Which anime series are the best yuri anime? Put another way, which yuri anime are must-watch series?
For the purposes of this article, I will use the Japanese understanding of yuri — a broad term used to describe series which deal with all sorts of female romantic situations — not the more narrow Western concept.
Under this definition, yuri does not have to be sexually explicit — indeed, keeping the subtext under the surface often makes a series more enjoyable. Nor does a yuri series have to be serious or weepy — many yuri series are also romantic comedies.
Without further ado, here’s my list of the five best yuri anime of all time:
List of the Best Yuri Anime Series
- Revolutionary Girl Utena
- Strawberry Panic!
- Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
- I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level
1. Revolutionary Girl Utena
This 1997 shojo series is a landmark in the history of yuri anime series. Sadly, as an older series, it doesn’t always get as much attention as it deserves.
At a base level, Revolutionary Girl Utena is a magical girl series with a royal fairy tale motif. Many of the characters are wonderfully over-the-top, but the series is sincere in its intentions.
However, it’s also a lovely, surreal series with a heroine, Utena, who gives off both “prince” and “princess” vibes. At the very beginning of the series, she ends up engaged to the Rose Bride, Anthy. It just gets more complicated from there.
For one thing, Utena has to keep fighting duels to protect Anthy. The series also features scheming girl Nanami, various rivals, and an evil power secretly orchestrating a lot of what happens. Naturally, the main antagonist’s true identity is a huge spoiler.
With their romantic overtones, Utena and Anthy have become iconic yuri characters.
YuruYuri is a yuri series disguised as a typical slice-of-life, middle school comedy. (It even has the word Yuri in the title, for goodness’ sake.) It features a bunch of schoolgirl friends who pretty much do everything together. Akari, Kyoko, Yui, and Chinatsu are the main four, but there are other side characters who get a lot of screen time.
The series shares a lot of similarities with such shows as Lucky Star — predominantly female cast, a lot of Seinfeldian conversations, silly situations, etc.
However, in this version, some of the girls fantasize a bit more than you would normally expect in a schoolgirl comedy. And some of the girls definitely have crushes on some of the other girls, to the point of trying to make the other girls jealous. (More often than not, these attempts work, too.)
That said, it’s rare for anything to actually happen in real life, beyond a little ship teasing. All of the schoolgirl fantasies are part of the fun of the series, and the humor is fast-paced and fresh.
3. Strawberry Panic!
Strawberry Panic! is probably the most exclusively yuri series on this list. In this anime, various schoolgirls attend three different, but related, elite all-girl private schools.
The main protagonist is Nagisa, who transfers into one of the schools at the beginning of the series. Her roommate Tamao soon tells her about life at the school, including the “Etoile,” or star student. At the beginning of the series, the Etoile is Shizuma, who has a lot of secrets.
Over the course of 26 episodes, Nagisa will get closer to both Shizuma and Tamao, and Nagisa will learn about Shizuma’s tragic past.
Naturally, with three schools, there are plenty of opportunities for schoolgirl romances, missed chances, and other plot devices.
The series ends with an Etoile election. More importantly, we finally learn who Nagisa ends up with.
4. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
This series appeared in my list of 7 Best Comedy Anime Series, and it’s good enough to show up here as well. You could make an argument that it also belongs in my 10 Best Harem Anime Series list as well. Yes, I like this series.
In Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, a salarywoman finds herself surrounded by (mostly female) dragons. (Luckily, they can all take human appearances.) Tohru, the titular dragon maid, falls absolutely in love with Miss Kobayashi.
At first, Tohru’s behavior could be written off as a maid wanting to please her master. But, as the series continues, it’s obvious that Tohru and Kobayashi increasingly become a couple. At one point, Tohru confronts her father in order to stay with Kobayashi.
In the second season, the dragon Ilulu gets jealous to the point of temporarily transforming Kobayashi into a male.
*Spoiler* The final episode of the second season even ends with Tohru attempting to marry Kobayashi. There’s also an OVA which features various dragons as brides, and Kobayashi as a groom.
5. I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 Years And Maxed Out My Level
I’ve Been Killing Slimes For 300 years And Maxed Out My Level belongs to the unique yuri isekai anime category. Many isekai tend to have male protagonists. It’s rare to find one with a female heroine in another world — let alone a yuri one.
The series starts out with a fairly standard isekai plot — Azusa overworks herself to death, and is rewarded with a second life in a fantasy RPG-like world. To top it off, she becomes immortal and eternally young. (As a young witch, she bears a resemblance to Marisa Kirisame from Touhou Project).
Azusa accidentally level grinds her way up to legendary status. Her ridiculously high level attracts all sorts of challengers and potential enemies — the grand majority of whom are female.
Azusa uses the power of friendship to turn this mixture of magical creatures into an unlikely, affectionate family of sisterhood. She also ends up as the “mother” to a pair of girl slimes. Even the powerful Demon King Pecora (female, despite her title) ends up as a submissive ally.
In January 2022, the creators announced that there will be a second season of the series.
To make this list, I considered a lot of yuri anime series, and compared many online yuri lists. I also tried to avoid too much of the same, so YuruYuri beat out Kin-iro Mosaic, Wataten, etc.
I apologize if one of your favorites didn’t make this list. I’ll admit that it bends to my personal tastes, which might differ from yours.
I hope you enjoyed my list of the 5 Best Yuri Anime of All Time.