Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Sep 14th 2011
Episodes 1-7 Streaming
Akari, Yui and Kyoko are three childhood friends who in high school form a club called the Amusement Club. As its name suggests, the club is a pretense for goofing off—and getting a cool room to do it in. The room brings them their fourth member, Chinatsu, a cheerful girl looking to join the tea club that once occupied the Amusement Club's building. Together they get a lot of goofing off done, as well as getting mixed up in a mess of crisscrossing girl-girl crushes.
You want to know what nothingness feels like? The pure absence of sensation, the black void of total thoughtlessness? You don't have to die or get stranded in deep space. All you have to do is watch YuruYuri.
As a rule, series of YuruYuri's stripe are cute, pointless, and devoted to unrealistic ideals of female friendship and school life. YuruYuri is not into breaking rules. The cute is good. YuruYuri knows cute—keep it natural, make it seem almost accidental, and for god's sake leave sex out of it. There's fan-service to be sure (it is about girls falling for girls) and plenty of naughty fantasies, but natural and incidental are the fan-service's watchwords as well. At the very least it doesn't feel like the series is leering at its subjects. The pointless and unrealistic, as you might guess, aren't so good. Even by the standards of similar fluff, YuruYuri is lacking in purpose and direction. K-on!, perhaps the epitome of this type of series, at least had music and the creation and evolution of a band, however frequently ignored, to keep it together. What does YuruYuri have? A club the purpose of which is to facilitate the doing of nothing. As for its version of school life, there isn't a grain of truth in it. No one worries about the future, friendships never end, and fun is the order of every day. Also males apparently don't exist. The show might as well take place in Never-Never Land. There's no more truth in any of the rest of the show either: every event or interaction rings false. And, coupled with the meandering meaninglessness of the plot, that leaves a sucking emptiness at the series' core.
That might not actually be so bad if there was something to fill the emptiness. Like characters, say. No such luck. YuruYuri doesn't have characters, it has types—purloined from the collective otaku consciousness and given only cursory tweaks. Akari is the nice girl with a thin presence, Yui the smart, level-headed one, Kyoko the brilliant but irresponsible one...and so it goes. There's so little variation on the usual character themes that whenever there's any crossover it gets hard to tell characters apart. Until she develops a mad crush on Yui and becomes the smitten stalker girl, Chinatsu is so similar to Akari that they actually make a running joke about the threat of replacement she poses. We won't even speak of the confusion caused by the three tsunderes in the student council. If you can't tell characters apart from each other, much less from the thousands of characters they ape, you can forget about emotional engagement, or empathy of any sort for that matter. You could feed every one of them feet-first through a wood chipper and all you'd feel is kind of peeved that they made a mess.
So, to sum up: no purpose, no substance, and no characters. That pretty much leaves humor. And that isn't necessarily bad. This is a comedy after all, and as anyone who saw Mitsudomoe could tell you, you can forgive a lot in exchange for a good laugh. Alas again, no dice. This is probably the biggest surprise about YuruYuri. It does, after all, share Mitsudomoe's director. If nothing else Masahiko Ohta has proven a reliable director of very funny fluff. But he only rarely gets a chance to strut his stuff. Most of the series is comprised of extremely short vignettes about blindingly dull stuff: visiting Yu's apartment, say, or fake dating, or, more likely, lolling about doing jack crap in the Amusement Club clubroom. Even if he had the space to build to a punch line, he wouldn't have a punch line to build to. The show manages to pull off a total of exactly two real hard laughs. In seven episodes. That comes to approximately .286 laughs per episode. Granted, the extended gag about Chinatsu's artistic skills is murderously funny, and the one in which Akari loses her lip virginity isn't far behind, but that's still a miserable average.
And you can see it weighing on Ohta and his crew. The spirit of creativity has seemingly been crushed from them. You won't find any silent-film homages or fiendishly clever uses of classical music here: just unending cute blandness punctuated by unfunny hyperactivity. The series looks and acts exactly like every other empty comedy out there. Sure it's cute, but not remarkably so. Sure things are animated, but not with any enthusiasm. Sure it's scored, and with laudable restraint for a comedy, but just try remembering any of it. The only time the show comes alive is when there's a good joke in the offing. Akari runs most cinematically from her pursuer before having her lips violated, and Chinatsu's art...let's just say it's complete genius in its own way. The rest of the time, though, you wouldn't be able to tell YuruYuri from a comedy pastiche. Whatever else you could say about Ohta and his collaborators' previous comedies—and you could say a lot, and much of it not good—you could never say that. And therein lies YuruYuri's most unforgivable crime: wasting an opportunity for gifted comedic creators to create comedy.
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : C+
Art : C+
Music : C
+ Is very occasionally very funny; kinda cute.
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