There are many points of contention when it comes to yuri. Some opt to capitalize the word, others may italicize the word, and a few choose to scream out the word before they begin yelling while pummeling their opponents in Salty Bet (warning: the linked video is very loud and obnoxious).
But one of the more notable disputes revolves around determining whether certain series should be considered yuri. In other words, people can’t seem to agree on what counts as yuri.
Off the top of my head, there are three series in particular which have had their status as yuri been questioned either on The Lily Garden or on another blog.
There are probably many many other series who are under similar scrutiny, but since I know and can retrieve the aforementioned comments / blog posts at a moment’s notice to demonstrate that I’m not cherrypicking against strawpeople, I’ll primarily be writing about Yuru Yuri, Maria-sama ga Miteru, and Slow Start.
Yuru Yuri – Is It Yuri?
Despite the second half of its title, Yuru Yuri have been described by some as not really being yuri. That’s because the first half of aforementioned title, yuru, which more or less means laid-back or relaxed, thoroughly defines the series. At its core, Yuru Yuri is a comedy series that primarily uses yuri for gags and remains largely subtextual.
By subtextual, I mean there are lots of shiptease / “shipping moments” between different girls which is what many yuri fans want. Yet there are also yuri fans who want serious yuri. Said individuals want the trial and tribulations of lesbian relationships to be addressed. They want couples to be canonized and official. They desire messy make-outs and whispered declarations of love shared between two girls (and the audience, as well, since we’re all peeping voyeurs).
Yuru Yuri, of course, offers none of that. The series is happy with maintaining the status quo of blushing, implication, small acts of kindness and tenderness, and ambiguity. For some, that’s enough for a series to be considered yuri. For others, as mentioned earlier, that isn’t.
I personally think Yuru Yuri does count as yuri despite its light-hearted approach, but I also understand if others disagree.
Maria-sama ga Miteru – Is It Yuri?
No one is claiming that season one, particularly during episode 10 and 11, is not yuri. During said episodes, viewers learn of Sei’s explicit romance with Shiori. Due to the tragic end of their mutual and passionate love, the mini-arc reads much like a Class S story, which was a genre that preceded modern yuri.
Their relationship is basically as clear-cut as it can get outside of Sei looking towards the viewers and saying with a straight face that she and Shiori were initiate lovers.
However, people will assert that the following seasons are not or at least drift away from being yuri. Admittedly, the yuri overtones never come close to what Sei and Shiori shared, so viewers are left with only subtext.
Be that as it may, the relationship between these girls are taken seriously unlike in Yuru Yuri. Of course, the bonds between the gals in YY are genuine, but the women in Marimite get into dramatic fights and the like over such matters almost as if these girls were in romantic relationships. With that being said, while there are more moments that are certainly juicy for yuri fans who live and thrive off subtext, other yuri fans will claim it’s simply not explicit enough.
I personally think Maria-sama ga Miteru also counts as yuri, but I will admit that it steers away from the candidness found in season one.
Slow Start – Is It Yuri?
One of the several CGDCT series which aired during the Winter 2018 anime season, Slow Start manages to be the most gay among its peers. And that’s primarily because of Eiko.
Other girls flock to Eiko like she’s a yuri goddess because she is. Yet she has her sights set on her teacher, Kiyose, and the private moments between the two of them are treated with both decorum and gravitas. There weren’t any kissing or direct confessions happening between Kiyose and Eiko during the anime series, but apparently the author is very serious about their relationship and the manga series is still on-going, so that’s something!
I personally think Slow Start is yuri given how the relationship between Eiko and Kiyose plays out and how the author feels about said bond, but I will try to understand if you disagree.
Getting too wrapped up on genres and classifications and the like is counterproductive, but I feel like yuri will forever be subject to personal preferences and opinions when it comes to ascertaining which series count or do not count.
That’s largely due to its inherent definition as content which focuses on women who are romantically and sexually attracted to other women. Whether or not a series adequately conveys that is always going to be subjective since romance itself isn’t something that has hard and fast rules (aside from the obvious taboos).
This doesn’t seem to apply to heterosexual romance / rom-coms, however. If a boy and girl has similar subtext and shiptease, the audience will easily pick up on their feelings for one another.
The same can’t be said for these series, unfortunately. That’s the life of a yuri fan for you.