional creepy sexual stuff.

 

Title: Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

 

Not licensed yet, either, but I expect it to be.

What It’s About: Boring career woman Kobayashi is befriended by a dragon who bring much-needed chaos into her life.

Who Will Like It: Fans of 4-koma comic strip-type humor and “wackiness ensues.”

Beware: Kobayashi is exceptionally dull.

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2017 Yuri Gift Guide, Part 1: Manga

December 5th, 2017

Holy cow, it’s already December and gift giving and getting time! It has never been easier to get good Yuri, so for once you can hand your relatives this list, smile, sit back and get yourself a pile of great Yuri.  Or pore over it looking for just the right gift for yourself, your Yuri-loving friends or relative. Some of these items are still to be released, but most will have links, so you can at least order them right now. There’s just *so* much (and this isn’t everything out in English, just some popular items) that I’m splitting the list into two. Today we’re just doing manga and comics. For all the manga available in English, check out English Yuri Manga on the Yuricon Store!

 

Title:  Bloom Into You by Nio Nakatani

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4| Volume 5 | ongoing

What It’s About: This school life drama follows Yuu, a girl who does not have romantic feelings for anyone and Touko, the President of the Student Council, who says she feels the same. But, then Touko develops an romantic interest in Yuu. Yuu admires Touko but, beyond that, is not sure of her feelings. 

Who Will Like It: People a little tired of simple girl-meets-girl romance, or who want a little (or more than a little) nuance or difficulty in their schoolgirl Yuri. 

Beware: Yuu is presented as aromantic, but the premise is a romance. Expect Yuu to cave.

 

 

Title: Hana and Hina Afterschool by Milk Morinaga 

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3

What It’s About:  Hana meets Hina while working at a part time job after school. They become friends and start working together. They start to think of each other as more than just friends. ^_^

Who Will Like It: Milk Morinaga Fans, folks who like their Yuri cute, sweet, without serious crisis and/or with a tenuous connection to reality.

Beware: Don’t expect anything deep here. Morinaga’s specialty is the space between recognizing feelings and confessing them and this is firmly in that space.

 

 

Title: Kase-san Series by Hiromi Takashima

Kase-san and Morning Glories | Kase-san and Bento |Kase-san and Shortcake

What It’s About:  A breathtakingly sweet romance series between Yamada, an average girl who loves flowers and the star of the school track club, Kase.

Who Will Like It: People looking for something a little more realistic than Morinaga’s work. Yuri fans not completely jaded from years of schoolgirl romance.

Beware: Still schoolgirls in love. Does not shy away from fanservice, may not be visually appropriate for the young readers who could use it the most.

 

 

Title: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata

1 volume

What It’s About: This manga was serialized on Pixiv, as Nagata details her struggles with depression, an eating disorder and finding friends and companionship as a lesbian.

 My Solo Exchange Diary by Kabi Nagata

1 volume

What It’s About: Kabi Nagata is back with a sequel to her blockbuster, continuing the story of her trials and travails, as she pieces her life together.

Who Will Like It: People craving representation of life with depression and/or adult life issues.

Beware: Despite flashes of self-deprecating humor, this is not a light-hearted series. It is, however, a honest look at chronic, debilitating depression.

 

 

Title: Claudine! by Riyoko Ikeda

1 volume

What It’s About: Claudine is assigned female, but desires male privilege and to be able to love women freely. Claudine struggles with sexuality and gender in this emotional classic Yuri by the creator or Rose of Versailles.

Who Will Like It:  Fans of Rose of Versailles, Dear Brother and other Ikeda masterworks. This story can read as trans or butch lesbian (the lack of specificity can be attributed to the creator having written it 40 years ago.) Classic Yuri fans will definitely want to get it.

Beware: This is not going to end well.

 

 

Title: Citrus by Saburouta

Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6 | Volume 7 | ongoing

What It’s About: Mei and Yuzu are sisters by marriage and despite the fact that both have deep, unresolved emotional issues, they are passionately attracted to one another. 

Who Will Like It: People who enjoy melodrama and soap operas, and watching train wreck stories full of damaged people.

Beware: It’s full of manipulative behavior, some violence and no one ever looks happy about anything.  Ever.

 

 

Title:  After Hours by Yuhta Nishio

Volume 1 | Volume 2 

What It’s About:  Emi and Kei meet at a nightclub, and spend the night together. Kei is a DJ and draws Emi into her production team, as she sets up as rave. An adult relationship story (although the art is a bit infantilizing.)

Who Will Like It: Adults looking for adult characters whose emotional lives are not stuck in high school…and audiophiles. People looking for a story where the physical relationship isn’t service-y or immature.

Beware: If you don’t like moe art, the character designs could be off-putting. It’s not really a romance, but you will learn a lot about sound equipment.

 

 

Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box SetTitle:  Revolutionary Girl Utena Manga Box Set by Chiho Saito and Be-papas

2 volume set

What It’s About:  Every year Utena receives a mysterious postcard. This year, the postcard leads her to Ohtori Academy to look for the prince who saved her as a child. Instead she’s put in the position becoming a prince to the Rose Bride. This is the high-quality treatment that this fantasy series deserves.

Who Will Like It: Fans of the surreal, fantasy fans and people who like mind fuckery.

Beware: There is serious sexual manipulation, incest, and sexual abuse.

 

 

Title: Sweet Blue Flowers by Takako Shimura

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 | Volume 4

What It’s About:  Fumi hasn’t seen Akiko in years, but her friend is back in town and once again they are thick as thieves. When Fumi starts dating an upperclassman at her all-girl’s school, she tells her best friend and gains strength. Shimura  drew on classic Yuri tropes for this “S”-style school romance, but with a deft touch and compelling characters, drags the whole genre into the 21st century. 

Beware: The ending and beginning are trope-y, with loads of tiresome creepiness at the beginning. The middle is amazing and worth it.

 

 

Title: Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl by Canno

Volume 1 | Volume 2| Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | ongoing

What It’s About:  This ongoing school serial begins with two girls, Yurine Kurozawa and Ayaka Shiramine, who could not be more opposite if they tried, and the relationship that one of them wants desperately to deny.  Later volumes follow other couples at the same school as well as circling back to Ayaka and Yurine.

Who Will Like It: People who’ve been reading Yuri for a while and will enjoy new takes on the old tropes. People who are new to Yuri and aren’t burned out on the old tropes.

Beware: Every girl in this school is paired, seemingly. Makes you want to see the story of the one straight girl in school.

 

 

Title:  Murciélago by Yoshimura Kana

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4| Volume 5| ongoing

What It’s About:  This extremely adult, extremely gruesome, madcap “violence Yuri” story follows psychopathic killer Koumori Kuroko and her partner Hinako, as they track down and kill other killers for the police. There are no good guys here. Everyone is broken, the stories are gross, sometimes with side of extra creepy and the lesbian sex is weird. ^_^ 

Who Will Like It: People looking for something not cute or sweet. This series is violent, amoral and has ugly, unrealistic lesbian sex.

Beware: This series is violent, amoral and has ugly unrealistic lesbian sex.

 

 

Éclair: Ananta ni Hibiku Yuri Anthology

1 volume

What It’s About: An anthology of school-life Yuri, headlined by Bloom Into You creator Nio Nakatani and Kiss and White Lily For My Dearest Girl creator Canno.

Who Will Like It:  People who like the aforementioned series or those who really like stories about love experienced in school.

Beware: It’s a whole lotta schoolgirl stories and “Story A.”

 

 

 

Legend of Korra: Turf Wars

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3 by  Michael Dante DiMartino (Author),‎ Irene Koh (Illustrator),‎ Vivian Ng (Illustrator)

What It’s About: The Avatar, Korra, and her new love Asami enter the spirit world together. Upon their return to Republic City, they find their world in turmoil – a conflict that will involve the Spirit World, as well.

Who Will Like It: Kids, adults, fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, action anime fans. Fans of color looking for representation that isn’t focused on suffering or overcoming obstacles.

Beware: Fast-paced and fragmented, this is definitely a western comic.

 

 

Title: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin (Author),‎ Jenn St. Onge (Artist),‎ Joy San (Artist),‎ Genevieve FT (Artist)

1 volume

What It’s About: When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both marry young men and have families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.

Beware: LGBTQ comics about black women are rare – you may find yourselves weeping with joy at finding such a good one. 

 

 This manga is not Yuri, but is gay and you definitely want to add it to your orders!

Title:  My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame

Volume 1| Volume 2 

What It’s About:  This adult life drama follows Mike Flanagan, a gay man from Canada who visits his late brother’s home in Japan, in order to learn about his childhood. He meets he husband’s estranged brother, Yaichi, who now has to deal with things he never thought he’d have to deal with, like his brother Ryoji’s sexuality. 

Who Will Like It:  People looking for wholesome, non-sexual gay representation, or a good comic to recommend to a family member with passive homophobia or ignorance about being gay.

Beware: Like Bingo Love, you may be prone to weeping with relief.

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There’s a lot on the list and more on the Store, but we’re going to wrap it up here. Next time I’ll drop some anime titles and some of other fun stuff!

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A Survey of Lesbianism and Mental Instability in Yuri

August 28th, 2017

We’ve looked at Yuri’s roots in lesbian social movements and Japanese girls’ literature, but there’s an aspect of our history we haven’t addressed.  Today we’re going to take a look at some series in which lesbianism is linked, either directly or indirectly, with an unstable mental state. There will be spoilers ahead, but mostly for 40 year-old series, so I don’t feel bad. Thanks to my wife and Erin Subramanian for their contributions to this essay!

I. Introduction

When Japan was opened to the west, the Japanese people adopted and adapted western fashion and technology quickly. The Japanese government, having found themselves thrust on the world stage, sent young people around the world to learn the science, technology and culture of countries with which they would now be dealing. (Not always with appropriate preparation, but some of those students returned to make significant contributions to Japanese education and culture, notably Yamakawa Sutematsu and Nagai Shige, the subjects of Janice P. Nimura’s book Daughters of the Samurai. 2016, New York: W.W. Norton.)

By the 1920s, Sigmund Freud was writing obsessively about human sexual development. His writings on the pathology of homosexuality strongly affected Japanese theories of psychiatry, as they did psychiatry in other countries. For Freud, female homosexuality was a pathological manifestation of masculinity, which he discussed in detail in a paper “The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman,” (Freud, S. (1920). “A Case of Homosexuality in a Woman”. The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 1974, New York: Hogarth Press.and was always the fault of the father, although his own daughter, Anna Freud, was herself, quite probably a lesbian. This idea was adopted by psychiatrists around the world and has been remarkably resistant to change. It was the basis upon which homosexuality was made a criminal behavior and entered into Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders in the USA, and the International Statistical Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems used in Japan.

The shift from folklore to science in Japan was fast and furious. Japanese schools adopted western curricula, dress and customs, while scientists and medical professionals caught up with current western knowledge. Psychology and psychiatry bloomed and quickly pushed folk beliefs to the perimeter of life. A good example of the flattening of folk belief from worldview into concepts such as sublimation and projection can be found in Kyogoku Natsukhiko’s Kyogokudo novels, which are set in the mid-20th century and follow “atheist onmyouji,” Akihiko “Kyogokudo” Chūzenji. In The Summer of the Ubume, (姑獲鳥の夏1994, Tokyo: Kodansha. Translated into English in 2009, New York: Vertical. ), the erudite protagonist has cause to launch into dense, extended monologues on the emotional and psychological void caused by overturning of folk knowledge – which is accessible to everyone – and replacing it with scientific knowledge – which is accessible only to the few who are able to study it. In these murder mysteries, modern psychology is intertwined with and used to explain youkai lore. The second of Kyogoku’s books, Moryou no Hako (魍魎の匣, 1995, Tokyo: Kodansha.) a lesbian relationship between two high school girls become mixed up with the plot of a serial killer who is the “goblin” of the title. (This novel was made into an anime series in 2008 with animation by Madhouse, in which the Kyogukodo character is free to expound his theories of religion, philosophy and psychology.)

In Western literature of the 20th century, lesbians were portrayed as emotionally unstable, predatory, unhealthily obsessed by sex, and violent. An entire genre of literature that we now call Lesbian Pulp Fiction was based around this idea that attraction to another woman was a descent into madness and violence, ending in death or prison. The back cover of Intimate Story of a Lesbian, (1965, New York: Imperial.) “as told to Doris Hanson” says,

“Lesbianism,” she told Miss Hanson, “at first repulsed me. But, like a disease, it grew to possess me, completely”… “Brought out” by a jealous, domineering woman executive, Maria was sponsored in a career….[which led her into] a world of sexual excess…. Maria’s intimate story of life in the hidden society of women without men may horrify and shock….It could only have been written by one who lived and became….

THE VICTIM OF ITS HORRORS

This kind of hyperbolic language shifted as the century wore on.  The “Third Sex,” used as a term for homosexuality from movies and books in the mid-20th century, stuck around through the 1970s, when lesbians stood up politically and refused to be shoved back into the closet. (In fact, the phrase “come out of the closet” as a gay rights slogan was coined by Lesbian Pulp author Artemis Smith.)  

Homosexuality was famously removed from the 7th editon of the DSM-II by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973 (1974, American Psychiatric Association.) In Japan , the classification of homosexuality as a disease lasted a few decades longer. “… “homosexuality” was removed by the World Health Organization from the list of “mental disorders” in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th revision published in 1993 (which was adopted by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare the following year).” (Japan: Human Rights in Law and Discrimination against LGBT People in Japan, 2017 Amnesty International.) By 1995, homosexuality was no longer considered a disease in Japan, but it’s taken a few more decades for manga artists to notice.

The idea that lesbianism is a pathology, as posited by Freud, lingers in popular media where lesbianism also functions as a fetish for readers. Manga and anime are pop culture media, but frequently published and produced to fit within socially conservative framework (whether to sell to the widest possible market or to cater to a specific demographic or just to protect one’s own industry from government intrusion,) which means that these 20th century associations linger on well into the 21st century. “Everyone knows” that lesbians are predatory, or emotionally unstable, although it’s been shown that with the simple addition of laws that put gay relationships on a more stable footing, suicide and depression decrease

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2. Survey of Emotionally Unstable Lesbians in Yuri, 1938-2017

Over-intense emotional desire is portrayed as negative in girl’s literature as early as the 1930’s. In Kawabara Yasunari and Nakazato Tsuneko’s Otome no Minato, (乙女の港, 1938, Tokyo: Jitsugyo no Nihonsha.) Kastuko desires to be Michiko’s onee-sama to the point of breaking her up with Youko. It takes a crisis in which Youko is Katsuko’s savior to get her to back off.  This behavior is reflected fully in the relationships in 1957 manga Sakura no Namiki, (さくら並木) by Takahashi Makoto. (2006, Tokyo: Shogakukan Creative.)

Possessive jealousy is as far as these relationships go until Yamagishi Ryhoko’s 1973 manga, Shiroi Heya no Futari (白い部屋のふたり, 1971, Tokyo: Shueisha.) In this story, which I consider to be the first Yuri manga, Simone is presented to us as high strung, violent, and tempestuous. Having been abandoned by uncaring family, her mental instability is associated with her passionate nature and presented as part of a whole. Simone falls in love with Resine because she is unstable and emotional and is, we are meant to understand, looking for affection anywhere she can find it.

This theme is repeated again in Maya no Sourestu (摩耶の葬列, 1972, Tokyo: Shueisha.) by Ichijou Yukari in 1972. In this story, Reina is spoiled, but neglected by her father, and Maya is part of  a family whose history is filled with lies and desire for revenge on Resine’s family. Even should they find a way out of this labyrinth, it turns out that they are half sisters. One must die so the other may marry a man she cannot love. Put a pin in this story, we’ll come back to it.

In Riyoko Ikeda’s 1975 work, Oniisama e  (おにいさまへ, 1975, Tokyo: Shueisha.)  Rei, known as Saint-Juste, is emotionally abused by her beautiful and influential half-sister, Fukiko. Fukiko’s emotional abuse occasionally turns physical, and Rei takes to drugs for solace or anesthesia. Her conflicted feelings about Fukiko  are surfaced when the protagonist Nanako becomes involved. Fukiko attempts to manipulate Nanako, but is unsuccessful, which gives Rei the emotional wherewithal to reject Fukiko. Ultimately, Rei turns her attention to Nanako and, we might expect, recovery and health, but is killed in a tragic and pointless accident. This is a key work, not only because the anime is a masterwork in and of itself, but because Rei turns away from a wholly unhealthy relationship with her exceptional half-sister towards the wholesome influence of the protagonist and is seeking a healthier friendship (or, maybe, even, romance) with her before her death.

In 1978 manga Claudine…!  (クローディーヌ…!, 1978, Tokyo: Shueisha.) by Riyoko Ikeda, we are presented with the “case” of Claudine, a woman who dresses as a man and falls in love with women. This manga can with completely validity be read as a story of a transgender man or of a masculine lesbian. Because Ikeda’s portrayal is not as fully formed as we in the 21st century might desire, Claudine’s expressed wish to be a man, can be accepted at face value or also mean that they wish the privilege of a man, that is to love women and wear men’s clothes. In either case, Claudine’s story is told to us as a “case” from the perspective of their psychiatrist who is treating Claudine for depression and suicidal thoughts.  When Claudine has, yet again, been abandoned by a lover who wants a more “normal” life, Claudine commits suicide. This story is forward-thinking in the sense that the psychiatrist suggests that Claudine was not the sick one here, but that society is at fault.

Applause (アプローズ) (1981-2, Tokyo: Shueisha) by Ariyoshi Kyouko is an epic story which traces the relationship of two young women, Shara and Junaque from a private girl’s school in Belgium to Broadway in New York City. In the beginning arc it is Junaque who admits her feelings of love and desire to Shara, but is rejected. Junaque, consumed by rejection and fear of her “inverted” nature, marries a man she cannot love, and dives into an increasingly troubled life as an alcoholic and emotionally unstable adult. Shara meets Junaque (now called Shelle) once again as an adult and their affair starts right back up. Unlike Shelle, however, Shara is unwilling to hide her love, causing the two of them to have a tempestuous on-again-off-again affair that ultimately ends ambiguously, with either their death or escape, depending on the reader’s need.

By 1993, Fujimura Mari presents another example of the emotional instability that accompanies a lesbian relationship  in Futtemo Haretemo (降っても晴れっても) (1993, Tokyo: Shueisha). Nagi and Hiro are two classmates who develop a deep, almost obsessive, definitely possessive, attraction between them. Nagi and Hiro’s relationship is dysfunctional and they often act in ways that are harmful to themselves and the other. Suicide and violence are a palpable presence in this story, linked directly with the relationship. At the end they are presented as happy and whole when they meet after years, having married men and moved on with their lives. This was a low point in presentation of lesbian love in shoujo manga, inextricably linking mental unwellness and lesbian desire, which could be “fixed” by heterosexuality.

In Haruno Nanae’s Pieta  (ピエタ) (2000, Tokyo: Shueisha.) Rio is presented to us as a troubled teen, threatening to commit suicide. Her father and step-mother claim to have no idea why she’s like this, but readers can see that she’s the victim of vicious emotional abuse by her step-mother and disinterest by a neglectful father. Her psychiatrist worries that her family’s influence will impede her mental health. Sahoko, a classmate, who was herself troubled, and Rio develop a relationship that ultimately brings healing to both of them. With the help of their psychiatrists, who function as surrogate parents, they move in together. The romantic relationship between Rio and Sahoko is not presented as the cause of their mental instability nor because of it, but as the thing that helps them find wholeness and stability. This was not the first Yuri romance to have a happy ending, but it was a sea change in the presentation of mental unwellness linked with lesbianism. Here, being lesbian is what heals, rather than what hurts.

When Sun Publishing first put out Yuri Shimai (百合姉妹 2003, Tokyo: Sun Publishing) magazine, the first Yuri-focused manga magazine in 2003, they included works from classic and well-known Yuri manga artists, including Kita Konno, creator of Himitsu no Kaidan (秘密の階段. 1995, Tokyo: Kaiseisha.)  Her stories for Yuri Shimai and it’s successor Yuri Hime, (百合姫 2005-present, Tokyo: Ichisjinsha.) , now published monthly as Comic Yuri Hime  (コミック百合姫), tended to focus on incestuous and abusive relationships. “Under the Rose”, later reprinted in Yuri Hime Selection, (百合姫Selection, 2007, Tokyo: Ichijinsha.) was a good (bad) example of the kind of automatic integration of lesbianism with all the unhealthy things possible.

In 2004, the surprisingly influential Kannazuki no Miko (神無月の巫女, 2004, Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten.) debuted. In every version of Kaishaku’s series, accomplished, classical Japanese beauty, Chikane is conflicted from the beginning between her fate as a lunar priestess and her affection and desire for her partner, solar priestess Himeko. In the anime, her emotional instability is directly linked to her physical desire for Himeko, while in the manga, Chikane rapes Himeko to, ostensibly, make Himeko not trust her. In both cases, it’s her desire for Himeko that causes the emotional conflict. 

At the same time, (not an accidental happenstance, as the Yuri-ish and genre-defining Light Novel series Maria-sama ga Miteru (マリア様がみてる) had increased interest once more in stories of girls in private schools, and the new Yuri manga magazines and anthologies were using that setting compulsively) the anime  Mai HiME (舞-HiME, 2004-5, Tokyo Sunrise.) was hitting the airwaves. In this series, Fujino Shizuru is shown to be obsessed with Kuga Natsuki. She’s not hiding her desire, but is also unable to come out and express herself. When she can no longer control herself and comes to Natsuki late at night, kissing, possibly assaulting, her, Shizuru is interrupted by fellow HiME. Shizuru completely loses her grip on sanity and is, clearly, shown to be an example of the pathology of lesbian desire.)

Honorable mention needs to go here to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (魔法少女リリカルなのは 2004, Tokyo, Geneon.),  the anime (and later, manga,) franchise that also began in 2004. In this ongoing narrative, the emotionally and physically abused Fate Testarossa, is rescued by Takamachi Nanoha. Fate and Nanoha remain friends during Fate’s incarceration, and, when she is released, they move in together. The two create an alternate family that grows in every subsequent series. Both Fate and Nanoha adopt children who have been rejected by their families. They are seen to share a bed, and once again we are given to believe that their relationship is the thing that is the most stable part of their lives.

Yet, at the same time, we’re presented with Yaya from Strawberry Panic! (ストロベリー・パニック!, 2003-2007, Tokyo: Mediaworks.) who is the first 21st century example we have of a character said to have been “neglected by her father” as both a stand-in for abuse, as her behavior maps to a sexually abused child, and also directly stated to be the cause of her lesbianism.  Yaya’s behavior is highly sexualized, possessive, obsessive and she borders on the edge of mental breakdown until her “love” for Hikari is subsumed in her desire to see Hikari’s relationship with Amane realized. The series supplies Yaya with a potential partner in a younger student but, notably, a student that has shown us a strong will and personality, so we may be confident that, if something develops, it will be consensual, thus indicating that Yaya has herself been made whole and functional.

In 2007, Nakamura Kiyo (writing as Nakamura Ching,) took a completely different tack with GUNJO (羣青, 2007-2012, Tokyo: Shogakukan), a true-crime-like story of a woman who had been overtly sexually abused by her father and husband, and the lesbian who killed the husband for her. In contrast to the traditional narrative elements in which the abuse (or “neglect”) are related to the lesbianism, the lesbian in this series walks away from a functional, happy life to help the abused and neglected school acquaintance. “Lesbian-san” (the characters are not named through most of the series) is not the abused person, but neither is she emotionally stable, as she and the overtly emotionally unstable “Megane-san” are on the run after a murder “Lesbian-san” has committed. 

By 2010, Lesbianism was much more rarely linked directly with mental instability. In Ebon Fumi’s Blue Friend (ブルーフレンド 2010-12, Tokyo: Shueisha.)  the premise begins with a well-worn trope of an emotionally troubled girl befriended by a popular girl, and the possessive, unhealthy relationship between them, exacerbated by bullying at school. This relationship is something the two girls manage to shift from unhealthy and manipulative to a healthy friendship that is positive for both of them. Once again, we see a way through the instability to healing. After 7 years of a Yuri-focused manga magazine, readers were starting to see a more general shift in the narrative of the mentally unstable lesbian.

In 2011, we see a slightly different version again of the link between obsessive affection/desire and emotional instability in Puella Magi Madoka Magica (魔法少女まどか☆マギカ, 2011, Tokyo. Shaft.) In the serialized TV anime, we meet Homura after many repeated cycles of existence, in which her one desire is to save Madoka. This obsession with the other girl has warped her (as has her repeated failure to save Madoka.) Nonetheless, Madoka is able to break past Homura’s emotional armor and remind her why she’s doing this. Their mutual affection allows Madoka to break out of the cycle. This is rewritten in a subsequent movie, in which Homura’s obsession continues to affect her negatively until she becomes the thing Madoka must fight. Her sacrifice is the only way to end the continuing cycle…suicide is still the only way out for the obsessed lesbian.

As the Yuri market has developed, and series more generally showed functional, happy lesbian relationships both in shoujo-manga fantasy spaces, such as Shirosawa Marimo’s  Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi(野ばらの森の乙女たち 2010-11, Tokyo: Kodansha.) or GIRL FRIENDS by Morinaga Milk (ガールフレンズ 2006-2010, Tokyo: Futabsaha) and in more real world-settings, such as Sweet Blue Flowers by Shimura Takako (青い花 2004-13, Tokyo: Ohta Publishing) or Nishi Uko’s very adult, very realistic, Collectors (コレクターズ 103-16, Tokyo: Hakusensha.), this use of “neglect” as cipher for abuse will come back as a plot complication. 

In 2012, Saburouta began serializing Citrus (シトラス  2012, Tokyo: Ichijinsha.) a story about two sisters by marriage who find themselves physically attracted to one another.  Mei, who reflects the classic Japanese beauty, and Yuzu, who represents the outgoing popular girl, gavotte around one another (and in and out of other complicated and often emotionally manipulative) relationships. Mei’s behavior, like Yaya’s, is much more consistent with a survivor of sexual abuse, but once again, we are told it’s because her father “neglected” her. We can be forgiven in this case for remembering the Freudian pathologizing of lesbianism as being the fault of the father. We equally remember Maya of Maya no Souretsu, whose desire for the “neglected” daughter of a man she loathed drove her to suicide.

We must end here with a mention of Kodama Naoko’s NTR: Netsuzou Trap (捏造トラップ 2014-present, Tokyo: Ichijinsha.) While the characters aren’t explicitly described as suffering abuse or “neglect,” it becomes apparent even to a casual reader or viewer, that Hotaru’s behavior can be traced back to abuse.  Kat Callahan of Anime Now says, “the series seems to deal with a very important issue: the cycle of abuse, and specifically, sexual abuse.”

Everything old is new again…and we’re still stuck with this ugly idea that women are lesbians because they were “neglected” by their father and that this neglect causes not only lesbianism, but manipulative, unhealthily obsessive pathological lesbianism.

Freud would be so pleased.

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Happy 15th Birthday, Okazu!

August 14th, 2017

On August 14, 2002, I created the domain okazu.blogspot.com and wrote,

Welcome to Okazu!

“Okazu” (おかず) is Japanese for appetizers – and is slang for lesbian sex because, you know it’s not *real* sex. ^_^

It’s also a good name for dribbles of writing that aren’t stories – just thoughts and comments and updates on things I’m doing. Most of those “things” will be Yuri-related, some will be about women in comics and others will be me screwing around as I travel the world. Whatever it is that brings you here, welcome and enjoy the tasty Okazu. ^_^

The day after, I wrote,

“Day Two Blog –

Water is running low, I’m feeling weak. There is no end in sight.” ^_^;

I didn’t have a point, or a mission, particularly. I was planning an event at Meow Mix in New York City and I thought having a central place to communicate from seemed like a good idea. I think. Because, honestly, I don’t remember what I was thinking, exactly. 15 years is a really long time. At first, Okazu was mostly a list of the events I participated in, promoting Yuricon and the Revolutionary Girl Utena Movie with CPM’s blessing. (Which, like a genius, I never actually wrote about. The first Film Festival post here was the BFI Gay and Lesbian Film Fest in London, in March 2004.)

I know that I was planning on running the first Yuricon in 2003 and as running an event was kind of complicated, but people seemed to think it was as easy as ordering a pizza, I wanted a place to write about some of the issues we’d face.

By October I said,

In effect, 2002 is over for me. Now the Yuricon staff and I will be focusing on entirely dull and uninteresting administrative things – signing up vendors, advertisers, sponsors, etc.

 

In November, I buckled down and really started talking about building a convention. I wrote The Anatomy of an Anime Convention 101, Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5.

And, as the year came to an end, I went, willy-nilly, to Japan to see Comiket. Because why not? That was the beginning of the Tokyo Journal category here.

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***

Can you see what’s missing? Up to this point, I really never once thought about writing reviews. It just never occurred to me, honestly. You can really see that I assumed no one but me was reading this blog because the first news/review I posted was on the New Hana no Asuka-gumi manga in March 2003. I’ve never been delusional about this series – it’s complicated and obscure and was not of interest to too many people in the United States in 2003. In fact, including me and Rica Takashima…the total number was probably 2. 

By May, I was fully focused on the upcoming Yuricon event. but I took a moment to write up what was the first of what would become the Yuri Network News. Tokyopop had licensed Between the Sheets by Erica Sakaruzawa – that was certainly newsworthy! And I had, for reasons, decided to go into manga publishing and was pushing our first book, Rica ‘tte Kanji!? by Rica Takashima. It bears repeating that the reason I met Rica was that she had come to that Meow Mix event in 2002. When she told me she was a Yuri manga artist, we both knew our meeting was kismet. 

June 2003 came and with it, an obsessive chronicling of Yuricon 2003.  It rocked and I’m really glad we did it. ^_^

That summer was filled with any number of events and it wasn’t until November 2003 that I reviewed my first anime. All these years I’ve remembered it as being Air Master, but it turns out I’m wrong and the first anime I ever reviewed here was Stellvia of the Universe! Remember that one? I was just thinking about it the other day. Maybe it’s time for a rewatch, huh? ^_^

Another surprise for me is that my first Maria-sama ga Miteru post came before the end of 2003. You’re able to watch my obsession with that series grow in realtime in my posts, from “Hey, this is an interesting thing you should know about,” right to “Must consume all of this immediately.”

I’m not at all surprised at the continuing appeal of many of the foundational series for us, series that set Yuri fans on the path to understanding and enjoy this genre, like Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena. I’m thrilled to pieces that old classics like Rose of Versailles and Dear Brother have found renewed interest in a modern age.  I’m still waiting for everyone to rediscover the wonderfulness of Devilman Lady. ^_^ And we’ve encountered so many new series that have established their place in the Yuri canon, from action-adventure like R.O.D and Bodacious Space Pirates, to “new classics” like Sweet Blue Flowers and Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Not to mention amazing, moving series over the years like Simoun, Kaleido Star, and the Girls with guns on the Run trilogy of Noir, Madlax and El Cazador de la Bruja, which gave us so many hours of conversation! And let’s not forget the “classic” Yuri parody series Strawberry Panic!  and Kannazuki no Miko, a series that launched a whole new kind of Yuri fan in the mid-2000s.

We were able to run Yuricon 2005 in Tokyo and the Yurisai and  Onna! in 2007, both of which I like to think helped set Yuri on a whole new track toward genrehood. As we hit the 10 year mark, the country was heading towards a depression, publishing and distribution was radically altered and the end result was that we shuttered doing both manga publishing and events, but Okazu and Yuricon pivoted to an exciting new focus – public speaking and writing articles on Yuri that would help establish Yuri’s genre bona fides.

And so it has gone, for 15 years, juggling events (both mine and other people’s), talking and writing about Yuri anime and manga. This blog has been through a few renewals over the last decade and a half (and we’re looking at another one in the near future,) but it’s basically stayed the same. I’ve basically stayed the same, I think. Maybe. Or maybe not, but I don’t feel different, although I have less patience with spending time on stuff I’m not going to like, especially as there’s so much great stuff being released these days.  ^_^

What absolute has stayed with me for 15 years as the primary focus on Okazu is this:

Yuri is a way to build a bridge from American lesbian culture to Japanese lesbian culture. It’s true that Yuri is not “ours” as such, having so many owners, but it centers around our stories. That’s really the core concept to me. It’s true that readers, publishers and creators may not be LGBTQ or even interested in telling LGBTQ stories with any sense of  realism or honesty, but in the end, it’s our stories, and our opinions about those stories, that turn Okazu and Yuricon into a community for people all over the world. In 2017, I’d say we’ve been successful. I see more genuinely LGBTQ content in manga and comics and cartoons this year than I ever have before. (Anime is still lagging behind, but that’s not all that surprising.)

And above all other things, it’s that community that I want to celebrate today. I thank you YNN Correspondents, Guest Reviewers, my staff who travel with me and help keep this place running, folks who comment, folks who correct my mistakes and folks who simply enjoy the posts here – you, the Yuri Network, are the pride and joy of Okazu.  

My sincere and heartfelt thanks to Okazu Patrons.You are a major part of why I can keep doing this day after day. You’ve gotten me closer than ever to being able to pay Guest Reviewers, and allow me to give them tokens in thanks now. You’re helping me travel to events I report to you and with the media I consume and review. You’re all an important part of the team here at Okazu, thank you. This post was made just for you at your request. ^_^

I want to end with especial thanks to my wife who is my editor, my #1 fan and greatest supporter (as well as the best clever idea generator a person could ever ask for!) I can never thank you enough. Love you.

Thank you all and a very Happy Birthday to all of us!

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Thoughts on the Future of Yuri, 2017 Edition

April 30th, 2017

It has been my pleasure and honor to read. watch, write and speak about lesbian-themed Japanese animation and comics for 15 years now. And during that time, I have watched the creators and readers and viewers of Yuri – the “we” and “us” of this blog – promote and support this genre through gestation and into birth. 

I’ve written at length over the years about the history of Yuri. How we got here, from the literary roots of “S” stories of the early 20th century Japan, to mid-century exploration of sexuality and gender by the Year 24 Group.  In addition, in 2013, I wrote a short Yuri Needs List. In the years since that list, we haven’t quite gained any of the elements that I had hoped for, but in some ways we’ve gained something more critical – validity as a genre. Bookstores in America and Japan are starting to recognize Yuri as a genre within the medium of manga, although there is much left yet to do. Publishers are willing to  invest in Yuri because now there is a market for it. 

It is true that publishers (and, often, creators and readers) find it simpler to squeeze a genre into well-established and comfortable tropes. For Yuri, this obviously means stories set in school, where pressures of coming out, living together, political invisibility and lack of social and political clout and rights are simply nonexistent. It’s worth noting that none of the popular Yuri best-sellers available in English this year challenge these tropes. It is also worth noting, as fellow writer and Yuri fan Sean Gaffney (of A Case Suitable for Treatment) noted, that “the default for Yuri manga in NA has become ‘good if predictable’ rather than ‘not awful pandering’.” 

Another thing we’ve accomplished is that , as I write in my essay Yuri – A Genre Without Borders, Yuri has gone global. Anthologies explicitly labeled “Yuri” are commonplace, as tropes, artistic cues and manga style art has traveled past Japan’s borders.

Now, as we move past Yuri’s infancy, it’s worth taking a look at what we want for the future. ^_^ The list this year is short, but intense. I’ll count down in order of urgency.

 

3) More Diversity in Yuri

You may be looking at the header here somewhat quizzically. More diverse? Manga is already a priori works by what in the west are considered people of color, isn’t it? Well, yes, but also no. Because Yuri manga made by Japanese creators are created for and sold to a Japanese audience, it’s no more “diverse” there than primarily white mainstream comics are here in America. It would be nice (but non-critical) to see non-Japanese characters in Yuri. There are foreign lesbians living and working in Japan.

Even more importantly, when I say “diversity, I mean it would be nice to see diversity of lifestyle. We’ve had series published in Japan that discuss being lesbian parents, such as  Okaasan Futari Itemo Iikana!? (お母さん二人いてもいいかな!?), and Higashi  Koyuki and Masahara Hiroko’s Futari no Mama kara, Kimi-tachi he (ふたりのママから、きみたちへ), or Fujima Shion’s Yurinin (ゆりにん) but none have been translated.  Alternative families are a thing world-wide and no less inside the lesbian community than outside. It’s time.

And, lastly, I still await a really good Yuri series about older couples. This is inevitable, as the current crop of Yuri artists are going to age…and some of them are going to draw from their experiences dating or being in a relationship as an older lesbian. But I want it now. 

 

2) Lesbians

In the 1920s in Japan, it was a radical act for two girls to decide to live together, rather than submit to family pressure to marry. In the intervening years, Yuri manga still tended to be focused on hothouse environments of school. The underlying assumption was often that, upon graduation, the girls will move into adult life, become wives and mothers and remember this childhood love fondly. The situation is better now than it was, even just a few years back.  After Fumi came out in Aoi Hana in 2011, I assumed we’d see a veritable waterfall of coming out in Yuri, but…so far it remains a trickle. Even in Yuri series running in the one all-Yuri monthly manga magazine. there’s a lot of same-sex like and love without lesbian identity. That said, there is a shift happening. You can see it in manga being published by Yuri artists for themselves in either print or online and in work by the few out lesbian Yuri artists, like Takemiya Jin and Nakamuya Kiyo.  There’s been a visible shift in the past decade as stories about lesbians and by lesbians and for lesbians pull closer to and overlap with Yuri manga, giving Yuri readers a chance to understand the Japanese lesbian community. 

It’s somewhat predictable that, as soon as we do see more lesbians in Yuri, we’re going to have to wade through dozens of “coming out” narratives, in which we are inundated with stories of girls who realize they like that other girl and, by extension, girls. Personally, I’d like to skip right to the part where about half of Yuri manga is just about lesbian lives. Luckily for me, another positive trend is real-life lesbians creating comic essays about their lives, like Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, available in June from Seven Seas. These comic essays tell real-life stories from real Japanese lesbians, which helps with both Japanese lesbian visibility and the melding of Yuri manga and lesbian content. 

There’s a lot of room for good queer content to enrich Yuri manga and vice versa. My fingers are crossed.

 

1) A Sport Series

I am never giving up this dream.

For the last several years, I have made this my highest priority for a very simple reason – sports manga are a perfect environment for sexual tension. This past year in Japan, fans of BL were treated to an incredibly popular anime series called Yuri on Ice! that featured a same-sex romantic relationship in the world of men’s figure skating. I am impatiently awaiting a Yuri Yuri on Ice!.

Yuri has had one-shots and chapters and storylines a-plenty in which any number of captains of Softball, Ping Pong, Tennis, Track clubs fall for their teammates, coaches, co-captains or managers, but we just don’t have a series that digs down and has the blood and guts and oni coaches and heart-rending failures and soaring triumphs we require in a sports manga series. And we’ve had any number of blood and guts and demon coaches and heart-rending failures and soaring triumphs in sports manga series starring women in Japanese, but few of these have ever made into English and none have had that explicit romance we’re looking for. We need a smoking hot Yuri sports rivalry.

Softball, Ping Pong, Tennis, Track are all fine. Rugby would be nice. Or Motocross. That would be lovely

Swimming. Ice skating (although, thanks Yuri on Ice!, you’ve made *that* redundant and derivative for us.)

Martial Arts. Volleyball.  Horse-jumping. Anything. Just give me a damn Yuri sports series already! I will not stop asking for this.

This is my wish for our Yuri Future – a sports love-hate rivalry that burns the pages up for 12 volumes. Is that too much to ask?

For 15 years, I’ve watched this genre take tentative steps forward from stories in which characters left to get married or died, to being “together” and even going so far, these days to saying “I love you” and living together. Sometimes, even, to having a lesbian in the story.

I can hardly imagine what I’ll be asking for 15 years from now…but it had better not still be a sports series.

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