Yuru Yuri Manga, Volume 1 (English)

September 25th, 2012

Yuru Yuri remains on the JManga best seller list, as it has since it premiered on the digital platform. Not surprisingly, I’m pleased to see it there, because we at ALC were able to be part of the team that brought it to you.  I was even allowed to contribute a short essay on the Yuri landscape in Japan to the feature story for the series. (And, I erm, just noticed that they called me the Yuri Master on the feature page. /snort/) As a result, I think I should disclaimer this review – I think we did a bang-up job on the thing and I have no intention of combing the book for mistakes. ^_^

That having been said, something popped up on Twitter yesterday that inspired me to do a quick review. I’ll get to that in a second.

The number one criticism of Yuru Yuri is, well, the lack of Yuri.

Basically, Kyouko sort of desires Chinatsu, who can’t stand her, Chinatsu loves, akogares and probably desires Yui, who probably knows but isn’t doing anything about it. Ayano has a made-up-in-her-head rivalry with Kyouko, because she hasn’t really figured out that she likes her, Sakurako and Himawari are a completely fictitious couple made up by the author to jerk the readers around. No one even notices Akari.

The only “real” Yuri in the series is in Chitose’s fantasies. Chitose is, of course, the stand-in for the readership. All the “Yuri” in the series is in our heads, because if you step back for a second, we are pairing up 13-year olds and how creepy does that make us? Massively creepy.

So for no reason at all, except because I find it amusing to do so, I’m going to ‘splain the real relationships in this series.

Here’s the picture that started this whole train of thought (Here’s a link to the original artist’s page on Pixiv. You’ll need to be logged in to see their page. Painting and links via Scott Green on Twitter)

This picture, “Yuri Meninas” is a mashup/parody of Velazsquez’s famous painting Las Meninas.

And I thought to myself, well, if this artist can see something in Yuru Yuri worth mashing up with Velasquez’s work, (often considered the best painting in the world), then clearly, I need to look at it again.

And so I have.

Yuru Yuri is, like Sasamekikoto, a discussion of Yuri tropes. Best friends, rivals in love, opposites attract, akogare out of control, etc. But where Sasamekikoto focused on tropes of plot common to Yuri stories, Yuru Yuri is focusing on character tropes common to moe stories…and making fun of the characters and the people who read so much into so little. In effect, Yuru Yuri can be seen as a commentary by the artist on the  the audience who works so hard to develop the characters which are, in reality, kept simple by design.

The main character of Yuru Yuri is not, as the story might imply Akari, nor is it Kyouko… the main character is Chitose. That is to say, the main character of the series is *you.* You are the one developing the series from 2-dimensional in every way, to anything at all that has some third dimension. Like Velasquez in Las Meninas, the reader must be involved with the narrative for it to make any sense at all.

So, because I as a reader (even though as I edit, I try hard to not engage with the story) am forced to form some opinion of it as a I read, here is what *I* saw.

There is, in truth, only one couple here. Chitose and Ayano. To turn Ayano into the masochist she truly is, Chitose will, therefore, have to learn how to be a better sadist. She’s got a lot of work ahead of her. Sakurako and Himawari are a McGuffin. Himawari genuinely can’t stand Sakurako, and Sakurako is merely using Himawari. Chinatsu (who has been inexplicably descriped as “dark”) is a bore. Yui will come to realize this and then realize that she actually does like Kyouko…but only after Kyouko and Chinatsu become a couple.

So, that’s what this series looks like in *my* imagination. ^_^

No, not really.

In my imagination, this series doesn’t exist at all. ^_^

I am not, like Velazquez, reflected in the art. I am not represented by Chitose. I stand outside the story, outside the narrative and, instead of watching the subjects of the narrative, I watch the audience. I watch you as you paint the picture.

So, what I want to know is – what do you see when you look at Yuru Yuri? Where are you in the picture? Tell me in the comments!

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10 Responses

  1. Ichigo69 says:

    You know, Erica, I’ll admit that I really like Yuru Yuri, however, what I liked most about this article isn’t the YRYR part, but rather, it got me really looking at Velasquez’s painting and made me again realise what an incredible master he was and what a masterpiece of a painting that is. So… Thank you for reminding me that even though things like YRYR are fun and all, REAL art is absolutely breathtaking.

  2. @Ichigo69 I agree! I’ve been sneaking in all sorts of art, music, dance and the like here for ages. ^_^

    Having an educated audience that can appreciate fine art, as well as low, is, in part, what Yuricon is about. ^_^

  3. Most creative commentary I’ve seen on Yuru Yuri so far. Bravo.

    Going by season 2 (yes, I’m still watching; two episodes to go even though the series has finished airing), the series does show some proof of genuine affection between Himawari and Sakurako beyond “They constantly snark at each other, IT MUST BE TSUNDERE LOVE. I don’t care if you don’t see it, it’s there!” It’s less eye-rolling than the previous status quo, but I’m still not breathlessly waiting for them to go completely dere for each other or whatever. Sorry series. lol

    Otherwise, I see: Ayano having a crush on Kyouko for some reason I still can’t fathom, Yui being crushed on by Chinatsu (spoiler: they go on a date in season 2, and while Chinatsu, of course, reads into it, Yui just seems like she’s tolerating her out of a mix of politeness and pity; I felt for Yui, I truly did), and (in season 2) Chinatsu’s older sister having a crush on Akari’s creeper of a sister. Yup.

  4. Anonymous says:

    ‘The only “real” Yuri in the series is in Chitose’s fantasies’ Actually series has a “couple” in the very young looking student counsel president and one of the science teachers. You see they “experiment” and “blow up” together. Even the other character find it a bit odd.

  5. @Anonymous – Not in Volume 1. Which is what I was reviewing.

  6. @Katherine Hanson – Thank you. ^_^ And thank you for your perspective!

  7. ArcaJ says:

    Great review, Erika!

    While I agree thay the “Yuri” in Yuru Yuri is largely in our heads (and Chitose’s nose), it’s a fun ride if you don’t mind all the moe.

    Let’s just hope the polularity of this series leafs to more Yuri Hime adaptations. And releases on JManga. ^_^


  8. BruceMcF says:

    Not there at all. 12 minutes into episode one and I had to bail. It is, indeed, the only JManga title listed as Yuri that I could not persuade the better angels of my nature to allow me to buy.

    I could take the moeblob tendencies of Sora no Woto, because I loves me elliptical post-apocalyptical fiction … but for Yuru Yuri, I’m not sitting in the audience, I’m at the fresh bread shop across the street getting a stuffed focaccia for an impromptu picnic in the park.

  9. Happenchesse says:

    I think I would agree with you more if the artist/creator didn’t draw/write other Yuri like she does (most of which is more serious). I always sort of saw this show as an attempt to ‘mainstream’ Yuri by adding all the gags and moe, thus targeting a wider audience. Either way, I really like this show. I like the pairings, I like the characters, I just like it.
    I’ve heard some people say “it’s the death of the Yuri genre”, but I don’t think it’s anything nearly that dramatic, myself. It’s just another part of it. I say this as a lesbian, too.

  10. Burnouts3s3 says:

    I don’t enjoy slice-of-life anime when people say it’s ‘good’ (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star).

    From your review, it seems I wouldn’t enjoy this either.

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