Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
What is Yuri?
Yuri is a term for Japanese anime and manga featuring lesbian relationships as a main plot point. Yuri focuses may focus primarily on the sexual orientation or the romantic orientation aspects of the relationship, or sometimes both. Yuri is also sometimes called shōjo-ai, or “girls love,” by the Western fandom
Yuri as a genre has its roots in the Japanese lesbian fiction of the early twentieth century. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that lesbian-themed works began to appear in manga. More Yuri-themed content began appearing in both manga and in anime in the 1990s. Yuri anime and manga continues to be popular with both male and female fans.
Many Yuri anime series focus primarily on the romantic aspects of the relationship between two female characters. These series may feature relationships between two younger girls, such as middle schoolers, or adult women. These types of anime series are suitable for all ages. There are also “adult” series that are more focused on the sexual aspects of such relationships between adult women, which should only be watched by adult viewers who are interested in watching that type of series.
Strawberry Panic Is one of the most well-known and best loved Yuri anime series. Strawberry Panic follows a student named Aoi Nagisa, who transfers to an all-girl Catholic school, St. Miator's Girls' Academy, one of three affiliated schools on Astraea Hill. Aoi goes to class, joins clubs, and make new friends in an effort to fit in. Meanwhile, another student named Shizuma Hanazono finds herself drawn to this new, exciting transfer student. As Shizuma and Aoi get to know each other, Shizuma finally decides it is time to face past.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena is another favorite series of Yuri anime fans. This series follows a tomboyish girl named Utena who attends Ohtori Academy, where she meets a student named Anthy Himemiya. Anthy is in an abusive relationship with another student when they meet, and Utena fights to protect Anthy. Utena is pulled into a series of sword duels with the members of the Student Council and learns that Anthy is known as the "Rose Bride” and is given to the winner of each duel. It is said that the winner of the tournament will receive a mysterious "power to revolutionize the world.” The current champion is constantly challenged for the right to possess the Rose Bride. The series is divided into four story arcs in which Utena must face a different challenge at Ohtori Academy. In each challenge, Utena must defend her title as the owner of the Rose Bride in order to protect Anthy.
Simoun is a science fiction anime series. It follows the pilots of mysterious flying vehicles called “Simoun.” In this land, all children are born female, and must choose their permanent gender once they enter adulthood by entering a magical spring. Simoun can only be flown by young pilots who have not yet chosen their permanent gender. The storyline of Simoun follows a war against the other nations, the mystery behind the Simoun, and the complex and often romantic relationships between the young pilots. Though this series is considered Yuri, some fans may not consider it a true Yuri series, as some of the characters do become male at the end after visiting the spring.
Simoun was named "Best Yuri of 2006" by Erica Friedman, the president of Yuricon and ALC Publishing.
Kannazuki no Miko (Destiny of the Shrine Maiden)
Destiny of the Shrine Maiden, or Kannazuki no Miko, is an anime series that begins in the village of Mahoroba, where time passes slowly. Two students from the village's prestigious Ototachibana Academy are as different as night and day. Himeko is shy and unassertive. On the other hand, Chikane is bold and elegant. Despite their differences, the two girls love each other, and nothing can come between them.
On Himeko and Chikane’s shared birthday, an evil voice tricks one of their friends into attacking them. Just when it seemed darkest, the lunar and solar priestess powers that lay dormant in the two girls awaken, allowing the two girls to dispel the evil entity. The two newly-awakened priestesses must now protect themselves from countless other evil forces.
Sakura Trick is another Yuri anime centered around the relationship between two girls attending high school. In Sakura Trick, Haruka Takayama and Yuu Sonoda were inseparable during their junior high school years, but upon entering high school, they end up on opposite sides of their classroom. Because they must spend time with other friends, the two girls decide to do something to make their relationship even more special and kiss each other to strengthen their friendship. Will their friendship blossom into something even more?
While Sailor Moon isn’t a Yuri anime, strictly speaking, it does feature one of the most well-known Yuri couples in anime. Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptue) are two of the outer senshi and first appear in the third season of the series. Haruka and Michiru are girlfriends and are often seen holding hands and flirting with each other throughout the series. They almost always appear together. Haruka and Michiru are one of the best-known Yuri couples in anime.
Blue Drop is a science fiction anime series that focuses on the relationship between Mari and Hagino, who meet at the Kaihō Academy. Though Hagino seems to be calm and collected, when she touches Mari's hand she panics and tries to strangle Mari. After that, Mari is torn between her anger and attraction towards Hagino, who goes on to pretend that nothing happened between them.
Unknown to Mari, Hagino was the commander of an alien battleship called Blue, which is the vanguard of an invasion to Earth. An incident occurred on the island where Mari lived where the crew of the ship and the island's inhabitants killed each other. Mari was the only survivor from her island, but she lost her memories during the attack. The ship, Blue, was seriously damaged and hidden, with Hagino blending into human society to continue her reconnaissance.
YuruYuri is a comedy Yuri anime series. YuruYuri takes place at Nanamori Middle School in Takaoka, Toyama. The series follows the daily lives of the Amusement Club, which consists of Akari Akaza, her childhood friends Kyōko Toshinō and Yui Funami, and her classmate, Chinatsu Yoshikawa, who becomes a member after finding out about the dissolution of the Tea Club. The Amusement Club, which meets at the tea room facility after the Tea Club disbanded, has no clear purpose. The members are free to do whatever they want during club meetings. The series also follows the school's Student Council, which consists of its own set of unique characters.
Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid
Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid is a fantasy ecchi Yuri anime series. This series is for mature audiences and revolves around girls who have been infected with a mysterious virus known as the A Virus (Armed Virus). The girls are divided into two classes; Extars, who transform into weapons when aroused, and Liberators, who can wield an Extar's weapon form, known as Liberator Arms, through a process known as Drive. These girls are brought to an island where they are completely isolated from the rest of the world until the island's Observers decide they are ready to rejoin society. Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid follows an Extar named Mamori Tokonome and her partner, a Liberator named Mirei Shikishima.
Shōjo Sect: Innocent Lovers
Shōjo Sect: Innocent Lovers is an adult Yuri anime series consisting of a three episode OVA. This series follows two women, Shinobu Handa and Momoko Naitō, who have known each other since childhood. Shinobu fell in love with Momoko the first day they met. Now that they are older, Momoko has forgotten about the past they shared, but Shinobu hasn't. Both women have their own lives, but Shinbobu still hopes that Momoko will remember the promise they made long ago. This series is suitable for adults only.
Yuri Anime for Different Tastes
Though Yuri anime isn’t as popular as yaoi anime (“boy’s love,” or anime revolving around gay male relationships), there are still a number of good Yuri anime series out there. Yuri themes can be found in almost any genre of anime, including slice of life, fantasy, and sci-fi. There are Yuri series that focus on sweet romantic relationships between to female characters, as well as Yuri anime that feature more adult themes. Yuri fans will find series that appeal to a wide variety of interests.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber