To everyone who has accepted or wishes to understand the wonderful world of yuri, welcome to the yuri nation. You have officially become a member of an elite fan base of a genre that is not globally admired (yet) but continues growing stronger annually, blessing its members with content of vast varieties to enjoy. Before unpacking your bags and settling into your new big house with a lily garden in the front and rear, I recommend checking this guide to get a basic understanding of what it’s like to enjoy lesbian media from the land of the rising sun.
Mastering the art of watching yuri can be a daunting task for some. It takes skill, guts, stamina, endurance, tolerance, patience and acceptance. Being a Yuri Nation Member is a taste that not everyone can possess. Depending on a person’s mindset, the options of shows to watch can range from plentiful to a handful. The nation itself, while powerful, is still small compared to other anime genre fanbases out there, even yaoi. With this in mind, I figured I’d do my part to help newcomers understand what it takes to be a member of the yuri nation, how they can start their journey and grow stronger over time.
Table of Contents
- Basic definition of yuri
- Beginner level yuri
- Intermediate level yuri
- Slash Pairing
- Advanced level yuri
First of all an explanation of what Yuri is. Yuri is the generally used Japanese term for a romance subgenre in entertainment media focusing on lesbian content, both sexual and romantic. Romantic and sexual lesbian content used to be divided in shoujo-ai and yuri respectively but over time yuri became the defining for all things Japanese lesbian related, though shoujo-ai is still sometimes used by newcomers. Let’s now start with a few recommendations for beginner yuri fans.
Beginner Level Yuri
Strawberry Panic is the Hulk Hogan of yuri anime. When most people think of yuri, SP is the first title that comes to mind, whether they have seen it or not. It is an all-time classic and like many classics it has its supporters and detractors. SP is not only a good show to show fans what lesbian romance in anime form is like, it also serves to introduce what yuri anime drama is like. It’s not the “be all, end all” of yuri but it is a great starting point.
Yuru Yuri is another good show for newcomers to get into the genre. It is a good introduction to the more lighthearted side of yuri with very few drama moments compared to SP. It should be noted that YY is less intimate than SP so while the yuri is definitely there actual intimacy is kept to a minimum.
Maria-sama ga Miteru is the third recommended choice for newcomers and another drama classic, although less heavy than SP. This show also serves as a great example of “beyond subtext”. The content for most of the pairings here outside of one, would be seen as subtext but the 4-season anime did a great job of going beyond subtext without crossing the line. It’s difficult to put into words but the love is definitely there and can be seen as beyond subtext. One word of advice though, the canon (in your face) yuri is in the first season. However, it is also the weakest of the four seasons. Seasons 2-4 are far superior so those interested in the series should keep this in mind.
Sakura Trick is the most recent yuri show on the beginner’s list. Out of the five beginner’s shows I mentioned, this one has the least boundaries and restrictions of all. The show has two conditions to freely enjoy it.
1: The viewer must either be okay with or tolerant to logic defying “Breast Physics“.
2: The viewer is not a “drama oriented” viewer.
Intermediate Level Yuri
If viewers were capable of handling either of the above shows, they are ready for the next set. Again, all the shows mentioned are personal recommendations that fit the required level of viewing, not the only ones worth watching.
Kannazuki no Miko is a strange one at first glance. Fair warning, the show as a whole is average at best (And that’s being generous.). There are SOME likable characters besides Chikane and Himeko. But the one reason why this anime is another yuri classic is because of the Legend of ChiMeko as I like to call them. Their love story is one for the history books and worth sitting through the show. If there was ever an animated lesbian love story that should be told from generation to generation, ChiMeko’s without question is one of them. Explaining why would not do it justice. It HAS to be seen to be believed.
Figure 17. I have a minor update and warning: Just because the protagonists look young, the show is not very lighthearted and fluffy. It’s heart-wrenching but not complicated. It is not for beginners but not intense enough to be in the advanced category.
Kashimashi has one major requirement: The viewer has to accept that the lead protagonist’s transformation was destined (or made sense) and not an excuse. They have to accept the protagonist is a transsexual…or born feminine or whatever. Before I get flagged by pros (already did), I am aware that there are better stories out there with actual transsexual characters but this show as a whole is not bad. Besides, it’s less about “loving the protagonist because of their new look, it’s more about loving the protagonist as a person”
Candy Boy is a story that deals with the romantic feelings of twin sisters for each other. Although it may seem strange at first glance, their romance is depicted in a way that is maturely, mutually, and rationally thought out and decided upon by the sisters.The significance of this show is it showed that, if done right, sisterly love/cousins yuri can work.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, the show that probably epitomizes yuri subtext. As a franchise it’s an enjoyable mahou shoujo romp. NanoFate is a perfect example of a subtext yuri pairing that should be saying their vows at an altar…but won’t because it’s meant to be that way (according to the writers) so that the fans can decide how to interpret. Most supporters pretty much know they eventually got hitched off-screen at some point. StrikerS solidified that.
This brings me to my next (optional) requirement to being part of the yuri nation, wearing “Yuri Goggles” at all times. There was a time long ago that lesbian media, especially canon, in anime and (for a while) manga was scarce. Not only that but shows with positive endings for lesbian characters in anime and manga were also scarce back then. I like to call that time “The Dark Age of yuri”. Thankfully the dark fog, for the most part, became weaker as time passed. Back to yuri goggles.. There are some shows featuring female characters who have several moments together that, while not sexual in nature, give off subtle signs of lesbianism. Sometimes the girls DO cross the line and get…”frisky”. Most of these characters are not confirmed as being gay by the writers but the subtle “squee” inducing moments throughout the show that the girls are in together suggest otherwise for fans wearing “yuri goggles”.
The first advantage to wearing yuri goggles is that wearers get complimentary yuri goodness that they can work wonders with…unless the writers eventually confirm the ladies being a canon couple, which is even better. The second advantage is that gives goggle wearers more options.
A sub-level of subtext where fans pair up characters because they look good together. The difference between subtext and slash is that slash has little to no hints that the two should be together. They just do. Don’t get me wrong, slash fans can also work magic with these pairings, it’s just there’s less evidence to pair the two up than in a subtext pairing.
Advanced Level Yuri
It’s not the yuri content in the show that make these hard to recommend to the inexperienced, it’s the shows as a whole. These shows take skill to get the most out of them. These shows are meant to make viewers use their brains to fully comprehend them.
While Revolutionary Girl Utena is another yuri classic, it ain’t easy to fully grasp why. It can be watched and enjoyed just fine. The thing is that both the show and the movie are heavy with symbolism, depth and some intense themes regarding society.
Here’s another high level show for ya. Simoun is one of those hidden gems that requires an understanding of how its universe works, accepting its rules and being open-minded to the max, even more than Utena. Realities of war, making the ultimate decision of one’s future, accepting or defying established norms, heresy and other serious stuff.
Mnemosyne is a show I would best describe as the epitome of curiosity. That coming from me scratching my head and asking myself why I liked it. Even if I were to review it would not make sense to me. My own words would confuse me. Like Devil Lady, Mnemosyne is no “fuwa fuwa fun time”.
Kuttsukiboshi is a strange little 2-OVA tale. These two do not hold back at all once they make their feelings known to one another…but then the end of episode 1 happened…and then there was episode 2…proceed with caution. This is not a hentai but it requires the viewer to have a “just roll with it” approach.
Yuri Kuma Arashi: Like Utena the show is not for the casual to delve into unless they are prepared for lots of symbolism and complicated storytelling. However, for viewers who persevere it will (most likely) make sense as more of the plot is explained. Also the yuri here is raunchier than in Utena yet still quite romantic. All part of the show’s message and themes.
So there you have it everyone, my personal newcomer’s guide to yuri anime. Keep in mind that I do not guarantee everyone will enjoy these picks and could get more enjoyment out of other shows with yuri, of both subtext and canon variety, in them. These shows are personal recommendations. I hope this guide will serve newcomers well.
When ready to go out into the nation full of lilies, swimming pools, empty classrooms, nurse’s offices, trains and other yuri hotspots, check out The Yuri Anime List for even more options.