Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sakura Trick: Yuri for Christians, Revisited

Some time ago, I wrote a post asking the question of whether or not yuri shows like Sakura Trick were good for Christians to watch. In this post, I will look back at that specific show and what, if any, are its good points for potential Christian viewers, as well as what pitfalls it might have.

Posting a picture of manga art because I actually like it over the anime art in this case.
As a reminder, this post addresses things from the perspective of Christians who consider homosexuality a sin, but who, in the name of love, do not judge others who are in same-gender relationships. Others with differing views are welcome to comment on this post, of course. For all commenters, please be respectful of others regardless of differing views.

Also, there are some small spoilers after the jump, as usual.

Before I start this look back, I'd like to first run down the three yuri relationships in this show. There's Haruka and Yuu, who end up kissing as a way to make a special memory for just the two of them. There's also Kotone and Shizuku, longtime friends who have gotten closer after Kotone ends up freeloading at Shizuku's house (though not without opposition from Kotone's high-class family, who even tries to get her a fianc√©). The third pair is not Yuzu and Kaede, the other two girls of the main group, as their relationship is still platonic (albeit heading in the yuri direction, perhaps); rather, the third pair is actually an unrequited love pair, involving Haruka and Yuu's older sister, Mitsuki, who ends up having a crush on Haruka; she graduates at the end of the series and confesses to Haruka, but gets rejected.

A Look Back at Gender

In my previous post, I mentioned that one possible benefit for Christians to watching yuri anime is as a way of looking more into gender, including both gender stereotypes and gender roles, by considering how the show might change if some of the characters were guys instead of girls. So what does Sakura Trick say about gender? (For this section, I will not look at the Mitsuki/Haruka dynamic, as that one is quite dependent on both being girls, with Mitsuki going through a brief moment of confusion over the fact that she likes girls.)

I'll start with looking at Kotone and Shizuku's relationship. The first thing one notices upon trying to change one of the two into a guy is that it immediately makes it much harder for Kotone to freeload with Shizuku--moreso if Kotone were the guy, as males trying to depend on female goodwill is looked down on more than the other way around. This, of course, correlates to the standard gender expectation of the man to be the provider of the family--but more than that, it highlights that the man is expected to be the one to primarily serve the female. In fact, Biblically, the call for the husband to be the leader in marriage is actually a call for the man to selflessly devote his life to his wife and cherish her as himself--a far cry from the chauvinistic, oppressive man that many husbands have turned that into.

As for Haruka and Yuu, their relationship is harder to really pin any specific gender roles or stereotypes on. The two of them switch off pretty frequently as far as who is taking the lead, although Haruka is still the one that primarily gets jealous (as mentioned in my last post). If there's one gender-related aspect to take from their relationship, it has to do with the nature of their relationship. At the end of the show, Mitsuki notes that Haruka does not really understand love, something that ultimately she and Yuu agree with, as despite all their kissing, emotionally the two are still stuck somewhere between friendship and actually being lovers. Stilts of Random Curiosity notes that because the two entered this from what was already a close female friendship, the confusion over what constitutes romantic love is greater than it would be for a guy and girl or even two guys in the same situation, due to how much closer female friendships are in general. (I'll have more to say about this in a later post, when I talk about yuri subtext in general.)

So overall, this show had some interesting, albeit fairly incidental things to say about gender, as the whole gender aspect is overall a rather minor part of the show. But maybe I missed something about gender in all of this? Feel free to post your own observations in the comments.

 A Look Back at Relationship

As I mentioned before, despite all the kisses, Haruka's and Yuu's relationship never quite gets completely romantic. They are, after all, two teenagers that are very inexperienced at romantic love, and are rather more interested in the physical sensations that come with kissing than with actually trying to figure out what it means to romantically love each other.

This is pretty accurate of most teenagers, regardless of sexual orientation, and it leads to what is both a strength and weakness of this show. Being true to actual teenagers' trials with love means that this show has a genuine feel to it, but on the other hand, it means that there really isn't much that one can try to learn from their relationship, because there isn't really a relationship yet to learn from. The fact that the show focuses a fair amount on the physical aspect of the girls' relationship, without quite as much shown regarding the emotional aspect and the decision-making aspect, also plays into this--again, very true of actual teenagers, so I can at least appreciate that.

If there's one thing we can take from Haruka and Yuu, it is the role that physical intimacy like kissing plays in relationships. On the one hand, it would be foolish to discount physical intimacy as an important part of relationships; after all, the kissing that Haruka and Yuu engage in spurs deeper feelings between the two. Physical intimacy is both a useful expression of love (it is one of the five love languages) and a Biblical part of a full, romantic union between husband and wife (Song of Solomon is a perfect example of this).

At the same time, physical intimacy is not all there is to a loving, romantic relationship, as Haruka and Yuu show at the end when they both realize that they do not really know what it means to love despite all their kisses. This highlights one of the main dangers of physical intimacy outside of marriage: it can make a relationship seem closer than it actually is. And if you try to make any major decisions under the delusion that your relationship is closer than it is (especially on whether or not to get married), it can cause troubles later on. In fact, this is one of the big reasons why God deems premarital sex a sin: sex is a powerful act that creates a feeling of intimacy at the level of a married couple, which is great if the couple is actually married, but if not, it can lead to all sorts of problems. This is also why some Christians are even hesitant to kiss before marriage or at least engagement: they don't want to rush the physical intimacy past where they feel their actual relational commitment is. (That said, this can be taken too far when any sort of physical intimacy is treated as a sin; physical contact can have a healthy place in any relationship, after all.)

In the end, though, Haruka and Yuu's relationship cannot really be described as love--certainly not the sacrificial, selfless type of love that is found in more mature relationships. Their relationship is primarily one of physically-passionate lust. On the other hand, Kotone and Shizuku's relationship, being a bit more well-established, is a bit better in this regard, especially with Kotone's willingness to give up her affluent home to be with Shizuku. Theirs is probably my favorite of the relationships, and it is somewhat unfortunate that it isn't given a whole lot of screen time.

Comedy, Cuteness, and Other Plots

There is more to this show than just the yuri, and as I mentioned in my previous post on this show, it is perfectly fine to watch this show simply for the entertainment value from its comedy and its cuteness. Both aspects are good enough to be worth a watch if this is your type of show and you aren't too bothered with the girls' kissing each other.

There is one other thing, though, that helps this show overall. The show also has a continual theme of the girls' trying to do as much as they can for Mitsuki and the other graduating third-years in the student council to make their last year at high school as memorable as possible. It's a simple and common yet nice sub-plot that really helps the show by providing a more well-rounded picture of the girls' lives, instead of being focused on just the yuri. In fact, for any show where romance is a significant element, regardless of the genders involved, I would say that non-romantic plots are important in providing this balance.

Final Thoughts

Overall, as far as this show's value for Christians go, it's ultimately pretty mild. There are some things that can be taken from this show, as I've noted above, but overall, it's a cute-girls-doing-cute-things show with some yuri. It focuses a bit too much on teenagers exploring physical intimacy to really be worth any particularly deep looks. It's still not too bad, but I cannot quite say I would recommend the show based solely on its explorations of gender and relationships. The comedy and the non-yuri subplots, though, do add some more value to this show, and perhaps combined with the cute factor on top of it all, it could be a worthwhile watch for fans of cute-girls-doing-cute-things, as long as the yuri is not an outright turn-off. (My raw score for this show, a just-above-average B- (6/10), reflects my thoughts on this show.)

I still enjoyed it, though, having given it a personal score of 8.2/10.0. It's hard for me not to like a group of girls just trying to make the most out of their teenage years and having fun along the way. (Plus, the opening song is one of my favorites of the year; gotta love that euro-dance beat!) Maybe I didn't learn as much as I would have liked to, but at least it was an entertaining show throughout.


  1. Interesting thoughts about gender and relationship in this post. I don't plan to try Sakura Trick, but you've used the show to make great illustrations for your points about gender and relationships (all of which I pretty much agree with). That said, I'm sure I enjoyed reading this much more than I would enjoy watching the show.

  2. Interesting review! I agree that it doesn't have much redeemable value in terms of exploring sexuality (I look to Hourou Musuko for a great example of that), and can otherwise only be recommended to people for whom it won't act as a stumbling block.

    All that said, though, even as a proponent of the whole "cute girls doing cute things" archetype, I didn't think it was that good. I think I gave it a 4/10.

  3. I'm a Christian who firmly believe Homosexuality is not a Sin.

    One thing I find interesting about Yur and Yaoi on a scholarly level, compared to other Gay fiction. Is how much it kind of throws back to what attitudes towards Same Sex Love were before Plato's Homophobic ideas were adopted by Christianity.

    Which has a lot to do with the fact that Japan was isolated from that influence until fairly recently.