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Comics/Graphic Novels

Beyond Schoolgirls: Yuri Manga and Lesbian Manga with Adult Main Characters

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

I am a recent convert to manga, especially yuri or lesbian manga. If you’re also new to the format, you might want to start with my earlier post, Lesbian Manga and Yuri Manga: What’s the Difference and Where Should You Start? Yuri is usually defined as manga (or anime) that includes an F/F romance or lesbian subtext. Lesbian manga, on the other hand, is manga with characters who ID as lesbian: no subtext here! While I enjoy yuri manga, I especially appreciate LGBTQ manga that actually addressed queer identities and real-life experiences, not just girls blushing at each other — though there’s a place for that, too!

Unfortunately, lesbian manga and LGBTQ manga in general is harder to find, as is any lesbian or yuri manga with adult main characters. Yuri manga continues to be dominated by schoolgirl stories, which makes sense if you are familiar with the history of the genre. It’s also historically been more acceptable in Japan for girls to “play” at romance with each other (especially in all-girls schools), with the expectation that they would grow up to be with men. This allowed room for romances between girls without having to take those relationships seriously.

Times have changed, though, and we’re starting to see more yuri and lesbian manga that takes its relationships seriously. We’re even seeing relationships depicted between adult women! Here are all the ones I could find published in English — because this is still a pretty limited sub-genre, there are some repeats from my earlier lesbian manga post. This is excluding any titles that are not yet available in English or are only available online: these are all traditionally published books with official English translations.

My lesbian Experience with Loneliness Cover

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

I’m putting this one first to get it out of the way, because you’ve likely already heard of it. This a manga memoir about a woman dealing with her mental health issues as well as her sexuality. Its huge success has brought with it a few different sequels as well: My Solo Exchange DiaryMy Solo Exchange DiaryVol. 2, and the upcoming My Alcoholic Escape from Reality. This is the only memoir or nonfiction title on this list, sadly — I’d love to read more like this!

How Do We Relationship Vol. 1

How Do We Relationship? Series by Tamifull

This is my new favorite yuri/lesbian manga series! Miwa and Saeko are two lesbians who bump into each other at college and decide to start dating. They don’t have much in common and their personalities are very different, but they decide to give it a try, because finding other queer women to date is tough. I love the frank conversations and relationships, communication, and sex in this series. They both bring their own baggage to this relationship, and it takes some work and can feel awkward, but they are building something together.

Even Though We're Adults cover

Even Though We’re Adults Series by Takako Shimura

Ayano and Shuri meet in a bar, sparks fly, and the night ends with Ayano going in for a kiss. So when Ayano returns to the bar Shuri works at, she’s initially excited — until she sees that Ayano has a husband in tow. This will likely not be a story for everyone, depending on how you feel about cheating, and especially stories that might touch on the the trope of a bisexual person cheating. Ayano is immediately upfront about her experience with her husband, though, so there isn’t any sneaking around. Ayano is trying to explore her sexuality and identity in her mid-30s. If you’re okay with a little messiness, give this one a try — it’s from the same mangaka as Wandering Son and Sweet Blue Flowers.

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up cover image

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Kodama Naoka

This is another one of my favorite lesbian/yuri manga stories. It’s a short read: not only is it one volume, but there’s also a short story added onto the end. It’s about Machi, a woman who is tired of her parents constant attempts to get her married off. When a friend from high school needs a place to stay, she convinces Machi to let her move in and get a legal partnership so that her parents will stop trying to pair her off. The marriage of convenience soon develops into something else, though. There are a few moments of possible consent issues, but much less than I’m (sadly) used to seeing in yuri manga.

Days of Love at Seagull Villa Vol. 1

Days of Love at Seagull Villa Series by Kodama Naoko

When Mayumi’s fiancé leaves her for a woman she thought was a friend, she packs up her life and moves to a rural Japanese village. There, she meets Rin, her landlord — who is immediately obnoxious. Despite Mayumi’s ignorant assumptions about rural life and Rin’s general rudeness, they begin to become reliant on each other. They are both dealing with the aftermath of trauma, something that left Rin raising a child on her own. This is from the same mangaka of I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up, and both include a perhaps excessive amount of boob jokes, while also dealing with relationships between two complicated and sometimes abrasive people. Content warning: the first volume includes a kiss between half-sister side characters.

After Hours by Yuhta Nishio

After Hours Series by Yuhta Nishio

Don’t let the cherubic faces fool you: this follows two adult women. Kei and Emi meet at a night club. Emi is overwhelmed and hiding in a corner after her friend ditches her to flirt with a guy. Kei, a DJ at the club, swoops in to save her. They end up going home together. This is also one of the few yuri mangas to have a character who is likely bisexual!

I Love You So Much, I Hate You by yuni

I Love You So Much, I Hate You by yuni

This is the first in a mini list of workplace romances in this post. Saori and her boss Ayako work well together — but soon their relationship spills into other areas of their lives. Ayako is in a loveless marriage, and when she finds out her husband is cheating on her, she sleeps with Saori. They continue to meet up for drinks and casual sex, but they skirt around actually addressing what this relationship means to them. If you like your yuri manga with some sex scenes, give this one a try.

Now Loading...! by Mikan Uji

Now Loading…! by Mikan Uji

Another boss/employee romance, this one takes place in the video game industry. It’s a short, fluffy, slice-of-life manga that follows Takagi and Sakurazuki struggling to work together and then falling for each other. This is an adorable office romance that is perfect for anyone looking for a one-and-done manga volume instead of committing to a series.

Still Sick Vol 1 by Akashi

Still Sick Series by Akashi

In case you haven’t noticed, next to high school, offices are the most common yuri manga setting. This one follows two coworkers, both a little burnt out at their day jobs. Then one day Maekawa discovers Shimizu’s secret: that she draws yuri manga! (How meta.) Now Maekawa is blackmailing her to keep it secret, and Shimizu is introducing her to the wonderful world of yuri. Fair warning, though: if you don’t enjoy reading about “unlikable” characters, Maekawa may not be your cup of tea.

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon Vol. 1 by Shio Usui

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon Series by Shio Usui

For the final of the yuri/lesbian manga office titles, we have this adorable romance between two coworkers. If you’ve been looking for a yuri manga with a romance between two adults, both of whom are likable, which doesn’t involve cheating, now is your moment! This is a gentle, sweet romance between two characters who make each other better.

Goodbye, My Rose Garden Vol. 1 cover

Goodbye, My Rose Garden Series by Dr. Pepperco

(Content warning: suicide ideation) There’s no reason yuri with adult main characters has to be in the contemporary romance genre. This series is set in Victorian England and follows a lady and her maid. Hanako has moved from Japan to England to try to meet her favorite novelist. When she meets the noblewoman she will be serving as a maid, Alice requests Hanako kills her. It turns out that Alice is in love with a woman who could never love her back. But, of course, Hanako and Alice will grow closer as they get to know each other. This is a lovingly rendered version of Victorian England, even if it’s not perfectly accurate.

Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid by coolkyousinnjya

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid Series by coolkyousinnjya

I wish there were more speculative (SFF and horror) books on this list, but that still seems to be a gap in yuri and lesbian manga — at least the ones that have official English translations. This series combines two much-loved manga tropes, an office setting and maids, with a fantasy twist. Kobayashi has a pretty regular life working as a programmer — until she bumps into Tohru. Tohru is a dragon, and she seems to hate every human except Kobayashi, which means they end up living together, with Tohru earning her keep by acting as Kobayashi’s maid. It turns into a slapstick slice-of-life comedy with a lot of crass humor.

Because this is an attempt at a complete list, I wanted to mention a few that meet the criteria of this list, but that I don’t recommend. Two have relationships between teachers and students: Yuri Life by Kurukuruhime and Whenever Our Eyes Meet…: A Women’s Love Anthology. The other is the Our Teachers Are Dating! series by Pikachi Ohi, which doesn’t have a teacher/student relationship, but does have interactions between teachers and students that made me uncomfortable. (One of the characters practices saying “I love you” to her girlfriend in class with students.)

If there are any other yuri or lesbian manga titles you know of with adult main characters and an official English translation, please let me know! I’m always looking for more.