Yuri is obviously something I’m deeply interested in. I’m quite happy that the genre has undergone a shift over the last decade, leading to stories that more clearly portray their characters as queer, as well as an increase in stories that allow the characters to have sex. This is a great trend that you can see across yuri manga, but there are two recent series that really do a great job of showcasing sexuality in different ways: Flip Flappers and Kase-san.
The idea that girls in yuri manga are explicitly queer has definitely been on the rise. That said, this is only in terms of personal identification. It’s not that uncommon nowadays to see a character in a yuri manga get described as a lesbian, but it’s still very rare to see a main character who shows a consistent pattern of being attracted to other women.
This is not the case in Flip Flappers. While Cocona is fairly quick to fall in love with Papika, she hardly shows attraction to her alone. Cocona shows clear signs of being attracted to Yayaka, Iroha, and Sayuri at various times. This isn’t just before she fell in love with Papika, but during that time as well. This is particularly distinctive, as it sheds the idea that girls in yuri are supposed to be pure and devoted to their love interest. The reality, of course, is that for most of us, being in love does not stop us from being attracted to others. Cocona likes girls and that shows up time and again. I’d appreciate seeing this in more series. I can obviously buy that a girl is a lesbian even if she’s only into one girl in the whole series, but showing attraction to multiple characters does a good job of solidifying the characters’ sexuality as a key part of them and not merely a one-off thing.
Kase-san doesn’t do that, but what it does is just as valuable. Like I said in the introduction, yuri manga allow the characters to have sex now, and that’s great! A good example of this is Milk Morinaga’s Girl Friends, which in many ways reflects the shift in yuri manga as a whole. In it, the main couple wants to have sex and eventually does. That said, while they want to have sex, it’s almost like they want to do it just because they feel like they should. That’s cool and all, but Kase-san does something different that I really like.
Kase-san openly and clearly presents actual sexual attraction between its main characters. Yamada and Kase are attracted to one another, and not just in that normal “she’s so pretty” way. Instead, the two of them directly and openly are caught staring at one another’s boobs, thighs, legs, necks, and other areas. Even before they actually have sex they’re very intimate and willing to touch one another beyond holding hands. I greatly appreciate this, because it’s just not something you get to see most of the time. Generally, characters in these stories want to have sex and are attracted to one another, but those aren’t necessarily linked. In Kase-san those things very much are linked.
It’s really rare to get a series where the characters can just openly be sexually attracted to one another. Most of the time that only happens with a ‘pervert’ character and is played off for laughs, whereas here it’s just an obvious thing. ‘Of course these two teenagers in their first real relationship are horny, why wouldn’t they be?’ This depiction of healthy teenage sexuality that isn’t fetishized AND is between two girls is wonderful, and I wish we got more like it. When they do try and have sex they also constantly make sure that they’re both comfortable, which is something that’s REALLY lacking in manga in general.
Yuri manga still has a lot of directions it can go in, and it still has a long way to go in terms of embracing sexuality. But these two series provide a real ray of hope. If these elements could be ported elsewhere and perhaps even combined, we could get some really good depictions of queer female sexuality without abandoning the trappings of the yuri genre, and that’d be great.