Hosts: Erica Friedman, YuriMother
In the western yuri community, there are few who are more knowledgeable or influential than Erica Friedman or YuriMother. Friedman is an esteemed scholar of the genre, who has spent much of her career in the community as an advocate. In addition to running yuri news source Okazu, she founded the YuriCon convention and has written countless articles for dozens of publications. She’s given lectures at universities across the United States, and she’s edited iconic yuri manga, including Rose of Versailles. Most recently, she’s written a book tracing the history of the genre, titled By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga.
YuriMother, on the other hand, has maintained The Holy Mother of Yuri since 2012. In its ten years of operation, the site has become a must for yuri fans looking for information on the latest rumblings in the yuri world, or for reviews of the newest titles.
Over Anime Boston Weekend, Friedman gave informative, enlightening, and entertaining panels about yuri history, the “dos” and “don’ts” of traveling to Japan, and more. On May 28, at 4:00PM, though, it was her turn to be entertained.
As the panel began, Friedman proudly explained to everyone in the audience this was their chance to defend or condemn their favorite (or least favorite) yuri series. Every participant would have two minutes to plead their case, after which the floor would open to rebuttals and objections. Erica, her partner, and YuriMother, who all sat at the table at the front of the room, would serve as the jury for the event. Those who plead their case would receive prizes, with more entertainment entreaties earning more goodies.
Or, as Friedman put it, “The funnier you are, the more shit we give you!”
A line that extended from the microphone erected in the center of the room to the door had formed by the time the jury had finished their explanation, ensuring that their calls for entertainment would not go ignored.
The first series in the docket was Love Live!, the inaugural entry in Sunrise’s now-iconic idol franchise. For the uninitiated, the series revolves around a group of high school students who form an idol group, in hopes of boosting enrollment at their campus. Antics ensue, along with character moments that clearly are just about gals being pals. Anyway, the defense’s commentary was equal parts sharp and funny, with a delightful sense of humor. The audience cackled as the defense cried out “This is from the studio that makes Gundam, primarily! Why am I crying about eighteen-year-olds?! I’m a junior in college!” Likewise, a cheer swelled up as they deadpanned “not a single one of those girls is straight.”
Ultimately, the verdict was handed down, and Love Live was determined to be Good, by unanimous consent.
This first case set the tone for the afternoon, as one after another, fans of all stripes stepped up to the mic for a chance to pump up their favorite shows, or throw their least favorites under the bus. Whether folks were talking up Otherside Picnic and The Demon Girl Next Door, or lovingly describing 2007 series Hyakko! as “twelve episodes of pure crap,” the tone remained light and playful throughout the course of the hour.
That said, there were a handful of defenses that proved particularly entertaining. For example, the fourth case, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, saw the first major rebuttal of the day, as a prosecutor rose up and proclaimed, “I think that yuri needs to be wholesome, but the end of that third movie was not wholesome!”
This inspired an immediate verbal smackdown, as an audience member proclaimed “I don’t think yuri has to be wholesome,” prompting a raucous cheer from the room.
A similar response could be felt in the eleventh case. “I’d like to make an accusation, this time. I present to you, Citrus.” A roaring cheer erupted within the room, she continued. “Fun story,” they began, “when I was fifteen, realizing I was super gay in high school, I was going through some manga! And I couldn’t find any good ones about girlfriends, so I found Citrus and thought ‘this must be good!’” The presenter paused for a moment, before yelling “No, it wasn’t!”
The entire case built in this manner, until the prosecution rested, with “any time you have to say ‘it’s not technically incest,’ you’re doing something very wrong!”, to another deafening cheer. The verdict was swift and unanimous, as Citrus found itself crushed under the wheels of the bus. YuriMother closed with a brief quip, describing the series as “your soap opera of lesbian-ishm.”
And, of course, it wouldn’t be an anime convention without a JoJo reference, and it found itself in the barrel when one fan stepped up to the microphone, and stated, plainly, “I’d like to accuse JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I mean, it’s not yuri!”, as laughter rumbled through the room. A rebuttal quickly arose as someone rightly pointed out that Stone Ocean “is kinda gay. I mean, you can’t look at JoJo and be like ‘Oh, that’s not gay!’”
Friedman shrugged, before replying with “Yeah, we can’t disagree with that.”
Arguably the biggest shock of the day, though, came from a presenter who tried to argue that Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler was a wholesome series.
Yes, that Kakegurui.
“It’s sexual,” the presenter argued, “the gambling is sexualized and there’s masturbating as the bets get bigger and bigger. But the actual relationships are not sexualized!”
A murmur rose up through the crowd, as people expressed genuine curiosity about where this was going. The presenter continued, emphatically crying “One kiss – One kiss – Is the only physical contact that’s been made!” The murmurs grew louder as they concluded with an emphatic “it’s a raunchy anime, but the lesbians are completely PG!”
A rebuttal almost immediately arose, as someone pointed out “You said it was wholesome, but then said there’s masturbating.”
“No, I said the yuri is wholesome!”
“You said the whole thing at the start”
“Shut up, I can say what I want”
As the room chuckled at the exchange, YuriMother deadpanned “I’ve never seen it, but a lot of my students who are twelve have, and I am very upset.”
The hour seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye, and the end of the panel was quickly approaching. In the closing minutes of the event, the jury deliberated which arguments they found to be the most entertaining of the bunch. Two stood head and shoulders above the rest of the more than twenty arguments that were heard that day. The first was an impassioned defense of Hyakko!, in which the panelist described as “a yuri harem in disguise, and the main girl has no idea what’s going on.” The second award went to a powerful defense of My-HiME, a 2004 anime that’s best described as “like Hunger Games, but anime and gay!”
Though these two took home the top prizes, it was hard to really argue any of the arguments were anything short of winners. Those who stepped up to the mic were hilarious, witty, insightful, and even impassioned, as they tried to convince a room of fifty people to defend or condemn their titles. The audience was eager to respond in turn, delivering rebuttals, or just chiming in with cheers, jeers, and laughter. It was hard to deny that Friedman, YuriMother, or anyone else in the room was anything short of delighted by this day in court.