It surprises me that, in Japan, being lesbian is okay… until you hit your late teens. Then it’s not okay. Then it’s evil.
This is in contrast to being gay (as in male and homosexual) where it’s just evil. From beginning to end. No leniency.
This is even represented in the names for these genres of anime and manga. Yaoi, I’ve found, is a Japanese acronym. It comes from Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi which translates to no climax, no point, no meaning. You can imagine my distress when I found out what fujoshi means; as a proud fan of the genre I don’t take too kindly to being called a ‘rotten woman’.
And right there’s another contrast between yaoi and yuri: the fanbase. Yaoi, despite being a depiction of the relationship between two men, actually caters to women and is largely drawn by them; whereas yuri caters to both genders in terms of appeal and popularity and, even though it blossomed after yaoi, rapidly grew in popularity.
But I’m not here to compare the two genres, I’m not even supposed to talk about yaoi, I’m here to tell you that I watched something I have never touched in my life to give you a post on the cool things and quirks of the genre.
First would have to be the mystery of the name: no one knows exactly where it came from, not even producers of the genre, and the first time it was ever used was in a bara magazine (which would be Japan’s gay romance for men), ‘bara’ quite literally meaning ‘rose’.
This happened in the 1970s and the first man to use ‘yuri’ in this way, Ito Bungaku, chose it because he thought it to be a fitting antonym for bara. Ito Bungaku was the editor-in-chief of the magazine Barazoku (rose tribe) and thought yurizoku (lily tribe) would be appropriate.
Coincidentally (or intentionally), in the period of Japanese romanticism, the white lily symbolized the perfect woman: beautiful in spirituality and pure in sexuality; which may explain why we now get the two types of yuri we do. This would be the pure relationships (this is mostly what I came across on my adventurous romp through girls love) and the more racy, ‘impure’ relationships.
The former is accepted and, to an extent, even expected of young girls as they grow into women. The latter, by contrast, is associated with the couple suicide of a pair of teenage girls and is, therefore, easily considered a no-no in the culture.
Interestingly, the couple suicide mentioned above is what brought girls love into the public eye for Japan which is, indisputably, the worst introduction into that sort of thing, ne?
If you’re vaguely intrigued about Yuri and the genre (which you should be because who doesn’t love girls in intimate relationships? If you watch the ‘pure’ stuff it is literally like how you hang out with your best friends) go to Yuricon which has amazing essays on girls love and the yuri genre.