In 1853, Commodore Perry’s fleet of “black ships” reached Japan, demanding the end of the country’s Sakoku policy and the opening of ports. 15 years later, recognizing the need to shore up the state’s power lest the archipelago fall like to Western forces like the rest of Asia, the shogunate fell, and the Emperor’s power was restored after nearly a millennium. In this restoration, the capitalist class established itself its reign as the nation’s vanguard, subjugating the old nobility. It was the dawn of a new nation. On January 12, 1896, the 29th year of the Meiji era, Yoshiya Nobuko, godmother of yuri, was born to a petit-bourgeois family of samurai-descended bureaucrats. She would become one of the most well-known Japanese authors of the 20th century. It was the dawn of a new genre.
At this point, yuri is a well-established genre. Having seen unprecedented growth in 2017, it’s a genre that most any anime fan is aware of. With it comes a massive number of common tropes. All-girls’ schools, especially Catholic schools, are everywhere. Stories rarely go beyond high school and are often entirely non-sexual. Relationships are frequently between senpai and kohai. Sometimes you’ll see a “girl prince” character paired with a more femme character.
Class S has become something of a pejorative, for understandable reasons. Its intense focus on intimate relationships without any clear romance or pay-off is quite outdated, and while its influence on yuri is massive, the genre is only now stepping out of its shadow. For a long time, the fact that yuri stories followed a Class S template was a very bad thing. I’m just as happy as anyone that the situation has changed, allowing for more openly queer works in the genre. But I do have a problem with people who act as if Class S is not only outdated but a total negative in every way.