Yuri – A genre of anime, manga, light novels, and more, which focuses on the relationship between two female characters in love. Some recent examples of anime which contain yuri themes are YuruYuri, Sakura Trick, and most recently, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. What do these three titles all have in common?
Well, all three of them are comedies, and contain moe (cute) elements, but that doesn’t stand out to me as much as the fact that they are all aimed at a male demographic. While many people might think that a theme such as yuri would naturally be aimed at guys all the time, yuri actually didn’t start that way.
The first yuri title in history was called Shiroi Heya no Futari. It was a 1971 shoujo manga which was not only aimed at girls, but it was written by a woman named Ryoko Yamagishi. Why do you suppose a title like this was aimed at girls? Wouldn’t it be more attractive for men and make a larger profit if it were targeted for them? The truth is, that’s not the case at all.
Early yuri manga and anime were aimed at girls for a reason, and it was not only Shiroi Heya no Futari which was made this way. Similar shoujo titles with yuri themes included Maria-sama ga Miteru (1998 light novel), and Revolutionary Girl Utena (1996 manga). These titles were not just made for a fetish; they were made to be elegant and proper in theme.
In Japan, it is often believed that homosexuality is a trait that appears in some young women in their early teen years, or pre-teens. It is considered to be a completely natural phase which women will slip out of at some point in their life. It’s like a step in growing up. As a result, these titles are aimed at girls in those age groups, hoping that they will appeal to girls going through those “phases”. Even the well-known children’s anime Sailor Moon had some yuri elements in it, although its intended audience had a different age group in Japan than it did overseas.
Due to the elegant and proper themes which the authors were going for in these titles, it usually resulted in an incredibly slow-paced anime adaption, which was further unappealing for men who tend to prefer fast-paced action. The type of slow-paced elegance portrayed in these titles continued for many years, long after Shiroi Heya no Futari. Even when yuri transcended over to male audiences, early titles such as Strawberry Panic! and Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito continued to have a slow pace.
It was not until I watched YuruYuri in 2011 that I realized yuri was becoming more modernized for the male demographic. Yuri had always previously been something very serious and beautiful, which girls would hope to live up to, but YuruYuri portrayed none of that. It was a silly comedy that took itself lightly. Finally, I had realized, yuri was no longer something that was reserved for serious opinions only.
The old style of yuri is still embraced by many fans, and is still implemented in a lot of media for both female and male demographics. A Kiss for the Petals, more commonly known as Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo, is an ongoing yuri visual novel series which borrows elements such as “elegant” or “proper” expectations of young women, even though the title itself is aimed at men.
Even though the genre is keeping some of its old traditions in some titles, the majority of successful newer yuri titles are fast-paced comedy. What could be influencing this change? The truth is, anime in general is becoming broader in terms of its subjects. For example, Chihayafuru is about competitive karuta, Yuri!!! on ICE features figure skating, and Kabukibu is about traditional Japanese theatre. Anime is spreading its wings right now, reaching out for as many different types of audiences as possible, no matter what they are interested in.
Yuri does not have to be reserved for female eyes only. If anime is to expand, then one of the first areas to be looked at is one which they already have. For decades, yuri was designed mainly for young women. Now, yuri is becoming open on a much larger scale. There are less limits, and more viewers. While I’m sure some women may be disgusted with the huge increase in male audience, I really feel that yuri will be more successful this way. It won’t die out as fast now that there is a much wider variety of ways to portray the content. Overall, the anime industry will benefit from this as well.
What are your thoughts on the increase in male demographics for yuri titles? What is your favorite yuri title? Do you prefer fast-paced comedy yuri or slow-paced serious yuri? Please note that I discourage discriminatory comments and will be moderating responses to this post.