Slice of life manga isn't exactly scarce these days, and ever since the success of Azumanga Daioh we've seen an ever-growing slew of series seeking to become the next best thing with inconsistent results - for every K-ON and Lucky Star, there's a Kanamemo or Recorder and Randsell. This brings us to Yurumates, which is currently enjoying its latest anime adaptation via Crunchyroll, and is now available in its original manga form courtesy of digital publisher JManga. Which side of the slice of life fence is this particular outing going to fall?
Our protagonist for Yurumates is Yurume, a high school graduate who sets off for Tokyo to follow her dreams having failed to make it to college. With no money and no plans, Yurume finds herself sharing a house with a trio of equally unfocused, lazy college drop-outs who are more interested in curling up under a kotatsu or drinking than making their way in the world.
That is, as far as a plot synopsis for this series is concerned, it - Yurumates sticks firmly to its formula of poor kids living in a run-down house and staunchly refuses to budge from it. Unfortunately, this does mean that some of the comedy reserves which the series mines soon becomes repetitive, and before you know it you'll almost find yourself shouting "okay okay, I know they have no money to buy food or beer!" or, worse, second-guessing the jokes. All of this is underpinned with the sense of wacky randomness which so many four-panel comedy series lean on, which unfortunately is also a little stale and bland for the viewer's consumption, just like the remaining food supplies of those within the Yurumate's house.
This isn't to say that this first volume is a barren comedy wasteland - its build-up occasionally pays off with a well-realised gag, a random moment which works perfectly within its particular context, or simply an everyday happening that you can relate to. The trouble is there aren't really enough of these to carry the series through, and with a quartet of characters that are mostly as bland as their illustrations and designs you don't even have the joy of following them through their lives because you like them as you might with, say, K-ON. In fact, when you consider that far more happens even within the confines of K-ON or even Hidamari Sketch, the archetypical slice of life manga where "nothing happens", you begin to get a feeling for just how chained Yurumates is to its principle concept. You can almost call it the hikikomori of slice of life manga; such is its unwillingness to allow its characters to venture into the outside world for any period of time.
In other words, Yurumates is a decidedly forgettable slice of... err, slice of life. It isn't a completely humour-free zone, and it'll probably muster at least a few laughs and a number of smiles from you as you read through its 120 or so pages, but is that really enough? Given the number of more successful and noteworthy slice of life manga series on the market, I would say no - if you have a slavish devotion to the genre, or feel intimately connected with the story of a bunch of poor layabouts, then there are undoubtedly worse examples of unsuccessful four-panel manga, but "not bad" and "funny every now and again" are hardly ringing endorsements of any comedy series.
Yurumates is available to be read and purchased at JManga.
A few laughs and smiles aside, Yurumates is a run of the mill four-panel manga that struggles to break out of the limits its concept has imposed upon itself.