When I’m nervous, I point my feet in towards each other. This has to do with the fact that I’m naturally a bit pigeon-toed although, for the most part, one wouldn’t notice. Much like the Boston accent that I tried to rid myself of in third grade, my pigeon-toed stance is something that appears rarely. For those informed, as you are now, it says that I am ill-at-ease. For those uninformed, it more than likely belies discomfort, in spite of the fact that one seeing me may not know the full story of my stance.
We unknowingly inform others daily of our comfort levels, mood, and emotions through small physical indicators. Additionally, there are two different results that can be drawn from visible indicators, and Yuyushiki plays with them both.
Firstly, visual cues can be used to reinforce existing character traits. For a real-life example, there was once a girl on my softball team who ran the bases on pointed toes. She had been dancing since she was two or three years-old, and couldn’t break the habit of naturally pointing her toes while moving fast. One could easily infer her love of dance from her running style. Smile Precure, for an easily-available animated example, does this fairly consistently to remind the viewer of basic character traits that each of the five girls possess.
The second conclusion that can be drawn from visual cues is more of an emotional indicator. My regression of pointing my feet inwardly indicating that I’m uncomfortable or embarrassed, as previously mentioned, is an example of this. Similarly, Yuyushiki reinforces its various character dynamics, and the emotional repercussions of them, through specific framing or focus.
Kei Okano provides the easiest example of this. We are reminded of her oft-socially inept nature constantly, not only in her stunted speech or inability to address her own emotions, but visually in the way she moves and is presented to us. Kei appears on a line that is perpendicular (or she is staged at a lower level, seated at a desk) to the character she is speaking with if she is ill-at-ease. Episode nine reinforces this beautifully through the manner in which Kei awkwardly approaches Fumi (who is seated at a desk) to talk about Yukari. Kei walks directly to Fumi’s desk in a straight line and does a near-perfect military turn to face her friend while the parquet flooring reiterates the perpendicular lines.
The series builds upon this further with similar blocking when the two groups of three friends run into each other after school at the end of episode nine. At first, the girls are perpendicular to each other, denoting them as two separate entities. Once the six begin to chat in a group, however, they are seen walking in a line. The camera, so to speak, pans across all of the girls to show that, while they may not walk at the same pace, in that moment they are a unit of six.
Yuyushiki shines the most when it manages to bring both results – additional character trait and emotional information – together into the same scene. In the picture above, Yui is on the left and Yukari is on the right. Their respective legs appear to be both comfortable yet properly seated. As the scene pans left, we see Yukari shift into a slightly less-proper position when she turns to Yuzuko, whose legs are slightly more spread apart and swinging back and forth, denoting her lack of propriety and capricious nature.
Yukari’s purposeful shift in positioning reiterates what we know about her relationships with both Yui and Yuzuko respectively. While pictured next to Yui, her childhood friend, she’s a bit more proper, which also reflects her wealthy upbringing, and the two are very much in sync with each other (her legs nearly mirror Yui’s). As the focus shifts right, Yukari loosens up and leans towards Yuzuko. Yuzuko as the naturally whimsical trickster, swings her legs back and forth while she chats with her friends. Meanwhile, although not pictured in the images above, in the absence of Yukari, Yui begins to kick her legs a bit.
This entire scene creates a natural compliment to the pre-established character dynamics of the main three, in addition to being part of the visual patterns that episode nine sets up as a backdrop with its focus on lines, feet, and legs. Yuyushiki takes these aforementioned ideas of informing others through visual cues and runs with them, giving hints at its characters’ inner emotions to both the audience and other characters within the series.