YuruYuri Season One Premium Edition

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, September 19, 2013

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While NIS America tends to switch genres fairly often with the anime they have licensed, this time around they released two comedy series back to back. Daily Lives of High School Boys was one of my highlights of the year when it came out last month, and now NIS has released the complete first season of YuruYuri. The show is centered on a group of middle school girls and their Amusement Club, which is really just an excuse for them to hang out and laze around during breaks in the school day. Like Azumanga Daioh and just about every school focused comedy, YuruYuri doesn’t have an overall plot and instead focuses on random events and quirkiness. But as you might expect from the title, the distinguishing factor here is lots of yuri implications, as the majority of the cast has some kind of girl crush or love going on. Is this enough to make the show stand out from the constant barrage of other anime that goes for this same type of idea?

Rather than throwing together a bunch of sketches like Azumanga Daioh or Daily Lives of High School Boys, YuruYuri goes for the full episode approach and focuses on one major theme or event in each. There’s no overall plot or goal the Amusement Club is going for, as instead the core group of Akari, Yui, Kyoko, and Chinatsu hang out and generally do whatever they feel like. The events touch upon just about every standard school life trope in anime, hitting the mandatory beach, Christmas, and summer break episodes early on. But it’s perfectly okay for a comedy anime to not have an overarching narrative, especially if its characters are quirky or memorable and able to sell many of these scenes. This is where YuriYuri begins to become hit or miss, and it’s one of the reasons that I didn’t end up liking it nearly as much as I had hoped to.

The core cast of any show is usually what sells a show, and some of the ones I liked the best like K-On! were able to accomplish this by giving each character their own quirk and then putting them into memorable or humorous situations. YuruYuri tries to do this, but some of the secondary characters end up being more interesting and that’s not necessarily a good thing. But let’s explore the four primary Amusement Club members before we go any further. The first featured character is Akari, who initially seems like she’s going to be the focus of the entire show. She’s a fairly normal girl whose only distinguishing factor is her hair style, and her “plain existence” is an element that the series tries to play off of in humorous fashion. Yui and Kyoko are Akari’s childhood friends, and Yui serves are the calm and semi normal one in the group while Kyoko is a hyperactive anime fangirl of sorts. The final character Chinatsu gets added in early on as she had hoped to join the Tea Ceremony Club, only to discover that it had been disbanded and the Amusement Club is using the room. Fitting in with the yuri theme, Kyoko has a crush of sorts on Chinatsu because she resembles her favorite anime character Magical Witch Mirakurun and Chinatsu has an unhealthy crush on Yui. This primary cast is certainly likeable, but I think the main problem was that their overall personalities didn’t stand out quite as much and early episodes turned into a case of “Kyoko does this and everyone else follows.”

However, once the additional cast is introduced YuruYuri does get a bit more interesting. I was surprised at just how many characters the show throws at the viewer, as after the student council is introduced the main cast expands to eight and there are some additional characters that also get plenty of screen time. The student council is represented by two pairs of character, the first of which is Ayano and Chitose. Ayano is the vice president and also a tsundere in every sense towards Kyoko, who she goes out of her way to call a rival at every opportunity but seems to harbor feelings for. Ayano also uses puns on a regular basis which I thought was amusing and was one of those things that really came out of left field. Chitose is the quiet, mild mannered type, until she takes off her glasses and has wild yuri fantasies that leave to massive nosebleeds (and she has a twin sister who does the same thing but drools instead of getting nosebleeds, while using Chitose in the fantasy). Finally, there is the duo of Sakurako and Himawari who are both battling to become the next vice president after Ayano but also seem to be friends, even if they refuse to admit it.

So you’ve got a lot of characters, some of which are interesting and others that don’t stand out nearly as much. The major question is how does this translate over to the episodes themselves? As you may have already figured out from what I’ve brought up over the past few paragraphs, this is where the show stumbles. Any comedy/slice of life show that doesn’t have an overall plot but has still become one of my favorites was able to do so by providing quirky situations and off the wall character interactions. YuruYuri is able to do this during specific moments, like the insane kissing spree/nosebleed explosion that occurs during the final episode or some of the other random bits of comedy that pop up. However, there were far too many sections that were a little too normal as far as this genre goes and the show seemed to rely more on the yuri angle more than the comedy aspect. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for me personally, this constant emphasis on the yuri interactions just didn’t grab me that much but I do understand that there will likely be plenty of viewers that connect with this series for that exact reason.

YuruYuri follows the trend of other anime in this genre and goes for a very bright and colorful look while ensuring that its characters all look as cute and adorable as possible. Dogakobo has done a good job of making the overall look and feel of the show have a balance of sugary sweetness and a more natural tone that puts it in line with your standard slice of life. There are a lot of exaggerated elements when it comes to facial expressions and interactions, and the studio was able to have some fun and throw in some extra flashiness when showcasing the Magical Witch Mirakurun sequences and title gags that go for a more outlandish approach. Another neat element was how each character was given their own intermission sequence with musical accompaniment that fit their personality and the show would rotate which one was being shown depending on who was being featured during a particular episode. Little touches like this go a long way in helping a series establish its own identity, and I hope that this is continued in the second season.

Speaking of sugary, the opening theme for YuruYuri is so sweet it might just give you diabetes. The opening and ending themes are sung by the cast of the show and are done in a higher pitched, cute way that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head after the first time. Based entirely on that, you should be able to tell if this anime is for you or not. Aside from the opening and ending themes, the only music that really stood out to me was the intermission scenes for each character that I mentioned earlier. The voice acting is another strong area, as the voices of each person seem to fit the character they are playing perfectly. What’s also neat is that the entire main cast is voiced by voice actors that seem to be a bit newer and haven’t been in a million other shows, so it’s exciting to see what appears to be the next generation start popping up in anime.

The on-disc extras on the second Blu-Ray are clean opening and ending themes as well of a short preview of what the next season of the series will offer when it comes out in January. Like a lot of NIS America’s other releases, the hardcover art case and art book/episode guide is what you’re really interested in for the premium edition and they did a great job once again. The episode guide is written as if it is being told by each of the different characters and perfectly captures how they act in the show, which is a nice change of pace from simply retelling what happened. But it’s the amount of sketches and still shots that impressed me, as this may be the most amount of artwork and conceptual sketches I have seen packed into a NIS release before. I always appreciate the extra effort that goes into each anime the company puts out, as even though YuruYuri didn’t end up being one of my favorites it is always neat to get extra content like this.

YuruYuri’s first season comes off feeling a bit average for me, as it had some moments I really enjoyed and a few too many that were simply okay or unmemorable. There is potential here though, and from what I’ve read from viewers that have seen the series when it aired in Japan the second season doesn’t go as overboard with the yuri angle and does a bit more gags so I’m hopeful that will work in its favor. For now I don’t see this being an anime I watch more than once, but when January comes around and the second season is out I will see if it manages to change my mind about the series as a whole. If you’re even more into moe, yuri, or this general type of thing feel free to check this one out though as it’s certainly oriented towards that particular audience.

http://nisamerica.com/index.php?nav=ap&aid=yuruyuri

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