Yuri – A Subtle or Pure Love?

by Kai.

Tsukigami Runa

In yuri franchises, there are undeniably ones where the girls love each other to the utmost affection, and they themselves even admit and confess to their lovers. Other yuri media prefer subtle hints to pure confessions. Which would deliver a more powerful emotion?

Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke o Amakute Otona no Torokeru Chuu

We will first have a look at the former. Anime of the former are rare, with some major examples including Maria-Sama ga Miteru and Strawberry Panic. By contrast, there are quite a lot of manga of these types, not to mention the Sono Hanabira visual novel series. In here, the girls gather their courage and confess to their lovers. With the purest of intentions, a successful confession returns a feeling of harmony and happiness. After all, a confession is a simple but powerful thing. With one confession, it can decide everything, and immediately set the couple in a journey of love, be it flowery or thorny.

I always look up and respect a girl who openly confesses to another girl, and I respect the other girl even more so for accepting her emotions, and even loves her back in return. As the “laws” regarding same-sex relationships are still held in such strict manners, it feels magical that there are still such extreme purity between girls that it’s almost pristine.

nanofate Nanoha Fate Testerossa yuri

Delivering subtle hints of yuri intimacy is what anime do best, and can at times, deliver a similarly powerful feeling as well. Take Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha for example, they never said they love each other, and most indulge in various doujins for their Nanoha X Fate fanaticism. However, the relations between the two is subliminal. Indeed, even though it’s never mentioned, we all know they like each other, and see each other as more than just “friends”. Through countless hardships, they now live together, and even have a child! Just what else can we depict from that? The vague, yet surefire blooming romance is what fuels the burning passion of such wonders.

Yamiyo ni Odore

Ones who go for pure confessions would no doubt be bold and courageous, and especially so if both are girls due to the difficulties in social acceptance of such relationships. Overcoming great obstacles, that they love each other to great lengths is obvious. Ones who go for a subtler approach can be engaging in another form of love as well. They never confess but they know they “love” each other, and their “love” for each other comes in an eventual but natural manner. Even if ultimately, they weren’t able to marry each other, I see this as another form of love. As they say, love comes in all shapes and sizes.

Which one of these two delivers a more powerful feeling? I would say both is equally powerful. The feeling of desiring one another is just as strong even if both are fundamentally different forms of love.

About the Guest Author:
Kai is a dear friend and a lovable personality on the anime blogosphere. So when he contacted me about hosting a few of his thoughts on a topic I enjoy, I happily obliged. Kai blogs at deluscar. Please give his blog a look!

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41 Responses to Yuri – A Subtle or Pure Love?

  1. AXYPB says:

    Do you have any examples of media where these types of relationships develop concurrently?

    • Kai says:

      Can’t think of anything right on top of my head right now but what about Girl Friends manga? Mari X Akko is definitely the main couple, while I see Sugi and Tamamin as the “subtle” couple.

  2. vanillaheadphones says:

    Doesn’t Yuru Y uri also give a somewhat subtle hints and confessions?

  3. gozieson says:

    Interesting, I can agree that we could mainly segregate girls’ love and the way they express it into these two categories. Of course under these two categories, there is a certain niche that fans of anime and manga of yuri will have to fill in themselves to properly understand and enjoy the relationship a character has with another.

    For instance, for those who upfront confesses to their love interest about their interest to begin a relationship with another, they might have a bit of trouble attempting to get together without seeming as if they really are in a relationship in the eyes of others whereas for those who are subtle about it, they may find difficulty in attempting to properly establish the connection between each other.

    As a series goes on, the authors may present the scenarios to the audiences with some extent of resolution but if the relationship remains unresolved in a way, then it’s up to the audience to attempt to interpret, in their own words or minds, what they think should happen next with the couple.

    • Kai says:

      Indeed. I noticed that in most yuri manga I read, is mainly of the “pure” ones, while some anime I watched are more of the “subtle” ones. And I think that isn’t really a problem,

      I guess that’s a general problem. For ones who upfront confesses and actually get together, they are suffering from the lack of acknowledgement and I guess that’s why so many “pure” yuri manga speaks of this theme. For “subtle” ones, they have the advantage in regards to that, but as you say, they themselves may have problems establishing a connection with each other.

      Well funnily enough, there are some series which treats the “law” of same-sex relationships almost non-existent, and it ended with the couple happily ever after without even being bothered with the laws.

  4. Kai says:

    Reblogged this on deluscar and commented:
    A post I wrote for Yi at Listless Ink about romances in yuri. A big thank you for Yi for allowing me the opportunity to write for her blog^^

  5. necrocosmos says:

    Netorare:D, so awesome. STill i think it depends on how story is driven. Done properly is good in 2 kinds, thou i dislike subtle hints, it feels a bit like someone is afraid to move step forward. So i prefer confession, not neccesery pure, i like some agresion in it as well.

    • Kai says:

      I don’t mind either one. As you said, as long as the story is written well, and the execution good, both is fine. I can sympathize with the girl even if she’s afraid. She had to make a choice whether or not to be with her lover and be alienated from the rest, or to choose not to be alienated but progress along without confessions. It’s one hell of a big choice, which has much more impact then boy-girl relationships.

  6. jreding says:

    Kai, thank you so much for this analysis of yuri romance which made me even more interested in the ‘pure confession’ type of story of which I don’t know much! As I basically try to keep up w/ ongoing anime series I rarery find the time to read manga and have no experience of VN’s at all. Actually I was quite surprised when Mouretsu Pirates recently featured a “canon” yuri couple (just watch ep. 17). Hopefully this indicates more yuri in future anime!

    The social acceptance of yuri relationships, I’d guess, depends on the culture and laws of different places. In Sasameki Koto, as I recall, the main characters even form a school club for girls who love other girls! Even though this may only happen in the anime world I assume that such relationships are not that much of a problem as long as it is between girls who are supposed by society to be immature and to “find the right way” once they grow up. So I guess social acceptance is a problem which becomes more acute w/ age and maturity.

    Personally, I do enjoy the innocence and subtlety of yuri couples who did not openly confess. Sometimes I think yuri becomes ever more charming the more it is just implied as this indicates romantic feelings which are just about to develop. But then again, most of the yuri universe is still unknown for me and I hope to explore it further one day soon!

    • Kai says:

      Ahh, that’s why I keep stalling my ongoing anime until it’s almost the end, lol. While waiting, I just keep myself busy with manga, visual novels and even games. That had me by surprise too, Mouretsu Pirates give an impression that it’s going to be the “subtle” type, but that episode completely caught me off guard.

      Different countries does have different laws after all. Ohh is it? *puts Sasameki Koto on plan to watch list* Must check it out! Ohh age. That is an interesting point. I remember the girls from Octave struggling from this problem early on, and if I’m not mistaken, they are 18+ years old in age too.

      Yes I like the subtlety of yuri relationships too. The hints and indication that they are in “love” with each other, yet their innocene outlooks are always nice to see.

  7. Sari says:

    I generally dislike what often goes for “subtlety” in stories because it’s often a synonym for lazy, cowardly or just downright pointless. While I do like stories that I have to piece together myself and force me to think, I don’t like those that come with half the pieces missing and asking me to make the rest up myself. I might as well skip the middleman and write my own story at that point.

    And “subtle” yuri plays right into that. If you want them together, show them together, don’t waste my time by dropping extremely vague hints I can infer in a 100 ways just to give shippers something to write about.

    • Kai says:

      I think this mostly apply to mystery anime, solving the puzzles and figuring out what happened. Some mystery anime worked best with subtlety though and it’s only after some revelations that it got ruined. After all, it’s “mystery.”

      I think some yuri stories actually work best with subtlety, in fact subtlety works well with yuri romances in the first place. There’s also the genres to consider. For ones like Yuru Yuri, mainly used yuri as a main element for humors, so subtlety had to be maintained, we don’t wanna see characters like them gloomy and struggling and stuffs.

  8. wieselhead says:

    curiously I never came in contact with straight confessions between two girls in anime, not that I was searching for it anyway ^^ Candy Boy for example handled the relationshipin a more subtle manner, unlike in boy x girl relationship I never thought “say it already, say it!” I could already see what the two girls have a very deep bonding where such words aren’t necessary. I liked that =)

    The Nahoha x Fate couple is great, I was surprised as I saw them so close in the third season.
    I found it so cool how they took the different roles Nanoha as the husband type and with Fate as the wife type. At fist I slightly expected that the studio don’t have the guts to officially announce that they are lesbian, or let me put it different; that they love each other. But Now Im ok with that.

    I guess it’s not always necessary to give the audience an direct “in your face” confession. Especially girl x girl relationships work very well without it. Since these relationships are always full of nice and pure feelings.

    • Kai says:

      Anime is rare with those and honestly, I’d love to have some anime recommendations with the “pure confessions” yuri. In comparison, manga seems to have more in common. Never watched canby boy but their relationships does kinda resemble Nanoha and Fate.

      Their development is slow and steady. They started as enemies at first but by second season, they are the best of friends, by third season, they are [inserts imaginative remarks] In some doujins I read, it’s actually Fate taking the more masculine role and Nanoha taking the motherly role, and it works. Now that when you think about it, Nanoha is just a human on Earth, despite having such highly magical strength, so she taking the more feminine role is expected, but I guess the other way around works too. I’m totally ok with it too xD

      Indeed. A girl’s purity makes them so expressive it makes confessions not really a necessary 😀

  9. I’m the type of person who desires clarity. Fluffiness is good, but it doesn’t exclude straightforwardness, which I find essential for a healthy relationship. To let your lover know your feelings clears a lot of unnecessary misunderstandings, and I think that such behavior doesn’t inevitably make the romance dull. It just saves from cliches. I like mature characters, but that’s always me.

    • Kai says:

      Raw confessions are certainly powerful, but if it’s yuri, telling your relationships require extreme boldness. Social acceptance is an issue, yes, but if the other party is straight and even sees these types of relationships as something nasty, it would even destroy their friendships.

      Though like you said, clarification is an important thing in a relationship. That is why I respect girls who could confess with such boldness, since at the same time she is confessing, the fear of alienation is alkways riding on her back.

  10. feihei says:

    I think there is beauty in both breeds of yuri. Of course, one-sided love is also fun. Sometimes, it is presented in a comedic manner-and that can be enjoyable. But, the stories that stay in my heart the longest are the bitter-sweet unrequited love stories. Regarding pure and subtle stories…
    The subtle relationship between Canaan and Maria is beautiful. The pure relashionship between Sei and Shiori was beautiful. Honestly, I don’t really care what kind of yuri there is, any well-made yuri anything is good enough for me.

    • Kai says:

      And you speak the truth 😀
      Canaan is indeed another good example of subtle romance, but like you said, whether or not they are subtle, or pure is a good yuri.

  11. Stef says:

    Why categorize yuri love in such a binary manner? Can’t we treat it like heterosexual relationships, with all their different possible developments and outcomes? What about context? Do the characters live in a society that doesn’t approve homosexuality? And if so, is the story a commentary on that? What about recreational sex? Or indecisive status and feelings? Jealousy? Cheating?

    • Kai says:

      I never did categorize them specifically. These two are only two from the many different forms of love. It can certainly develop into different possible, unique outcomes. The level of acceptance of society kinda depends on subtlety or purity. Once again, there are indeed a lot of outcomes and mine are only two of the very few originated from the massive different outcomes.

  12. Valk says:

    Subtle relationships can often carry much more significance than explicit confessions… although it all depends on how it is portrayed in the end. After all yuri comes in all shapes, but if I were to remain indifferent to one, that would be the comical portrayal of media like yuruyuri and many of the post-2008 anime (they are full of “yuri stalkers” for some reason).

    • Kai says:

      Indeed. And indeed comical portrayal of subtle relationships tend to carry less weight nor significance. There are some good subtle yuri but as you said, it does depend on the execution.

  13. Akito_Kinomoto says:

    As someone who’s been burned by the lack of confirmation present in romantic two-girl friendships, I’ve finally learned to just accept the work for what it is and not for what it uses to draw in an audience. Sometimes, however, the yuri that starts out as a joke becomes something more serious (I’m looking at you Negima!…). So I usually go for the more outright yuri these days but I can’t tear myself away from incessant teasing.

    Being yuri fan is suffering. xD

    • Kai says:

      I think you should check out some yuri manga. A majority of them have pure yuri confessions, and a majority of them deal with realistic problems faced with these kinds of relationships, though some manga focused on this less while some focused on it more. And indeed, being a yuri fan means being teased ❤

  14. Yi says:

    It feels as though this relates to ambiguity in the relationship at its core. Yuri as a genre–although I do not particularly like calling it that, but it is convenient–is quite broad, ranging from explicitly stated romantic relationships to completely platonic friendship to even simply two girls closely interacting. The two approaches yuri takes to explore relationships seem to apply to two points on this continuum. Although I’m not as convinced a binary exists or the two (loose-)categories are exclusive–not that it’s implied–this is a fun way to quickly reduce yuri down to two groups.

    Anyways, I enjoy both approaches. One of my favorite yuri manga, Clover, is lovely collection of this range of approaches.

    p.s. This post is something I feel those with yuri goggles would write. After all, we are the ones insisting romantic feelings where none may exist. “They just have not confessed yet.”

    p.p.s. Thank you for the guest post. I really appreciate it and it’s very well-received. So thanks so much!!

    • Kai says:

      Indeed, and I indeed never did mention that there are only two of these. The two in these yuri routes are two forms of love ranging from a more larger origination. Indeed, and all of these have different, interesting outlooks, yet still the same in it’s roots.

      I see. Haven read it yet but going to try it out soon 😀
      And I guess it’s a no brainer I have my yuri goggles on
      24/7 xD

      And not a problem. Thanks for having me!

    • Tomeamis says:

      “After all, we are the ones insisting romantic feelings where none may exist.”
      This is precisely why I don’t really like the “subtle” kind that much. Someone here posted Candy Boy as an example, but I think that in Candy Boy it is fairly obvious that the feelings between Kana and Yuki are something a bit more, but for example Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha drives me crazy because Fate and Nanoha are dancing on the edge but it’s still quite likely that they are “just” (very, very good) friends.
      I don’t think confession is really necessary (It’s usually one of the sweetest moments of the story, though I suppose Candy Boy was one big sweet moment 😛 ) but if it’s just as, if not more, likely that they are just friends the magic just…. isn’t quite there.

      • arahman84 says:

        Nanoha…bleh. At this point, it should be fairly evident that it’s just 7Arcs finding that it’s much more fun to tease around with the relationships than making it explicitly canon (not to mention there’s also the Nanoha/Yuuno ship, so non-canonizing means not pissing of either of the two sides). On the flipside though, the Nanoha dev is also behind the current-season Akuma no Riddle, which it straight-up classified as Yuri.

  15. schneider says:

    I prefer the “subtle” kind of yuri. Personally, I’d rather watch a relationship that works well, actual romance or no. I just love it when two individuals can hold a great conversation, do wonderful things together, or just be the best of friends. I’m more of a “show me” type of person so I value actual proof that two girls care for each other than confessions. That said, I don’t mind reading or watching a “pure” yuri story or two.

    (Not to mention the story I’m writing is subtle, too)

    • Kai says:

      You made a good point. Sometimes during confessions, we are not shown the “journey” in which they discover their love, so the confessions don’t feel as powerful. The “journey” is quite important and in Nanoha, the anime had showed us a really wonderful “journey”, even though they never confess. It’s probably because of the “journey” is why I am so obsessed with Nanoha x Fate.

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  17. tamed lion says:

    may i ask where the picture on the very top of your article comes from?

  18. epeldoll says:

    Reblogged this on Epeldoll Anime Blog.

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  20. arahman84 says:

    Personally, I would say it all boils down to the executon- exemplified by Candy Boy and Sakura Trick. One’s quite subtle about the relationship, the other holds back nothing (with more kisses in the first episode than some anime sees in a whole season). Both of them being among my favourites. Then again, I guess there’s a difference between subtle hints and constant “will they or won’t they”-ing.

    • Kai says:

      It’s been a year, and it’s funny how you mentioned Sakura Trick, and all of a sudden, it just seems to bring in much more perspective on the topic, especially on my side here.

      [Spoilers Ahead]

      In Sakura Trick, there may be a lot of kissing scenes, and couples may be developed int canon status already by the beginning. But if you had watched all the episodes, you might had noticed the girls of respective pairings, had never think of each other as lovers. Well, Shizuku x Kotone seems a bit vague in this case, but Haruka X Yuu is especially clear – you can clearly see this in the last episode of Sakura Trick. They just never seem to think of each other as lovers, despite the fact that they DO regard their relationship as “special”.

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  22. mikulv says:

    may i can use these illust for my blog?

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