Yuri is a specific type of Japanese manga. Manga is the term that is given to Japanese comic books. Yuri is a genre of manga that involves lesbian content. There are specific mangas whose story centers around a lesbian relationship, and there are mangas who have lesbian relationships within them, although the story does not center on them. Directly translated, yuri means lily. Back in 1971, the editor of a magazine, Itou Bungaku, used the term Barazoku for gay men, which translated into rose tribe, and Yurizoku for lesbians, which translated into lily tribe. The term Yurizoku eventually got shortened down into simply yuri.
While there have been many yuri pairings in manga, it took awhile for it to appear on television. In Japanese society, homosexuality is still not widely accepted. In Japan, marrying and having children is a sign of becoming an adult. It is therefore believed that if you are single, as many lesbian and gays are, there is something wrong with you. Interestingly enough, a homosexual who gets married another person, one of the opposite sex, is believed to be an okay person. This is true even if the homosexual one of the pair is obvious about having lovers who are the same sex as they are.
Because of the discrimination against homosexuals, it took until the third season of Sailor Moon, a popular manga and anime, for yuri to be seen on television. In this season when Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune appear, it is easily noticeable that they are together. Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) starts wearing boys clothes. She is often seen with very short hair and wears a boys uniform to school. Whenever Haruka and Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptune) appear together, fans can easily tell that the two are a couple. Creator Naoko Takeuchi has said that the two are a pair. The relationship was hidden as much as possible in some countries, such as in English and in France. The voice-overs were changed so that the audience was not as aware that the two were lesbians and were together.
A popular type of yuri is the school-girl yuri. In these stories, two girls explore their feelings for each other and experiment sexually. Often there is a senior/junior aspect of the story, where the older girl is much wiser and taller and takes it upon herself to teach the younger girl many things. One of the more popular school-girl yuri’s is Marimite. This story is about girls that go to a Catholic school. There are three lesbian pairings in this show and in all of them there is one older girl and one younger girl.
Yuri should not be confused with hentai, which is a form of Japanese pornography. Hentai is available in both manga and in animated form, known as anime. Yuri focuses more on a plot and on the feelings the characters go through. Most of the yuri stories are character driven and do not have a lot of action in them. Hentai is more about sexual intercourse and does not focus on character feelings or on plot.