The Nanamori Middle School Amusement Club decides to go on a camping trip, and the student council not only approves, but goes along with.
The OVA *actually* begins with an overly long art style gag with the girls drawn in "Western Animation Style" art and speaking entirely in utterly ludicrous, overly enunciated (but mostly grammatically correct) Engrish; a scene lifted largely from the manga. Before long, though, we are right back to the setup that we left off with in season two: Akari is still an easily-flustered decoy protagonist, Kyoko (sorry, TOSHINŌ! KYŌKO!) is still a narcissistic scene-stealer, Chinatsu is still mooning after Yui while doing horrible things in the name of "art", and Yui is still aloof and above it all.
But finally, we get to see them and their student council cohorts in an environment outside of school and home, and it's really rather nice. The ridiculous yuri antics aside, the trip feels pretty much like something actual middle school students might do, and lends this a feel sort of reminiscent of YuruYuri meets Non Non Biyori or Encouragement of Climb. Helping matters here is the format -- a movie-length OVA gives animation studios a little more leeway to ramp up animation, and everything looks a bit cleaner and more detailed than in the TV series, which is a nice bonus, and TYO Animations (taking over for previous studio Dogakobo) does a really good job here. The OVA is also paced and written well: while new to the franchise veteran screenwriter Michiko Yokote (Princess Tutu) and director Hiroyuki Hata (Recently My Sister Is Unusual) do a good job of not letting action slow to a crawl, segueing effectively from set-piece to set-piece without much downtime. The OVA themes are much in the same infectiously bubblegummy vein as the original TV songs, which is what any viewer should expect.
But for all the positives I just mentioned, I can't ignore the elephant in the room, and the reason this particular chapter is not television-friendly (or kid-friendly). YuruYuri has always been about straddling that line between the appearance of innocence and exploiting "romantic schoolgirl-on-schoolgirl antics", and the choice to pair that with a fairly extended bathhouse scene that pretty much comes out of nowhere makes this feel infinitely more exploitative than anything the series has thrown at us before. Yes, obviously there is far less of a nudity taboo in Japanese culture than in the several countries where THEM Anime's review staff resides: having partaken of an onsen resort myself, I get that. But there's no escaping the fact that the scene in question feels less slice-of-life and more like a blatant excuse to see these girls as naked as can be allowed in non-pornographic animation, so you're going to have to think long and hard over whether you're willing to accept that before deciding to hit play. Nothing sexual is actually happening, and they are actually legal by Japanese law (plus they're fictional), but remember these are explicitly middle schoolers and any pretense or conceit that this is supposed to be innocent is belied by the voyeuristic camera angles and "convenient censorship" that actually happen onscreen. It's one thing to constantly imply lewd things: it's entirely another to juxtapose said implications with gratuitous nudity. It's all played for laughs, but whether the Western viewer (or, heck, anyone with a shred of self-consciousness) will be comfortable enough to actually do so is questionable at best. This is a far cry from the first series, which features a lone, never-to-be repeated panty shot in the first episode, and pretty much completely avoids the more salacious aspects of fan service rampant in even televised anime; hopefully this is an OVA-only occurrence rather than a sign of things to come.
That being said, much like the rest of the franchise, it's cute girls doing cute things, but this time, on a camping trip, so you get stuff like an all-girl variation on the traditional nighttime "test of courage". If you've seen the series, you should know what to expect -- but in OVA format, so it's a little better animated, but also a little bit more racy. For the folks who've followed the series this far, you know what you're getting into. But for those of you wondering what this "Yuru Yuri" thing is and have no idea what has happened to this point -- this is pretty much the worst possible place to pick up the story, and you are better off going somewhere else altogether.
To reiterate the obvious: if you are uninterested or averse to portrayals of same-sex relationships OR are looking earnestly for serious, realistic portrayals of same-sex relationships, YuruYuri is just about the last thing you should be watching.
Even if you do enjoy YuruYuri - as I do, for reasons that completely confound my writing ability and command of logical reasoning - this is a chapter I would treat with extreme care.
While there are cosmetic improvements and there are some fun scenes with the Amusement Club and friends, this episode might cross too many lines for some audiences, so be forewarned. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: The premise of this series has already been discussed at length in the TV series reviews, but in stark contrast to the main television series and its steadfast aversion to fan service, an extended and gratuitous nude scene (rear nudity and as close to the bikini areas as they can get without flouting Japanese censorship law) featuring characters that are underage in jurisdictions that are not Japan or Yemen means that I can not recommend this OVA for anyone in visual range of actual children, overzealous significant others, parents, or Dateline NBC journalists.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (1/1)
YuruYuri Nachuyachumi © 2015 Namori / Ichijinsha / 7FEC
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