Finishing middle school, Akari Akaza joins the high school Amusement Club, composed solely of her two childhood friends, Kyouko Toshinou and Yui Funami. Chinatsu Yoshikawa, Akaza's classmate, soon becomes a member and we find ourselves with four girls in a clubroom with nothing to do - guess what happens.
Let us be honest, the whole slice-of-life genre is a crowded one. From Kyoto Animation alone we have an over abundance of personified moe in schoolgirl form dealing out cute and pleasant antics from one aimless episode to the next and every one of these shows needs to stand out somehow. K-On has its music gimmick, Lucky Star had its otaku-conscious humour and YuruYuri has lesbians. It has a lot of lesbians.
I will admit that I have never really understood the male fantasy of high school lesbians. It has always seemed counter intuitive to me. Do I really want every girl in my school to be a lesbian? Does it not limit my options in the end? I respect every man's right to fantasise but I really cannot understand how having a high volume of schoolgirl lesbians benefits me in any way, shape or form. In any case, if girls-chasing-girls-in-the-classroom is what you are looking for then YuruYuri has plenty of that. Does it have much else, though? Well...
Let us talk about the characters first. The show bases (or so it seems) its character dynamics around the standard four-girl group that K-On seems to have popularised for the moment, whether we like it or not. For example, Akari acts as a (very) nominal lead, characterised by how normal she is; Yui as the 'straight man', characterised by her calm stoicism; Kyouko as the 'funny one', characterised by her frenetic otaku insanity; and Chinatsu who seems to lack any real role but is characterised by being downright evil and irrevocably in love with Yui. In reality, most shows of this type have a very set main character dynamic designed for delivering the gags reliably to the audience. In Lucky Star, Miyuki or Tsukasa would make a cute/ordinary observation or remark, Konata would tie in an otaku in-joke or reference and Kagami would get angry and shout at her. These set interactions are the standard in almost all shows of these types and you will find there is usually one involving the main characters as a unit but in this respect, YuruYuri is not too strong. Aside from a few notable moments (Chinatsu's picture play), the writers do not seem to know what they want to do with their main characters. I think it may be telling that every time we see the four of them sitting in the teahouse they look a little lost, to say the least, and Kyouko's outbursts feel a little too much like she is trying to fill up the silence. It becomes even more obvious when episodes abandon main characters completely; Akari especially is a victim of this. That said there are plenty of pleasant supporting characters who step into the role quite nicely and I found Chitose and Ayano quite adequate replacements in a few of the episodes.
To be honest, I actually quite liked the majority of them. Chitose was nice and cute (even her regular libido driven nosebleeds caused by imagining a Kyouko/Ayano yuri pairing were not too tedious - lesbians remember) and Ayano was one of the rare tsundere characters who is genuinely pleasant and friendly even to Kyouko, her object of affection, even when she is shouting at her for being crazy. Throw in the rival childhood friends, Himawari and Sakurako, Himawari's little sister (who, though having very limited screen time, has one of the few genuinely laugh-out-loud parts in the series), Mari, Chizuru (Chitose's twin sister), the school council president and the school nurse and there are a sizeable number of characters that work relatively well. Best of all none of them are eye-gougingly annoying either and that is impressive with a show of this type.
The humour, however, is not too impressive. Lesbianism is the gimmick and it is sure as heck not going to let you forget it. Whether it is Kyouko trying to hug and kiss Chinatsu or Chinatsu trying to get together with Yui, this show certainly does not put any doubt into your mind about where its focus lies. Most of the jokes consist of one character crushing after another, their yuri fantasies or just general homoerotic situations like Chitose going crazy after eating chocolate and kissing everyone. These mainly fall flat due to repetition. Chitose is always losing torrents of blood imagining Kyouko and Ayano in suggestive situations, Kyouko is always chasing after Chinatsu, Chinatsu is always gushing on after Yui, Himawari and Sakurako are always having their homoerotic catfights. Simply due to a lack of depth in writing, characters (while pleasant) do not really have any comic flexibility so the show always seems to be repeating itself, just in slightly different ways each time. There are points, however, that are almost brilliant. Chinatsu's horrific picture play, Sakurako's attempted kidnapping of Himawari's little sister and Chitose's truth or lies game are scenes that seem to come out of nowhere and almost bowled me off my feet with how sudden, how clever and how funny they were. Give me a comedy show of scenes just as funny as those and I would stick five stars on it without hesitation but sadly those moments of serious hernia inducing laughter were far too rare in this show.
Aesthetically, YuruYuri is what you would expect. Its art is glossy to its finest shine and its designs are simple and cute. If you like a bit of moe then it will not disappoint - everything about it from the set character types to its simple backgrounds is K-On level eye pleasing and heart softening. Some older anime fans will still complain that everyone looks about twelve and I cannot really argue but for me it is less of a concern when the fanservice is essentially non-existent in terms of nudity - even Chitose and Chizuru's (yes, Chizuru has her own fantasies) suggestive delusions are little more than that. In terms of music, it is all the cute sounds you would expect to hear; its opening is bright and upbeat and everything else is just as energetic right up to the closing. The whole tone of the show is never one of dullness; there is not on iota of self-reflection, sobriety or sombreness available in this show for the most part and it suits it well in many ways.
YuruYuri wants to be a good candyfloss anime. It wants to be a sugary, unsubstantial show that you can enjoy without a thought ever crossing your mind. I respect that, shows like this have their place, but YuruYuri is just not as good at it as many others and that is in the end how I judge it. The gags are not funny enough, often enough and the characters are just not cute or fun enough to carry it without the good comic writing to match. It is very rarely bad but too rarely great in the same breath.
It is a very weak three stars but I cannot help but feel that its pleasant cast, flashes of brilliance and its lack of truly obnoxious moments push it just above the threshold into middle ground obscurity. It is not a bad show and I certainly did not hate watching it, but I would not recommend anyone rush to go see this one... unless, of course, you really want to see a slice-of-life show populated by lesbians. If that is the case then be my guest. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: (Aiden) Early teens and over. Suggestive fantasies, nosebleeds and the occasional forced kiss are the only real objectionable content. It is clean in general for a show about teenage girls chasing after each other.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-release Fansub
Review Status: Full (12/12)
YuruYuri © 2011 Namori / Ichijinsha / 7FEC
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