Yuri Tama: From Third Wheel to Trifecta, Vol. 1

By Toshizou and Kuro Shina. Released in Japan as “Yuri no Ma ni Hasamareta Watashi ga, Ikioi de Futamata Shite Shimatta” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Tristan K. Hill.

One of the strong points of Japanese light novels is that most of them are written in first person singular from the point of view of the protagonist. This is especially true of high school romcoms – when reading Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Sempai, it is immediately striking that the narration ISN’T like this. Unfortunately, this can be a double-edged sword. If your protagonist is someone whose thoughts we find ourselves entertained by, or who provides an adept running commentary, it can be quite fun. See Kyon, for example, or Koyomi Araragi. Unfortunately, when your protagonist is annoying, spending time in their head can be unrelentingly exhausting. That’s the main issue we have with Yuri Tama. Yotsuba, the main character, is a pathetic drip who hates herself, something she reminds us about every single page. Which, y’know, whatever. Except that almost every other girl in the series is in love with her. You’ll want to cry out, “WHY?”.

As noted above, our heroine is Yotsuba. The oldest of three daughters, she’s at a very prestigious high school… which she got into entirely by chance, as she used a pencil marked with A, B, C, and D to randomly choose her answers on the entrance exam. Now that she’s a second year, she’s last place in academics, and last place in athletics. However, she does have one thing that makes her stand out. She’s friends with the school’s “Sacrosanct Duo”, Rinka and Yuna. The appearances differ, but you can think “Haruka and Michiru” and you won’t be far off. They’ve also got a fan club!… one that resents Yotsuba for being near them at all. That said, Yotsuba is relatively happy with her friends… till one of them confesses to her. And then she confesses to the other one. And, brilliant girl that she is, her solution is to try to date them both and keep it a secret.

The author previously wrote “The Sidekick Never Gets the Girl, Let Alone the Protag’s Sister!”, another series where I thought it had an interesting premise but the writing choices annoyed me. I can now assume that the author and I just don’t get along. If you’re worried about the “cheating” part of the book, I would not. First of all, I figured out how this was going to resolve about two minutes after Yotsuba hooked up with her friends – it’s really very obvious if you listen to what she’s said about Yuna and Rinka. Secondly, though, this book is broad comedy, with Yotsuba’s comedy reactions to everything being the point. That’s also likely why she is how she is – the fact that everyone loves her (including her two younger sisters, something I should also probably warn readers about) because she’s so pathetic and makes you want to protect her is the comedic gag. For what it’s worth, it does land a few times. I also liked the rare moments when Yotsuba actually was good – the story of how and why she’s friends with the Sacrosanct Duo is the best part of the book.

The yuri in this book is definitely there rather than merely suggested – there’s makeout sessions, and “no, I mean I love you in a romantic way”. And, thankfully, the childhood friends are not interested in each other, so this is more of a triangle relationship rather than an OT3. That said, your enjoyment of it will depend entirely on how much you can tolerate its wet rag of a protagonist and the fact that she reminds you she’s a wet rag constantly.

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