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.
Released by Seven Seas Entertainment, Neji’s Beauty and the Beast Girl translates that tale as old as time into yuri form. The main character, a monstrous woman named Heath, spends her time away from others, as she’s met nothing but trauma in past interactions with humans. One day, however, a young woman named Lily happens into her territory. Lily is blind, and so Heath is able to feel more comfortable with her, opening up and quickly falling in love. But will the relationship work out when Lily learns Heath’s true nature?
I think it should be fairly clear to everyone at this point that yuri is a genre I know a lot about and have a great interest in. In many ways, I see my role as being an ambassador to yuri. It’s a part of the community which has been historically underrepresented in the discussion of anime and manga, particularly on YouTube.
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Lately, autobiographic manga has seen an increase in prominence. What was once a fairly unknown genre has exploded in recent years with greater access to the tools of creation. Social media like Twitter and sites like Pixiv have made it much easier to draw manga and have it reach a broader audience, at a much lower cost than in previous decades.
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.
For full disclosure, I played this game using a free review copy provided to me by Fruitbat Factory.
Seabed is a yuri mystery visual novel, developed by Paleontology Soft and published by Fruitbat Factory. It primarily focuses on the story of three women as they go about their daily lives. These women are Sachiko, an introverted lover of books, Takako, an energetic woman who rarely thinks before acting, and Narakaski, a childhood friend of the two who meets Sachiko again as a psychologist. The central thrust of the plot is Sachiko’s grieving after Takako’s disappearance. From there, the story unfolds.
If you’re a fan of yuri anime or short anime, there’s a significant chance you’ve seen the outstanding Kanamewo. Its story of visceral love and loss is excellent and while its plot is a bit vague, there’s enough there to get emotionally attached. Its animation is brilliant, more than making up for the lack of dialogue, clearly demonstrating the shift from maternal love to sexual love to pure grief.
Through my time in the anime community, I’ve come to realize that yuri is an incredibly misunderstood genre. Many think of it as a parallel to BL, being made by men for men, while others see it as a field almost exclusively made up of women. Confused about this myself, I made an attempt to find serious, detailed information on the subject. Unfortunately, said information does not exist. While there is some data on the demographics of the yuri manga industry and on yuri fandom, said data is hard to find and deeply lacking. As such, I have done my best to summarize all of the information I have been able to find here, in an attempt to seriously look at the genre.
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.
The development of one’s identity is an important part of growing up. Individuals develop across their entire lives, but the foundation of one’s self is incredibly important. While details frequently change over the decades, deeply-held parts of one’s identity rarely shift. According to psychologist Erik Erikson, this identity formation occurs in adolescence during the stage of development known as identity vs. role confusion.