“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.
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.