Manga-Curious: 5 Yuri Manga for First-Time Readers

For the longest time, I found manga intimidating, especially with the stereotype of manga being either sex fantasies for men or action-packed sagas. However, once I got past that initial fear (thanks to a coworker who helped me find some calmer titles to start off with), I found that manga, just like most formats, is more than just one genre. There are subgenres that where the plots are geared towards specific ages, with examples like:

  • kodomomuke (cutesy manga meant for young children), 
  • shonen (adventure stories marketed to teen boys), 
  • shojo (stories centered around exploration of relationships geared towards teen girls), 
  • seinen (adult fiction geared towards adult men), and 
  • josei (adult fiction centered around relationships marketed to adult women). 

Nowadays, I love narratives that center around personal relationships (platonic or romantic), which can be found more typically in shojo and josei works. If you want to get even more specific with it, there are sub-subgenres for romantic/sexual identities, such as BL (boy love) and yuri (sapphic). I think that is so cool, especially since I had started reading manga thinking that it was entirely centered on what men wanted to read and wouldn’t feature much, if any, queerness. If you want to get into manga, but don’t want to start with One Piece, never fear! Here are five of my favorite yuri manga that are great for people who haven’t read much manga before! 

Monthly In The Garden with My Landlord series by Yodokawa

Monthly in the Garden with My Landlord, Vol. 1 cover

After getting out of an unhealthy relationship with her ex-girlfriend, Asako Suga wants a completely fresh start and decides to move to into a cute house. The only thing she didn’t count on was that the house came with a cute live-in landlord, who seems to be hiding a secret about her past. As the two live together and learn more about each other, Asako and Miyako become closer in this cozy story. Monthly In The Garden with My Landlord is a fantastic beginner manga for people who love forced-proximity stories and new adult protagonists. The second volume just came out on March 19th, so be sure to get your copy here!

Just Friends by Ana Oncina

Just Friends cover

As a teenager, Erika was forced to go to an overnight camp by her mother, in an effort for Erika to make more friends. While there, she met a girl named Emi, who changed her life forever with their relationship. In this dual timeline manga, Erika and Emi are now adults, who remember that summer together as they engage in an affair marked by nostalgia and secrecy. Just Friends will make you long for the simplicity of your youth, even as you see how it can be weaponized into something unhealthy. I particularly enjoyed Just Friends because it didn’t feature a “good” relationship—it showed the spectrum on which relationships can reside, making this perhaps the most realistic of these titles.

The Two of Them Are Pretty Much Like This, Vol. 1 by Takashi Ikeda

The Two of Them Are Pretty Much Like This Vol. 1 cover

If you are a fan of the “they were roommates” trope, then you will want to read The Two of Them Are Pretty Much Like This. Scriptwriter Ellie and voice actress Wako are roommates, mentor and mentee… and lovers! This cozy manga covers their day-to-day lives as Ellie deals with writer’s block, Wako struggles with auditions, and the two hang out with friends. 

The Two of Them Are Pretty Much Like This is a four-volume series and is a delightfully quiet and charming example of slice of life manga. 

Our Teachers Are Dating series by Pikachi Ohi

Our Teachers Are Dating! Vol. 1 cover

If you like workplace romances, then you will like Our Teachers are Dating. Gym teacher Hayama and biology teacher Terano work together at an all-girls school and are crushing on each other hard. Their students and fellow teachers ship the two of them and work together to get the two teachers to confess. The rest of the volume covers the beginning of Hayama and Terano’s relationship, from stolen kisses at work to their first overnight trip. Our Teachers Are Dating is the first of four volumes in which we get to see this coworkers-to-lovers story, and the two protagonists are SUPER adorable. You’ll want to read this manga if you enjoy fluff stories, tender moments, and awkward (yet perfect) comedy. 

I Don’t Know Which is Love, Vol. 1 by Tamamushi Oku

I Don't Know Which Is Love, Vol. 1 cover

When Mei graduated high school, she was determined to leave behind an unfulfilled crush and to get a girlfriend in college. If only it was that simple… Mei is confronted with a variety of women at college and cannot decide who to pursue. With love interests like the older professor, the physically affectionate roommate, the voice-obsessed theatre techie, the sweet model, and the gregarious theatre ingenue, how will Mei ever choose? I will say, I Don’t Know Which is Love is verging on yuri harem territory, so be aware if you are not comfortable reading that kind of content. That being said, I loved reading this manga as it was super cute and played with the concept of having casual sapphic relationships. Definitely read it if you enjoy why-choose stories, romance, and college settings!

As always, you can get any of these books through your local library, indie bookstore, or through the Bookshop links above! Happy reading!

Chloe (they/he) is a public librarian in Baltimore, who identifies as Indigenous, autistic, and panromantic demisexual. They enjoy reading queer literature for any age group, as well as fantasy, contemporary, and romance. In their spare time, he acts in local community theaters and plays role-playing games. You can find them on GoodreadsTwitter, or Instagram.

Danika reviews Revolutionary Girl Utena manga by Chiho Saito


If you have never heard of Utena, I’m not sure exactly how to explain it to you. It is an anime, manga series, and movie. It’s sort of like Sailor Moon, but darker, weirder, and with more subtext and incest (between siblings). I watched the anime first, then the movie, then the stand-alone manga (The Adolescence of Utena), and now I’ve finished the original manga series. Utena follows the main character, Utena, who was rescued from near-death (or despair, depending on the version) as a child by a prince. The prince tells her to stay noble, so she is inspired to grow up to become… a prince herself! How can you resist that premise? When Utena grows up, she is told that she will meet her prince at a boarding school. There she is caught up in a bizarre dueling club and a mysterious plot surrounding someone named “World’s End” and the power to revolutionize the world. Also there’s an upside-down floating castle in the sky when they duel. Utena fluctuates between realism, fantasy, and comedy (that’s mostly in the anime).


Caught up in this duelling club is Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride (the other girl on the cover of volumes 2 and 5). The Rose Bride is given to the victor of a duel, and she must do anything the victor says. Utena is appalled by this, and tries to win the duel to keep Anthy safe and befriend her. Their relationship is most important one in the book, though the other members of the duelling club, and Anthy’s brother, are also significant. I do think the treatment of Anthy as a woman of color in this series is very problematic, because she is treated as weak and a servant through most of series (and she is constantly being slapped). For on, the manga describes her as “exotic-looking” in the intro. (I guess that all of the characters are people of colour, but Anthy is treated differently as a dark-skinned woman.) At the same time, Anthy does get her own character arc, and I am glad that darker-skinned characters are included, but there are definitely problems with how she is treated in the entire series.

On the lesbian content: it is mostly subtext, [spoilers for movie, highlight to read] except in the movie, where they make out [end spoilers]. The manga is subtextual, though, to see the kind of subtext we’re talking about, here are my notes about it concerning the first volume: “Just subtext for now. Well, I mean, between Anthy and Utena. They’re just, you know, engaged. And Utena’s best friend constantly says that she’s in love with Utena, only has eyes for her, etc. And all the girls in school swoon for Utena, whether she’s wearing a boy’s uniform or a fancy dress.” The subtext also gets more and more intense between Utena and Anthy throughout the series. There is a character who is a lesbian in the anime and straight in the manga, however.


Utena is a series that is re-told through each medium, almost like how a fairy tale can be told many different ways. The manga, the stand-alone manga, the movie, and the series all cover the same time period and the same very loose plot, but they differ wildly. (I have theories about this. If you do read or watch Utena, you will probably develop your own. It is not a straight-forward kind of story.) I see them happening in the order manga series, anime, movie, and then stand-alone manga (but that relates to theories). Whether or not you plan to read the manga, I would definitely recommend watching the anime. The art (in the manga and anime) is beautiful, and the relationship between Utena and Anthy is sweet as well as intense.

For anyone who has watched the anime, but hasn’t read the manga, I would recommend picking them up. They do diverge quite a bit. For instance, the character of Nanami doesn’t really exist, Juri has a different backstory, Chuchu gets a story from his perspective, Miki’s sister’s relationship with Miki is more like Nanami’s relationship with her brother in the anime, and the conclusion is entirely different. Also, really, the art is really beautiful to look at. Oh, and there is a backstory for Utena, but I wasn’t so interested in that.


The first volume of the manga pretty much just sets up the premise of the story, and then it builds from there. I was getting worried at the fourth volume about how it would wrap up, because one of the intros mentioned that Utena had to learn to be a princess instead of a prince (but that’s the opposite of what Utena is all about!), but the conclusion was incredible. It’s so intense, and the subtext gets up to Xena levels, and I loved how Utena and Anthy’s character arcs finished (especially Anthy’s final scene). As a warning, more than half of this volume is extra stories that take place earlier in the main storyline, so don’t get confused like I did. I think that overall the manga is more straight-forward than the anime and movie. (Also, not as much incest as the anime.) I only really think that I would have to re-read the manga once to get how it fits together (though I’d probably like to more than that), whereas I still feel like I need to re-watch the anime and movie at least half a dozen times before really getting it.

I hope I have convinced you to pick up Utena, whether in book or anime format! It’s one of my favourite things. If you like/d Sailor Moon and are willing to read or watch something a little more dark and strange, you should give Utena a try. I really do get a sort of fairy-tale vibe from this series as well, so if you like fairy tales with significant lesbian subtext, you should also check this one out. If you have tried Utena, let me know what you thought!