The modern “cute girls doing cute things” genre of anime based on 4-panel manga got introduced by Azumanga Daioh in 2000, was epitomized by Lucky Star in 2007, and has been copied by what feels like a half-million enjoyable but unremarkable anime ever since. It’s an innocuous little sub-genre that’s hard to get mad at or get tired of because these series tend to be adorable and fun, but it’s also hard to say anything new about the genre or break new ground in it. It’s easy for even a solid series of this type to get lost in the crowd.
So, against this endless mob of adorable competitors, how does the 2013 anime Yuyushiki hold up? Short answer: admirably well. Now for the long answer, beginning with a summary… Yuyushiki tells the story of three high school girls who are close friends, and the title comes from the fact that all of their names begin with “Yu-”: pink-haired Yuzuko, blonde Yui, and blue-haired Yukari. The series mainly just follows them around in their daily life as they have weird conversations, attend class, and hang out. The only thing resembling a plot point is that they happen to join the defunct and then-memberless “Data Processing Club” presided over by their young homeroom teacher, who they always call “Mom” because of her sweet and motherly nature. “Mom” isn’t eager to drive away her new club members by forcing them into the dry activities that likely killed the first club, so she basically lets them sit around in the computer room after school, Google things, and “process” the data they learn, often with hilarious results. And… that’s it.
It’s a simple concept… so simple that it could easily have been killed by too much gentleness or over-reliance on cuteness. Thankfully, Yuyushiki went a different route by making this a character-driven banter comedy with an old-school comedy vibe. It may sound weird to say, but Yuzuko, Yui, and Yukari have at least as much in common with the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy as they do with the heroines of 4-koma series like Lucky Star.
You have Yuzuko, the zany clown who is constantly coming up with weird ideas that throw the others for a loop (Curly, Costello, Laurel).
You have Yui, the serious-minded “straight man” who mostly serves as the voice of reason and a foil to the clown, but who is still zany enough to participate in her antics (Moe, Abbott, Hardy).
Finally, you have Yukari, your ditzy and loveable third wheel who is just as crazy as the clown but tends to bounce off her antics rather than instigate the madness (Larry, Shemp).
It’s classic comedy in the best sense – you throw these strong, vivid, and funny personalities in a box, toss in a new topic every once in a while, and funny stuff happens. Most of the humor in Yuyushiki is conversational and dialogue-based, separating it from the physical humor of Nichijou or the surreal happenings of Azumanga Daioh. It also makes an effort to remain truly funny rather than just charming, which means those viewers who were exasperated by the long conversations about food in Lucky Star can unclench their teeth. Most of the characters other than the main trio are not particularly interesting, but that’s partly the point – with a few momentary exceptions, their purpose is to provide new fodder for the Yu-Yu-Yu comedy show rather than take up space as detailed characters in their own right.
Other than the classic banter comedy, the artwork is also a big draw for Yuyushiki and sets it apart from the crowd somewhat. It tends to be cartoonish and shoves detailed realism to the side, but the animators have a real gift for showing emotion (and increasing comedy) through facial expression. The voice actresses (Is there even a male character in this show?) all do fantastic jobs—again, with the main three deserving special praise. I have nothing at all to say about the music, either the BGM or the opening and closing tunes. They are entirely unremarkable, but fine. Yuyushiki was licensed and released in North America by Sentai Filmworks, and it’s a competent but fairly bare-bones release – they have both DVD and Blu-Ray options, but no English dub, no extras other than a “clean” opening and ending, and none of the OVAs (which were a bizarre but funny little CGI series where they all became catgirls in a weird pocket dimension).
The last thing I’d mention about this series might surprise you given the picture I’ve painted of it so far, but it has a knack for throwing in moments of whimsical sadness at you that breaks through the comedy to land right in your feels. Specifically, it’s very clear throughout the series that these are the adventures of these girls’ teenaged youth – a time in life that, fun as it is, won’t last forever. They will each grow up and have lives that will be more separate than they are now by necessity, and that point is poignantly made several times throughout the series. Thankfully, it’s always counterbalanced by the happy belief that friendship can endure as long as the people involved are determined it will, and that is backed up by several little moments such as “Mom” talking to her friend from high school who she still remains best friends with despite their separate professions. All-in-all, it’s a nice message that improves the show and carries with it more sweetness than sadness.
I get a sense that Yuyushiki didn’t attract much attention due to the glut of similar-looking “cute girls doing cute things” shows that also came out in 2013, but it’s definitely closer to a hidden gem than cutesy ephemera. Its old-school character chemistry comedy breathes a bit of new life into this worn-out genre, and while it won’t be a life-changer by any means, this anime is consistently hilarious, very sweet, and absolutely worth your time if you like comedy anime. Support more “Three Stooges: Cute Anime Girl Edition” series by checking it out!
Availability: This series is available as a DVD or Blu-Ray physical release licensed by Sentai Filmworks, or it can be legally streamed on the Anime Network.