The “Hibike Euphonium Phenomenon”: Why I Love Yuri Pairings

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Here I now sit, before me a cobbled-together blog that has required all of my (lack) of artistic talent to create, and a big empty space filled only with empty pages that need filling. It’s quite exciting! I think for the first post, perhaps starting with a little housekeeping topic would be good:

Why do I love yuri pairings so much besides the fact that they’re hot?


Some Juicy Background Information

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I didn’t even watch this show for forever because the trusty MAL reviews said it wasn’t actual yuri. My god, how wrong they were…

My foray into the yuri genre began in what might seem to many an unlikely place: The Monogatari Series. A couple years ago, when it conclusively became my favorite anime of all time, I started talking about the franchise earnestly on the subreddit with a bunch of other super-high-IQ personnel kids. One thing led to another, more fans began to wonder if there was more to the series than meets the eye, and I eventually decided to create video-essay style videos to help explain some of the deeper facets of the show (my username and Youtube channel name, “Tsubasa’s Family“, is named after my favorite character from the franchise, Hanekawa Tsubasa. I relate to her on a scary number of levels).

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Though, admittedly, relating to her isn’t the only reason she’s my favorite.

As I was researching the show for some tasty new topics to discuss, my attention was turned to an oft overlooked yuri ship that actually has some pretty intense power levels. And by intense, I mean it changes the entire course of events in the show. In fact, the next video I’d planned to record for my channel before NASA interned me (how dare they) related to that pairing. I didn’t believe it was just a “ship” at all, but a true canon that never came to fruition simply because that’s the meta of the story… it’s wrapped up in this “harem of girls show” framework, so how could there be an actual yuri couple, right…?

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…but hey, at least we got some good GIFS out of it.

This pairing is what initially triggered my interest in the yuri genre as something distinct from other romance genres. It’s a difficult to explain why that is without summarizing the show, but suffice it to say that as I was examining the relationship between Senjougahara and Hanekawa, my interest in yuri was simultaneously growing. I had watched shows like Strawberry Panic and MariMite and read manga like Girlfriends and Citrus by this time, and I got to thinking about yuri pairings more generally… like, what makes a yuri pairing, specifically, interesting?

The Female Dynamic is Key

It wasn’t long before I found myself shipping girls constantly. In literally everything;  books, shows that were clearly only subtext, real life… It really surprised me, because I’d never had any interest in romance or shipping before then. So naturally, I wondered why I enjoyed it so much. What was it about that intimate bond between female characters that made it so compelling, even more so for me than other romantic pairings where the signs were, perhaps, “more obvious?”

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Because girls are hella sexeh?”

Hey, plausible.

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Don’t listen to that booby-monster, Onii-san… there has to be more to it than that.

…Yah, you’re probably right (loli angels are always right).

Interestingly enough, part of what clued me in to what made yuri so appealing to me was the stigma against f/f ships amongst certain individuals in the general “shipping fandom” (a lot of said individuals are hella personnels, but thankfully their high IQs came in handy here). The complaint is that they just can’t find “solid” f/f pairings in fiction with enough development to appreciate them. Granted, some of these highschool drop-outs lovely people use this criticism as an excuse to say that f/f pairings are “just bad”… we can safely ignore those people. More interestingly, some of them claim in earnest that it’s a failure of media to represent more lesbians/female relationships in fiction.

Personally, I think both points miss the most exciting part of youthful girlxgirl relationships and shipping entirely. It’s not that there’s necessarily a lack of solidity, it’s that it’s actually hard to tell what constitutes romantic interactions between women.

See, what I love about yuri pairings are the “what if’s?” There’s a HUGE difference between how girls who are friends and guys who are friends interact; topically, that a lot of girls act in the classically intimate ways they read about in romance novels towards each other, even if they sexually identify as straight (if you’ve never interacted with straight gal pals irl, take a peek at a lesbian subreddit to see what I mean). Naturally, this stereotypical tendency carries over into fiction, subsequently resulting in frustration by yuri fans over lots of “non-conclusive subtext”.

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And I don’t mean subtext like, “Well, they’re always together, and they’ve been through so much, and getting angry at someone secretly means you love them, and there was that one glance, and X gave Y a present for Christmas because uh, yah, you usually do that on Christmas, yada yada they’re just friends get rekt.” Now, I like lesbian slash pairings as much as the next cultured individual, but that’s not the frustration I’m referring to… no, no, my friend, it’s that’s all you think it is, you clearly haven’t been playing the yuri game for very long…

You wanna learn a little something about Yuri Subtext? Well then I’m gonna need to grab a beer really quick, excuse me. *Legitimately goes to grab a beer*

The Hibike Euphonium Phenomenon

Like many yuri fans, I’ll never forget that scene in Hibike Euphonium Season 1, episode 11:

The music and lighting are soft and gentle. Kumiko and Reina are alone in the corner of some room, and Kumiko tells Reina she’s different from everyone else, that she’s special, all while imagining her in the white dress she wore when they hiked up the mountain alone together. Kumiko tells her she’ll stand up for her, even if it makes her into a villain. Reina then cups a blushing Kumiko’s cheeks in her hand,  and with sparkles in her eyes, she says…

“Will you stay with me?”

“Yes.”

“You won’t abandon me?”

“If I do, you can kill me…. I’m prepared for that. Datte, kore wa ai no kokuhaku dakara. (After all, this is a confession of love.)”

The dialogue is whispered gently. The music begins to swell. Reina blushes and her eyes go wide. It’s honestly one of the best confession scenes I’ve seen in an anime… but…

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“Did someone just say the ground makes you gay?!”

It’s subtext. It’s not canon. Many Eupho fans will spit right in your yuri goggles at the mere suggestion that it should have been, calling you a crazed yuri shipper. It’s all a rather common occurrence in anime that I’m dubbing the “Hibike Euphonium Phenomenon“, though it dates back muuuuch further than that.

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Take your Yuri pills! Take them! IT’S GOOD FOR YOU.

It’s easy to get frustrated about this as a yuri fan. You just wanna get some respect, ya know? Part of you wants to shove some yuri pills down the non-believers’ throats. But we can also funnel that frustration into an interesting question: Why is it that this can happen between two girls and still pass as “they’re just really good friends being intimate?”

It’s not a conspiracy, my lesbian friendsthe moon landing was fake many girls act and feel extremely intimately towards each other, even if they self-identify as straight. And while this does lead to the issue of LOTS of subtext in lez fiction, it can also lead to deeper and more rewarding ships and fanons.

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So Why Do I Love Yuri Pairings So Much?

There’s a bit of dialogue from the shoujo series “Nana”, episode 10, in a scene after the two Nanas (both heroines in the show are named Nana) kiss. The episode ends with the two of them sharing the same bed and laughing together as Nana quietly relays this internal dialogue:

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“I can tell you honestly now… my feelings of looking up to you, they were quite a lot like falling in love. I really wasn’t ready to grow up. Yet, within the reality of being expected to fend for myself, you always showed me the sweetest dreams… it was like first love in its happiest moments.”

I truly wonder how beautiful a yuri anime this show could have been. But in the end, she was just a girl with a fleeting feeling; she never pursued that path. So we’ll never truly know.

Why do I love yuri pairings? Well… I think that’s why. I love the depth, the mystery, the journey of discovery these girls go through. I love watching girls encountering these new “forbidden” feelings, acting like a couple with their best friends because “that’s just how girls interact”, not knowing how far is too far but curious about how far they can go. I love female intimacy, the blurred lines between friendship and “something more”; the blooming of emotions that can eventually turn into romance, passion, marriage, sex… love.

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You don’t always just know what you want and who you want. It’s not always obvious or explicit. A lot of people, you know, they’re still trying to figure themselves out. The yuri dynamic, the dynamic between two girls, is subtle and it’s special to me; it’s in fact the only story of love I can truly relate to. It’s a story about my own feelings and relationship experiences. A story about me.

And that’s what I love about yuri ❤


It’s not the only thing I love about it, though ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Thanks for reading!

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