Yuyushiki Episode Six and the Kei Okano Variable.

okaasan-sensei, mom-sensei, yuyushiki, the yuyu formula, chiho aikawa, yui ichii, yuzuko nonohara, yukari hinata, kei okano, fumi hasegawa

“What the heck? Those three are total weirdos.”

-Kei Okano, Yuyushiki episode six

Yuyushiki reminds me a bit of someone playing a game. They can only have so many members in their party, and they are constantly shuffling however many characters they have to fill the specific slots. Each combination of party members has a different dynamic and effect on how the game is played.

The core party of Yuyushiki is the one made up of Yukari Hinata, Yui Ichii, and Yuzuko Nonohara. Often, the series isolates two members and plays with the dynamic it has established between the three. In episode five, for example, the series made it a point to focus on the childhood friendship between Yukari and Yui, which Yuzuko can never be a part of.

Additionally, the series pays close attention to Chiho Aikawa, who is not part of the core group, but is a friend of Yui’s and an acquaintance of Yukari and Yuzuko. Earlier in my blogging of this series, I spoke of Chiho, and how she firmly places herself on the outside of the group. One of the comparative examples came from Lucky Star, and how Yutaka Kobayakawa forms her own parallel group of four to Konata Izumi’s primary one.

Episode six formally introduces us to one of Chiho’s friends: Kei Okano. With Kei comes the first sign of friction between groups.

Returning to the example of Yutaka from Lucky Star, Chiho has her own parallel group to the main trio and it is made up of herself, Kei Okano, and Fumi Hasegawa. While Yutaka is friendly with her cousin Konata’s group, she never displays the same angst or longing to be a part of Konata and Co. that Yuyushiki shows Chiho to possess. Yutaka loves her cousin, but becomes closer to her own group of friends, creating a comfortable environment for her to attend school (where she previously had experienced isolation due to being ill). Yuyushiki has already shown how Chiho never crosses the line into the visible zaniness that is Yukari, Yui, and Yuzuko together. I had presumed that because the main three have so much fun together, they would create an obviously enviable dynamic for Chiho. This dynamic would naturally be the cause of her longing. However, episode six tells a bit of a different story by focusing on Chiho’s own parallel group.

Often, when a group of friends is created, it is formed around one person who acts as a magnet to which others are naturally attracted. When the parts are shuffled, it creates awkwardness and tension when two who are not as close are forced to be alone with each other. Through its prior experiments, Yuyushiki has shown that it is actually Yukari, not Yui as we (and Chiho herself) may have expected. When Yukari and Yui are together, they are childhood friends. When Yukari and Yuzuko are together, they are an unstoppable prankster duo. And when Yui and Yuzuko are together, it’s awkward. Yukari is the glue that binds the group together.

In Chiho’s group, although we still know far less about them, it is Kei Okano who has been shown to be the most outspoken; however, I’d postulate that Chiho herself acts as the glue of the group. She is the one that the other two naturally flock to, which makes it all the more interesting that she also longs to be a part of another group of friends.

"You don't want to take my Aikawa away..."

“You don’t want to take my Aikawa away…”

The composition in the shot above is unsubtle and striking with Kei visibly separated by the leg of a desk from the main trio. Unlike Chiho, Kei doesn’t want to be a part of their group and is openly possessive of Chiho, mentioning her several times throughout this conversation under the guise of discussing Christmas plans. She doesn’t declare an open war; however, combined with her previous remarks that Yui’s group of friends are weird Kei creates an interesting tension that is palpable to us, the audience. It will be interesting to see her further interactions with the main three, and if she continues to undermine their friendship with Chiho.

With the addition of Kei to the character pool, Yuyushiki continues to expand the possible combinations of party members that the series can choose to fit into various slots. Each combination will further our understanding of the various relationships and characters, creating varied dynamics. It’s something that is rarely played with to this degree, and only one of the many reasons why I love this series so much.

6 comments

  1. I forsee that the series will address the secondary group at length, particularly in regards to the backstory of how that group got together. I’m not sure as to whether or not that would be an effective writing decision, as it seems that most of the appeal in this show lies in the dynamics between the main three girls. Screentime is important, and anything that doesn’t involve them would probably not be received as well by the existing audience.

    From a writer’s perspective, though, I really appreciate the effectiveness of secondary characters within a story. Any entity that loosely parallels the main entity in a story, whether it is a single person, couple (in romance stories), or group (in ensemble stories), the secondary role serves as a basis for making the comparison between one and the other. It provides a different look at what relationships and whatnot can be like, and provides that contrast that allows the main player(s) to stand out more.

    That said, I feel as though the two of us by nature flock towards supporting characters due to appreciation of that particular function. I have a feeling that you just might end up loving this trio of Aikawa, Kei, and Fumi more than the main three, but it really depends on whether or not their roles become defined as the series winds on. If my theory turns out wrong, I owe you a coke.

    1. I don’t drink soda (or do you Canadians call it pop? ^ ~).

      As I described to Fosh below (and fully realizing that I, myself, am assigning potential to this series) I do have faith that Yuyushiki will be able to address both successfully. Although it will continue to explore the dynamics and interaction between the main three and others, I agree that the key element to the series is the success that it has when focusing on Yukari, Yui, and Yuzuko as the main group. For example, this episode, although I didn’t speak of it in my post, had amazing interactions between the three of them: the sunshine/shadow bit (which had fantastic scene composition separating Yuzuko once again from the group), their Data Processing Club activities, and the “god snowflake” bit at the end. Yuyushiki seems very deft at being able to meander from scene to scene with the main trio while occasionally weaving in other characters for added effect. As you said, it makes the three leads stand out more, both individually AND as a group of three.

      I already love Kei. Thus far, her jealousy has been portrayed as decidedly present but subdued, where in other series I’ve seen her “type” far more dramaticized. Yes, she chants to herself, “Don’t take my Aikawa away.” however her actual interactions between her and the main trio are wonderfully subtle and awkward.

  2. Great post as usual❤

    It was great to see the other members of Chiiho's group especially with Kei's comment about not taking away her friend? That tells me there "might" be some hints of drama later, but I don't really think the introduction of that drama would work? I remember there was a random episode of Yuru Yuri s2 that had drama between Himawari and Sakurako which focused on Himawari becoming friends with Chinatsu? I could see something like that fitting Yurushiki, but could it work? Personally I view this series as being just comedy for now.

    I love the chart at the top it looks interesting! I really hope SOMETHING develops between Chiho and Yui, but if they can only manage a friendship I would be fine with that. On a side note Yuzuko and Yukari ALWAYS crack me up, I died when they did the shadow/sunshine scenes to get warmed up and the random Potato chat? LOL I was dying along with Yui xD

    1. Potato. ^ ^

      Thanks! I kind of hope that they do continue to show tension between the groups. Thus far, the comedy in Yuyushiki is zany, especially when Yuzuko and Yukari are together (as you said) but the dramatic tension is fairly subtle. I love how the series reinforces it continuously in each episode through scene composition, so I feel that the show would be able to handle dramatic elements as well. Either way, I’d like to see them attempt it, because this kind of back and forth between different groups is actually rarely addressed, especially in these types of 4-koma/comedy/slice-of-life shows, with nuance and I’d like to see Yuyushiki specifically take a stab at it (simply based on how it has impressed me to this point).

      I need to get around to watching YuruYuri…

      Thanks for the comment! P.S. I had so much fun drawing that chart, hehe. ^ ^

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