“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
While it might not be immediately apparent in this blog’s archive, I have watched all instalments of YuruYuri prior to this third season: the earlier seasons yielded a highly comical depiction of life as middle-school students, placing particular emphasis on the interpersonal interactions between the anime’s all-female cast after Kyōko Toshinō creates the Amusement Club out of boredom, roping Yui Funami, Akari Akaza and Chinatsu Yoshikawa into things. There seems to never be a dull moment in their everyday lives, especially once Ayano Sugiura, Chitose Ikeda, Sakurako Ohmuro and Himawari Furutani, members of the student council, become entangled in the Amusement Club’s antics. Previous seasons placed particular emphasis on each character’s eccentricities, and how these dynamics produce the humour that YuruYuri became known for. By the third season, the anime had changed hands, being produced by TYO Animations rather than Dogakobo, and while TYO’s artistic style has remained quite faithful to their predecessors, there is no denying that TYO also brings to the table a new direction for the YuruYuri series, forgoing the over-the-top comedies in favour of something more down-to-earth.
This new direction ultimately alters the atmosphere of YuruYuri☆San-Hai! compared to its predecessors: lacking the same comedy, San-Hai! focuses more on maturation between the characters as they spend more time together: no longer overcome by shyness, Ayano finds herself gaining the courage to spend more time with Kyōko rather than fighting with her, whether it’s as simple as a day at the park or together at the movies. Similarly, Himawari and Sakurako’s interactions this season appear more natural: while both still clash frequently, the number of tender moments between the two have increased, as well, to underline that their relationship’s true nature is that of friendship. Another aspect that I welcomed is that Akari is no longer the victim to a lack of presence: the everyman in YuruYuri, Akari simply serves to help the other characters out as they go about their adventures. These changes are subtle, but definitely noticeable: while the characters still largely retain the personalities that made each of them distinct, the new interactions hint at maturation that gives San-Hai! a different atmosphere relative to that seen in seasons one and two.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This is technically the third YuruYuri post I’ve written, although it’s the first full length write-up I’ve done for a season. For the first season, the review here was meant to be a supplement for my review back at my old site and thus, I did not include the usual twenty (or ten) images most of my talks have. In comparison with previous seasons, San-Hai!‘s colour palette is less saturated, and the gag involving Akari’s lack of presence has been removed from the opening sequence.
- Exchanging comedy in favour of character growth, San-Hai! pushes the characters towards new directions; here, Kyōko and Ayano share a conversation. Despite Ayano’s hostility towards Kyōko in earlier seasons, she’s allowing herself to come to terms with her feelings and by San-Hai!, finds herself spending more time with Kyōko. Similarly, Kyōko seems somewhat aware of Ayano’s feelings, and while she never expresses so outright, compliments Ayano every so often as appreciation.
- With that being said, comedy is still present in San-Hai!, with much of the humour arising from the sheer ridiculousness of the situations that characters set themselves up for. For instance, during a sleepover, Kyōko requests that Yui does a “sexy” pose, and wastes no time in snapping an image after coercing Yui into doing so, sending it to Akari, whose reaction is priceless. She later uses the photograph to defuse a prank that Sakurako and the others are playing on her during their sleepover.
- The animal pajamas from the first season have become somewhat of a signature style to YuruYuri and have made an appearance in all seasons of the anime. While everyone has an animal motif, Kyōko sports tomato-themed pajamas that are rather unique. Consequently, when these pajamas are seen in the Sabagebu! OVAs, its quite clear that it’s a callback to YuruYuri.
- When Himawari finds herself unable to perform a back hip circle for physical education, Yui and the others spend a bit of time in helping her. However, it’s ultimately Sakurako who manages to “motivate” Himawari sufficiently to successfully perform one. It’s revealed that Sakurako’s kanji recognition is atrocious, and she oftentimes will create some rather unusual puns as a result.
- Chitose is still prone to fantasising about her friends engaging in yuri activities, although the frequency of said fantasies have declined substantially in comparison to previous seasons, and moreover, experiences nosebleeds as a result. Previous seasons had her covering a room with blood in a similar manner as seen in Rainbow Six Siege. Done purely for comedy, it’s been dialed back in San-Hai!.
- Despite acting with no semblance of self-awareness and her own interests in heart for the most part, by San-Hai!, Sakurako has matured and is better able to pick up on the environment around her: here, she yields an apple that Kyōko had carved to Ayano, and she had spent a fair bit of the OVA preparing dinner for Ayano during a sleepover. Things went surprisingly well there, showing that Sakurako is capable of being more mindful of others.
- Kyōko’s bold personality is a good match for Ayano’s bashfulness, and while seemingly exasperated by the former’s antics, Ayano does come to appreciate Kyōko’s company. They spend a day together at the movies, and upon learning that Ayano had tickets to a movie Kyōko was looking to watch, the pair decide to watch a second movie in one day.
- One of San-Hai!‘s best moments is set without dialogue: after Rise returns Akari’s notebook, exchanges akin to that seen in Straw Millionaire occur. Each trade progressively helps one individual, and in paying it forward, minor problems the characters experience become solved. It’s a surprisingly effective story that mirrors some of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes strips that told stories using purely imagery.
- Chizuru and Kaede share a moment together at the park, after which Chizuru resolves to try and maintain a more approachable air about her, eventually befriending two of her classmates a as a result. Watching Kaede and Mari’s interactions with the rest of the cast is particularly enjoyable; they are remarkably wise for their years and
- The dynamics between Sakurako and Kyōko are seen less often in comparison with the others, and despite both characters’ propensity for causing others trouble, the two get along surprisingly well: Kyōko instructs Sakurako in the ways of working claw machines, and while her approach is seemingly wasteful, Sakurako does manage to get what she came for in the end.
- In a progression of events reminiscent of GochiUsa‘s Sneaking Stalking Stalker Story, Mari and Kaede’s errands are being followed by Himawari, Sakurako, Yui and Kyōko. On a somewhat unrelated note, I believe this is the first post I’ve ever published to feature a ☆ in its title, and of greater note is that said star appears to be a part of the post’s URL slug. Neat.
- Kyōko-class antics make a return after Akari and Yui shovel out the walk at Mari’s home. Much as how snow only covers the ground in one episode of San-Hai!, the weather where I am this winter has been surprisingly mild. In fact, it feels distinctly like spring, and contrary to the weather typical to my area this time of year, the temperature has not dropped below -15°C for more than five days for the past month.
- While it’s usually Ayano’s puns that send Yui into suppressed hysterics, a rare moment allowing the two to converse allows the opposite to hold true. It seems that Yui’s puns, however poor they are, are sufficient to get Ayano laughing, as well. Despite being cool and quiet for the most part, San-Hai! also illustrates another side to Yui’s personality: she’s prone to skipping about in happiness after learning a new game is coming out, and spends a bit of one episode convincing Ayano that she’s not crying for any emotional reason.
- In preparation for a flower-viewing party, Himawari and Yui prepare some of the obento while Kyōko spends the night camped out at the site to ensure availability. A quick glance at the calendar shows that we’re now around halfway into the Winter 2016 anime season, and only now have I found the time to write a full reflection for an Autumn 2015 anime. Time flies by, and February, more so than January, disappeared in the blink of an eye.
- We’re reaching the halfway point in the semester, and I’d been feeling a little on edge with my workload until recently. Besides coursework for my one remaining class on biological computations, TA duties and thesis work, I’ve also spent the past two months working on a second conference publication. Despite this one having an eight-page limit, I somehow managed to overshoot the limit by three pages (plus citations, figures and abstract), and it’s taken two weeks to bring it back down to eight pages.
- It is remarkably welcoming to see Akari bask in good fortune for once, even if it is only for a little while: beleaguered with poor fortunes for the past two seasons, Akari is easily the easiest character to pity for everything that happens to her, and consequently, when Akari’s luck stablises for San-Hai!, I was most happy to see that misfortune did not befall her with the same frequency or intensity as it did in previous seasons.
- Although her sash gets blown away shortly after, her friends’ reaction implies that Akari’s luck is endearing to an extent. Later, Kyōko and the others spend the night at the Amusement Club room in order to finish Kyōko’s doujin comics, sleeping in shifts and doing their utmost to finish. My current schedule notwithstanding, I’ve not pulled all-nighters simply because I cease to function after 2300. I counter this by planning things in advance and finishing things in an organised manner, so for said conference paper, although much editing remains this point (and I need to fix the Bibtex file), I’m confident that my supervisor and I will make the deadline of Monday.
- Once the paper is submitted, I can finally focus my attention back to my thesis paper and coursework as we enter March, as well as turn my attention to another conference with a submission deadline in April. March will yield a few surprises on my end, and so, as has been the norm for 2016 thus far, blogging will be sporadic. Back in San-Hai!, the girls finally near the end of their task and take a moment to enjoy the fresh morning air.
- While Akari hugs Kyōko, Yui and Chinatsu pet her after hearing Kyōko’s speech about appreciating everything the others have done for her. With this, YuruYuri☆San-Hai! comes to a quiet, low-key end. Despite the differences between San-Hai! and the previous seasons, this third season has lost none of the charm that made YuruYuri distinct. This post now comes to an end, and I’m turning my eye towards talks about the Tom Clancy‘s The Division beta; given the different experiences I had playing through the campaign and dark zone, I’ve decided to do two separate talks for that. I’ve got a bit of a respite over the next little while, so at least the campaign talk should be out before March arrives.
Consequently, YuruYuri☆San-Hai! trades off comedy for some elements from a iyashikei: watching the characters spend more tender moments together is an interesting change of pace from what was seen in previous seasons. In addition to giving the characters some development, this also allows for different characters to interact with one another (Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?? did this quite successfully). With that being said, comedy is still definitely present in San-Hai!, being fielded in appropriate spots to create moments that elicit laughter (my favourite is during a power outage, where Kyōko makes faces at Akari and denies doing so, until the power is restored, upon which it turns out that Akari had been truthful the entire time). Overall, San-Hai! is a solid addition to YuruYuri, and given how it played out, it would appear that the series has matured: with its characters’ identities well-established, they now have an opportunity to mature. While this results in less comedy, it’s also resulted in Ayano becoming more honest with Kyōko, and similarly, Chinatsu’s begun pursuing Yui’s affections. When everything is said and done, YuruYuri☆San-Hai! is quite easy to recommend as a standalone anime that for depicting the everyday lives of among a group of friends in a humorous fashion, but existing fans will welcome the new directions that YuruYuri is taking.