3. Revolutionary Girl Utena and Anthy

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Revolutionary Girl Utena is queer as hell. Not just in the relationships it chronicles, but down to the story's bones. Its queer, queer bones.

Utena, at its most reductive, is about a girl who wants to be a prince. That is, the sort of "prince" seen in storybooks and fairy tales -- someone who rights wrongs, saves people, etc., etc. In the process Utena (the young woman in question) joins a school where students duel each other for ownership of and betrothal to the Rose Bride -- aka Anthy Himemiya.

The rules differ from the manga, to the TV series, to the film; each of which exists in its own pocket universe, but where the broad strokes are largely the same. The manga plays things pretty straight, while the anime series definitely turns up the queerness (Utena and Anty kiss during the credits) but remains mostly shrouded in hints, nudges, and winks.

The film -- Adolescence of Utena -- says to hell with all that, and makes with the bisexual hook-ups. In this version it's clearly stated that Anthy will have sex with whosoever is the current duelist champion (Utena for the most part). Despite the creepy setup, Utena and Anthy become very close in all versions of the story. Partly through their shared struggles against constant attempts to put them in metaphorical, more easily controlled, and "acceptable" boxes.

This manifests as the two characters literally fighting against and running away from the idealized normalcy of the their villains: Anthy through manipulation and occasional magic, and Utena with a goddamn sword. Then some people turn into cars for a little while...

The romance in Utena sees plenty of denial (as does Kill la Kill, homosexuality in animals, and the roundness of the Earth). Namely people that can't understand someone who says or shows they like boys can like girls as well. Here, though, it's even more ridiculous as the entire franchise rails against exactly those kind of sexual and gender restrictions. Though it does make picking out the "fans" who missed the point that much easier.

4. The Legend of Korrasami

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Those who'd rather not call The Legend of Korra, or its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender anime can skip ahead. Those who fall into the other camp -- or are at least willing to put aside their differences for the glory of Korrasami -- can read on.

Sailor Moon might have beaten Korra to the punch as an all-ages show with same-sex lovin', but not in the west. Things are improving across North America (what with Steven Universe blowing up the charts), but representation among the younger set remains a rarity. Which is just one of the reasons why the finale to The Legend of Korra was so important.

The Avatar series have been a stellar blend of comedy, romance, drama, and action anyone can enjoy. The later series' use of the romantic stands out in particular as it shows not just success in love, but also failure. Couples hook up, split apart, come back together, hold years-long grudges over what could have been, and find different kinds of happiness than each other.

Learning about one's sexuality is a process, no matter your particular situation. The Legend of Korra shows this through its own lead character, as well as the supporting cast. Korra's mentor had a thing with her boyfriend's boss way back when, and it didn't work out. Just as the younger generation's own relationship doesn't make enough sense to last very long.

The break-ups and regret are pretty gentle, all things considered, but they are considered. All while the show drops just a dash of "destiny" into the mix by drawing similarities between Korra's eventual relationship with Asami (her friend-then-girlfriend that stuck with her throughout the series) and her previous incarnation's relationship Katara (the former Avatar's friend-then-girlfriend that stuck with him throughout the last series).

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via Bryan Konietzko
 

It is a shame that -- despite the shared imagery between Avatar and Korra's lovey-dovey moments -- the latter series didn't get the same lip-locking, hater-quieting, on-screen kiss. But the gorgeous "fan" art above (from the show's co-creator) helps quiet the irritating concession.