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Interview: Erica Friedman - Page 2

Yuri Manga Publisher and Founder of YuriCon

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Yuri Hime Summer 2007, a yuri manga magazine published by Ichijinsha

Yuri Hime Summer 2007

© Ichijinsha

Both are considered yuri. Strawberry Panic is full of underwear, bathing, "pervy" behavior and nonconsensual situations, as well as explicitly yuri coupling, where Maria-sama tends to be romantic without any explicit yuri couples. The differences reflect the requirements of the audience, not of "yuri" in particular.

Q: How are shonen yuri stories different from shojo yuri stories?

EF: In general yuri characters in shonen stories look more feminine, but act in a more overtly "pervy" way. Shizuru in My-HiMe, for instance.

Shojo yuri characters may look more androgynous, or even masculine, but act in a more idealized, romantic way. Haruka from Sailor Moon is a good example of that.

Q: In yaoi manga, there's a common theme of the seme and uke characters (the dominant pursuer and the passive / resistant pursuee). Are there similar common themes in yuri?

EF: Gosh, what a massively complex question!! I thought you said "basics?" (laughs)

You have to remember that BL is a specific genre with very specific tropes. Yuri ranges over all genres, is written by every conceivable kind of creator for every conceivable kind of audience. So again, the tropes of a story are more likely to be that of the magazine/genre than of yuri.

That having been said, yes and no. (smiles)

Because the dynamic of the seme / uke is so well known, it's bound to show up in yuri. But the butch / femme dynamic is sort of skewed to uke / seme, since in lesbian relationships the butch is probably more often to be the uke. (I am making huge generalizations here, so there will always be exceptions, of course.)

In general, I'm going to say no. There is much less obsession with pursued/pursuer in yuri manga than there is in yaoi. Of course, having said that, I can think of several exceptions right off the top of my head. Iono-sama, for instance.

Q: How did yuri manga get started in Japan? Were there any seminal, influential works that influenced the creation of this genre?

EF: My belief is that the grandmother of yuri manga, indeed all of shojo as we know it, is an early 20th-century lesbian novelist in Japan, named Yoshiya Nobuko. She was instrumental in the creation of literature for girls written by women. Many of the usual conventions of shojo are first seen in her stories, which were hugely popular in her time.

When shojo manga was first breaking out as a separate genre in the early 1970's, gender roles, gender identity and sexuality were all popular themes. At the same time, Moto Hagio's The Heart of Thomas (Toma no Shinzo) and Keiko Takemiya's Song of Wind and Trees (Kaze to Ki No Uta) were being written, so was Our White Room and Claudine. You can see a strong Takarazuka influence in these, as well.

There were a few series here and there that explored love between women, but Sailor Moon was the first hugely popular anime / manga series with an openly yuri couple.

In 2000, I created what would become Yuricon, when there was still very little yuri, but in 2003, when we held our first convention, and published the first English-language yuri manga anthology, in Japan a yuri manga magazine started up. From then, it's been two steps forward, one step back In yuri. For every series that has a devoted couple, or admirable character, there's five that have perverted behavior and underwear parties. (laughs)

Q: In your opinion, who are the most interesting or most popular yuri manga creators in Japan today?

EF: Hayashiya Shizuru, whose Hayate x Blade and Strawberry Shake Sweet are among my favorite series ever.

Yamaji Ebine, who unfortunately hasn't written any yuri recently, but wrote some excellent series, including Love My Life, which was made into a live-action movie.

Shimura Takako, whose Sweet Blue Flowers is indeed a sweet look at young love.

Morishima Akiko, whose work, like Hayashiya's, runs in the yuri manga magazine Yuri Hime.

Takashima Rica, whose Rica 'tte Kanji!? remains one of my favorite books ever!

Q: Is yuri manga a popular genre in Japan?

EF: Yuri has nowhere near the level of popularity as a separate genre as BL. But it's on the rise. There's more yuri characters in mainstream manga and more yuri manga being published now than ever before.

Yuri Hime (Yuri Princess), and Yuri Hime S are the two yuri-specific magazines in Japan. They are both quarterly. Yuri Hime is targeted at women, while Yuri Hime S is targeted more at men.

Q: How and when did you first discover yuri manga?

EF: For me, it was Sailor Moon. Episode 3 of the third season, when Haruka first opened her mouth and Ogata Megumi's voice popped out. I nearly fell off the couch. (laughs) Seeing Haruka and Michiru being so much a couple in an anime really blew me away.

Q: What do you love most about yuri manga?

EF: Like most people, when I was young, I spent a lot of time looking for media that reflected my life. For a young lesbian, seeing a story that reflects a genuine love between two women is a mind-blowing experience. Now as an old woman, what I love best is letting people know that that kind of thing exists. I get emails all the time from young women who thank me for telling them about a manga or anime that they saw and were moved by.

Q: In the past there hasn't been a lot of translated yuri manga published here in the States – but that's been changing recently, with several yuri titles published by Seven Seas Manga, and the occasional yuri title from TokyoPop and other publishers. Have you noticed that there's been a surge of interest in yuri manga, or is it still in the early stages?

EF: The first yuri publisher in the U.S. was actually ALC Publishing, which is the publishing arm of Yuricon. (laughs) We've been publishing yuri manga since 2003.

I'm glad Seven Seas has entered the market, because they can access titles that we're too small to pick up. Tokyopop has dabbled in yuri here and there over the years, but it's nothing they have ever really focused on. I really respect and admire the job Seven Seas have been doing - I hope that they are successful, because they are bringing out some of the yuri I'd like to see come over here, especially with the collections from Yuri Hime, like First Love Sisters.

(More on Page 3)
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