Readying myself for the angry hordes.
First off, I would like to explain what I mean by claiming that MariMite is not yuri. MariMite certainly contains elements of yuri, from the obvious to the less so, and the show certainly makes no bones about that fact. However, I think declaring MariMite as a yuri anime, as opposed to stating that it includes yuri, is both misleading and inaccurate.
When you get down to it, the only confirmed yuri relationship in MariMite is Sei’s relationship with Shiori, told in flash back told the latter part of the first season. There is no possible way to deny that this is a romantic relationship between two girls – not only do we witness the two kissing, we are also privy to Sei’s feelings about the relationship and Shiori herself. Sei is completely infatuated; Shiori has become the center of her life. And when it unravels, she cuts her hair – she is heartbroken, for she’s lost her first love. I challenge anyone to contend that Sei’s relationship with Shiori is somehow not of a romantic nature.
There is also the case of Rosa Kanina, a.k.a. Shizuka. Shizuka has a romantic interest in Sei, although Sei cannot reciprocate her feelings. Although Shizuka is somewhat cagey in discussing this with Sei, it nevertheless is enough for us to get the basic point – Shizuka likes Sei. Any further contention on this point is swiftly dismissed when the two share a kiss – yes, it is the sort of kiss between two people who know they have different interests in one another, but it is nevertheless an affirmation of the very fact that Shizuka has a crush on Sei (for a very basic comparison, think of the kiss between Shizuru and Natsuki in Mai-Hime).
But you know what? Honestly, not a single other relationship in the series is explicitly romantic. While I will definitely agree that Yoshino and Rei, along with Shimako and Noriko, have relationships which I would interpret as ‘pre-yuri’, we are mainly looking at a group of girls who happen to share very intense relationships. Yoshino and Rei seem to like each other in a manner different than that of friends or cousins, but there is no canonical confirmation of this suspicion – we are left dangling with Yoshino getting very jealous of Rei’s ‘date’ with another student, and with Rei being fiercely protective of and worrisome over Yoshino, and must resort to doujins for anything beyond that (at least, thus far).
To move on to Shimako and Noriko… well, this one was even more blatantly leaning to get interpreted as yuri than Yoshino and Rei – I mean, hell, they met under a sakura tree! And are frequently surrounded by floating petals! And are the biggest explosion of melodrama in the first half of the second season! But even as the two are portrayed as one might expect the male and female leads of a romcom, we do not get the same kind of pay-off that one gets in a romcom – which is to say, we never get a scene of “I like you!” confessions, fumbling first dates, and the requisite cute first kiss. I myself would say that they come off as having romantic interests in one another (although I would also argue that the OVA season, and the fourth season have kind of undermined this reading of it, but probably only due to the fact that there has been a lot less of an emphasis on them than on Yumi and Sachiko), but there is no explicit canonical confirmation of this.
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Sachiko and Yumi. Quite simply, its because I don’t see them as being yuri in the slightest – initially, yes, one could have argued for that, particularly in the novels, but I would say that Sachiko and Yumi are the most obviously older sister-younger sister style relationship in the show. Yumi looks up to Sachiko quite a bit, and Sachiko is fond of Yumi, but there is a distinct lack of romanticism in their relationship. After all, if Yumi was out to jump Sachiko’s bones, she would’ve kissed her or something during the postcard incident during the OVA, haha. But, in all seriousness, Yumi and Sachiko’s relationship smacks of a sorority-style big and little relationship. (There is also the fact that Sachiko is heavily implied to actually be in love with her cousin, Suguru, but this is much more explicit in the novels and requires more analysis than I feel inclined toward doing here – I’ll boil it down to this: Sachiko is so angry at Suguru in the novels because he has said that he isn’t into women, but he will fulfill his family duty and marry her and impregnate her; he doesn’t realize that Sachiko does indeed like him, and so his words are very hurtful to Sachiko although he doesn’t mean them to be, since he assumes Sachiko hate the arrangement because she dislikes him.)
In the past decade or so, the concept of ‘bromance’ has come into vogue a bit, and I would say that this concept applies well to the world of MariMite – except, obviously, for a different gender. This itself does bring up a brief interesting point – traditionally, intense relationships between girls and women have been more acceptable than intense ones between men (there are certainly exceptions to this rule – see, Ancient Greece, Feudal Japan). Anyway, I digress – the ladies of MariMite in general have ‘sismance’, if you will, going on – their friendships and souer relationships are very close and emotional, but this does not mean that they are in love – they simply love each other, something which does not necessitate a romantic grounding.
Anyway, to pre-empt, for any of you who are about to point to the current season’s ED, in which the entire cast gets hit with the moe-loli stick enroute to looking like poster children for yuri – OP and ED animation isn’t canon =) It might agree with canon, but it in and of itself is not canon, even if we really, really like it.
Yeah, I know you’re drooling – just try not to fry your keyboard.
Just to clarify, though, its not that I don’t want to see yuri in MariMite – in fact, I do, as I’m all for the YoshinoxRei relationship, and still am irritated that Shimako and Sei never started snogging kissing in a beautifully rendered, MariMite-approved fashion (Catholic schoolgirls don’t snog! they delicately and artfully share kisses!). Hell, I would even go so far as to say that I’d like to see a YumixTouko relationship, if only because their relationship dynamics are pretty fascinating as it is. But I would caution that under a critical look, this is not truly a yuri show, but is a show that can count yuri as one of its aspects.