Reviews of yesteryear: Yuru Yuri

Welcome, lovely fans. It’s a new year and you know what that means. Yes, it’s time to start the year out right with yuri anime month. Okay, so some of you may remember that last year I dedicated January to reviews of anime involving the peerless, titanically talented Hayashibara Megumi. Yes, I could do that again, but this year I’m going to watch yuri instead because having one month dedicated to the same thing every year is enough and I’d rather switch things up in January. Let’s start the month with something I actually haven’t seen. Written by Namori and brought to the screen by Dogakobo Studio, this is Yuru Yuri.

The anime opens with three girls starting middle school. After classes they get together in the tea club room because the tea club got disbanded and they decided to use the room for their amusement club. So you have a small group of girls going through school and humour based on their everyday lives. It’s sort of like A-Channel if all of the characters were lesbians. Wait…  Let me rephrase that. It’s sort of like A-Channel if the characters were more obvious lesbians who got to snog a bit. Now, the reason I’m not comparing it to K-on, Azumanga Daioh or Manabi Straight is that Yuru Yuri has the same sense of humour as A-channel. No, that doesn’t mean that the jokes are the same, they’re actually both pretty unique in that regard, but the aesthetic that makes up the humour is the same. The jokes may be different but the sense of comedic timing and the definitions of what qualifies as funny seem pretty identical. And no,I will not explain what an aesthetic is, you should already know it. If you really don’t know it, Google is your friend. Sorry, but it would take longer to explain in proper detail than the review is probably going to be. Okay, so the story is the same one you get in virtually every comedic slice of life school story. But, it’s a comedy so what I’m really going to look at is whether or not it’s funny. Well, most of the time it is. I compared its sense of humour to A-Channel, and there’s a reason for that. There are some repeated setups that are funny most of the time due to varying punch lines. For instance, there’s a repeated gag where a member of the student council, Chitose, gets a bloody nose because she’s fantasizing as a result of two girls being homoerotic. What generally makes it funny are either her fantasies, which are always based on what the girls happen to be doing at the moment and never get overly fan-servicey or explicit, (yes this anime has a sense of class) or the humour comes from the reaction that the other girls have to her. That isn’t to say that the jokes always work. There are a few that fall short and two that are more facepalm worthy than anything else. Still, altogether the unfunny jokes would probably only be around half an episode long, which leaves you with eleven and a half episodes worth of material that ranges from decent to hilarious and that’s a pretty good record.

Now, I know I’ve made a lot of comparisons to A-Channel, so you might be glad to know that I’m going to refrain from doing that when talking about characters. Honestly, there isn’t much to compare. The characters in Yuru Yuri aren’t anything like the characters from A-Channel. If I were going to compare the characters to any other anime cast it would have to be Koihime Musou, another yuri comedy from Dogakobo. This isn’t to say that they’re exactly identical, but both anime have characters with very particular quirks who may not be the strongest on their own, but have really great interactions that make them shine and lead to some really funny moments. So, I do like the characters in this. They wouldn’t be sufficient for a deep character driven piece like Monster, but for a semi-zany comedy they’re pretty close to ideal.

Let’s talk about the art. I know, I’ve said this every time I’ve reviewed an anime with a similar art style, but I don’t care for the art in this. It’s not quite as basic as A-Channel’s, there are some finer details that Yuru Yuri includes that it didn’t, but the art is pretty close to the same. The characters still have plain features with different hairstyles, no noses or noses that are just dots, and I still don’t know how they keep their glasses on, very basic backdrops and items. Now, let me stress that it never looks bad. It is bright and vibrant, which does arguably suit the series and, arguably, since it’s set in middle school rather than high school, it might work a bit better in Yuru Yuri than it does in other school anime that use a similar style while being set in highschool. Still, I don’t care for the art style as a matter of preference. I think it’s too basic and kind of lazy. Not just in Yuru Yuri, but in every anime I watch with a similar style. If you’re fond of the general style, fine you might like this anime, A-Channel, Manabi Straight and some others a little more than I do as a consequence, but I can’t really help not liking the art. How much do you want to bet that a fanboy is going to send me a long, whiny message about how I shouldn’t review anime with that art style if I don’t care for it because they end up not liking the final score? Because, you know, I base my entire rating on the art. Wait… what?

Yuru Yuri has a really strong cast. Now, I can’t speak for some of the cast in general since this is my first exposure to some of them, such as Ookubo Rumi and Ootsubo Yuka. In fact, most of the main cast doesn’t have a lot of roles outside of this. It’s kind of a pity since they do a really good job and I do hope they all get plenty more work in future. The music is… fun, I guess would be the best way to describe it. It’s cheerful, upbeat and vibrant. The only real complaint I have about it is that the opening theme is audibly auto-tuned. It’s still fun to listen to, in fact I’m listening to the full version while I write this (It’s just so bloody catchy), but I do find that a little annoying.

The yuri factor is a whopping 9/10. There are girls with stated crushes on one another, girls kissing each other at several points and just a lot of general homoeroticism. Now, with that said the reason I didn’t give it a full 10 is simply that there aren’t any actual lesbian couples. There are girls who flirt back and forth and may very well end up as couples in the next season, but no actual couples in this, in spite of the occasional kiss scene. I understand why they did it that way, since these are middle school students and most middle school kids don’t end up in serious relationships, but I still think that an anime needs at least one canonical lesbian couple to get a full yuri rating. Now, there might be that kind of relationship between the student council president and the science teacher… eww, but I really can’t tell with this one. Nishigaki sensei says they have a forbidden relationship as “explosion buddies” but I can’t tell if it’s entirely literal or literal and metaphorical. I kind of hope they’re just on friendly terms since it would be pretty messed up otherwise.

So, all I can really say in closing is that Yuru Yuri is energetic, funny, yuririffic and it has some great character interactions. On the downside, some of the les-yay is potentially squicky, thankfully there’s not much of that though, and the humour does fall short on occasion. If you enjoy A-Channel you’ll probably like this as well since they do operate under the same humour aesthetic. As for me, I liked this a little more. I thought the humour and characters were just a little stronger overall. My final rating is a 7.5/10. If you’re a fan of school comedies like Azumanga Daioh, Manabi Straight, or especially A-Channel, give this a go. If you don’t care for school comedies, this probably isn’t going to change your mind, unless your only complaint about school comedies is that they need canonical lesbianism instead of the heavy subtext most of them have. If that is your sole reason for not liking school comedies this might be what you’re looking for. Next week, yuri anime month will continue with a look at a pink-haired maid and the girl with glasses she loves. 

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