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REVIEW: By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga


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yuricon



Joined: 06 Oct 2004
Posts: 145
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2022 2:37 pm Reply with quote
Thank you so much, Rebecca, for the thoughtful review. I agree there is so much more to write about, I'll get right on that for the next book. Anime smile

Cheers,

Erica
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John Thacker



Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2022 3:06 pm Reply with quote
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As terminology has evolved and changed within homoerotic content and stories about queer men have been grouped under the heading of “BL,” there's been a publisher-driven push to call stories about queer women “GL” as an equivalent term.


The current terminology is that "BL" is primarily used for stories about gay boys and men written for a largely female (and largely heterosexual) audience., something that Justin Sevakis touched on here. (As he noted, it's not that as a gay man he minds the existence of manga devoted to those fantasies and the female gaze, just not for him and many others.)

Of course, "TL" is used similarly now to specifically mean heterosexual porny manga aimed at a female audience, so I could see a push to use something like "GL" to distinguish the "yuri for the male gaze" stuff (which is certainly quite prominent) from things aimed for a female audience. Still, it seems like the original usage of yuri is in that aimed at queer women (cf. bara), so it seems a bit unfair to be the one to change.

None of which is to say that material is or should be limited to the original audience, but it influences the work and it certainly shows up in aggregate. Some works have crossover appeal, but it would also be limiting, as in any genre, to only have crossover works.
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wolf10



Joined: 23 Jan 2016
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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2022 4:35 pm Reply with quote
John Thacker wrote:
Of course, "TL" is used similarly now to specifically mean heterosexual porny manga aimed at a female audience, so I could see a push to use something like "GL" to distinguish the "yuri for the male gaze" stuff (which is certainly quite prominent) from things aimed for a female audience. Still, it seems like the original usage of yuri is in that aimed at queer women (cf. bara), so it seems a bit unfair to be the one to change.
It must be a regional fandom thing, because I've known "GL" to be in the lexicon for around 20 years now, and it was the lesbians and bi girls I've known calling it that. It's shorter, easier to type. Makes it sound more familiar than exotic.

(Also, tangent: BL has gotten a lot better over the years, especially in the years since Sevakis published that particular Answerman response. A number of very recent series have even been a much better representation of my own experiences than any gei comi I've read.)

Back on topic: yes, I used to read a ton of yuri. Still have a few volumes on the shelves, even. The prevalence of the male-gazey stuff (and its very unique baggage) steadily put me off the genre, though. (I mean, I'm male, but it's not really my gaze.) This sounds like a good read to remind me what I liked in the genre to begin with, not to mention the nostalgia value, as it sounds like it covers a lot of the stuff I have read and/or seen already.

Thanks as always for putting this on my radar, Rebecca, and congratulations Erica on getting a whole book out there!
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Nev999



Joined: 05 Aug 2021
Posts: 139
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2022 7:24 pm Reply with quote
wolf10 wrote:
John Thacker wrote:
Of course, "TL" is used similarly now to specifically mean heterosexual porny manga aimed at a female audience, so I could see a push to use something like "GL" to distinguish the "yuri for the male gaze" stuff (which is certainly quite prominent) from things aimed for a female audience. Still, it seems like the original usage of yuri is in that aimed at queer women (cf. bara), so it seems a bit unfair to be the one to change.
It must be a regional fandom thing, because I've known "GL" to be in the lexicon for around 20 years now, and it was the lesbians and bi girls I've known calling it that. It's shorter, easier to type. Makes it sound more familiar than exotic.

(Also, tangent: BL has gotten a lot better over the years, especially in the years since Sevakis published that particular Answerman response. A number of very recent series have even been a much better representation of my own experiences than any gei comi I've read.)

Back on topic: yes, I used to read a ton of yuri. Still have a few volumes on the shelves, even. The prevalence of the male-gazey stuff (and its very unique baggage) steadily put me off the genre, though. (I mean, I'm male, but it's not really my gaze.) This sounds like a good read to remind me what I liked in the genre to begin with, not to mention the nostalgia value, as it sounds like it covers a lot of the stuff I have read and/or seen already.

Thanks as always for putting this on my radar, Rebecca, and congratulations Erica on getting a whole book out there!


Yuri's kind of going through the same shift as BL though, at least in terms of what's available over here. I'm extremely picky about that stuff, and honestly I can randomly download stuff on my kindle and usually get stuff I actually connect with as a lesbian, or at the very least I'm not alienated/repulsed by (and if it's not, it's generally easy to tell by the cover and description). I've seen discussions that it's a mix of what we're actually getting translated (as in, there was always more authentic-feeling stuff that would be ignored because it didn't fit what they thought the 'market' wanted) and the genre itself shifting. Of course there's always going to be stuff I don't connect with, but it's easier to find stuff I do than even a few years ago. Don't have to rely on those 'yuri that don't suck' lists that would be passed around tumblr back in the day (and would occasionally be unreliable).

I can say that as a college student, yuri in general (+Revolutionary Girl Utena/Sailor Moon) was part of what helped me figure myself out. I would binge those-sometimes-inaccurate lists, and it would connect in a very specific way that I wasn't getting from other stuff at the time and I ended up thinking about why that was. (The landscape's changed a lot now, though. I think I'd have figured things out quicker if I'd been able to watch the Owl House or whatever as a kid). So I always find the history of it fascinating and hope to check this out. Thanks for the review!
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chudmaru



Joined: 25 Apr 2022
Posts: 55
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 6:08 am Reply with quote
John Thacker wrote:
Of course, "TL" is used similarly now to specifically mean heterosexual porny manga aimed at a female audience, so I could see a push to use something like "GL" to distinguish the "yuri for the male gaze" stuff (which is certainly quite prominent) from things aimed for a female audience. Still, it seems like the original usage of yuri is in that aimed at queer women (cf. bara), so it seems a bit unfair to be the one to change.


I sure hope this kind of mindset isn't going to become a thing. Other genres don't have that kind of distinction being made between certain kinds of action or comedy series so I don't see why we have to divide girls love content. If people are going to try to gatekeep or No True Scottsman a genre because it has content in it they don't like then that's on them. I will always defer to the original creator and publication on what they want to call their series. Seven Seas began releasing Ganbared Sisters in English this year and they still call it yuri at the very least.
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a_Bear_in_Bearcave



Joined: 14 Jan 2019
Posts: 530
Location: Poland
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 7:54 am Reply with quote
Yuri not only sounds much nicer and easier to pronounce to me than GL (I'm not a native English speaker, not sure if that means anything), but also allows for allusions like adding lilies to scene with two girls to subtly imply what their relationship is or will be.
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maximilianjenus



Joined: 29 Apr 2013
Posts: 2885
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 9:21 am Reply with quote
gl and bl are forever dirtied to me as genre words because the western fandom used shounen ai and shoujo ai as word equivalents to them, and those two terms have very different meanings in Japan.
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TsukasaElkKite



Joined: 22 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 9:32 am Reply with quote
yuricon wrote:
Thank you so much, Rebecca, for the thoughtful review. I agree there is so much more to write about, I'll get right on that for the next book. Anime smile

Cheers,

Erica


I love the book and left a glowing review on Amazon for you. I'm excited to hear about your next project.
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SHD



Joined: 05 Apr 2015
Posts: 1755
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 11:39 am Reply with quote
I don't quite understand what everyone's problem is with "GL". Yuri has a complicated past and present, "GL" is straightforward, stands out more (in Japanese anyway) and much more neutral, much better for usage as an umbrella term. And as mentioned previously, it's not some newfangled neologism, it's been around for ages, quite literally.

Also, "GL" doesn't refer to "yuri for the male gaze". For one, "yuri" has been used for male-targeted f/f stuff for decades at this point; and two, by now I'd bet money that there's a ton more male-targeted "yuri" than female-targeted (kind of like how "magical girl" used to imply female target audience, but for a long time now it implies a primarily male target audience).

I understand that for non-Japanese "yuri" sounds more "elegant" but even this speaks volumes about why it's not a good umbrella term: it makes clear the kind of connotations and preconceptions people have about the term, which a lot of f/f manga don't adhere to - and I don't just mean the male-targeted stuff (including porn) but also female-targeted stories that don't follow the kind of "soft girl/girl romance" that a lot of people associate yuri with in the English-speaking fandom. And on the Japanese side the spread of "yuri" for male-targeted f/f presents similar complications, among others.

GL is way more neutral, it's what it says on the box: a term for stories that deal with, well, Girls' Love (or Women's Love but that doesn't flow quite as well, same with BL). It has no particular connotations other than that. In fact, if my memory serves right - I might be misremembering so correct me if I'm wrong - in doujin culture "yurimono" used to mean simply manga by women for women ("yuri" referring simply to women in this context). F/f works were in fact called GL or rezu.
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EricMontreal22



Joined: 01 Aug 2008
Posts: 35
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 6:15 pm Reply with quote
[quote="wolf10"]
John Thacker wrote:

(Also, tangent: BL has gotten a lot better over the years, especially in the years since Sevakis published that particular Answerman response. A number of very recent series have even been a much better representation of my own experiences than any gei comi I've read.)



I'm old enough (I got into manga as a teen in the 1990s back when the only shoujo you could get in English were a few volumes from Viz who had just started serializing CLAMP's X, or X/1999 as they called it, and Banana Fish in their magazines) that I remember being told to use the terms shonen-ai for the non porny gay stuff, and YAOI for the more explicit. So, while I've learned the reasons why, I was really thrown off guard when BL became the standard term. But I think it can get difficult to even argue semantics--a Japanese friend who is involved in the Kyoto University manga department, for example, insists to me that most Japanese women don't use the term "josei" for what we would call josei manga. (Of course that's just her experience.)

Anyway, I appreciate your tangent, because I feel the same way. Hell, you could always find some BL (before it was called BL) that tried to be more realistic to the gay experience at least to some extent (90s manga Ragawa's, New York New York, which I first read in French back in the 90s as a gay teen, and is finally out in English, for example, or Akisato's Nemureru Mori no Binan/Tomoi 1980s manga which has no official English translation, but has some great, albeit melodramatic, stuff--even Frederick Schodt recommended it in Dreamland Japan years back) and the really old stuff from masters like Hagio and Takemiya (Heart of Thomas, etc) simply didn't have the characters question if they were gay OR straight.

But certainly, I agree that, with some looking, a lot of BL stuff is work that, on some level, I can relate to, whereas a lot (not all) gei comi stuff actually reads to me more like fantasy and has a LOT of instances where men who claim to be straight are seduced or raped and "turned gay"--Hell, that's also a standard trope in gay porn. So it's not simply a straight woman's fantasy, despite what Justin and others have said.

I certainly appreciate a lot about the gei comi genre and their mangaka, but recently I've often been told (usually by other gay men) that it should be something I somehow relate to much more than BL. And that's not usually true for myself, and honestly I resent being told that as a gay guy I'm reading the wrong thing lol --anyway sorry for the rant. I was excited to see someone state what I had been thinking.

Back on topic, I just recently received By Your Side, so have only read a few of the essays--but I'm really impressed. It's a good mix of being just on the side of academic writing that I like, while not being too formal and keeping Erica's strong authorial voice that I know from reading her work online. Definitely recommended to anyone with any interest in this subject, or serious manga writing and research in general.
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EricMontreal22



Joined: 01 Aug 2008
Posts: 35
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 6:24 pm Reply with quote
maximilianjenus wrote:
gl and bl are forever dirtied to me as genre words because the western fandom used shounen ai and shoujo ai as word equivalents to them, and those two terms have very different meanings in Japan.


But in the 70s and 80s shonen-ai WAS what was used in Japan for what we would now call BL. Or at least proto BL...
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yuricon



Joined: 06 Oct 2004
Posts: 145
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2022 7:24 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
I love the book and left a glowing review on Amazon for you. I'm excited to hear about your next project.


Thank you very much!
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SHD



Joined: 05 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2022 5:05 am Reply with quote
EricMontreal22 wrote:
maximilianjenus wrote:
gl and bl are forever dirtied to me as genre words because the western fandom used shounen ai and shoujo ai as word equivalents to them, and those two terms have very different meanings in Japan.


But in the 70s and 80s shonen-ai WAS what was used in Japan for what we would now call BL. Or at least proto BL...

Nope. The term "shounen ai" referred to a genre (that BL is not, no matter what certain people keep claiming, similarly how "shoujo" or "shounen" are not genres either but umbrella terms denoting target demographics, that mean less and less as time goes on). It was used for a very specific type of shoujo manga, and for a relatively short period of time. Most manga with m/m content were not called "shounen ai" even back then. It's just that the English language fandom took the term and, without understanding its context, made up its own definition for it, and then started using it in ways it was never used in Japan. (Same with "yaoi".)

Generally I think what clouds a lot of people's interpretation and understanding of these terms is that the English language fandom uses most of these terms in a wildly different way they are used in Japan, and in most cases with extremely arbitrary definitions that, most of the time, boil down to individual sensibilities and interpretations. Case in point:

EricMontreal22 wrote:
[I'm old enough (I got into manga as a teen in the 1990s back when the only shoujo you could get in English were a few volumes from Viz who had just started serializing CLAMP's X, or X/1999 as they called it, and Banana Fish in their magazines) that I remember being told to use the terms shonen-ai for the non porny gay stuff, and YAOI for the more explicit. So, while I've learned the reasons why, I was really thrown off guard when BL became the standard term. But I think it can get difficult to even argue semantics--a Japanese friend who is involved in the Kyoto University manga department, for example, insists to me that most Japanese women don't use the term "josei" for what we would call josei manga. (Of course that's just her experience.)

Again here's the "shounen ai" vs "yaoi" distinction that never actually existed and was completely made up by the English speaking fandom, where it took root and formed people's understanding and interpretation of various works despite being really vague and ultimately pointless. (Like, what is "non porny"? A long story where the characters end up having sex at one point is already "porny"? I remember seeing people arguing about these situations! "Oh if it's shounen ai I don't want to read it, I'm in it for the hot sexytimes not boring romance!" "Oh if it's yaoi I don't want to read it I'm not into porn, I want the dokidoki romance!" "Well, it's not really shounen ai because they have sex at some points but also it's not that often so I guess it's not yaoi either?!" and so on, it was so weird.)

But also here's the "for what we would call josei manga" situation. What is the definition of "josei manga" in the English speaking fandom? I suppose the one I see most often is "stories for adult women" except one, what is "adult women", and two, adult women read all sorts of stories, including those that the English language fandom generally lumps under "shounen" or "seinen". So "stories for adult women" is an extremely vague definition. Not to mention that a lot of manga exclusively targeting a female audience are serialized in magazines that don't really have a fixed age demographics as target, but are like "from teen girls to young adults" or even themes like "women who like spicy romances" or "women looking for manga about married life or raising kids", etc.

So I think the English language fandom's usage of these labels is for one not really compatible with how they're used in Japan, nor does it keep up with the changing times. Like, for a long time now ostensibly seinen magazines have been serializing manga with themes that the English language fandom would call "josei" or even "shoujo" (see: Dance Dance Danseur that people keep calling "a mix of shoujo and shounen" and it's actually being serialized in Big Comic Spirits so technically it's a seinen manga - if that means anything at all at this point). Hell, some shounen and seinen magazines now carry BL as well that they actually call BL and release under their own label. A bunch of shounen magazines have expanded their lineup to include a very diverse audience from younger people of any gender to older teens and adults of any gender - and a lot of works are developed specifically to be attractive to both male and female readers. So at this point anyone trying to apply the English language fandom's logic on the current state of the manga industry will just end up stratching their head....

Also, back to "josei" - another reason Japanese people don't really use "josei manga" is because the term is "joseimuke", which pretty much means "everything that we don't categorize as 'shoujo' based on the publisher/label, or hell let's include those as well because we're just going to lump everything under 'for female readers' and 'for male readers' and save ourselves a lot of coding." So for a Japanese audience "josei manga" is kind of like "...yeah, manga for a female audience, care to be more specific?"
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BonusStage



Joined: 24 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2022 10:02 am Reply with quote
SHD wrote:
Hell, some shounen and seinen magazines now carry BL as well that they actually call BL and release under their own label.


I personally look at it as BL/GL as a genre, and then the demographic it's aimed it generally tells you what kind of content and story its going to be. I remember there were people upset about FukaBoku when it came out in English criticizing it for being fetishy and objectifying. FukaBoku was published on COMIC MeDu which is a seinen platform and has a lot of other fanservice and ecchi titles so it would make sense since it was most likely aimed at guys who are into that sort of thing as a fetish or kink. Likewise, yuri titles that are published in anthologies like Parfait: Onee-loli Yuri which focus exclusively on loli x oneesan content is going to be aimed at similar fetish and kink audiences. And of course, series like Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya which features yuri content is also aimed at a similar audience. Much like you can say there's a difference between a romance comedy aimed at shoujo audiences like Kimi ni Todoke versus shounen audiences like Rent a Girlfriend. They're going to pander and focus in different areas of wish fulfillment, self-insertion, and fanservice.

I'll admit I use the terms BL and yuri for these genres mostly out of habit. One is wasei-eigo and the other is Japanese. I've seen both wasei-eigo terms and Japanese words used to describe both kinds of content in Japanese magazines and platforms so I'm not sure if there's an actual difference between the two or if they're used interchangeably much like how you see the english word "comics" being used to describe some manga like Jump Comics but they obviously also use the word manga.
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SHD



Joined: 05 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2022 12:43 pm Reply with quote
BonusStage wrote:
SHD wrote:
Hell, some shounen and seinen magazines now carry BL as well that they actually call BL and release under their own label.


I personally look at it as BL/GL as a genre, and then the demographic it's aimed it generally tells you what kind of content and story its going to be. I remember there were people upset about FukaBoku when it came out in English criticizing it for being fetishy and objectifying. FukaBoku was published on COMIC MeDu which is a seinen platform and has a lot of other fanservice and ecchi titles so it would make sense since it was most likely aimed at guys who are into that sort of thing as a fetish or kink. Likewise, yuri titles that are published in anthologies like Parfait: Onee-loli Yuri which focus exclusively on loli x oneesan content is going to be aimed at similar fetish and kink audiences. And of course, series like Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya which features yuri content is also aimed at a similar audience. Much like you can say there's a difference between a romance comedy aimed at shoujo audiences like Kimi ni Todoke versus shounen audiences like Rent a Girlfriend. They're going to pander and focus in different areas of wish fulfillment, self-insertion, and fanservice.

English is not my first language so I may be misunderstanding something, but as far as I'm aware, "genre" means things like action, comedy, romance, etc. So if you look at BL/GL as genres that would imply that you think works belonging in these categories have conventions they all share - but that is just not true. Like you mention, there's a great variety in BL/GL works, they don't necessarily have anything in common other than having same-sex characters in some sort of a romantic or sexual relationship, but if that makes them a genre then we should also apply this to works featuring characters of different genders in some kind of a romantic or sexual relationship, and claim that those share certain traits and conventions. Which is, again, not true. Anime smile + sweatdrop (Note: I'm aware that Japanese uses "ジャンル" for them but this is one of the cases where Japanese usage of a loanword is different from how it's used in other languages. Like マンション/mansion.)


Also, there's the fact that many times it's not magazines developing this content for their core target demo - but rather it's an attempt at luring in new demographics. In the 2000s and 2010s the anime/manga industry realized that oh, hey, female audiences exist and are a great buying force, and they started opening up toward them. And so, since women were already there reading manga regardless of whatever gender they were supposed to be "for", magazines started including series, themes, etc. that they thought would broaden their readership by making more content that appeal to female readers.

And then there are magazines that carry content that is very diverse in its themes and style, like Bunch or Gessan. I don't think that a BL/GL story being serialized in one of these would inherently tell anything about what that story is like. (Case in point: Boku wa oniichan no koto ga suki desu in Bunch.)

Edit: of course I'm not saying it's pointless to check where a particular manga is "coming from" so to speak, obviously it may have implications as to its content/style - I'm just trying to say it may not. Anime smile + sweatdrop

Maybe it's just me but I think there's no point in overcomplicating things. Labels like "shounen" or "seinen" have less and less meaning as the industry changes and develops. However, the fact that the labels come with common implications and connotations, often incorrect ones, too, may cause people to form mistaken expectations. (Which is why I'm so hung up on this thing. If I never again see someone declaring something like "this work is not BL because it's not [insert blatant stereotypes that speak more about the person's experience with knowledge about BL than actually about BL]" it's going to be too soon.)
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