Pure Water Adolescence is an alright yuri manga. Really, it’s nothing special. Sure, it’s a teacher-student relationship, but those are all too common in yuri. The art doesn’t stand out, it’s not particularly well-written, and it doesn’t contain any important lessons or perspectives. I’ve highlighted a few works on here that I don’t adore, and I’ll probably continue to do so; some works are important even if I don’t think they’re all that good. But that isn’t the case here. So why am I even writing about this manga? Because it allows me to explore the realm of teacher-student relationships, an area I’ve been eager to explore for a long time.
Student-teacher relationships are incredibly common in yuri, to the point where I’d consider them one of the archetypical pairs. As far as I’m aware, the origin of student-teacher pairs in yuri derives from the same place it usually does: Class S. From what I understand it originates in a story from queer author Yoshiya Nobuko’s famous anthology, Hana Monogatari. In the story Yellow Rose(Moyuruhana), a teacher and student become attracted to one another, before both disappear as the school goes up in flames.
Given the origin, it should be easy to see why these relationships have stuck around. Like many Class S tropes, they fulfill a few important conditions that make them easy to work with. The first is that they’re still both girls. Were the characters to be of different genders, they would lack a certain equality which is necessary to make an inherently unequal relationship like this acceptable. At the same time, it’s not totally equal. There’s an age and power gap, enabling the relationship to slip into vaguely heteronormative roles. It’s also still constrained within an all-girls school, keeping it locked within the flower garden that dominated Class S and early yuri. The love is due to admiration, similar to a senpai-kouhai relationship. It’s as transient and ephemeral as any other early yuri.
Part of what makes teacher-student relationships tenable in yuri is that readers of yuri are already aware they’re reading stories that are somewhat socially unacceptable. This was especially true in the past. As time teacher-student relationships in yuri have decreased in prominence, alongside large gaps and other less savory elements. Given that same-gender relationships have become more and more common, this is only natural. The shielding of “it’s already weird” only works so long as it is already weird. This makes this kind of story much less palatable to a modern audience, though seeing as that happened due to social change, it’s a good thing.
Bringing this back to me personally, I’m not super comfortable with teacher-student romances. I can enjoy them, certainly, but they’ll never be a favorite of mine, as the power imbalance makes it absurdly creepy to me, and that’s a high wall to climb. Given that Pure Water Adolescence doesn’t stand out even if you remove the teacher-student romance, I wasn’t a huge fan of the manga. I surely would’ve enjoyed it more if the relationship dynamic was different, though I still wouldn’t have loved it. It didn’t tackle the things this kind of relationship needs to tackle with nearly enough finesse for me to truly recommend it.
This manga is more than passable, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from it, though I’d recommend the mangaka’s other works over it in a heartbeat. I’m just happy it gave me a chance to talk about this type of relationship, because they’re all too common and well worth discussing.