Project Haruhi
20Dec/1010

12 Days of Anime #6: Girls Love Girls’ Love

I promise this is the only image from this series I'll use, mainly because it's the only one I CAN use

I've never been shy about the fact that I enjoy things intended for a female audience. I like the emphasis on emotions and relationships, romantic and otherwise, and the calm atmosphere is a refreshing break from the typical frenetic fare targeted at males. Despite the gender gap, most elements of these types of stories aren't alienating to me; my closest friends growing up were female, so constant chatter centering on hair, makeup and clothes is almost nostalgic.

However, there was always one point where both my childhood friends and shoujo manga would begin to lose me: boys. Not only did I have trouble relating to many of my male friends, but I was never attracted to them. So, while I enjoy the perspective shoujo stories are told from, I always have trouble sympathizing with the main character's romantic interest. That's not to say I can't enjoy and appreciate it anyway, but if heightened empathetic appeal is one of the primary draws, it certainly does bring the enjoyment down a notch. The solution seems obvious, but for a long time it was notorious for having its own problems.

More cute pictures after the break!

As recently as three or four years ago, it was something of an in-joke among yuri fans that being a lesbian character in anime and manga was the equivalent of being African-American in slasher film. It seemed like nearly every good major work which was partially or mainly centered around yuri was either destined to end in blood and tears or, if the writer felt especially generous, to reduce it to kids being kids. If the author didn't want to do either of those, they would be unashamedly vague, turn some of them into men, or it would just be terrible instead. I enjoy a good tragedy (perhaps a little too much), but I do want to see a happy ending more often than never. Up until I lost track of anime in at the end of 2007, you could count every major yuri work with a happy ending on one hand even if you were a bit clumsy with an axe as a kid.

Being the jaded jerk that I am, I wasn't expecting much when I started hearing about new yuri. However,  I was in for a very pleasant surprise when I picked anime and manga back up again this year. Part of that surprise was called Aoi Hana, or Sweet Blue Flowers for people who like English. Finally, here was a yuri anime that was not only emotionally engrossing but wasn't afraid of where it was going. It carries itself confidently and unapologetically, telling an endearing story which manages to deal with heartbreak without becoming drenched in angst. It was a breath of fresh air and a wonderful example of what the genre could be. It's hard to find a review of Aoi Hana that isn't glowing with praise, and for good reason. After years of watching everyone die and break up, this comes along and manages to be liberating and entertaining. Given the creator's other work, Wandering Son, this seems to be a theme for her. Not only is it good yuri, which in itself is pretty rare, it's a good romantic slice-of-life story that can easily stand with the best of that genre, as well.

"We at least kiss at the end of this, right?"

And there was more. Girl Friends, which I had been loosely following before I dropped everything, had finished while I wasn't looking. It never ends up being more than fluff that consciously decides not to tackle any hard issues, but it was still an enjoyable read with a satisfying and happy ending--something which had been conspicuously rare in yuri works. Sasameki Koto has also managed to be entertaining and funny despite being unremarkable, and has the added bonus of the manga still being published. Candy Boy (the matter of whether or not it's actually yuri aside) is well-written and charming and, despite its lack of substance and relatively small amount of material, shows promise.

Finding not just one of the elusive yuri titles which are both entertaining and end somewhat happily, but several, made me glad I decided to jump back into this hobby. The progression and evolution of storytelling and relatively large amount of creative independence allowed in the manga and anime industry is what drew me to it in the first place.  Seeing that this force had been hard at work even while I wasn't paying attention reminded me of this in a big way. I don't think I'll be losing interest in this hobby again any time soon.

About Megan

Megan (aka Yuki) enjoys emotional and thought-provoking stories like Haibane Renmei and Simoun. She pretends to know what she’s talking about, but is actually as clueless as the rest of us.

  • Kei

    KASHIMASHI FOREVER!

    Seriously, I love that show. And I’m glad the OVA finally paired Hazumu and Tomari, just like fate intended.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know, I tend not to really like shojo-ai or yuri and, for some reason, like yaoi and shonen-ai more.

  • I dabble in the consumption of yuri works myself from time to time. Sasameki Koto probably being one of my faves as far as anime goes. Aoi Hana I thought had some good moments, but the anime was a bit slow for my tastes.

    The manga I most enjoy is the fluffy Girl Friends that you spoke of. I’m also starting to get into Octave (very sexual) and Hayate X Blade, which has come highly recommended to be several of the yuri fans I know. It’s heavy on the comedy, but I’m looking forward to the action.

    • Everything I’ve read of Hayate X Blade is not yuri at all, aside from the occasional side joke. Octave looks interesting, though.

      • true, I’m only a few chapters into the show & I’ve yet to see anything that truly hints at it being a yuri production besides the almost completely female cast and some of the character types. But it has shown itself to be pretty damn funny.

  • Vic

    I apologize if this will sound like I’m trolling, but I hate the Simoun series. The plot was so ridiculously slow and boring I couldn’t bare watching more than the first two episodes (which is something that hardly happens to me, since I do my best to see the best in every series). However, I still saw beyond the concept of the series to the point that I still like to watch yuri every time I want to watch something different and rather refreshing.

    • Kei

      A honest, well-reasoned opinion is NEVER trolling.

      Believe it or not, I felt the exact same way about Simoun. I think I made it through three episodes before dropping it. I just don’t see what Glen finds so great about it. >_<;

      • The plot was a mess, but I really liked the character development.

  • Ame

    I’m sorry but.. What series IS that from?

    • If you mean the top image, it’s from the first Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo eroge.