The Yuru Yuri franchise is what I have always considered to be my all-time favorite slice of life comedy. Kyouko's crazy antics, Akari's lack of presence, Chinatsu's magic hair and all the yuri elements that come along with it... all-in-all it's just too good. Now as much as I'd like to say that you should already know exactly what to expect from San Hai based on the previous seasons... that's actually not entirely true. You see unlike the first two seasons that were adapted by Doga Kobo, San Hai (as well as the Nachuyachumi OVAs) are produced by a less known company called TYO Animations;
most famous for previous works such as B Gata H Kei, Squid Girl, Plastic Nee-san and the majority of Tamayura. This new studio brings with it some notable changes to the third season compared to the first two, and that's what I primarily want to talk about in this review.
In general, San Hai is a lot more... *calm* than the previous seasons. There is a lot less utter chaos and over-the-top gags utilized this time around, and instead it is replaced by more traditional, relaxing slice of life scenes. Now this does not mean that it's suddenly like Non Non Biyori exactly, it's still a lot more hyperactive than that but not to the extent which the series has been in the past. Akari is pretty much always noticed now. There are very few jokes utilized regarding her lack of presence anymore. Similarily, I don't think there was a single scene in San Hai where Chinatsu's supernatural hair comes into effect (like how it absorbed ping pong balls and stuff in the past), and the amount of yuri fantasies on Chitose's behalf has been cut down quite a lot. Even Akari's classic intro segment that used to start every episode in the past is now completely gone. And all of this is quite a shame to me, because it was that type of craziness that made the series stand out so much from the crowd and originally made me fall in love with it. Of course it's not like *all* the old running gags have been thrown out; some of them naturally persist such as Chinatsu's horrendous artistic skills for example, but they're definitely not quite as prevalent as before. That being said, even if San Hai is a lot more 'normal' in comparison... it still makes it work a lot better than I feared it would. And this is primarily because although some good things may have been lost, some good things have also been gained in the process.
Most notably, the amount of yuri scenes has been significantly increased. I'm not talking about Chitose's fantasies here (those have decreased in number after all), I'm talking about actual events here. There is no need for Chitose to fantasize about things when they're actually playing out in reality instead, right? Kyouko x Ayano, Sakurako x Himawari, Chinatsu x Yui, Tomoko x Akane x Akari, etcetera. All of these couplings and more get some truly heartwarming moments together and it's a treat to see. So I guess you can say that the quality of the show itself hasn't changed, but the focal point has. Instead of the wacky comedy that it used to be, it is now more of a shoujo ai slice of life anime. And given how rare yuri anime tend to be, I can never consider it a bad thing to get some more emphasis on that front.
Another thing that unsurprisingly has changed with the new studio is the art style. However, this change is very subtle to say the least. If I didn't know it was a different studio producing it I might never have noticed it. And even now if I make side-by-side comparisons of the old and new art, I still can't say one really looks any better than the other. It's about the same to me. And as far as the audio goes, the voice actresses are thankfully the same as before, and the background music is barely noticeable so I don't have much to say about it. The new OP and ED themes however... in my mind they were pretty disappointing, at least given that Yuru Yuri has had some great theme songs in the past, but both of these fell pretty flat to me. Though of course this isn't exactly a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.
In the end, San Hai is quite clearly different from what we've seen from Yuru Yuri in the past, but as for whether it's any better or worse... well that probably depends on who you ask. In my mind, either version works, albeit for different reasons, and despite everything what we got is still one of the better shows of the year. As I mentioned in the beginning, Yuru Yuri is and always has been my favorite slice of life comedy series ever, and as far as the comedy aspect goes then San Hai does not quite live up to the expectations I had on it. However, it makes up for that fact with an abundance of additional yuri elements instead, which is also perfectly fine with me. At the very least it still provided an incredibly entertaining anime, and you can't really ask for a whole lot more than that.
The Yuru Yuri series is by far one of the more popular and well-known Shoujo Ai series to exist in Japanese media. Taking the simple concept of a high school comedy and mixing in its own unique characters, the series as a whole has become well known in the anime community. But with it's third season, a lot of that luster seems to have faded over time, and with TYO Animation taking the reins this time in production instead of Doga Kobo leading to some...unexpected results.
Story: The story of Yuru Yuri still maintains the same general plotline, featuring out four main girls, Kyouko,
Yui, Akari, and Chinatsu spending time in their signature clubhouse as the Amusement Club, spending more time together with all of the other characters in the series and generally creating a lot of wackiness and moments that make the show so memorable and great. That however is not the case this time around.
As a result of the production company change, this season feels a lot more disjointed and watered down from the original. While a great number of the things from the previous seasons when the series was produced by Doga Kobo crossed over, such as Sakurako and Himewari's breast warfare, Chinatsu's fangirling over Yui, and Kyouko's extremely bubbly and Kyouko-like manner, a couple of the more signature things about the series before like some extremely wacky scenarios and most predominantly the lack of the vanishing "Akarin~" gag just don't exist in this season. In fact, I will go as far as to say that the show as a whole lost a lot of its charm and felt a lot more standard and normal than it should've been.
The show does bounce back a little bit by having several characters grow in development in this season, but it's not as noticeable as a lot of the 'development' happens with the side characters that get far less screentime than they deserved. Not to mention some characters feel different than they were previously in previous seasons. (Cue Mari, who feels more child-like to her previously smart appearances.)
All in all, while this season of Yuru Yuri was by no means bad, a lot of what made the Yuru Yuri series great just didn't feel like it was there or was blocked off by Chinatsu's excessive fangirling. (Seriously though, they go overboard with the whole Yui-worshipping thing. Far more than they should've.) It just felt too normal, and normality is not something that I expected from this show.
+ Same Yuru Yuri plotline
- A lot of the old format is missing or watered down
- Lack of some iconic gags
Characters: Characters in Yuru Yuri are still present and accounted for. We still have the main four girls, Akari, Kyouko, Yui, and Chinatsu. There's still the student council consisting of Rise (who gets FAR too little screentime. Even less than before), Ayano, Himawari, Sakurako, and Chitose, and the other girls that come in and out of the screen whenever they need to.
One of my complaints about the characters is that there are some that don't really show up or are so pointless to the series that they never show up. This includes Akari's sister, Chitose, who only shows up 3/4 of the way into the series, Nishikagi, and the whole Mirakurun cast. While they were never the most vital characters in the series, it was a bit sad to see already pronounced and known characters be shoved even further into the background. They were a part of what I felt made Yuru Yuri more exciting as a series and as such, contributed to the lack of spark that this season has.
+ Main cast is all here and accounted for
- The more side characters get little to no screentime and are mostly absent from the series
Art: As I mentioned before, Yuru Yuri's third season was produced by TYO Animation instead of the two previous seasons' makers, Doga Kobo. As such, the artwork for San Hai is a lot duller in comparison to the brighter and more colorful artwork that the characters had before.
While the characters looks the same in terms of design, the color palette just isn't all the bright, as the normal colors of the characters are muted to look a bit grayer than normal, and the lack of exaggerated comedic effect doesn't really happen here. Akari's buns don't pop off, we don't get too many stylistic changes in order to show off a more comedical moment, or anything like that. It just feels a bit bland and odd.
+ Characters look the same
- The different color palette and lack of comedic appearance made the show look more bland.
Sound: The sound for Yuru Yuri isn't really something that I found to ever really be all that exciting. The opening and the ending of this season are both songs that reflect the show's general excitable and energy-filled feel, but don't really have much of a place in anime as a memorable soundtrack. They both pretty much sound the same and while are good, aren't really tracks that I found to be worth remembering.
+ Good soundtrack
- Not really all that memorable
Personal Enjoyment: While Yuru Yuri was never really my first go to choice when it came to watching a high school comedy about 4 girls (because lord knows we have plenty of those), this season just felt a bit like a disappointment. Not only because of the lack of Akarin (seriously, what happened to that gag? I want it back!) but because the show didn't feel the same as it did before.
Did I like this anime?
I'll admit, it was still rather fun to watch. Kyouko makes the world go round and all of her antics make up Yuru Yuri, so I'm happy to see that she still takes the spotlight and moves the plot forward as much as she can.
What didn't I like about this anime?
Aside from the lack of appearance for a lot of cast members and a lot of comedic changes since they relied mostly on comedic retorts and Kyouko antics for the majority of the series, the one thing I was not happy about was how much they focused on Chinatsu. As a character, Chinatsu's entire schtick was the fact that she wanted Yui-senpai to notice her. As such, the show focused what I felt like an excessive amount of time on her and her gag and not really on others as much. This created an imbalance that I personally was not too keen on.
Would I recommend this anime?
If you've seen any of Yuru Yuri, I would say tread lightly on this one. Because the production change made so many things different in the series, I'm a bit on the fence as to suggesting this for Yuru Yuri fans, especially those familiar with the anime. While it still is the same base concept and the same characters, there's just something about it that feels off when watching it.
Yuru Yuri is back for its third season, and with it has come a change in studio. As we know, it is not common for a series to receive more than one to two seasons unless it is highly successful in Japan. There is a clear understanding that studios behind multi-season anime have lofty standards to fulfill. This expectation now falls on TYO Animations as it produces one of the most beloved shoujo ai. So far, the studio understands what it has to accomplish as OVAs Yuru Yuri Nachuyachumi! and Yuru Yuri Nachuyachumi!+ have been received well.
The story of Yuru Yuri San Hai is
expected for its shoujo ai and slice-of-life genres. There is not anything particularly revolutionary, however, there is nothing wrong with this whatsoever. It follows a formula which continues to work and does not need to be fixed.
More specifically, Yuru Yuri San Hai is a continuation of the first two seasons and, like these seasons before it, follows its source material, the manga of Yuru Yuri. I do not know how closely it follows the manga because I have not read any of it just yet. This definitely will change. The story does well in showing development of characters and progression of the many (subtly romantic) relationships between them. I have to add, while essentially every character undergoes them, these developments are not equal. Meanwhile, some characters experience only personal growth or only a change in their relationship with one or more others.
The pacing is just right. No episode seems to be a filler in the sense that personal development or development of at least one relationship is not occurring for a substantial part of it.
The comedy also is good, although in comparison to seasons one and two, it is more calm. I am not sure if this is because of the source material or a decision on TYO Animations’ part, but much of the exaggerated humor is no longer here. I am somewhat fine with this because it allows the aforementioned developments to be more of the focus. Still, this becomes a detriment to some of the characters as humor is a major component of their roles in prior seasons.
In addition, the story’s conclusion is endearing and leaves me wanting more. I believe it’s the type of ending one expects of comedic slice-of-life, and it fortunately is neither abrupt nor leaves major plotlines unexplained. As Yuru Yuri is not a complex drama by any means, I would be surprised if creators somehow do not resolve major plotlines in a cute, relaxed slice-of-life such as this.
Since a new studio directs the Yuru Yuri franchise, the change in art style perhaps is the most important part of the series. TYO Animations still is a relatively new studio, with its first animation created in early 2010. According to MyAnimeList’s database, currently, its three most popular series are B Gata H Kei, Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji, and Shinryaku! Ika Musume in this order. I have not seen these or other works created by TYO Animations. Therefore, Yuru Yuri San Hai is my first exposure to its art style and its production as a whole.
As for its art style, personally, I enjoy it. There are subtle differences between TYO Animations’ and Doga Kobo’s art styles, such as, most notably to me, the color palette. The current studio uses a slightly muted one for the characters. A good way to check this is to compare the current hair colors of the characters to their Doga Kobo counterparts. For example, you will notice that Yui’s hair is a dark purple in the first two seasons and black in Yuru Yuri San Hai. This is also true for her and the other characters’ eyes, which typically are not as bright in their current designs. I had not noticed either of these until closer inspection. Even now that I know, I do not mind this change in the color palette. I also find the background art to be rather impressive with its photorealistic style. Lastly, this style as a whole and its quality remain constant throughout the season.
Now, we come to the sound.
The seiyuus all have returned to comprise their roles, and they are as appropriate as ever. Their consistency reflects unwavering dedication to their roles.
The background music is appropriate, as well, but it does not stand out much. Certainly, this is not bad per se. After all, ill-fitting music too can stand out. The opening theme is cute and catchy with its quite up-tempo, orchestral production. I will admit I do prefer first season’s and second season’s themes in that order, but this can be attributed to my love of alternative rock and alternative metal. You may prefer this opening’s production because it does not contain an electric guitar. It does make a return in the ending’s theme mix of pop and metal, which I believe also is cute and catchy. Although between it and the opening, I ironically favor the opening due to its higher tempo.
The characters personalities, with one notable exception, remain unchanged. They react to situations and events in ways I would expect for the slice-of-life genre. I essentially have been able to relate to them, particularly in moments where one or more characters misinterpret something another states or does. As I explained earlier, characters experience personal growth or growth in their relationship with at least one other character, although to varying degrees. None of them retrogress in either regard, but some are almost completely static in not just one aspect but both. I expected this for some characters due to Yuru Yuri’s large cast. Still, I am a little surprised at a few who seem to have been left behind. Perhaps, there is more development in the currently ongoing manga and to come in a later season for the TV adaptation.
To conclude, Yuru Yuri San Hai is an example of a successful formula which does not need to be overhauled. Growth and/or other changes relating to character development and relationships are fine and even expected, of course. I only state Yuru Yuri does not need suddenly to become avant-garde or some other genre for the sake of innovation. Instead, I believe a person like myself prefers to see creators build on the successful foundation which has been laid. This series continues to do that now with the great job TYO Animations has done. I wish them the best of luck with any future installments if there are any, and I certainly am looking forward to catching up on the Nachuyachumi! OVAs. Yuru Yuri San Hai receives a 9 because, while I enjoy the developments of individual characters and their relationships, I believe some of these characters do not receive all of the attention they deserve and the humor is a little too compromised. The humor may signal the series is going into a more mature direction, which I accept if that is the case. Nevertheless, I understand it must come to an end after a while, as well. However, judging just by the response on MyAnimeList, (mostly Western) fans of Yuru Yuri haven’t had enough of this just yet. I know I have not. I will rewatch this at some arbitrary time from now, and I definitely want to own all of it as a part of my personal collection one day.
I'm going to start off by saying that I'm a picky rater of anime in MaL standards, and that I'm going to be covering the first two seasons briefly in order to explain this season.
Devoid of any heavy plot it's impossible to rate the "story", however I will rate how well the show was written, or the script. The show has many recurring jokes and character traits that they write in so well that you don't get the feeling that they're just putting it in because they feel obliged to, instead, cleverly written in at perfect times. The plot of each episode also does
a very good job of not being boring, sure not much might be happening, but it is never boring.
The art is fantastic for what the show is trying to portray, it has a very unique style that you can look at and know from your first glance that this is most likely a light hearted comedy. The soundtrack is not that memorable but the voice acting is fantastic. Every seasons Opening and Ending songs have also had a lot of effort and detail put into them and are what I would consider to be good.
The characters are what make this show one of my favourites, Yuru Yuri is an all female show with little to no men at all, this is a scenario that I am a huge fan of (like K-on!) because when there's men and women in a slice of life, there's usually drama, not in Yuru Yuri, there's not a second of drama in this show.
Each character has a unique interaction with each other and the script gives moments to each girl to have a chance to spend time with different friends. Lesbian undertones are a great change of pace as it's something I haven't seen elsewhere, the show features my favourite and one of the funniest tsunderes of all time as well.
It should also be stated that the show does not have one main character that it "follows" from their perspective, it rotates around the four main girls.
Now that that's out of the way I'll explain why I think Season 3 is the best season.
Season 1 and 2 do a great job setting the tone, developing the characters (thus adding rewatch value), establishing jokes, etc.
But Season 3 is where it all just clicks perfectly, it is the most enjoyable season by far and it is written under the assumption that you have already seen the first two seasons and therefore doesn't try to reintroduce the characters to you and all that, but instead it throws you right into what you loved about the previous seasons.
The popularity of this season is astonishing (19,000 members that have completed the show at the time of writing this), hopefully they have enough funds to make another season because I certainly haven't seen enough of this show yet.
My enjoyment is an easy 10/10, is the show perfect? no. is the show for everyone? absolutely not. But if you enjoyed the first two seasons, I unbelievably highly recommend that you watch this, you will not be disappointed.
Thanks for reading, if you found this review helpful or had something you wanted to talk about, feel free to message me.
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