The themes yuri deals with have their roots in the Japanese lesbian literature of early twentieth century, with pieces such as Yaneura no Nishojo by Nobuko Yoshiya. Nevertheless, it is not until the 1970s that lesbian-themed works began to appear in manga, by the hand of artists such as Ryoko Yamagishi and Riyoko Ikeda. The 1990s brought new trends in manga and anime, as well as in dōjinshi productions, along with more acceptance for this kind of content. In 2003 the first manga magazine specifically dedicated to yuri was launched under the name Yuri Shimai, followed by its revival Comic Yuri Hime, launched after the former was discontinued in 2004.
Although yuri originated in female-targeted (shōjo, josei) works, today it is featured in male-targeted (shōnen, seinen) ones as well. Yuri manga from male-targeted magazines include titles such as Kannazuki no Miko and Strawberry Panic!, as well as those from Comic Yuri Hime's male-targeted sister magazine, Comic Yuri Hime S, which was launched in 2007.