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Interview: Lily Girls – 8/27/15

Yuri Girls

Chat with the LILY GIRLS: We’re running an interview/chat with the Lily Girls from 3-5 PM EDT. Anastasia Vitsky will be moderating the chat:

Lily Girls is the go-to resource for yuri anime, manga and video game reviews and recommendations, as well as a more general primer on otaku culture, and seeks equality between yuri and BL in the wide world of otaku.

Chat Rules: Ana will start out the interview. If you have your own questions, feel free to chime in, but please be respectful and give the Lily Girls a chance to answer. We don’t want to overwhelm them!

We’re thrilled to have the Lily Girls here!

J. Scott Coatsworth Sorry, folks, I’m running a couple minutes late. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth Ana, Lily Girls, are you here?

Katelyn Kivel Good afternoon, I’m Katie from Lily Girls. I am the organization’s founder and lead presenter, and I’m glad to be here with QSF.

Angel Martinez Hi Katelyn! We’re glad to have you here!

J. Scott Coatsworth Nice to have you. Ana should be along shortly. smile emoticon In the meantime, wanna tell us a little bit about what Lily Girls is and does?

Anastasia Vitsky Hello and welcome! First off, tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

Katelyn Kivel Well, we started as a panel programming group but branched out into other areas, like news and reviews and original art. We even have original content in the works in the form of a Fallout 4 mod we are developing.

Anastasia Vitsky Since not everyone is familiar with you or what you do, could you give us a Lily Girls 101 to get us started?

Katelyn Kivel Right! Our biggest thing is taking our programming to various conventions, mostly in the midwest but we always hope to expand. We approach topics from the history and origins of yuri in Japanese media, to adult panels about the troubles with lesbians in erotic works, to just a survey of recent titles.

Anastasia Vitsky Tell us some more about your programming.

Katelyn Kivel We also have more targeted panels about specific lesser-known titles to raise awareness of them, particularly The Atelier Series of video games. And this year we’re partnering with another programming group to develop a queer speed dating panel at Youmacon in Detroit.

Katelyn Kivel Beyond our convention work, we use our website and facebook to review, preview, and comment on upcoming, released or newsworthy titles and about the place of yuri in the geek community as a whole.

Anastasia Vitsky How did Yuri get started, and how long has it been around?

Katelyn Kivel We also have a few writers and artists on staff working on Lily Originals, projects ranging from video game mods to original graphic novels and regular novels. Even Lily Fanfiction!

Lynn Vincenti Are you talking about computer programming Katelyn?

Katelyn Kivel How did Yuri get started:
In the 70’s there was a gay men’s magazine in Japan called “Barazoku”. It was remarkably popular but lacked any content aimed toward women. By popular demand, Barazoku started a weekly write-in column publishing letters by Japanese lesbians entitled Yurizoku no Heya, or Room of the Lily Tribe. That’s the origin of the term. From around that time until the late 90’s any expression of lesbianism in anime or manga was either misguided youths who grow out of it and get married or couples who face tragedy for their lesbianism. That all changed with Sailor Moon, and the first famous positive yuri relationship.

Anastasia Vitsky Tell us more about Sailor Moon. Has it influenced your work?

Katelyn Kivel Lynn: Our game development team mostly uses things like RPG Maker VX or Bethesda’s Creation Kit, but there is some knowledge of programming languages involved, yes.

Katelyn Kivel On Sailor Moon: The relationship between Sailors Uranus and Neptune has influenced my life, actually. Thinking back to the 90’s, the social climate wasn’t very pro-LBGT at all. Ellen came out and got cancelled practically overnight. So in this climate …See More

Katelyn Kivel I often quote the Celluloid Closet in my panels when talking about Sailor Moon’s impact on myself and the genre as a whole, actually. Harvy Firestien said “The hunger I felt looking for gay images was to not feel alone.” And that’s what this did for anime and manga. It made the writers and artists who wanted to make this kind of work realize they weren’t alone.

Anastasia Vitsky How would you define Yuri, and how is it different than other graphic novel/anime styles?

Angel Martinez It comes across as truly absurd, the erasure of Uranus and Neptune’s relationship. All the kids know it – what were they trying to hide?

Angel Martinez (sorry – rhetorical question)

Anastasia Vitsky Does anyone have a youtube clip of a Uranus and Neptune scene?

Katelyn Kivel Angel: I think people who don’t want to see it have an easy time pretending that that weird “cousins” thing was believable.

Anastasia Vitsky Or a photo, even?

Angel Martinez I was just looking at the Atelier seriartworkes – it’s gorgeous.

Katelyn Kivel Yuri is less a genre unto itself than a part of the story. Some stories, like Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne are about giant robots and aliens and extraterrestrial threats, others like To Aru Kagaku no Railgun are about teenagers with superpowers, while still others like Yuyushiki are just about normal, everyday life. The one common bond is the concept of the romance or romantic friendship between female protagonists.

Angel Martinez
All About Us – Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus

Anastasia Vitsky How did you get started with Lily Girls?

Katelyn Kivel It started when I became frustrated that anime conventions always had multiple panels about yaoi and nothing about yuri. I mentioned this in an LBGT Otaku (anime/manga geek) panel at one convention and a fellow attendee told me it’s because yuri was un…See More

Anastasia Vitsky There seems to be a particular streak of blindness toward women in sci fi in general, so am I correct in assuming it’s similar in anime?

Katelyn Kivel Actually, when I explained that yuri deserves to be treated as well as yaoi in that first panel, one of the attendees asked me “Where can I join this social justice cause?” I laughed, but I got us a Facebook page that night.

Katelyn Kivel Oh for sure. Too often a female character in an anime is only there for the benefit of the male characters – sometimes as a joke, sometimes as a love interest, but rarely for her own reasons. I know many straight women drawn to yuri if for no other reason than to know that the female characters have their own purpose and motivations.

Katelyn Kivel Atelier, the video game series I mentioned earlier, is almost always about young girls having to make their way in the world. It’s a coming-of-age story about often queer girls. The fantasy setting makes it more entertaining to those who don’t crave that narrative but I find them remarkably relatable.

Anastasia Vitsky Too right! Women’s stories are neglected as a rule. So do you consider your work part of a social justice act? Or is it more fun and light-hearted for you?

Katelyn Kivel A little of both? I don’t like having to get serious or even confrontational when I don’t have to, but at the same time I know someone needs to stick up for this community. Women and queer fans are already ignored, when that overlaps we need someone to be our voice. But honestly, I prefer when I can talk about how much I look forward to certain titles and how great some titles were.

Angel Martinez What have been some of your favorite titles in the manga arena?

Katelyn Kivel Anything by Namori, for one. That includes Yuru Yuri which has been turned into an anime. I also love Iono-sama Fanatics for it’s total turn of the ‘harem’ genre of manga on it’s ear.

Anastasia Vitsky By all means, go ahead and talk about the titles you enjoy.

Katelyn Kivel Namori’s works are slice-of-life titles set in Nanamori Middle School and the town of Takaoka. They have an almost exclusively lesbian cast of characters and are lighthearted and warm. Iono, similarly, lacks any gay angst. It’s about a politically powerful skirt-chaser with thousands of women who adore her, and it’s utter shamelessness is a beautiful way to queer a genre that has a long history of being heterocentric and sexist.

Katelyn Kivel My girlfriend is a big fan of Hayate x Blade, as well. I don’t know a ton about that series other than it’s gone on since, perhaps, the dawn of time. Seriously, it’s long. And it’s about couples engaging in two-on-two swordfigrhts.

Anastasia Vitsky Are you seeing more inquires into FF anime and yuri arising from readers who are looking for more than the newer Marvel story lines of Haley Quinn and Poison Ivy?

Katelyn Kivel Among other things, yes. Western media has had a lot of new forefront lesbian characters over the past five or so years, and in areas that tend to overlap with the otaku community. Doctor Who, famously, has Jenny and Vastra – a lesbian couple from the …See More

Katelyn Kivel As nerdy awareness of lesbian characters grows, people who seek out that representation naturally look for new sources, and anime and manga have been only growing more fertile of a field for the development of lesbian characters since Sailor Moon.

Anastasia Vitsky How is one of these graphic novels written? Is the text built like a play script, or more like a traditional book?

Angel Martinez Love how we’re seeing more and more lesbian characters in mainstream cartoons – Steven Universe is wonderful too. smile emoticon

Katelyn Kivel I think it depends a lot on the individual material. Some manga is derived from a light novel, which would be more like a traditional book. Others are developed more like a script. Especially since it is common for the artist to also be the writer, story boards are one of the more common approaches as well.

Katelyn Kivel Angel: I haven’t watched that much but Sapphire and Ruby are adorable.

Angel Martinez They are – and I just want to cry every time Pearl remembers Rose Quartz

Anastasia Vitsky Are there any cases where an illustrator comes up with an idea and looks for a writer, or is it always the other way around?

Katelyn Kivel Most cases if the illustrator has an idea they shepherd it through the process on their own, at least in manga. It would usually be a writer looking for an artist. But anime is a more demanding art form, especially with ever-higher demand on frame rates, so it isn’t uncommon for an artist to look for other artists to help develop a project for screen.

J. Scott Coatsworth I had a question… does Yuri have any conventions that most creators follow? Like in traditional romance, where there always has to be an HEA?

J. Scott Coatsworth It seems to me Yaoi has a set of particular expectations. I just wondered if Yuri was the same.

Katelyn Kivel Not really. Until recently it was considered very risky to be too forward about the lesbian nature of characters so there was a genre-wide preference for characters who could be denied if a viewer didn’t want them to be gay. You’ll find discussions all…See More

Katelyn Kivel In many ways, though, that tendency to try and make lesbian characters deniable worked to our favor, as the rigid expectation yaoi has placed upon it were never instilled on yuri. We can be cute if we want, raunchy if we want, actiony if we want.

Katelyn Kivel Actually, one series from this summer, Mikagura School Suite, is all three of those things – cute, raunchy and actiony.

Angel Martinez Hooray for all the things!

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL

J. Scott Coatsworth I was reading that there’s a divide in how Yuri is viewed in the US vs. in Asia, especially in regard to the more adult versions. Could you explain a little?

Katelyn Kivel Nothing like an adorable pervert main character with powers!

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL true

Angel Martinez That does look like a fun one, Katie smile emoticon

Katelyn Kivel Well, the biggest example is the name. Yuri in the US is erroneous associated more with erotic lesbianism for reasons I haven’t yet found in my research. Americans tend to prefer the term “shoujo ai” or Girls Love, which actually connotes pedophilia in Japan. This leads some serious miscommunication around the subject and is a difficult barrier to overcome in some conversations.

Katelyn Kivel I usually prefer yuri, personally, as that term has more history associated with it, going back to the magazines from the 70s I mentioned earlier.

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL… yeah, I can see how that would create difficulties.

J. Scott Coatsworth So what are some of your plans for your website, beyond the game module? Will you do your own yuri books? Or distribute others’? How will you continue to spread the word?

Katelyn Kivel Becoming a publisher is actually an idea I hadn’t considered but one my partner and I are very suited to. I am, in my spare time, an aspiring urban fantasy and science fiction author. Lily has a fledgling art program, a fanfiction development group, our video game division and I also want to develop our website as a place to go for otaku news more broadly, or lesbian nerdity more broadly.

J. Scott Coatsworth Oh cool! Do you do FF sci fi and fantasy?

Katelyn Kivel We also formed a group in the online game FINAL FANTASY XIV called Order of the Lily, our first stab at being a social group for nerds on the web.

J. Scott Coatsworth You’re always welcome to come join this group of social nerds. *grin* We’re very friendly.

Katelyn Kivel I try to make my characters sexual orientations something personal and not a major plot point or anything, that said my narrator is a lesbian in my urban fantasy story, as is the main character of my science fiction title. I feel that it just being a part of their character, like their favorite restaurant or their hopes and dreams normalizes queerness.

J. Scott Coatsworth Exactly. We’ve had this conversation several times here – I’d love to see more speculative fiction with characters who happen to be LGBT. Where it’s not the focus, but like you said, where I can see myself reflected in the fiction.

Katelyn Kivel I hope to be on your reading list one day. Since my last name is hard to pronounce I use my grandmother’s and write under the pen name Katelyn Cameron. If you see that around in a couple years, pick it up!

J. Scott Coatsworth Will do! I think we’re winding down here. I’m so thrilled we had the chance to have you on. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth Is there anything else you want to get out there? I’ll be posting this interview on our blog for posterity.

Katelyn Kivel Not a problem! Feel free to check us out over at Lily Girls any time, and our website, which we’re in the process of rebuilding, is

Lily Girls

Katelyn Kivel Also, if you’re in the Great Lakes area come see us at Youmacon in Detroit!

J. Scott Coatsworth And come by to see us. If you have any topics you’d like to see discussed here, just message them to me. We do one a day. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth Oh, and Ana hosts a monthly FF takeover on this page. Next one is…

J. Scott Coatsworth *checking*

J. Scott Coatsworth September 9th. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth All day long.

Katelyn Kivel Wonderful! I’ll definitely stick around! And I’ll be here on the 9th!

J. Scott Coatsworth Cool. Have a great day, and we’ll touch base with you for next year’s Graphic Novel Week!

Katelyn Kivel Of course! You all have a wonderful day as well!

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