Boing, Boing, Boring: Sakura Trick

sakura trick the thighmaster

The Thighmaster.

I will not indicate which birdling gave me some hope that Sakura Trick would be anything worthwhile, but suffice to say, the show was not. Boobs somehow bouncing about as if unencumbered by brassiere while also remaining perky in a fashion impossible sans bra (unless these sixteen year olds have had silicone injections) and obsessive camera focus on high school thighs doesn’t really do much for me. Actually, no, that’s a lie – it does do something for me: it makes me feel disgusting and in need of a good shower and some, oh, say, rubbing alcohol. For my brain.

Sakura Trick’s OP reminded me pretty heavily of Strawberry Panic, which struck me as a bit odd since the manga isn’t like that show at all, but the show itself would be improved were it like Strawberry Panic. Strawberry Panic was a gleeful send-up of a lot of yuri tropes with a heap of cheese piled on top, and I loved it. Sakura Trick is a dull series of vignettes that involves a lot of girls kissing each other but without much in the way of an organic development of what we are meant to view as a budding relationship. For all that Haruka monologues about Yuu, it all feels very artificial – Yuu tells Haruka they can make their friendship special because she can tell Haruka is upset about changes, and then suggests they kiss because this is yuri, so of course she does. Yuu doesn’t seem to think much of it so that Haruka can fret over it because this is high school “romance” and it needs to have a complication to it. Ho hum. Going back to Strawberry Panic, we get that Nagisa has the hots for Shizuma because the show shows this to be the case, but here we more or less have to have Haruka directly tell us she likes Yuu. Sigh.

I’ve seen the girls in this show described as lesbians. Are they? I’m inclined to say no, quite frankly; I don’t doubt that Haruka has squishy feelings for Yuu, and maybe Yuu has some back (well, by decree of the show, at least, she will, regardless of whether the show actually develops it toward that point instead of just plopping it down in front of us while declaring, “there!”), but I feel no reason to state that these girls are homosexual or even bisexual. Maybe Aoi Hana and others of its type have simply raised the bar; its hard to view cutesy, sixteen-going-on-ten characters as gay when we’re spending much of the runtime staring at their breasts and thighs (as if they were a chicken dinner!) and no one pauses for any consideration of what their same-sex attraction means in the larger picture. I’ll take ten Fumis over a Haruka any day, thanks (or, hell, even five Yayas).

I’m sure I’ll have some folks who take issue with my approach to these girls. After all, do characters need to tell us they’re gay? Do characters have to take into account that being gay in modern Japanese society isn’t 100% peachy? Isn’t it nice to, from time to time, have a fantasy of a world just like our own except that being gay isn’t of any note whatsoever? 

Except… we do live in a world where homosexuality tends to be stigmatized. So much of yuri and BL is of the “lesbians until graduation” or “only gay for you!” variety that actually, yes, I do think it has to be clearly named. As a teenager, I myself sought out a lot of books about gay teenagers because I found it comforting to read about people who were gay in a partly-hostile to mostly-hostile environment, because I lived in a partly-hostile environment and it hurt me a good bit and caused me a lot of anguish. So, yeah, I do want characters to be willing to step up and say, “I’m gay.”, and who do, if they live in a world that’s indistinguishable from my own, have to contend with society and its expectations and demands. (This is probably why I got into salarymen BL – the characters were much more likely to identify as gay and to have to tangle with stuff like parents trying to pressure them into omiai or co-workers badgering them about their love lives.)

Mind you, this isn’t why I find Sakura Trick bad. Strawberry Panic’s anime doesn’t have any characters who identify as gay, but I find Strawberry Panic highly enjoyable (and, oh my fuck, I know its silly, but it did make me wish I’d gone to a private girls’ high school…. ^^; ). Ditto Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi, which I really wish would get an anime. BL and yuri don’t have to have LGBT-identifying characters to be good, necessarily, although I certainly feel it goes a long way to increasing my likelihood of enjoyment. Sakura Trick is bad because its dull and because the relationship we’ve got so far is just sort of tossed together by writ of the writer’s room. Sakura Trick doesn’t, to me, feature any lesbians because I see no evidence of it despite the swapping of spit betwixt girls. Girls can swap spit pretty easily without being gay; believe me, I certainly witnessed it enough.

Anyway, as it stands, Sakura Trick is a boring show about archetypes who I cannot muster any concern about whatsoever and plagued with a camera that just loves underage breasts and thighs. Here’s hoping either Akuma no Riddle or Inugami-san to Nekoyama-san can at least solve the uninteresting piece of the yuri show equation in the spring even if they don’t include lesbians.

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14 Responses to Boing, Boing, Boring: Sakura Trick

  1. Artemis says:

    I can’t argue with anything you’ve pointed out – not that I have a mind to. I don’t think Sakura Trick is a terrible show, and visually it’s even rather lovely just as far as the colours and smooth animation and such go. However, it’s clearly also not a series targeted towards a 26 year old woman, so I’m leery of bashing it too much, but regardless, you make some excellent points. Personally, on the rare occasions when I do feel like watching outright yuri, I’d rather watch a show that depicts something approaching realism (i.e. Aoi Hana), as opposed to the Japanese versions of slow-motion pillow fights and whatever else cute lesbian school girls are supposed to do.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Same insofar as realism versus fluff for straight boys (and some girls). I wish Milk Morinaga’s stuff would get anime adaptations since I do think that her stuff bridges the gap between the two audiences – there’s the cutesy designs but the romance between the characters and the development of it feels like things I’ve actually experienced in real life.

      My issue isn’t that Sakura Trick isn’t about lesbians; c’est la vie on that count, even if it isn’t my thing at all. I just find it sigh-worthy to watch people try to argue that this is an accurate depiction of lesbian schoolgirl life, and irritating when some of these folks then get their hackles raised when actual gay and bisexual women point out that, no, it isn’t, and, further, that’s why it does little for them.

      Although, really, I suppose my real issue with Sakura Trick is that the romance feels really artificial at the moment and, like I said above, as if its following a manual of What Must Happen Because Yuri. And its boring. And I love Tamayura, so it isn’t even as if I lack the attention span for slice-of-life… I just lack any sort of sentiment toward the characters here, so their dull vignettes do nothing for me.

  2. fencedude says:

    While I don’t disagree that Sakura Trick is largely fluff, comparing it to Aoi Hana is pretty disingenuous. The two manga are barely even in the same genre, their main connecting point being “both contain girls who kiss girls”. Compared to the shows/manga that Sakura Trick is reasonably comparable (Hidamari, Yuyushiki, Non Non Biyori, even Yuruyuri) Sakura Trick is shockingly frank about the feelings of its characters.

    I think there should be space in the world for both Aoi Hana and Sakura Trick. And there should be more of both and of everything in between.

    (also ftr Haruka and Yuu’s feelings are made more explicit later on, though yes it would be nice if Haruka at least would admit she’s lesbian)

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Saying I’m comparing the two as works isn’t quite ingenuous, either – I’m specifically talking about whether I identify the characters as lesbian or not and stating that, no, I don’t. Fumi is gay. She says she’s gay. To me, it is clear that she is gay. The girls in Sakura Trick compared specifically to that are not, in my estimation, gay.

      Further, bringing in other shows of its type is irrelevant to me. I’m not watching any of those shows because I think I’ll be getting Actual Lesbians out of them (mind you, I don’t watch them at all since they’re not really up my alley genre-wise, either), so telling me that Sakura Trick does better than they are just tells me that Sakura Trick exceeds shows I’m not interested in while still being of their type.

      As said before, I don’t like Sakura Trick because its boring, and also because I don’t really enjoy staring at sixteen year old thighs. Separately, I disagree with the notion that the girls are gay, which is a notion forwarded by fandom, and not the show, anyway.

  3. m50d says:

    If you stop and think about it for a moment, that you can reasonably suggest this much girls kissing is boring is a huge step forward from where we were even two or three years ago. (I think you’re giving Strawberry Panic far too much credit, but that’s another argument). And yes, this show certainly isn’t the shakespearean tragedy of Aoi Hana, but it would be massively regressive to say that homosexuality is always tragic; we need stories that show the very real suffering, but we also need stories that show the joy and the sweetness.

    Yes, it’s fair to say that these girls’ sexual identities may not be fully developed. They may have more to learn about themselves, and some of them may find themselves to be straight, or at least attracted to the right boy. That happens in real life too, and people who are going through that need support and a culture and identity they can relate to, just as much as post-college, securely identified gays do. Ultimately any label like “lesbian” is going to be a crude, imperfect descriptor of the spectrum of human sexuality, but attacking people like this as “not really gay” is, well, unproductive to say the least. Even if it may turn out to be in some sense true, it’s not what an insecure teenager needs to hear; even if you’re unsure about what you’re feeling, there should be a community that will support you.

    And the camera focusing on their legs and boobs makes everything somehow not-gay? What, because only straights care about girls’ bodies?

    • A Day Without Me says:

      All I said about Strawberry Panic, ultimately, was that it wasn’t boring and that I enjoyed it. I’m not really sure how that’s giving it too much credit since half of that is entirely dependent upon my own self.

      Aoi Hana isn’t tragic, so I’m fairly confused about that whole piece of your comment. Everything not going smoothly and easily doesn’t automatically mean something is a tragedy, and even the Aoi Hana anime ends on an up note even if things aren’t quite resolved – sure, the initial romance we’re presented with doesn’t pan out, but does that necessarily make it tragic? Hardly, especially since the implication is that Fumi is better off with it not having worked out since Sugimoto has a lot of other things she has to work through before she can actually engage in a relationship fully. But perhaps you are mixing Aoi Hana up with Blue Drop? They do both have the same color in the title, and asserting Blue Drop as a tragedy actually makes sense.

      Related to this, I even explicitly stated that this isn’t why I dislike the show, anyway. I dislike the show because the characters are uninteresting and that in turn makes me uninterested in the various proceedings. Would it be nice if they were gay? Sure, but even if they were, that doesn’t alter the fact that their story and they themselves are snoozefests.

      I hardly think I’m attacking anyone. Please indicate where I attacked a person in my post, maybe I can provide greater clarity if I actually know what you’re talking about. I simply stated that I disagree, and I gave all my reasons why. I didn’t say anyone was stupid or malicious for feeling differently, just that my own take is that they’re not. If anything, you seem to be attacking me for disagreeing with your own take as you’ve made several false statements of your own, such as saying I’m arguing that homosexuality in a show is only good if its tragic.

      Lol, yes, everyone knows ONLY straight people enjoy staring at underage thighs, obviously. But, really, it isn’t even the thighs alone, its the way it fits into the larger picture, and its a picture where I see the same old “lesbians until graduation” thing at play.

      • fencedude says:

        While Aoi Hana certainly wasn’t tragic, I personally wasn’t exactly amazed by where it ultimately ended up, considering the amount of time it took to get there.

        It was certainly “realisitic”, but that isn’t the only measure of things. Its certainly something that we should have examples of, but dinging Sakura Trick, if only by implication, for not being so isn’t particularly fair.

        I don’t even want to comment on the sexuality stuff, I don’t feel comfortable trying to push an opinion into that space. I don’t agree on the “Lesbians until graduation” aspect though, and that and Class S stuff is becoming less common in the genre, because the fans don’t like it very much. Also ~things in the manga~

        • A Day Without Me says:

          ~things in the manga~ affects Aoi Hana ultimately, too, and I do rue that it didn’t have more episodes although I think they did a good job in adapting it given the limitation on runtime.

          Again, though, I’m not dinging Sakura Trick for a lack of Actual Lesbians. As I said before, I liked Strawberry Panic A LOT, and that was lots and lots of lesbian until graduation. LOTS. I just don’t see the girls in Sakura Trick, as presented in the anime, as gay. However, my reason for not liking Sakura Trick itself is that I find it dull; I do not in any way, shape, or form feel engaged by the plot or the characters. The girls could be all wearing gay pride t-shirts or organizing a Gay-Straight Alliance and I still wouldn’t care much because I don’t care about them as characters. I would give the show credit, certainly, for being so up front about it, but that doesn’t mean I’d personally find it enjoyable.

          But, again – I’m not getting down on the show for not having lesbians. I’m explaining that I don’t interpret these girls as lesbians and why I don’t. Disliking it is a separate matter.

          I think there is still definitely a space for Class S relationships and homosexual relationships wherein the characters aren’t themselves necessarily gay or bisexual. I also don’t think these relationships are inherently illegitimate because one or both participants end up going on to have heterosexual relationships. But I’m not going to automatically read a character as gay because they kissed someone of the same sex, either, and I don’t think its unfair for me to make that assessment.

        • fencedude says:

          Oh I was talking about the manga for Aoi Hana, I actually had to force myself to read it because I ultimately found it as dull as you probably find Sakura Trick. And I found the ultimate ending to be unsatisfactory considering how long it took to get to that point (and yet still felt somewhat rushed, the ending of both Aoi Hana and Hourou Musuko felt rather abrupt, but thats a different discussion)

          So yeah, this is ultimately just a difference of opinion in whether or not Sakura Trick is boring (and I can definitely see why some will find it boring).

          So yeah.

          • A Day Without Me says:

            Ah, ok, I thought you were still talking the Aoi Hana anime. I haven’t gotten the chance to read the final volume of the manga yet, I must admit; the first volume was listed as a pending release from DMP’s digital-only line for a while, so I was holding off to get the official releases (but it hasn’t happened yet/has disappeared from the list). Well, we’ll see how I feel about the end with the manga.

  4. As a guy who likes viewing yuri material from time to time. I just felt like this show was catering directly to me, which I actually don’t like. It just feels shallow and more contrived than I’m comfortable with. This series might be better classified as ecchi.

  5. Triple_R says:

    I’m largely enjoying Sakura Trick, but I get where the blog-writer is coming from.

    What I would say to the blog-writer is that many yuri fans are excited over Sakura Trick because it represents a step in the right direction compared to where yuri anime has been lately. A lot of the yuri anime between Strawberry Panic and Sakura Trick had a lot of teasing, a lot of leading on, but nothing as clear-cut as two girls frequently kissing one another. So for a lot of yuri fans, like myself, there’s a great satisfaction in seeing the genre get out of this teasing rut its been stuck in for quite some time.

    That being said, there is a certain artificiality to the way the relationships are handled in Sakura Trick. And this is a bit disconcerting. It’s that these characters just kinda/sorta fall into vaguely lesbian relationships with each other, but there’s little self-awareness shown to what this means or should mean. This isn’t just a case of characters addressing their own sexuality (i.e. am I gay, straight, or bi-sexual?), but even a case of treating the transition from platonic friendship to a romantic relationship as the most natural and easy-flowing thing in the world.

    Haruka and Yuu are taking a huge step here. Its clearly implied that they’ve been friends throughout their childhood, and now they’re clearly shifting to a more romantic relationship. Even if one of them was a guy, this would still be a huge step, because the transition from platonic friendship to romance is a big step. But there’s no real sense that the narrative or its characters are aware of this, so it does feel a bit strange.

    I mean, at a bare minimum, it would be nice if the two girls had a conversation like…

    “Does this mean you like me *that* way, Haruka?”

    “Well, yeah, that is how I feel about you, Yuu…”

    I know that the very word “lesbian” is ironically problematic for yuri shows, but you could still have the girls at least acknowledge how their relationship is changing, and in important ways, without actually using the term “lesbian”.

    In Strawberry Panic, there was at least one Nagisa line where she acknowledged that she has “feelings” for Shizuma. With the girls in Sakura Trick they treat all this kissing, and lewd dreams, and lovey-dovey stuff like its just a normal part of everyday friendships.

    • Sieff says:

      A lot of what you’ve asked for in terms of the girls doing some self-analysis is actually covered in the manga. Hopefully some of that will end up in the anime.

  6. The Kenosha Kid says:

    As far as the show’s attitude towards its characters goes, it feels almost (but not quite) like somebody took some generic fanservicey harem anime and cut out the male lead. The characters are there to pander; their actions are written with an eye towards pleasing the audience (rather than any sort of coherent storytelling or character-building or what-have-you); the camera trains its eye on them just as it might in any of a thousand generic harem shows…. The problem is that there’s not really a whole lot else there, so enjoying it seems to me to require either acting like it’s a realistic portrayal of high school lesbians and feelings and stuff, or to own up to the fact that it’s fanservice and that you like how it’s pandering to you (and when I’m in the right mood, I sorta do, bad taste though that might be).

    Eh, there’s also the art and the visuals, I guess. The show’s director also directed the third season of Hidamari Sketch and worked on a few other Shaft shows, and it’s got a nice sorta light Shaft-ish touch that I find pretty engaging. But visuals only go so far.

    My guess as to why they can’t really call themselves lesbians? Doing so (and taking it seriously) might be construed as thumbing their nose at all the male viewers who want their 2D harem. (Boy, I feel cynical today.)

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