The topic of love between boys in manga has received considerable academic attention over the last couple of years. Love and romance between girls, however, have rarely been investigated. This is all the more remarkable when considering that both manga genres originated in the 1970s and are thus not new.
In my talk, I will present first results of my PhD research into the manga genre known as yuri ("lily") which depicts female same-sex attraction. Genres can generally be understood as being constructed by the texts themselves, their producers, and their audiences. However, for this presentation, I will mostly focus on the yuri genre's contents. I will trace their development back to the shōjo shōsetsu (girls' novels) of the 1920s and 1930s, arguing that many of the patterns introduced during that time persist in modern yuri manga.
My main research question is if and how the depiction of female same-sex attraction in yuri manga has changed since the 1970s. If it did, what do these changes mean for the constitution of the genre itself? The name yuri was introduced in the 1990s and today encompasses a broad variety of works, ranging from obvious love stories to ambiguous innocent romances. I argue that the main reason that such a variety is assigned one single name lies in the persistence of patterns indicating the possibility of a reading as "love story". No matter how a manga is positioned by its publisher and author in the first place, if it contains certain narrative and descriptive patterns, it becomes readable as yuri manga. Such patterns include all girls' schools as main stage of the narrative as well as illustrations of girls about to kiss. Arguing for such an understanding of the yuri genre, I will also question the hitherto interpretation of yuri as a "lesbian genre" conveying ideas about female homosexuality in Japan.
Verena Maser studied Japanese studies and Sociology at the Universities of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Trier and received her MA in 2009. Currently, she is a PhD student at the University of Trier and conducting field research in Japan on a DIJ grant.