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(Redirected from Shojo-ai)
For other meanings of Yuri, see Yuri (disambiguation).
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Utena and Anthy from Revolutionary Girl Utena, a popular shōjo-ai couple.

Yuri and shōjo-ai are jargon terms amongst otaku for lesbian content, possibly sexually explicit, in anime, manga, and related fan fiction. In Western media, the term femmeslash is used instead.

Girl-love (or GL) is a similar term used to refer to lesbian content, but with a strong or exclusive emphasis on spiritual relations rather than sexual relations.


Definition and semantic drift

Much like the term otaku, yuri, although originally a Japanese loanword, has undergone significant semantic drift. The precise difference between "yuri" and "shōjo-ai"' ranges from large to none, depending on the speaker.

In Japanese, the term is typically used to mean any lesbian content in entertainment media, whether sexual or romantic, explicit or implied. For example, Futaba Channel's "yuri" board includes both hentai and non-hentai content rather than separating them. The term shōjo-ai is not usually found in this context outside of Western fandom. Neither term is generally used by Japanese lesbians describing themselves.

American use of yuri has broadened in recent years, picking up connotations from the Japanese use, but the historical usage differed: in America, yuri has typically been used to denote only the most explicit end of the spectrum, being effectively a variety of hentai; while shōjo-ai — an independently-coined term, following the logical connection to shōnen-ai — described anything without explicit sex. The term likely stayed popular because many fans wanted to remove the direct connotation of pure pornography, which is still often associated with anime as a whole in some circles.

On the Internet, "shōjo-ai" is sometimes used instead of "yuri" solely because the latter produces too much unrelated material in search engines.


The word yuri literally means "lily", and is (like many flower names) a relatively common Japanese girl's name. In 1971, Itou Bungaku, as editor of Barazoku, a magazine geared primarily towards gay men, named gay men the "Barazoku," ie., "rose tribe" and lesbians "Yurizoku," the "lily tribe." From this, many doujinshi circles incoporated the name "Yuri" or "Yuriko" into yuri hentai dōjinshi. The "-zoku" or "tribe" portion of this word was subsequently dropped. (Variants of this theory may name specific characters, often Yuri of the Dirty Pair.) Modern Japanese lesbians do not use the word "yuri" to describe themselves.

In 2005 at Yuricon in Tokyo, Itou Bungaku spoke about the creation of the term "yuri". He, and the mangaka and writers who attended as guests spoke of reclaiming the term from a primarily hentai connotation to once again describing all media that represent love, desire, attraction and intimate emotional connections between women.

Yuri as story

Many fans enjoy yuri for its skewing of the classic gender roles in anime, which are often quite stereotyped in nature and sometimes have a female character take a slightly more 'submissive' role if a significant other is introduced or appears. Conversely, yuri content is often criticized as never going anywhere, with the majority of the more dramatic stories ending tragically (even by comparison with the melodrama of romance in manga in general).

Young same-sex affection experimentation is considered natural in real-life Japan, but generally regarded as something girls grow out of. Because of this the Japanese concept of lesbianism and thus of yuri is slightly different from in the West. It often has less to do with a character's sexual identity and more to do with the current interactions with other characters. (Shōjo in particular is known for frequently featuring bisexual characters without explicitly specifying their orientation.)

Other yuri stories may involve characters with no previous romantic experience or who are otherwise depicted as straight, but are attracted to a single particular female, such as Yoshida Chizuru from HEN or Utena Tenjou from Revolutionary Girl Utena.

Many archetypical stories exist, such as the schoolyard not-quite-romances between sempai and kouhai (senior and junior), where the former is an older looking, more sophisticated woman and the latter is her younger, more awkward admirer. This is famously depicted in Marimite, which has a large yuri fandom. In other stories, some characters have bifauxnen characteristics and are considered handsome rather than beautiful. Lady Oscar from The Rose of Versailles and Utena Tenjou are famous examples, though the most famous is Haruka Tenoh from Sailor Moon.

Yuri in shōnen is stereotyped as more blunt or explicitly sexual in depiction than it is in shōjo, although some argue this is more according to males' tastes in relationships in general than to simple fanservice. Many critics of the sometimes evasive nature of shōjo in regards to sex suggest that yuri is more easily found in shōnen because it is depicted in a healthy, sexual manner. Generally, relationships are still depicted as between a junior and a senior, but these roles are often related to the age or maturity of a character rather than the appearance of the character. However, many of the design archetypes as in shōjo are used; most often, one character appeals to the bijin aspect, and the other to the mo aspect. This sometimes causes couplings from different series to strongly resemble each other. In recent times, the most notable example of this is the stunning similarities between Himemiya Chikane and Kurusugawa Himeko of Kannazuki no Miko and Azuma Hatsumi (adopted) and Azuma Hazuki of Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito; Chikane and Hazuki in particular look and act almost exactly alike, and would very likely be identical if both series had the same artist.

Famous Yuri Pairings

While many series have had implied yuri, the most famous "out" yuri pairing appeared in Sailor Moon. Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptune) first appear in the third season, and it is almost immediately obvious that they are a couple. Haruka makes it a point to dress and act in a masculine manner in the anime; she has short sandy blonde hair and wears the boys' uniform at her school. By contrast, in the manga Haruka was more gender-ambiguous, wearing the clothes of both sexes and even seeming to change appearance slightly depending on what she wore. At first glance this pairing appears to be the traditional dom-butch/sub-femme dynamic, but closer inspection shows that neither one can be considered "dominant" and that they are perfect complements to one another. It may even seem that Michiru is the one who "holds the whip" at times but truthfully neither dominates the other. Sailor Moon as a series has large helpings of yuri overtones among the other characters as well; popular pairings include Ami Mizuno/Makoto Kino, Usagi Tsukino/Rei Hino, Usagi/Minako Aino, Rei/Minako, and even Chibi-Usa/Hotaru Tomoe.

Utena Tenjou and Anthy Himemiya from Revolutionary Girl Utena are most likely the second most famous yuri couple. Similarly to Haruka and Michiru, Utena appears to be the more "masculine" of the two, also insisting on wearing the boys' uniform and participating in the surrealist duels at Ohtori Academy. However, she is naive and overly pure-hearted at times; Anthy's jaded, cynical worldview stands in sharp contrast to Utena, and, like Michiru to Haruka, serves as a moderating and calming influence over her. It can be argued that Utena/Anthy shows more of the dom/sub pattern, since it is in Anthy's character (superficially, at least) to be submissive.

Unrequited love also features heavily in shōjo-ai and yuri. One of the most well-known (and controversial) examples is Sakura Kinomoto and Tomoyo Daidouji from Cardcaptor Sakura. In this case, there is what appears to be a one-sided love, that of Tomoyo for Sakura. What makes this controversial is that the characters are still in grade school, and one wonders how much children that age can know of romantic love, much less sexual orientation. An interesting point is that the two girls' mothers were in love with one another in the past; as is the tradition of anime, it's not implausible to think that this had something to do with the present situation, in a "history repeats itself" kind of way.

In recent years, the trend has been toward yuri being more out in the open. Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito (2003), or 'YamiBou', was the most notable example of this; the main characters, Hazuki and Hatsumi, were quite obviously in love, and the story centers around Hazuki's journey through time and space to find Hatsumi after the latter departs her world on the midnight of her sixteenth birthday. The series can be thought of as an attempt to bridge the gap between shōjo and shōnen anime; its story is very deep and nearly entirely character-driven, yet it contains large amounts of fanservice and is based on an H-game.

Despite some flaws, YamiBou's influence can be keenly felt in what many consider to be its spiritual successor, Kannazuki no Miko ("Priestesses-in-Training of The Godless Month"). This is another attempt to cross genres, featuring a plot-driven storyline. It makes heavy use of mecha (giant robots), but these and even the plot itself (saving the planet from the Orochi) is just a backdrop to the real story: the love between Himemiya Chikane and Kurusagawa Himeko, reincarnations of the Lunar Miko and Solar Miko, respectively, whose job it is to combat the Orochi. Chikane and Himeko resemble Hazuki and Hatsumi extremely closely, though Himeko is much more outgoing than the spooky, selectively-mute Hatsumi. Kannazuki no Miko is considered difficult to watch by many shōjo-ai fans; no concrete conclusion is reached until after the end credits of the last episode, and even that is somewhat ethereal.

Another important example of shōjo-ai and yuri is Maria-sama ga Miteru, or 'Marimite'. Unlike YamiBou and Kannazuki no Miko, Marimite makes no attempt whatsoever to reach out to the male demographic; it is an entirely character-driven shōjo anime with little to no action or drama in the plot. Marimite follows the students at Lillian Jogakuen, an all-girls Catholic school somewhere in Japan. It focuses on the relationships between the girls, set against the backdrop of the Student Council, known as the Yamayurikai. While most of the shōjo-ai is subtext, Satō Sei (Rosa Gigantea) is quite obviously a lesbian and two entire episodes of the first season are devoted to the story of her and a former lover, Kubō Shiori. Shimazu Yoshino and Hasekura Rei act in many ways as if they are already married, having known one another since early childhood and being distant cousins. Tōdō Shimako, mysterious and aloof, seems to be growing a relationship with the small but fiery new first-year Noriko in the second season as well. As of 2005, the most popular pairing in the fandom (Sachiko/Yumi) is still at the subtext level, and some fans believe it may never progress beyond that.

Non-hentai anime which contain yuri or shōjo-ai


External links

it:Yuri ja:百合 (同人) pl:Yuri zh:百合 (同人)


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