Does Explicitness Define Yuri as a Genre?

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 YuriMaria-sama ga Miteru, and Slow Start.

Yuru Yuri – Is It Yuri?

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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?

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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?

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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.

24 thoughts on “Does Explicitness Define Yuri as a Genre?

      1. Teasing out subtext should be a fun game and not the end all and be all. For a very long time, I had my own closet full of self-loathing and fear. But I don’t need anime to reflect me or to validate me or my personal traits. I validate myself and if I never see myself in anime, I’m cool with it. (I almost NEVER see myself outside of anime.)

        Enjoy the yuri when it happens but also learn that all love stories are equally good. It isn’t what is between our legs but what is in our heads and our hearts. You will find more joy in life that way. Learn to see the beauty in everything else.

        https://aunatural.org/2017/11/13/the-secret-to-happiness/

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  1. At first I thought you were going to talk about a different kind of explicitness!

    I feel like this is a question that could be applied broadly to many genres, but people tend to treat it more seriously when it comes to something like yuri, since other issues like representation, coding, and queering also come into play.

    Personally, I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules for saying “This is yuri, this isn’t.” It’s more of an instinctive “feel” thing, that I think for me tends to be based more on prevalence than explicitness. Like I’ve never thought of Sailor Moon as a “yuri” series, for instance. Even though it does have an explicitly lesbian couple, they’re clear secondary characters and the main romance is still firmly heterosexual, so the overall prevalence of yuri in the story is fairly low. Whereas I do think of Nanoha as a yuri series, even though none of the relationships are made explicit like it is in Sailor Moon, because the prevalence of yuri in that series is so high; most of the scenes involving Nanoha and Fate are saturated with subtext and coding.

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    1. I’m an aspiring master of the bait-and-switch!

      That’s a great point you brought up. Does the main romance set the romance genres for series or not? I can’t disagree with your examples so it seems like that is indeed the case. Thanks WingKing.

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  2. As other commenters have already said, I guess it all boils down to the same ‘queer relationships aren’t canon until they become explicit’ rhetoric we see in western media too. It probably partly linked to fetishization – i.e straight viewers *expecting* explicit content as thats what they came for (no pun intended). But a lot of it likely stems from the fact that same-sex relationships just are not treated as seriously as straight-relationships by a lot of straight viewers. Straight couples only need subtext to be considered canon. But same-sex couples require proof – and a lot of it. And it’s frustrating.

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  3. I’d prefer it to be explicit, but I would call all of these shows except Slow Start Yuri for sure. Yuru Yuri and Maria-sama do have explicit moments where it’s clear the girls have feelings for each other. Whereas while Slow Start does have that section with the teacher, I feel like that’s more of a one-off and the rest of the show just seems like girls being girls.

    I guess as long as it’s clear the girls like each other in a romantic/physical way, I would classify it as yuri. So a confession (even a mental one) counts for me, for example.

    …Then again, you’ve also got shows where there’s a confession but apparently that means they’re best friends. Thanks KyoAni.

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  4. Whether you call it Yuri or Shoujo-ai (some feel it’s interchangeable, some don’t, and the lines are sometimes blurry) I believe subtext is okay, as long as you don’t have to use too thick of Yuri Goggles to see it. While confirmation of a relationship is great (like Sakura Trick or Citrus), sometimes just knowing the two feel that way towards each other is enough, like in Kiniro Mosaic, we all know Aya has a crush on Yoko, or in Yuru Yuri, we know Ayano has feeling for TOSHINO KYOKO (I always have to say it like that), but we don’t get the confessions or love part, and sometimes that is enough. I’m also personally fine with yuri characters in non-yuri titles as well, like in DanMachi, which technically isn’t a yuri series, but we can tell Lefiya is way into Ais, without the need of yuri goggles. in fact, it’s usually those characters that is the only reason I’ll start to watch the show in the first place.

    TL:DR – True yuri is great, but subtext should be perfectly okay, as long as you don’t have to use the very thick yuri goggles, even in non-yuri shows.

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    1. Great points. As someone who has yuri goggles on all the time it’s nice to be reminded that I should take them off sometimes, haha.

      You’re definitely right about Aya and Ayano (both Aya!) as well as capitalizing TOSHINO KYOKO. Same with Lefiya. Yeah, no yuri goggles needed for these characters at all~

      Thanks, Umedyn!

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  5. I think it’s hard because a lot of people only categorize female x female or male x male stories as yaoi and yuri, and others have girls’ love and boys’ love (or shoujo-ai and shounen-ai) and save yaoi/yuri as the hardcore stuff. So when you have two different schools of thought, it can be understandable why some may say the more subtle romances are not yuri.
    Or some people may be just in denial.

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  6. “women who are romantically and sexually attracted to other women”

    Alas and alack! Would that it were so! What we have mostly are girls and girls. Or girls and women. Not saying that can’t make for a good show. But just imagine how satisfying a relationship between someone as mature as Shimao Rokka and as fragile as Yukari Yukino would be. Or as crazy as Faye Valentine and Revy. There are adult understandings and experiences you can’t legitimately project onto high schoolers.

    Saying something is yuri will never be more than saying a location on the rainbow is yellow. There will be things dead center in the color that everyone agrees is yell but it will fade imperceptibly into orange and then red on one side and chartreuse and then green on the other. Arguments happen when we place arbitrary limits on a smooth continuum. And then terms like shounen ai and shoujo ai emerge to recognize this but are themselves equally arbitrary.

    For my money, some of the very best yuri is in Kuzu no Honkai. There are those who will say it isn’t “real” yuri because one of the girls isn’t really gay and breaks it off. Oh well.

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  7. I think this kind of argument comes up a lot with Shounen Ai/BL/Yaoi and where one title fits or whether it fits into any of the categories. I don’t think it ultimately matters because as you said each individual will make up their own mind in the end about what they consider something. For me though, I don’t think something needs to be explicit to be a prominent idea in a story and whether a relationship progresses into something physical isn’t the defining feature of a relationship for me as a viewer. So I would probably put a lot of things into the Yuri and at least Shounen Ai category that some people would say aren’t because ‘nothing’ happens.

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  8. This is actually an argument that crosses into other forms of LGBT media too, albeit in different ways. I know a few authors of diverse fiction that have been told by reviewers that their books shouldn’t be listed as gay because the two men who are romantically involved don’t have sexon the page. I know others where their characters explicitely identify as gay but because the book isn’t romance focussed, they get the same thing. I’ve had it too, my main book series has a F/F romance but it’s slow burn and doesn’t feature rude scenes, so whether it’s an LGBT (or more specifcally a lesbian) series is questioned, even with it being placed with an LGBT publisher.
    I think that a lot of it comes down to personal taste though. Personally, a little subtext is enough for me to class something as having yuri elements, at the very least in terms of undertones. I don’t honestly think anything needs to be stated outright in terms of a character’s preference, simply because you wouldn’t expect a straight person to be walking around telling everyone that they’re straight. It would be nice to see more where healthy relationships are shown and it’s made clear that the two ladies are a couple though, even without the need for intense kissing and more.
    My general opinion though: Let all romance and attraction be treated equally. Whether outwardly displayed or subtley hinted at, that it exists should be enough. 🙂

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    1. Yeah, your comments along with others have made me realized I focus on LGBTQ issues that go far beyond just yuri.

      With that being said, great points and a very thoughtful comment. Sorry to hear that your main book series is under scrutiny. I’m sure it’s definitely a solid F/F romance that doesn’t deserve the questioning.

      Thank you for dropping by, Matt c:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s amazing how far reaching issues can be, sometimes. And a lot fo the time, it’s stuff that I really don’t understand why it’s an issue. Such is life though.

        Honestly, I don’t 100% mind the scrutiny, as people are at least paying attention to the material. And whether be my book or someone else’s, the more it gets discussed, the more thigns change or solidify, so it at least helps to shape the playing field.

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  9. I think that if there are enough suggestions and the anime consists only or mostly of girls, then I would consider it yuri. I haven’t seen Yuru Yuri, but I know that even if it’s “subtextual”, the subtext is still fairly clear, so since the anime is mostly about girls, I would see it as yuri, though maybe not a serious one, as you say yourself

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    1. That’s fair. I would also agree that the subtext is clear but some hate that yuri has subtext at all and it’s very confusing and stressful to talk with people like that ;__;

      Thanks for dropping by, Moya!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. i haven’t watched any of those series so i can’t really comment on whether they’re yuri or not but i understand the whole needing to be explicit. i actually feel similarly about boys love. i like for the couple to be explicit bc then i feel like creators hover in the “it is, it’s not” boundary just to please everyone. like, it doesn’t need to be explicit like extreme makeouts but a simple confession of hey yeah i like them romantically or now we’re girl/boyfriends or a kiss, idk, something obviously romantic and not censored or inferred. i feel like this shouldn’t be the case bc like you mentioned, if it was a straight couple we wouldn’t question it, but gay relationships aren’t the norm yet (but they should be and soon! xD)

    anywho great post 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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