I'm sorry to see a thread you intended to be properly discussed went off on a tangent.
I decided to unload in that thread. Someone had to talk about something on-topic and stop mentioning 'The War'. It's a decent discussion point. Why the hell were people obsessed with mentioning 'The War' over and over...
After investigating a bunch of April titles in their original manga form - I think April is looking darn good. Seriously hope it ends up like that. Been a long time since I've had a current season to like.
Something I reflected on last night were 'plausible' couples in shows that were never truly acknowledged and never will be.
Nanoha and Fate from MGLN.
Ritsu and Mio from K-ON.
Miki and Makoto from Idolmaster.
Hibiki and Kanade from Precure.
Sakaki and Kaorin from Azumanga Daioh & Uranus and Neptune from Sailor Moon probably don't fall in the same category as them. The AD one was pretty much one-sided and the one in Sailor is 'somewhat' acknowledged. It was certainly cut down back in the 90s - I'm wondering how the modern version will handle it.
But I digress. Nanoha and Fate - everyone knows it. But hey, as AW has stated, those fueding fanboying factions within the writers of the source material have pretty much killed their own title. So it will always stay that way. Ritsu and Mio may be a bit far fetched, but it's plausible and people like being creative about it. Miki and Makoto - the most girly and the closest to a guy - that was inevitable and plausible. Hibiki and Kanade - possibly the most sensible of them all. 434NotFound certainly surprised everyone when they went so far as to make a fairly long saga of them gradually getting together as adults and even starting a family.
But within them all there is one thing that is glaringly obvious. Because those pairings have stuff all chance of happening in the animated realm, their fanboys can still delude themselves into thinking those girls belong to them. And I think there's one of the things about yuri. If a fanboy can't have their cake and eat it too, they won't bite. Thus a serious relationship in the yuri realm usually doesn't happen.
I think it's also a matter of perceptions of gender, love and sex still needing to change. We're not nearly as progressive in that regard as humanity wants to think it is.
And I guess, ultimately - from anime's primary purpose in this day and age - marketing - if you want to get people to buy merchandise of the characters from a yuri title, you need to go for the more servicey kind. And really, out of all those titles we've discussed, MGLN is the only one with significant merchandise, running off implied yuri but never admitted.
I hope the day can come where someone can write like Milk Morinaga but get enough people to buy it and make it acceptable to write about yet still be marketable. Dreaming but I'd like to think it could happen.
I think what you discussed doesn't only apply to yuri - I think it applies to romance in general within the anime and also the manga realm.
Anything involving romance usually ends up gravitating to one of two poles - the young love end, where things are relatively innocent and that anything can happen. Also tends to be that things end the moment they become a serious couple or graduate, so you never see their adult life. While on the other extreme, it's overtly sexual. Again, it's rare to find a balance.
NANA is probably one of the few successful attempts for in between - a series about adults in long term relationships of the serious kind and actively sexual of multiple couples that reguarly cracked the 1 million mark in sales. It stalled at 21 volumes due to Yazawa being hit by serious illness for years, but a news item in a magazine in late 2013 said Yazawa had finally been able to do an illustration for the first time in a long time. There's hope Yazawa can finish - furthermore, there's a need to. Yazawa's legacy with NANA could be very telling. Because in previous Yazawa titles, the girl always got snubbed by the guy. In this case, the matter isn't necessarily about the guy anymore - if at all. It's about the two Nanas. They've both endured a lot of hardship, taken different paths, but are about to come full circle. So I do wonder how Yazawa will choose to end this. Because if she goes for a dark ending again - it really will leave a legacy for women to be misused and abused by men within the josei/shoujo genre and that women can ultimately never find happiness in romance/home life and success/security at the same time.
That has always been what has irked me about Yazawa - she is close to the only author that can portray adult relationships/life in her realm and be successful. I know she had a crap life pre-writing from a real bastard of a husband, but for it to forever taint what she then send out to women is really concerning. Because the responses female fans of Yazawa give me...just really scare me. When they discuss the guys in NANA, they almost always pick Takumi as the one they want. Why? Because Takumi was the successful one, the financially reliable one versus Nobu the dreamer/romantic/couldn't be greedy enough to go for what he wanted. They felt he was the better option. And myself and my male friends just think 'So you're willing to be beaten, raped and cheated on constantly for the sake of financial security?' It makes me mad, in all honesty....In an era where women are supposed to be able to have a chance to live free of abuse and have a decent life, why the hell are they still willing to pick the guy who will mistreat them for forever and a day...
In short - I hope Yazawa does one of two things. That even if the two Nanas end up single for life after their sagas, at least they stay friends and don't fall into oblivion. Or, the braver option, which Yazawa has implicated a few times, is that they choose each other. Because there are definitely signs that the two Nanas wish they could have been in a world or a society where they could have been a long-term couple. Yazawa has never used the lingo 'If only one of us was male' or anything like that. If Yazawa dooms the Nanas to a shell of a life when this is over, I won't read a thing she does ever again. She's got the chance to be an author to allow women to not settle for less. If she doesn't take it, the stigmas that haunt josei/shoujo romance are just going to infest it even more.
As you say, when we get into the fairly/very sexual, it's rare for a title to go for that long and evenr arer for a serious relationship to exist. Nozoki Ana is one of the rare ones. 12 volumes of a guy who met one very curious girl with a very bizarre fetish to watch people getting intimate or naked. What made it work though was there was a reason behind it all and a story eventually emerged. I wouldn't exactly call it top level writing, but for something of the adult genre to last that long, actually get registed on the Top 50 charts regularly and have something of both ends was a pleasant surprise.
It really does become clear through our discussions why Milk Morinaga says she will never allow Girl Friends to be animated. Because her work resides in that rare space in between pure lust and pure romance. It does offer some of both but within a serious context and poses the notion that two females could be a happy couple long term. Yeah, can't see those damn otaku supporting that...
What I find with yuri (at least yuri anime) is that the vast majority falls into one of two categories. They are...
1) Pure lust/fanservice.
2) Pure romance (without the sex).
So it tends to be one extreme or the other. It's very rare to get full-fledged relationships that include serious romance and clear evidence of a sexual relationship. So most yuri pairings come across as dysfunctional - Either lacking any real sense of relational commitment, or being an oddly sexless romance.
I think this is because yuri anime is not primarily for lesbian viewers, or people looking for serious girl/girl romances. It's primarily for people looking for one of two things - "sexy" or "cute". And two girls instead of one girl/one boy gives an edge at a basic physical level - It's precisely double your sexiness/cuteness, double your fun (because the male half of a het pairing does nothing for many otaku viewers unless they can easily self-insert themselves into that character).
"Sexy" is also self-explanatory to the western mind. Lust/fanservice-based yuri is popular for much the same reason lesbian porn videos are.
"Cute" can be a bit trickier for the western mind to grasp. What I think is that many anime fans (especially VN players) like the sight of "early stages" first romance. They like it for its innocence, its sense of great untapped potential, and its youthful vibe. Over time, I've gotten the appeal of this myself, though where I differ is that I don't want a relationship to remain forever at this point, whereas some yuri fans do want to sort of freeze the relationship at this early stages point.
The thing about this early stages first romance is that it has a lot of elements that makes many anime fans go HHHNNNNNGGGG!!! The shy confession, the blushing tsundere denial, the presence of an emotional mask slowly peeling back, the hand-holding/arm-holding. It's "sweet", you could say. Again, having two girls instead of one girl/one guy simply doubles the cuteness. That's the trade-off - Double the cuteness, lose the self-insertion potential.
Yuri rarely has full-fledged relationships because the people looking for "sexy" yuri aren't necessarily the ones looking for "cute" yuri. It's similar to the fanservice/moe division you'll sometimes see. Some fanservice fans have no interest in something like Non Non Biyori or Tamayura, while some moe fans have no interest in something like Kampfer or Maken-Ki. Having the right blend of fanservice/moe to appeal to both sets of fans (without turning off either) can be tricky, especially in a yuri context since the yuri fandom is smaller than the total anime fandom.
Archon covered most of the other points that can be made here, so I'll leave it at this.