Yuri is a moderately popular genre of anime, but you’d be hard-pressed to name more than a few yuri anime in any given year. Early into 2017 we got Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, but that a was a rarity, not something that comes around all that often. Given that, it’s no surprise that many yuri fans cling to whatever anime they get, even ones that they themselves find massive problems with.
Which brings me to the obvious example of yuri anime in Summer 2017: NTR – Netsuzou Trap. NTR is, frankly speaking, an abysmal series. It romanticizes abuse, panders to traditionally homophobic ideas, and just isn’t well-written or produced. It’s pretty much the bottom of the barrel in terms of yuri anime, a field that’s not exactly blossoming with competition. It fares even worse in the manga sphere, where good yuri exists and is prominent, including series that use the same ideas with much more tact.
Like I said though, yuri fans don’t have a ton of options when it comes to anime, so NTR’s moderate success makes sense. People might not love it, but they are watching it, and if we didn’t have the manga as a warning, I think it would be even more popular than it is.
Fortunately, there is other yuri out there. Yuri fans may believe that shows like NTR and Citrus are their only hope, but that is not the case. I brought up Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid earlier, but it’s not the only good yuri anime we’ve gotten this year. In fact, there are plenty of yuri anime airing during Summer of 2017. I can count 6 good shows with major yuri elements airing this season, and none of them are NTR, Kakegurui, or A Centaur’s Worries.
You might be skeptical of that. After all, aren’t most anime with yuri elements just subtext? As I argued in a blog post a month or so ago, that isn’t necessarily the case, but even if it were true, a number of shows this season are quite explicit. As I’m about to show, Summer is an excellent season for yuri anime, and you don’t need to subject yourself to NTR if you don’t want to.
Let’s just start with the obvious. New Game!! is, without a doubt, a top tier anime for yuri fans. The 2016 show’s second season is a fantastic anime in general, but it’s really going above and beyond with its yuri elements. Sure, none of the girls are canonically dating yet, but it’s certainly gone far past the realm of subtext at this point.
Hazuki was pretty clearly gay in the first season, but it’s thoroughly confirmed now. We only see women at Eagle Jump because Hazuki only hires women to work under her, specifically because she loves cute girls. Rin’s clear feelings for Kou are as present as ever, but they’ve gone further by having other characters comment on them. Hifumi explicitly says she knows why their relationship hasn’t gone further, and the other characters are aware of it as well. That’s not to say that Rin is anywhere near confessing her love outright, even with the events surrounding Kou. That kind of thing almost certainly won’t happen until the manga’s about to end, but I actually feel like it could happen now, whereas in the past it felt like an impossibility.
This extends to all of the characters. The show went from Kou and Rin being the only clearly defined relationship, to every character being paired off, and it feels totally natural. Aoba and Hifumi, Nenecchi and Umiko, Hajime and Yun, the list of strong ships in this show just keeps going. Most CGDCT shows have a lot of ship-teasing between the girls, but New Game!! goes above and beyond. Seriously, it’s not subtext, it’s just text that hasn’t been followed up on. That it isn’t to say that I don’t want it to be followed up on, but this is only one of many great yuri anime this season, and many of the others go even further than this.
Action Heroine Cheer Fruits has perhaps the least yuri out of all the shows I’m going to cover, but that’s more of a praise for the other shows than a slight against this one. It’s basically a CGDCT show, so it comes with the almost obligatory subtext, but it also has a girl who’s fairly explicitly in love with her friend. This is clear throughout her focus episode, and at the end, we get a clear sign of reciprocation. The next episode focusing on the pair clearly frames their fight like a fight between lovers, though it’s still lacking confirmation that they’re dating. Other characters have clear crushes as well, making this show’s situation similar to New Game!!’s but with a more canon couple. It’s not over yet, so I can’t be sure the situation won’t change, but it’s got a lot to offer yuri fans right now.
The usually solid Symphogear is another Summer 2017 anime that offers a lot in the way of yuri. This isn’t new of course; AXZ is the fourth season, and the previous three were hardly lacking on this front. This incarnation is certainly competing with its predecessors though. Hibiki and Miku are just as canon as they used to be, if not more so. That is to say that while they’re never referred to within the text as lovers, any other interpretation of them doesn’t make any sense. The way they speak about each other is distinctly romantic and shows an intimacy that would be weird if they were just friends. They still live together and sleep in the same bed, but they’ve also moved into a bigger place while we weren’t looking. They used to share a small dorm room, but now they’re living in a spacious apartment with its own kitchen and yet they still sleep together. There’s basically no way to explain this if they aren’t in a relationship.
Of course, Kirika and Shirabe aren’t in the mood to be beaten by Hibiki and Miku. The two of them have already confessed to one another in the previous seasons, so there’s no doubt that they’re a canon couple. This season they get a duet that very suggestively talks about how they wish to become one and hold each other close, as well as plenty of lines about how much they love one another. Seriously though, the show doesn’t even attempt to hide this one. The other characters get some ship-tease as well, but it really doesn’t compare to the two main couples.
I think it’s clear at this point that the season has a lot of yuri anime, and I’m only halfway through the shows I’m covering. All three of the previous shows had characters with romantic feelings that were text, not subtext, but they didn’t have a ton in the way of romantic arcs. The next three are much more intense on that front. If it’s fair to call the previous shows “anime with yuri elements”, then I think it’s fair to call the next three shows “yuri anime” or at least “anime where the yuri is a central aspect”.
The first is Princess Principal. Most the shows I’m looking at are underwatched for one reason or another, but PriPri is one of the most popular shows of the season, and for good reason. A lot of attention has been paid to its fun action, likable characters, and great setting, but I’m here to highlight the yuri.
The most obvious example is Beatrice. Beatrice is openly in love with Princess Charlotte, saying so at the end of episode 3. She’s very careful about protecting Charlotte, and is the only one that refers to her as “her highness”. Furthermore, her character description in the mobile game specifically says she’s in love with Charlotte, using a phrase reserved for romantic love. Beatrice clearly isn’t going to end up with Charlotte though, so in most shows, she wouldn’t stand out as anything more than the unlucky friend with a crush.
Fortunately, Ange and Charlotte are in love with one another as well. This is clear in their many small interactions throughout the show. Ange’s personality totally changes around Charlotte, as she drops her guarded and apathetic persona. Ange’s key character trait is that she’s constantly lying, but this isn’t true when she’s talking to Charlotte. The difference can be heard in her voice, which is much softer and kinder when the two speak. They even consider the idea of running away so that they can be together, as well as the idea of Charlotte becoming Queen so that they can quote “stop hiding their relationship.” When they have a fight, it’s clearly framed as a breakup between romantic partners, and when they reunite that’s even more true. Once again, this is a relationship that, while technically not said to be romantic, doesn’t make any sense if interpreted platonically.
Except I lied right there, and they’re absolutely canonically in love. The side material, such as the posters, frame them in an even more romantic light, some of them describing them in specifically romantic terms. Confirmation in side material isn’t necessarily the best, but given that their relationship is already well supported by the text, I’m not disappointed. And the final episode came through here, with Ange almost admitting that she loves Princess before she gets stopped alongside other evidence. There’s a fair amount of subtext surrounding Chise and Dorothy as well, but that isn’t nearly as prominent as it is with Beatrice, Ange, and Charlotte. This is a show where the central driving force of the plot is two girls’ love for one another since childhood, and I’m still willing to say that the next two shows are just as gay if not more so.
Kirakira Precure was a show that I came into expecting some level of yuri-teasing. It’s pretty well known that Precure, like many magical girl shows, usually has a good amount of subtext. This is especially true lately, as 2016’s Mahoutsukai Precure was particularly gay. This year has a duo of high school students on the team, something that hasn’t been seen since 2010’s Heartcatch Precure. Building up to the release, Toei released a number of images pairing them together, some of them directly stealing poses from Sailor Moon’s Haruka and Michiru. Seeing as Haruka and Michiru are probably the most famous and influential couple in yuri history, this gave Precure fans high hopes that these two, Akira and Yukari, would be quite gay.
And those hopes have more than been satisfied. These two go further than most of Precure’s straight couples, and I honestly think they go further than Haruka and Michiru. I hardly have the time to talk about all the things that show them to be a couple, but I can list a few.
In episode 10 an old woman refers to Akira as Yukari’s boyfriend and calls her a keeper. Yukari makes no attempt to counter this, and simply reaffirms that yes, she is a keeper. In episode 18 we hear a rumor that eating at the titular Kirakira Patisserie will make your lover leave you. While this is said we get an image of Yukari running away from Akira. The two of them share a song wherein Akira says that the reason she protects Yukari is that she loves her. This is followed up on in episode 25, where a foreign prince literally competes with Akira for Yukari’s hand, while Yukari spends the episode moping over the fact that Akira doesn’t pay enough attention to her, concluding in a confession of love from Akira. Like I said, this is hardly the extent of it, but it should provide a sense of how gay these two are. They particularly stand out since they’re in a kids show, an area where representation is even more important, but they’re good even if we aren’t describing them by the standards of children. The show isn’t over yet, so I have no clue where they’re going from here, but the episodes that aired in Summer were some of the gayest in anime this year. It’s also just a fun show to watch, especially if you enjoy shows that are optimistic even when they’re sad.
And lastly, I’m going to end it on a show that surprised even me. I came into HinaLogi expecting another fun, CGDCT show with a bit of a magical girl spin on things. That’s what I got, of course, but I also got so much more. Even from the beginning, the show was full of subtext, as is expected in a show of this nature, but as time went on things got less and less subtle. There were canon crushes from the start, with one teacher liking another and the student council president liking her friend, but it was clear these wouldn’t go anywhere. What shocked me was that the main character, Lion, got paired with her friend Nina to an increasing extent as the show went on. Episode 10 was entirely devoted to their relationship, and by the end of it they were holding hands and referring to one another without honorifics. This was already great, but I thought it would end here, like most shows of its nature. It didn’t.
Episode 11 of HinaLogi is the gayest episode of anime this year, or at least the gayest episode of a good anime this year. Its first half serves as a continuation of the previous episode, as Lion and Nina spend their New Years’ together. Mostly it’s just really cute, but at the end of this half the two of them actually kiss on the lips. Yeah, it was obscured by a curtain, but this wasn’t subtle and it wasn’t ambiguous. The last yuri kiss I can remember in a show that I liked was Yuri Kuma Arashi, a full two-and-a-half years ago. And the episode doesn’t stop there.
We skip ahead to Valentine’s Day, as Lion is baking chocolates for Nina, who accidentally infuses the chocolate with her Cupid powers. This leads to the regular love potion shenanigans, though plenty of the characters act gay without eating any of the chocolate. Nina accidentally eats it and starts fawning over Lion, significantly out of character for her, but far more interesting is what the show does afterwards. We get a real sense that the chocolate is only bringing out Nina’s real feelings; while she wouldn’t openly confess her love in most situations, she never makes any attempt to take back the confession once she snaps out it. At the end of the episode, Lion herself professes her love for Nina, and Nina is all too happy to accept that love. At this point there’s absolutely no doubt; these two are girlfriends, and this is a yuri anime through-and-through. The final episode absolutely reinforces the idea that they’re in love, which is good enough for me. I never thought I’d see the day where one of these CGDCT subtext anime actually goes all the way, but I got it this time. This isn’t my favorite of the shows I covered here, but it is my favorite of these shows when looking at them as yuri anime, so I’m not ashamed to call this my yuri anime of the season.
Of course, you might hate all of these. They’re oriented towards action and slice-of-life, so if you don’t like those genres you won’t like these. I only listed shows I like, and other shows such as A Centaur’s Worries have just as much yuri as any of these. And hell, there’s a good number of people who legitimately enjoy NTR, and I’m not about to beat them up over that. But if you’re like me, and you want yuri anime that’s less creepy, yuri anime that doesn’t propagate harmful stereotypes, yuri anime that isn’t poorly written and produced, than any of these are a great choice. I’m sure you’ll find one you like among the 6. And if you really need dramatic yuri, please, just read a manga like Octave instead.