Secret Yuri Conspiracy?

In shadowy smoke-filled rooms the darkly illuminated masterminds of fandom plot the tastes of otaku worldwide. They slowly have infiltrated all levels of anime and manga production with their sleeper agents. Over time they have insidiously increased the potential for fanboys to ship their favorite girls together.  Some crazy people might have written fan-fictions about the girls from Azumanga Daioh or been Juri Arisugawa fans less for her complex personality and more for her doujinshi potential but they were the minority. But now the sleeper has awoken and shows like K-On!, Lucky Star, and Toaru Kagaku no Railgun have brought their unified vision of a yuri-wonderland to the forefront. Their war was won before anyone realized a shot had been fired. OK. That is me being silly plus that it ignores the fact that guys have been liking girl on girl action since time immemorial. But I have noticed a strangely silent but extremely aggravating male fandom appearing that is bolder and bolder while at the same time remaining largely unnoticed.

There needs to be a word for fans who see yuri everywhere. This goes beyond just liking seeing girls together, that is not where the interest lies because quite frankly that is unsurprising to anyone. It is more about people who see yuri in every friendship, in every show, and believe there is always an underlying context from the creator. This mirrors the extreme fujoshi (we talked about it a while ago) but I don’t really see anyone complaining that these yuri fans are “ruining” anime as is thrown at the yaoi community. Perhaps it is who I talk to on the internet, perhaps people don’t recognize them, or perhaps it is a classic double-standard.

Anyone who is regularly on the Internet to read about anime and manga knows about fujoshi. The effects of fujoshi and fandom have been examined closely and will be talked about whenever female fandom it brought up. They are praised and vilified in equal measure although certain places are much friendly or harsher than others. But they are an easily identified community in part because they are usually so loud and proud. But their male counterparts seems so quiet to the point it is easy to wonder if they exist at all. They have no common moniker and they don’t really come up in conversations as a group in conversations about fan-service, demographics, fandom, moe, doujinshi or any other the other topic they would be involved in. It would be easy to assume they don’t exist in any appreciable amount. But they are there and they are legion. They ship their favorite couples even if no basis for their coupling exists, they buy shows that cater (or pander) to their interest, and can be just as infuriating as their female counterparts.

This group of fans first became apparent to me with Pretty Cure. My only real knowledge of the show came from others discussing the girls’ relationships with such passion that my conclusion was that it was a magical girl show featuring a lesbian couple and that was the focus of the series. Lo and behold when I watched the first series years later I was surprised to find it simply a magical girl show; any yuri subtext seemed to be on the part of fans. Now, it is not as if Sailor Moon did not have dozens of girl/girl popular pairings, but I doubt that anyone attempting to find out about Sailor Moon had the misconception that I did with Pretty Cure. And then all that yuri desire for Pretty Cure gave birth to something like Nanoha.

Fujoshi get a lot of flack. They are constantly blamed for ruining shonen fighting manga and mecha anime and people regularly mention how sickened they are by the mere existence of yaoi. But their male counterparts don’t get anywhere near the animosity. I never hear anyone complain about them. But the male yuri fans can be very aggressive. Get them talking about something like Aria or My-HiME and you will wonder if the yuri fans and the non-yuri fans watched the same show. Woe to the fool that tears into a show with their favorite pairing like Chu-Bra!! or A Channel. You gets shows like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha that take the normally female friendly magical girl genre and turn it into a show with a distinct yuri leaning for the fan boys. None of the girls are lesbians in the show but the subtext is so easily exploited. A look at Nanoha doujinshi shows that fans latched onto this subtext and latched onto it hard.  In Toaru Kagaku no Railgun we see that Kuroko Shirai is the only lesbian character but fans pair up all the girls quite frequently. Even shows like Hanasaku Iroha were heavily influenced by the desire of those with yuri goggles but the fandom plays if off like nothing. That third episode is hardly nothing.

Hanasaku Iroha’s controversial(?) third episode reminds of the double standard that is bandied about so readily. Let’s say that instead of writing erotic fiction about the girls at the inn, the author wrote about the two male chefs instead, would the reaction to the episode be different? Of course it would be despite the claims that it was just fun/humor. Just as so many titles may throw in a bishonen, titles across the board are including lesbian characters or subtext and I don’t think it is just for diversity’s sake. Everyone likes to be catered to, but I’d like it better if it was just admitted.

I wonder why this group is gets such a free pass? Is it because they simply don’t have a name? It is harder to attack a group with no identity so and most you might only pick individual targets when you can. It is because they are generally quiet? Fujoshi often talk about their fandom proudly but yuri fanboys then to cloak their fandom in more indirect terms. Many of them might be praising characters or shows but you know they are watching these shows with no male presence because they want to fawn over the girls and their yuri potential. Is it because they are mainly part of more hated fandoms? Most of them are parts of moe, harem, and shonen romance fandoms. People who would complain about them go after the greater trends of fan-service and storytelling these larger groups bring to anime and therefore they never get singled out. Or is it simple sexism? Are men allowed to have whatever sexual proclivity they wish as long as it is considered manly but women are expected to hide such desires? I am not sure what the answer is but I do find it strange that this group is not talked about more. They are there and their existence might be more influential than you would first imagine.

Last year I thought the new trend would actually be yuri anime, that hasn’t quite happened yet, but the fandom seems to continue to grow. This is not a wholly bad thing, this post is not about denouncing the evils of yuri! As someone who enjoys many conical and imagined pairings, I’m happy for it. But when I see how much frustration straight and yaoi shippers can cause, I wonder why yuri shippers don’t get equal treatment.


12 thoughts on “Secret Yuri Conspiracy?

  1. yomikoma says:

    It’s too bad “fudanshi” already means a male fan who concentrates on yaoi shipping. Perhaps “yudanshi” would work (using the yu from yuri), or “mudanshi” (using the mu from Mugi, the K-ON character who similarly sees yuri in every f/f interaction). Naturally there are likely to be yujoshi/mujoshi as well, if not as many.

    But surely 2ch already has a name for this phenomenon, right?

    • reversethieves says:

      I have asked in the past about the existence of this term and so far no one has ever told me a name for these fans. But I think the fact that EVEN 2ch does not have a term for it a sign that this group is generally unexamined.

      EDIT: Your offhanded comment about Mugi has enlightened Narutaki about K-On! more than you will ever realize. ;)

      – Hisui

  2. thedigitalbug says:

    I really think that it is somewhat assumed that a large majority of males enjoy yuri pairing. In other words it’s perceived as something that is largely mainstream (normal) and doesn’t need labeling. If anything, we are more likely to get a name for males who don’t like yuri since they seem to be in a minority.
    Fujoshi are in somewhat of an odd place. The name carries the same stigma as otaku and at the same time are villified by a loud minority of otaku. I don’t think it’s because of outright sexism. It seems like a combination of factors. The fujoshi have been rising in numbers in the past decade. This has brought many changes. Many people reject change. They find it to be a danger to the way they enjoy their franchises. Just look at what happened in the Idolm@ster scene. They were planning on releasing an all boy Idolm@ster game. The current fans were furious at the announcement. I think this is also somewhat analogous to girls entering male dominated sports.

  3. Daryl Surat says:

    If it truly is a secret conspiracy, it’s such a big secret that nobody can even tell that it exists or is present.

    The answer to your question as to why yuri fans don’t get the attention that yaoi fans receive is fairly simple and has nothing to do with “so it’s okay if a man does it, but not when a woman does?!” The simple truth is…there are not very many English-speaking male yuri fans.

    The examples you cite are series that are either not all that popular in America–Aria, Maria Watches Over Us, etc–or are series for which the yuri contingent–we’ll define that here as “the people watching the series to derive that sort of content”–is but a TINY minority of the whole. Can any of us really in good faith argue that this is also the case among fans of current popular favorite Axis Powers Hetalia? Or, if we went back a few years, even Ouran High School Host Club? As far as sheer visibility is concerned–both online and at conventions–yaoi fans are simply more prominent than yuri ones. The majority of conventions I attend do not have any dedicated yuri-related programming, be that panels or programming blocks. But all of them, regardless of size, will have something for yaoi, and it WILL be packed, and it WILL emanate sonic waves of a unique register that makes it stand out from the rest of the noise at the convention. THAT is why they get the attention or “flack.”

    All the series you cite as being ones in which the yuri otaku are latching onto are heavy-duty otaku series that may appear to garner a ton of English-language online discussion, but in reality just have a small yet highly vocal and highly Internet-active following. Stuff like Nanoha, Railgun/Index, Chu-Bra!, and heck even K-On! may be big in Japan, but they’re drops in the bucket here such that even if the majority of the fans of those titles were into yuri, there simply aren’t ENOUGH of them for anybody to notice.

  4. Gerald says:

    (It looks like Daryl got to this before I could but I’m posting my thoughts anyway)

    There’s a couple of problems with this article:

    First of all, the biggest assumption you make is that yaoi fans are female and yuri fans are male. I’ve spent years on the Yuricon mailing list, going to yuri panels and on various forums and from what I’ve seen, the vast majority of the active fanbase of yuri is female, being a male myself this might seem hypocritical, but most of the conversation, fanfiction, and active participation is done by women. In fact, the yaoi/yuri fandom crossover is remarkably similar. I would even venture that most female yuri fans are also yaoi fans, not sure how that works, but I guess women are just more OK with that in general.

    Also, as Erica Friedman can tell you the yuri audience is a PITTANCE of the yaoi audience. If there is 1/10th of the yuri audience that there is of the yaoi audience, then that would be a lot. Yaoi fandom can support multiple manga releases on a very regular basis and multiple shows a year that are given actual DVD releases in the US yearly. I’ve got Junjo Romantic and Antique Bakery sitting in my house courtesy of Right Stuf and that’s just the past couple of months! The yuri fandom can barely support one fan run company with a few releases a year and maybe one or two shows ever year. Have you ever gone to a yaoi panel at a con and a yuri panel at the same con? Every single anime con in the US has a yaoi panel, EVEN ones like the god awful Metrocon that’s held in Tampa which CLAIMS to be an all ages con, but has a yaoi panel. Every yaoi panel will ALWAYS fill the room to capacity and the yuri panel will be lucky if it can fill a small room half way if it’s even held. HELL, there’s a Yaoi Con that’s gone on for YEARS and there’s been TWO Yuri-cons held by the same person in ten years. The yuri manga imprint that Seven Seas manga had didn’t do too well, Tokyo Pop hasn’t really tried to do anything with yuri and frankly neither has any other manga publisher.

    I don’t deny that there are fans out there that will try and see yuri in everything they can. In fact, if you look at Erica’s list of top yuri in 2010 you see a lot of titles that really have no yuri in them, just hints of it. Heck, even Precure is on the list!

    Yuri fans, unlike yaoi fans, have to scrap for pretty much everything they can and they’re such a small contingent of anime fandom that I’ve never heard anyone say that the yuri fans are “ruining” anime, except for this article. There are just not enough of them to make a difference! There are not even enough of them to get shows like Aoi Hana or Sasameki Koto released legitimately outside of, MAYBE a stream and just forget about the much cheaper to release manga titles. Also, you make a major error in when talking about the big, popular shows in yuri. Yaoi fans are absolutely allowed to like, slash, pair, ship, butt-bro and do whatever they want with any characters and shows they want, however, the BIG yaoi shows within the fandoms are rarely shows that were made to be yaoi shows.

    This brings up another giant can of worms that I’ll try to get out of the way as quickly as possible. There is basically no show that’s created for a “shonen” audience that doesn’t purposely have characters in the show, sometimes as main characters, sometimes as shoehorned in characters, that are supposed to appeal to the yaoi demographic since the publishers want to sell as many books as possible, this doesn’t happen very often with yuri, at least not in bigger, main stream shows. It does happen in stuff like the Noir/Madlax stuff, but it’s kept purposely vague to appeal to a wider demographic. The Shonen Jump stuff varies from vague to pretty blatant.

    The big deal yuri shows tend to be shows that are pretty blatant about it, Sailor Moon actually had a canon lesbian couple in it and those two remain the most popular yuri characters and pairing in that show and if you’ve read the manga the lesbian characteristics go even further, Utena may have been slightly vague in the TV series and clearly just friends in the manga, but in the movie it was pretty clear Anthy and Utena were da lesbeens, the popular yuri show of last year was Aoi Hana, a show with a very clear lesbian character, the year before was Sasameki Koto, another clear lesbian character. The popular yaoi shows are NOT shows like this, they’re shows like Gundam Wing (a bit old now, but still relevant), One Piece, Naruto, Hitman, and to a lesser extent, Bleach and things like Ace Attorney (actually Ace Attorney is gigantic in yaoi). None of these things were created as yaoi shows, unlike the yuri audience. They WERE created, however with the exact purpose of attracting that audience with what every yaoi fan wants, SUBTEXT SUBTEXT SUBTEXT.

    So when you hear fans talking trash about fujoshi and saying they’re “ruining” their shows, those fans are pretty much full of crap since those shows were “ruined” from the very beginning. I’m not going to try to apologize for those fans since a good 80% of them are guys (and girls) who just don’t want to see the homosexual subtext in the show, however the yaoi fans often can’t stand for that even though that’s how the show was designed! So both sides are correct. It’s SUPPOSED to be vague so that the guys can just be seen as “friends” or as “butt-friends” however the opposing viewpoints will never, ever see eye to eye on this which is where the battles come from. In designing the show for a wider audience, they’ve in turn split the audiences against each other.

    I think yuri fans are getting a “pass” as you say because they just have not demonstrated as being that much of a problem. There’s not big contingent that’s trying to pair Yourichi with Rangiku, Sakura with Hinata, and there’s maybe a small audience who is pairing, say, Robin with Nami, but have you ever heard them yelling in hallways or screaming at panels when the two characters appear? I can definitely say I haven’t, and this small audience have not fundamentally changed the way we see these characters. It’s however, hard to say the word “Sasuke” and not instantly say “Naruto” like they’re conjoined twins, but joined at the butt to penis. Heck, there’s shows like Hitman Reborn which is meant to be a shonen show but I know ZERO guys even watching that show. It’s been entirely taken over by the yaoi contingent.

    Even if I were to be a jerk and ONLY compare the very worst of both sides of fandom, the WORST yaoi fans and the WORST yuri fans, you’d be hard pressed to see those yuri fans doing the same obnoxious things that the yaoi fans do. A small part of it I do chalk up to the fandom attempting to be more mature and with Erica Friedman beating down anyone who acts like an idiot while yaoi fandom seems to encourage excessive outbursts and general insanity (which, I know for a fact annoys the more mature yaoi fans).

    While this response has gone on to be longer than the original post was, I hope that I’ve made my point, if yuri fans were more numerous, more outspoken, more driven, more noticeable, and more MALE then I think I’d have to agree with your points, but as it is yaoi fans are the ones yelling at cons, filling up with gigantic amounts of crap writing, and having some of the loudest panels outside of the Zombie Apocalypse. It shows a vibrant and excited fan base that I’m sure yuri fandom wishes it had so it could receive the same ire and the same manga releases, and the same DVDs, and the same gigantic halls filled with screaming fans.

    • reversethieves says:

      Our article isn’t about all yuri fans, it is about a particular branch of yuri fans. I didn’t actually mention gender in the specific, just that the reputation for yuri and yaoi in the fandom are pretty different. Many of these fans are male, like to complain about crazy BL implication, but have wild yuri theories about every show.

      But I gotta say your comments about how crazy fans act at conventions is a good point.


  5. MikeyDPirate says:

    Maybe it has something to do with a thing that is similar in the US. When we see a pair of gay men on the TV, everybody gets all upset about it and says that it shouldn’t be happening. Get a pair of hot girls on each other and all the guys are clamoring it and saying that “Oh dude! That is so hot!”. I kind of see it like that and was the first thing that came to mind when I started to read your article. I would think it is especially true in a fandom that mostly has males in it. No ‘hot blooded man’ would want to see two guys on each other making it our a story focus on their relationship. Especially since most of the time it has a stigma of anime fan girls going head over heels for it. Then on the same side of the coin most anime fans (male or female) may not want to see the two main males in First of the North Star making out (but surely fanart and fanfics do exist).

    At the same time there seem to be a lack in good quality yuri. If anything I find it hard to find. I would like to say I am a yuri fan but it is hard to look for so we have to settle for tiny tidbits within shows which both yuri and yaoi fans of both sexes do. Maybe the reason why Yuri fans get a free pass is because it is so small compare to the Yaoi fans who are a bit more vocal plus the stigma that comes with yaoi as it being a fangirl majority fanbase.

  6. TheBigN says:

    That there’s a double standard in this case is sure. But as Gerald said, the contingent of yuri fans (or at least open and vocal yuri fans, which I think might be important) is much smaller compared to their yaoi counterparts. It doesn’t help that if you are too open about yuri subtext, you might get smacked down hard by some yuri fans as well. Looking at some threads in 4chan’s yuri board, you definitely have a lot of fans that want people to stop talking about shows if they have just subtext and no actual confirmation of yuri. Hanasaku Iroha is one such example, despite the scene in episode 3 (which reminds me of a similar scene also played for laughs in a more purely comedic show, Ninja Nonsense).

  7. Catherine Meyers says:

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  8. BruceMcF says:

    There may not be a name for that type of yuri fan, but there is a name for what they do ~ yuri goggles. Take off the yuri goggles and there is exactly one yuri relationship in Marimite, Sei Sato and her second year relationship seen in flashback in the Forest of Thorns light novel arc. Put on the yuri goggles and turn them up to 8 or so, and there a multiple yuri relationships.

    Indeed, turn up the yuri goggles to 10, and anytime two girls appear in the same camera shot, there is a yuri relationship there.

  9. KIAB says:

    I’ve been a yaoi fan for a long time as well as a yuri fan and I have to say that, I appreciate both and as for a term for the yuri counterpart, I’m kind of sad that there’s really not a term for that [quite yet]. Overall, I do hope an official term comes soon about and I understand there are some that do prefer to not express it openly or for some that do. Overall, I’m glad to have come across this site. It’s been a pleasure to be here! =]

  10. Ytsuken says:

    It’s sexism/homophobia, lol. Typical male mentality. Girl/girl = hot, boy/boy = gross, male oriented fanservice = expected and beyond any criticism, female oriented fanservice = pure evil. No further explanation required.

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