The Yuri on Ice movie has been postponed, and we’re all itching for some quality queer anime content to fill the void. I have some recommendations!
While I’m sending all my love to the incredible Ice Adolescence animators who are working their butts off to bring us something amazing, I’ve got to admit that I’m craving some queer anime content. Badly. I feel like a lot of us are looking for this. Hopefully you’ll find something here to take care of your needs while we wait.
There’s a lot of queer anime titles out there and everyone’s personal tastes vary, so my list here may or may not recommend your favorite titles. However, I selected some of the best titles I’ve personally experienced in my 20+ years of anime viewing, and hope that maybe you’ll find a new one to pass the time until the Yuri on Ice movie comes out hopefully sometime this year.
My selection criteria took into consideration common elements from Yuri on Ice that I noticed appealed to many fans of the series. They feature strong plots, beautiful artwork, humor (to varying degrees), and meaningful same-sex relationships. Most of them also have some pretty rad music, too. Outside of that, these titles vary in scope, setting, and genre.
Some titles were also placed on this list for their significance in overall queer anime history, so if you’re interested in the evolution of representation in this medium, you’ll have some major touchstones to experience from this list as well.
So without further ado, please check out these four queer anime titles (and one donghua!) that’ll help pass the time while we patiently wait for Ice Adolescence.
Genre: BL, Drama, Romance
Availability: Streaming on Crunchyroll
Trigger Warning: Highlight or copy/paste for spoiler – Character Suicide Initiates Main Plot
Unlike Yuri on Ice, Given is unequivocally categorized as BL and marketed as such accordingly. Despite that, it doesn’t fall into a lot of the pitfalls a lot of BL stories tend to do. It has a comparatively healthy and naturally-developed romance. Many fans of Yuri on Ice have praised that aspect of the show, so if that’s your jam, please consider this title, too.
Given follows the story of Ritsuka, an incredibly gifted guitarist who has found himself in somewhat of a slump in regards to music. Then he meets Mafuyu, a boy who is carrying around a guitar that clearly has no idea how to actually play it. Mafuyu becomes insistent on learning the instrument, however, and Ritsuka, to almost everyone’s surprise, starts to earnestly teach him how to do so.
What follows is eleven episodes of emotional, often painful, and incredibly real character-driven plot that’ll leave you with more emotions than you likely know how to handle. But don’t let the drama of it all fool you. There are quite a few funny moments to break up the sadness, and it’s overall a very heartwarming story. The pain is worth it. Trust me.
As this is a story about a band, you can count on the music being absolutely fantastic as well. The song Fuyu no Hanashi from episode 9 is particularly amazing and I’m almost ashamed to admit just how much I’ve listened to it. Well over 100 times, if I’m being conservative with my estimate.
I would post that song to entice you, but the nine episodes preceding it are important to have the full emotional impact. Instead, please enjoy the title sequence to set the mood.
Genre: BL, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Availability: Streaming on Crunchyroll
This is an “older” title (relatively speaking) on the list, with the novels that inspired it released starting in 2003 and the anime debuting in 2011. That said, despite the fact that Yuri on Ice got way more attention just five years later, I mark this as the first major shift in queer anime content. This is especially true for the BL genre specifically.
No. 6 focuses more on the plot than a lot of BL titles do, and lets the romance develop naturally as the story unfolds. There’s a huge overlap between No. 6 fans and Yuri on Ice fans, and the way the romance is told in relation to the plot is a huge reason why. There’s a lot of similarities.
No 6 takes place in a dystopian future where the elite live in large walled-off cities, while the less fortunate struggle to survive outside the gates. One of the young privileged residents of the city No. 6, Shion, gives shelter to another boy, a wanted fugitive named Nezumi. Shion helps tend to a bullet wound Nezumi sustained while running from authorities and eventually suffers repercussions for this action.
Years later Shion and Nezumi, now adults, meet again and together they work on unraveling the dark mysteries behind No 6.
If you’re a fan of genre media, particular genres that lean dystopian and science fiction, you’ll love this one. I find myself going back to it every year or so because it’s just so good. There’s a lot to unpack in the narrative, which touches on class, government corruption, and themes about sciences and the arts. It’s a really rich narrative to explore and I’m always finding something new to analyze.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Surrealism
Availability: Amazon Prime Video
This late 90’s anime was my gay awakening, so it’s going on the list despite its differences from many of the others. First and foremost, this is the only same-sex relationship between two women on this list. Secondly, it is by far the oldest title at twenty three years. Thirdly, it’s largely surrealist and leans heavily on stylization and symbolism over a straightforward narrative.
So it’s not a perfect fit with the Yuri on Ice fanbase, but it’s on the list anyway for its significance. It’s queer anime history and I consider it a must-watch for everyone who wants to be educated about the genre. It’s a touchstone for queer anime that is still influential today (see: Steven Universe). It will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life.
The story follows Utena Tenjou, a tomboyish high school student who dreams of becoming a prince. She gets drawn into a series of sword duels, unintentionally winning possession of the mysterious ‘Rose Bride’ who has the power to “revolutionize the world”. Over the course of these increasingly competitive duels, she becomes protective of the Rose Bride, becoming one of the few people who view her as an individual and not just a prize to be won. But not everything is as it seems.
Sound weird as hell? That’s because it is. And yet somehow you can’t look away from it all. Between the incredible artwork, catchy soundtrack, and fierce action sequences, you can get past the weirdness if that was initially off-putting for you. You may even get to the point where you appreciate just how bizarre it can be and consider it part of its charm.
Here’s the opening title sequence to give you a taste of how the style, music, and animation all vibe together:
There is also an Utena film, but I don’t recommending watching it until you’ve seen the show itself. It’s a highly condensed version of the story with the stylization and surrealism turned up to the max. If you end up enjoying the show, however, give it a watch! It has some of the most beautiful animation from this era of anime. It’s gorgeous.
Warning: There is nudity in the movie (but not in the show).
Genre: Science Fiction, Mecha, Action
Episodes: 1 Films, 2 Animated Shorts
Availability: Blue-Ray/DVD & iTunes Download
There’s some debate about the queerness of Promare, which many Yuri on Ice fans will ironically also relate to. In order for me to adequately prepare you for just how queer it gets, I need to go over a spoiler (just like Yuri on Ice! Yeah, this feels familiar, doesn’t it?).
I’m going to drop that spoiler behind some spoiler text so that those that want to know just what they’re getting can look, but those that want to go in blind can do so. Highlight or copy/paste the following to find out more:
The two main characters, Galo and Lio, share a life-saving kiss. Many people dismiss this as something akin to CPR. The actual context is that Lio is near-death and Galo uses his lips to transfer flame to him to resurrect him. The framing of this scene lingers, which wasn’t necessary, and the surrounding context conveys that these two have grown incredibly close. The “it wasn’t a kiss!” discourse is exactly what we went through in the Yuri on Ice fandom, so I think most of you will be fine. Still, for those that want no questions about whether a romance has developed between these characters, this may bother you a bit.
The story takes place in a dystopian future where a portion of humanity has evolved into fire-wielding people known as the “Burnish”. During what at first appears to be a routine fire call, firefighter Galo Thymos finds himself face-to-face with the leader of a terrorist organization known as ‘The Mad Burnish”. He gets pulled into an unexpected journey involving corruption, conspiracies, and a looming apocalypse.
Of all the titles on this list, this soundtrack is the most intense. It’s my background music for most of the day, honestly. So if music is a factor in which title you choose to watch, this one will likely be near the top of your list. It slaps, yo.
Mo Dao Zu Shi (+ 1 Donghua)
*BL categorization note: The novel is explicitly queer, but the donghua hasn’t reached the point in the story where the romance becomes apparent. It may or may not be straight-washed, but the romantic undertones are very clearly present already.
This is technically not an anime, but rather a donghua. This particular title came from China. However, once you get past the language barrier and get used to some linguistic and cultural differences, you’ll realize it has a lot of the same appeal as anime. I hope you’ll step out of your comfort zone and give it a shot!
I just wrote a recommendation for this one a month ago, so forgive me for a moment as I directly quote myself for the summary:
The story follows Wei Wuxian, a spiritual cultivator who died 13 years prior to the start of the story. He was a controversial figure in his time as he used the ‘dark arts’ to utilize his magic. He becomes known as the founder of the Demonic Path as a result of this practice.
When the series begins, a man named Mo Xuanyu decides to sacrifice his soul to bring Wei Wuxian back to life. In doing so, Wuxian would resurrect in Xuanyu’s body. The ritual works, and Wei Wuxian returns, slightly confused at his unexpected resurrection, but ready to do whatever task Xuanyu has summoned him to do.
Wei Wuxian gets a surprise second chance at life, but he’s haunted by the reputation he left behind prior to his death. He quickly finds himself interacting with people he knew before he died, some of whom suspect his true identity and some who don’t. He embarks on adventures fighting monsters and solving mysteries across the countryside, dealing with the fallout from his previous life along the way.
This is my current hyperfixation. I can’t possibly sing the praises of this story highly enough. In the past month I’ve watched the 23 episode donghua (the thing I’m currently recommending), read the 113-chapter novel, and read the 102 chapters of the fan-translated manhua. I’ve also read and written a ton of fanfiction. This has basically been my life for the last month, guys. Seriously. I’ve done little else.
As noted in the above addendum to categorizing it as BL, the donghua hasn’t gotten to the more straightforward presentation of their blossoming relationship that’s portrayed in the novel, so I’m not sure just how blatant it’s going to get. But the live-action drama version of the story, while it cuts out the explicit scenes, still has incredibly queer undertones that are hard to deny.
A third season of the donghua is coming our way, so we’ll all soon find out just how queer it’s going to get. In order to tell the entire story, this could be stretched out into seven or eight seasons at its current pace. I have no idea how many we’re actually going to get, so the relationship development will be largely contingent on Tencent granting us further seasons.
Here’s the opening title sequence to give you a taste of the animation and music:
Warning For The Novel: The main 113 chapters feature a couple dub-con scenes. An additional extra chapter features a mature scene involving teenagers. Neither element is present in the donghua so far, and I doubt the extra chapter scene will be in any of the versions still in progress (though we won’t know until we get there, of course).
What queer anime titles do you recommend?
As stated, there’s a lot of queer anime (and donghua) titles out there, so I know that you’ll probably have a favorite not mentioned here. But again, hopefully you’ll find something new, too. Feel free to share your own favorites in the comments and tell us a little about them!
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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