Yuri Tama: From Third Wheel to Trifecta, Vol. 3

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.

Either this book is wearing me down or I have an undiagnosed concussion injury, because I did not find this third volume of Yuri Tama nearly as annoying as I did the previous two. There are a couple good reasons for that, of course. The godawful incest plotline that plagued the second book seems to have been quietly shelved, and Yotsuba’s sisters, while still overly affectionate, have dialed themselves back. Yotsuba’s self-loathing is still very, very prevalent in everything she says, but at least her girlfriends are now telling her to stop doing that, so we’re getting there. Koganezaki continues to represent the reader’s frustrations, and is awesome. And, of course, there’s a ridiculous new love interest, but frankly, it’s handled about as well as can be expected, given that the premise of this series is Yotsuba doing something amazingly foolish and every other woman in the cast thinking “God, I can’t not fuck her”.

Yotsuba has only just managed to recover from the events of the second book and is trying to quietly enjoy the rest of her summer break, but then her sisters bring stunning news: the idol Maki Amagi is taking a leave of absence from show business. Her sisters are devastated, Yotsuba is nonplussed. Who? Then suddenly a new girl moves into the house next door. No prizes for guessing who it is. It turns out that Maki Amagi is really Makina Oda, who was childhood best friends with Yotsuba before she had to move away. As Yotsuba tries to process this, Makina asks a favor: the paparazzi think she’s dating a guy, so to throw them off the trail, can she pretend to be dating Yotsuba? Yotsuba is immediately taken in by this story that does not sound remotely fake, but how will her actual girlfriends react?

I’ve mentioned this before, but given it’s one of the most notable things about her, I’ll mention it again. When Yotsuba turns off her self-doubt and constant second guessing brain and just goes with the flow, she manages to be a fantastic romantic partner. On her date to the aquarium with Makina, we see this in action, and we also see what’s obvious to everyone but Yotsuba: the “paparazzi” thing was just an excuse, she’s been in love with Yotsuba since she was five years old. The series revels in its cliches (we get the good old “childhood marriage promise” here), but honestly things are handled about as well as I could have expected them to be. Yotsuba has a heart to heart with Rinka and Yuna (followed by offscreen sex with Rinka and Yuna – Yotsuba worries she’ll be terrible in bed, but honestly, given her personality and general vibe when moving on instinct, I think she’ll be a natural) and is still in love with them, but Makina is very much still in the picture.

There’s no fourth book yet, but the author is hopeful, and says it will focus on Koganezaki (who might get to be part of the only yuri pairing in the book that doesn’t involve Yotsuba). Till then, this is very silly but fun, especially if you ignore Yotsuba’s parade of insecurities in her narration.

Yuri Tama: From Third Wheel to Trifecta, Vol. 2

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.

“Sean,” my readers say to me. “I’m happy that we’ve gotten a lot more yuri titles in the last few years, but what about fans of incest? Is there a book out there that looks closely at younger sisters who love their older sister and tries hard to do a deep analysis about whether it’s OK or not?”. OK, no. My readers never say that to me. That said, if that’s what you want, I have good news, the second volume of Yuri Tama is all about said feelings, and whether Yotsuba will decide to dump her new girlfriends for her sisters, or just have all of them in a giant polycule, or what. So yeah, good news for fans of that. If, on the other hand, you read the above and said “what the actual fuck?”, then you are like me and stared at this volume with dull horror. The author can certainly write. It’s just what they write that’s the problem.

Yotsuba has managed to pass all but one of her exams, despite possessing the worst self-loathing of any light novel protagonist ever. This means she has most of her summer break free, and she plans to spend it dating her two girlfriends (separately). Unfortunately, each date is seen by one of her younger sisters, and now they’re both furious. Yotsuba is sure they’re upset that she’s “two-timing” the girls she’s dating, or they’re upset that she didn’t tell them she was dating at all. They’re not. They’re upset because they’ve been in love with Yotsuba since they were little children, and the idea that two other hussies have snatched her away is appalling. Can a family trip to a hot spring allow Yotsuba to explain? Or will it just make things worse?

So, let’s tick off the things I didn’t hate. 1) The author is somewhat self-aware that they are writing ridiculous shit, and it gets lampshaded a few times. 2) There is an attempt at discussing the differences between sexual attraction, familial love, and close friendship. It’s an attempt that is somewhat steamrollered by the plot, but the attempt is made. OK, I’m done with good things. Yotsuba remains the most annoying narrator ever, not being able to go more than three paragraphs without reminding us how awful and pathetic she is. Her sisters are, not to put too fine a point on it, creepy, and Yotsuba seriously considering loving both of them sexually boggles the mind. And unfortunately, because of this plot, Rinka and Yuna are sidelined. The dates may be the best part of the book, both because they’re not incestuous and also because Yotsuba shows an odd confidence that she doesn’t seem to be aware of herself. I want to explore that, not whether incest is OK.

I wish I could say that the series ended here, but a third volume of this came out last month in Japan. If you are really really desperate for yuri… please read something else anyway. Also, please use the word “two-timing” correctly! It’s consensual! They both know! Explain that!

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.