But that’s not all — in her essays, she writes about yuri and other same-sex anime and manga. Boys’ love, for instance, features male/male sexual and romantic relationships (Shōnen-ai is an outdated term for romantic boy/boy stories.) Yaoi features sexually graphic male/male relationships, as opposed to romantic ones. Many women, both straight and lesbian, are fans of yaoi.
Bisexuality and transgenderism have long been a part of anime and manga, so much so that there are no specific terms for stories that feature these components. "In Japan," Friedman explained, "anime and manga are cultural acting-out spaces, places where things are talked about, since it can’t be done at the dinner table. Gender-bending and transgenderism are huge in manga, even in mainstream manga." Sailor Moon, from the mid-1990s, is one of the most well-known examples, but much earlier examples exist, too.
Ribbon no Kishi (known as Princess Knight in English) told the story of a girl who pretended to be a boy in order to inherit her father’s throne. This very popular gender-bending story was created in the 1950s by Osamu Tezuka, known as "the father of manga." This "female prince" theme recurs often in anime and manga.
Three series from the 1970s by Riyoko Ikeda had cross-dressing characters. "Rose of Versailles featured a woman also brought up as a boy, but who is open about being female," Friedman said. "She becomes the captain of Marie Antoinette’s personal guard. The story is very popular and well-known."
Though Ikeda’s Claudine is often considered an early Yuri manga, Friedman disagrees. "The main character dresses as a man and would prefer to be one. … I think it’s more realistic to call Claudine a transgendered person than a lesbian."
In Oniisama e, the main character Rei dresses in men’s clothes and falls in love with two women. Unfortunately, she dies a tragic death. Friedman remarked, "In fact all these characters die tragically … it was the early 70s."
Friedman does more than present the history of yuri anime and manga on her website; she also introduces English-speaking yuri fans to the work of new artists. In addition to the aforementioned Rica Takashima and Akiko Morishima, others of Friedman’s favorites include two "circles" (groups of artists who create manga): Sakuraike and UKOZ.
She also likes Miyabi Fujieda, a gentleman who has taken a woman’s name to write yuri manga; his book Iono-sama Fanatics is currently being translated into English.
Another of her favorites is Ebine Yamaji’s book Love My Life. "It’s just fantastic, with a very unique art style, clean, pared down, sparse, very realistic," Friedman said. And as was reported in the March 2, 2007 edition of Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever., it’s been made into a movie. Friedman, who saw the film while in Tokyo earlier this year, is hoping to screen it at Yuricon 2007.
Erica Friedman’s enthusiasm about yuri is infectious, and those who want to know more about the lesbian-centric manga genre can attend Yuricon’s Yurisai, a one-day convention on Sept. 29, 2007, in Newark. There will be guest and industry panels, discussion groups, workshops and video programming, including an animated short about Yuricon 2007′s guest of honor, Rica Takashima.
In addition, Yurisai will include a yuri manga and doujinshi library, where readers can peruse more than 30 years of yuri manga — a wonderful window into a world where lesbian relationships have quite a sweet, sexy history.