“Make ten men feel like a hundred.” —Cassian Andor, Rogue One
Before she met Yūna Yūki, Mimori Tōgō was known as Sumi Washio. She is assigned, with her classmates Sonoko Nogi and Gin Minowa, as heroes to defend the Shinju from the Vertex. Despite still lacking the requisite training to be effective in combat, they are pressed into an engagement with a Vertex that presents them with a considerable challenge. In the end, it is the combination of brute force and a team effort that allow them to claim their first kill. Following this battle, their instructor assigns Sonoko to be the team leader, while Sumi struggles to summon the courage to become friends with Sonoko and Gin, all the while lamenting how the other two do not seem very serious or dedicated about their roles. Successful, the group of friends take on their second vertex and only manage a narrow victory over it; their instructor decides to give the girls a training camp, where they hone their ability to coordinate as a team. While improving as heroes, Sumi notices that Gin is consistently late for school, and one day, after tailing her with Sonoko and learning that Gin seems to be drawn into helping others, the third vertex appears. Faltering when Sonoko and Gin engage it, it is with their encouragement that Sumi opens fire on the Vertex, creating an opening that allows Gin to neutralise it. Sumi realises that despite her own determination, she is likely to be holding the team back and dissolves in tears, resolving to strengthen herself. So ends the first part of the Washio Sumi Chapter, the prequel to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, which sets the stage for exploring Mimori’s background as a hero. Veterans have noted that Yūki Yūna is a Hero lacks a formal exposition, dropping viewers directly into the universe without much in the way of explanation. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero managed to present a coherent, well-defined theme, the anime’s original run in 2014 also left audiences with questions: unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which thoroughly explained their universe’s mechanics, very little about the Taisha and Shinju are known even after twelve episodes.
In Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part, the focus is on Sumi’s growth as a character, learning that beliefs and attitudes are only half the battle: when the time comes, action becomes just as important, and discipline during peace time may not necessarily correspond to acting appropriately during an operation. Although Sumi tries to remind herself time and time again that her own self-reliance will mean that she’s looking after Sonoko and Gin, when taking on the Vertex in combat, Sumi freezes up and stops thinking when her mode of attack, taking the form of a magical bow, proves ineffectual. Her ranged weapons have a low travel speed and are easily disrupted by turbulence the Vertex can conjure; these limitations in combat compared to the seemingly more effectual weapons that Sonoko and Gin wield appear to weigh on her mind. Instead of seeing herself as being useful in providing long-range support for her close quarters oriented teammates, Sumi concludes that she must improve to support her friends in new ways, rather than making the most of the loadout she’s got to assist Sonoko and Gin. These elements sum up to present Sumi as being a very consistent but rigid-minded individual, constrained by her own analysis and understanding of a situation; ever interested in studying history and its lessons, Sumi’s love of knowledge is her greatest asset, but both in Washio Sumi Chapter and the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it also becomes an impediment. Thus, right from the beginning, in establishing Mimori’s personality, audiences gain a better sense of what drives Mimori throughout much of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to the strength of Sumi’s belief in her own self-reliance, it is reasonable to suppose that the remaining parts of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s contents will deal with her gradually opening up, only to be sent back to square one as events unfold.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It’s been around eight and a half months since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and the anime itself aired between October and December in 2014. As memory serves, I was starting out on my journey as a graduate student back then; Sword Art Online, Sora no Method and Amagi Brilliant Park were the two anime I watched that season. In this post, I include thirty images of the Washio Sumi Chapter and open with the remark that Sumi Washio will be referred to as Sumi throughout this post even though she is re-christened Mimori Tōgō later on.
- From left to right, Gin Minowa, Sumi Washio and Sonoko Nogi prepare for battle against their first Vertex. Mysterious beings whose origins are never explained and whose goals seem restricted to “destroy the Shinju”, they act as the antagonists that drive the protagonists together. One of the things that proved quite entertaining about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was that Hero duty is facilitated for by a suite of apps on the girls’ smartphones. Even in the short span since I watched Yūki Yūna is a Hero, smart phone technology has already increased in complexity: the new iPhone 7s do not have a physical home screen button and rely on Force Touch for interactions, and the iPhone 8 is expected to be even more sophisticated, leaving the iPhone 6 that I (and Taki of Your Name) wield in the dust.
- As per tradition of any mahou shoujo anime, the girls undergo a lengthy transformation sequence when it is shown for the first time. Sumi’s sequence remains unchanged from its successor in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although when one factors into consideration that she’s only eleven here, the question of whether or not there’s any point at all in focussing the camera on her chest and posterior comes to mind. This might cross the line for some, and I’m not ready to consider the ramifications of Sumi’s transformation. However, I am quite ready to discuss her initial loadout as a hero: a magical bow that fires arrows dealing damage to the Vertex but is constrained by low projectile speed and as a result, suffers from serious projectile drop.
- Gin is equipped with a pair of stylised blades with a rocket engine of sorts to boost her power. Confident, cheerful and easygoing, Gin prefers charging into combat with little semblence of a plan and is voiced by Yumiri Hanamori: a relative newcoming as a voice actor, I’m not familair with her other roles beyond those of Anne Hanakoizumi in Anne Happy, which I’ve yet to watch, and Remo of Garakowa: Restore the World.
- Gentlest of the heroes but also a natural leader, Sonoko wields a trident that can transform into an umbrella-like shield during combat to cover her teammates. She is one of the longest serving heroes and loses much of her body in the fight against the Vertex as a result of activating her
NT-D mankai in excess of twenty instances, later informing Yūki of the fate that awaits heroes. Sonoko is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, a veteran voice actor who’s also played Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and Your Name.
- Lacking any sort of combat experience, the girls improvise a plan but find themselves overwhelmed by the Vertex’s water-element attacks. The homing water bubbles overwhelm Gin, who demonstrates resourcefulness by drinking down the entire thing and remarking that while it tasted quite poor, it was a necessary move. Gin’s description suggests that the Vertex is using pure, distilled water free of any minerals: our taste receptors can pick up ions in water, giving water a minor taste, and distilled water will be unusually flat. While some folks consider distilled water the best to drink for its lack of contaminants, the lack of minerals can be detrimental to the body.
- Ultimately, Sumi is able to shoot off one of the Vertex’s weapons, and Gin capitalises on this opening to slice-and-dice the Vertex, causing it to disintegrate and creating a phenomenon that is visualised as a shower of flowers. Gin and Sonoko celebrate their first victory together, and the world is restored. The soundtrack in Washio Sumi Chapter seems unchanged since its presentation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: composed by Keiichi Okabe (of Nier Automata and Wake Up, Girls!), there is an ethereal quality to his performances that rival those of Yuki Kajiura, who wrote the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.
- The architecture in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is less visually distinct than those seen in Madoka Magica, speaking very little about the characters’ internal feelings. Structures featuring more conventional designs, and there are no major cities with skyscrapers, although some large structures, such as the suspension bridge, have unique features that make them unlike those of the real world: here, a large ring can be seen on one of the suspension bridge towers, and a close-up of the bridge reveals small charms attached to the bridge’s cables.
- I’m gearing up to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair this Friday, and will be in attendance of an orientation tomorrow evening. Despite being done school, things have remained quite busy, engaging. My reason for helping out with the science fairs is that I’m actually quite curious to see what young minds out there are doing these days. I still recall my participation in the science fair during my second and third year of middle school: on both occasions, I did a research project and won bronze in my category. Looking back, it definitely was a fun experience, and it will be quite exciting to see things from the other side of the fence.
- Sumi turns luminescent when Sonoko asks her to share her gelato here, after they visit a local place to celebrate their first victory and also commemorate their friendship. It’s not quite as intense as Kon of Urara Meirocho, whose entire body turns pink out of embarrassment. I’ve noted before that Kon and Mimori/Sumi strongly resemble one another, similar to how Itsuki and Nono share some similarities in appearance and manner.
- The second vertex Sumi and the others face project a powerful windstorm that makes movement nearly impossible. The abstract designs of the spaces the Vertex and Shinju occupy in Yūki Yūna is a Hero lack the same imagery of those seen in Madoka Magica, lacking distinct features of the Witches’ labyrinths. This is because the Witches’ labyrinths are spaces the Witches create to hide in and can provide an approximation of the Witches’ former character (for Oktavia von Seckendorff, her labyrinth is characterised by a fixation on Sayaka’s crush, Kyōsuke, and his musical talents), whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the heroes fight in an alternate space to minimise damage to the real world.
- While doubtlessly not short with respect to the cool factor, arrows are a very limited weapon against the Vertex, who can deflect them without much effort. Sumi’s weapons are further constrained by the need of a charge time to be effective: they appear to deal their maximum damage only after all of the pedals in the holographic flower are lit. Charged weapons are a feature of some first person shooters (Team Fortress 2‘s snipers, the Gauss rifle’s siege mode in DOOM and the plasma railgun in Titanfall come to mind): a charge mechanic allows support players to deal massive damage in the support role, requiring patience. A good sniper hangs out in the back and targets their opponents from a distance, and it appears that Sumi does not fully understand her role on the hero team.
- Gin’s melee weapons are oriented entirely for offense, while Sonoko’s trident suggest an intermediary role, allowing her to provide offense and defense as required. While the girls have the basic ranges and roles covered, a part of their limitation owing to their limited experience means that no one really capitalises fully on their abilities even in their second battle: as their instructor remarks, Gin’s final destruction of the second Vertex is more brute force than finesse. A team in touch with one another would see Sumi sit back from direct combat and use her ranged capabilities to provide covering fire. Sonoko would get herself and Gin close to the vertex and engage with their respective offensive weapons.
- Following their second battle, their instructor decides that Sonoko should be the team leader; Sumi is presented as being arrogant to an extent, supposing that Sonoko was selected on virtue of background rather than skill, but nonetheless resolves to work hard and support the team as best as she can. Like Gin, I’ve never been particularly good with leadership roles and prefer to be in the passenger seat, helping a driver make decisions and provide support, although as the need arises, I can and will lead a team. This trait carries over to Battlefield and other games, where I prefer being a gunner rather than a driver.
- Transforming her trident into a beach umbrella as a shield, their instructor’s exercise is to storm a beach, working as a team to reach a capture point without getting hit. In the beginning, the exercise is unsuccessful as each of Sonoko, Gin and Sumi act independently. However, when they work as a team as stipulated earlier, with Sumi providing covering fire from the rear and Sonoko shielding Gin long enough for her to close the distance and enter melee range, they complete their task splendidly. Besides practical training, the girls also hone their minds, busying themselves with study and even meditating, although Gin cramps up and falls over during meditation. I’m stupidly inflexible, and it takes all of my willpower to prevent my leg from cramping while I meditate.
- After Gin tries to mess with Sumi’s assets, their instructor comes in to bring an end to things and restore the peace, promptly blowing Sumi and Gin away when she proves to be bigger…for them, resulting in the reaction here. Although Yūki Yūna is a Hero does have its serious moments, it is not devoid of comedy. Exaggerated facial expressions and reactions are present in the anime, and while there are themes of betrayal, trust and doubt as a part of the story, the overall tone is rather more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica.
- The events of Madoka Magica were unexpected, coming out of left field and blew away audiences. If word is to be believed, it was the very learnings from Sora no Woto of the Anime no Chikara Project that were utilised in Madoka Magica to create a work that was both entertaining and surprising. The Anime no Chikara project is erroneously assumed to have been discarded after failure, and I myself assumed this to be the case until my recent Sora no Woto posts: looking into things, I learned that the program was intended to only run for a year.
- Generally reserved, Sumi becomes rather more animated whenever history is mentioned: she wastes no time in conveying her enthusiasm for Japanese history and mentions the battleship Nagato. Constructed in 1910, modernised during the mid-1930s and serving as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s flagship for a period, the Nagato survived WWII, having seen very little in the way of direct combat and survived several attacks compared to other vessels. However, despite their intimidating looks, I myself are a much bigger fan of aircraft carriers over battleships.
- I’m what is considered a wet blanket, since when I’m out, I tend to try and maintain a sleep pattern as close to that of home as possible so I have enough energy to get through the day’s main events, rather than staying up into the late hours of the evening. I’ve never been a night person, and typically, I get most of my work done between nine and three: in the afternoon, I grow tired, and productivity declines. This stands in stark comparison with some of my friends and coworkers, who work their best as the evening turns to night, at the expense of not being morning people.
- After returning from their training camp, Sumi grows frustrated that Gin is late yet again, and decides to get to the bottom of things. She uses a periscope here to peer over some cover, with Sonoko in tow, learning that Gin’s propensity to help others seems to be something that can’t be helped. Very much a Japanese concept, Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い) is supposed to be the Japanese spirit of endurance, maintaining face in light of challenges; this stands in contrast with views in the West, where prevailing thought is to figure out a solution to that problem sooner rather than later (“don’t get mad, get even”).
- Gin quickly becomes my favourite character of the Washio Sumi Chapter: ever ready to help those around her and carrying an inextinguishable spirit as a result of having to look after her siblings, she tends to help everyone along her way to school, explaining why she’s always late for school. Like Madoka Magica‘s original TV run and home release, the backgrounds of Yūki Yūna is a Hero are quite simple and clean, compared to the more intricate backgrounds of the Madoka Magica movies.
- The unusual setup of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if their world is not unlike of that of The Matrix, being a highly sophisticated simulated reality. In such a world, whoever is running this simulation would have their own reasons for keeping the characters occupied (perhaps similar to how Rick has an entire world inside his battery in the Rick and Morty episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), and also would account for how things freeze as the girls take the Vertex on in combat. Of course, the presence of a microverse in something like Yūki Yūna is a Hero would be one of the biggest plot twists of the century.
- Audiences should be safe, however: for the time being, there are few indicators beyond my own enjoyment of Rick and Morty that would lead to the potential conclusion that the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe is set inside someone’s battery. Of course, that would also open up the possibility for someone to develop a miniverse and teenyverse battery, ad infinitum. For now, we return to Washio Sumi Chapter, where the third of the Vertexes appear.
- In spite of Sumi’s belief in her own abilities, during the third engagement, she locks up after seeing the Vertex taking flight to evade her arrows and fears for Gin. Despite facing an adversary they seemingly cannot beat, Sonoko takes charge and creates a stairwell for Sumi; the elevation allows her projectile to hit, dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Sonoko draws its attention off Gin and is blown away.
- With its attention divided, the stage is set for Gin to exit her defensive stance and go on the offense. With her rocket-propelled blades, she annihilates the Vertex. It’s a gruelling battle, and the girls sustain a nontrivial number of scratches during the course of this engagement. In keeping with mahou shoujo tradition, the transformation sequence for this battle is much shorter than the initial one: the thrill of the first launch or transformation is always at its maximum, and subsequently, they become a bit of a drag to sit through. In Gundam, for instance, launches shorten as the series progresses, but may become lengthier if the protagonists are about to set out on a pivotal battle, either for better or worse.
- Rather than reacting to any dangers her team was in, Sumi here laments her combat inefficiency and that she was dependent on a teammate to help her out, rather than the other way around. The whole point of teamwork is that no single person carries an unreasonable burden, and it is with teamwork that great achievements are made. This forms the basis for my page quote: inspired by Rogue One, where the Rebels rally around Cassian’s clear instructions. The end result of a good team, with a good leader, has a synergy in which the team is able to achieve more than the sum of the outputs of the individuals together.
- With the Vertex neutralised for the present, the girls find themselves back in their ordinary world. The large suspension bridge in the background, when viewed from a particular angle, also appears to have a cable-swayed component to it that brings to mind the Tsing ma-Ting Kau bridge in Hong Kong: their combined span is around 1.4 kilometers in length. At present, Tsing Ma bridge is the world’s eleventh longest single-span suspension bridge. It was finished in 1998 and connects Hong Kong International Airport to the Hong Kong.
- The contrast of blues and greens in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part offset the mood after Gin and Sonoko notice Sumi weeping. The colours suggest the late summer period, a time of calm and where things are unhurried. A glance at the calendar shows that it is now exam season: I’ve been out of school for around eight months now, having formally finished at the end of August last year. It still feels a little unusual to know that it is the midst of exam season, and yet, I’ve got no exams on my plate. On some occasions, I still dream about “forgetting” to do assignments or being late for class; there is no single interpretation of what this actually means, but I do know that I do not have any assignments left for the present.
- On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy as always, writing and testing iOS apps in Swift 3. Outside of work, I’ve been gaming and generally taking it easy: I’ve suddenly realised that my last four posts have been about games, so it’s high time I broke that streak and posted something about anime. This is how the Washio Sumi Chapter post came to be, as I was planning on writing about it later, but since there’s an opening now, I’d figure I’d take it.
- These are the faces of two excellent teammates, and straight away, I feel as though Sonoko and Gin are as valuable as Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Mimori were to Yūna despite their having known Sumi for a shorter period of time. The second part of the Washio Sumi Chapter was released just last weekend, on April 15, and I’ll be getting around to watching that quite soon. Before that, however, I will be looking at Sakura Quest after three episodes, as well as wrapping up my journey through Titanfall 2. In the meantime, it’s time for me to kick back and see if the Flames can stave off total defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. If we’re to lose, I hope that we at least put up a good showing and go out in style.
There are three parts to Washio Sumi Chapter, and the upcoming second season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is broken up into two parts; the first part will be a televised broadcast of the Washio Sumi Chapter, which is presently covered as theatrical releases. The second half, titled Hero Chapter, will be a proper continuation of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to this unconventional setup, it means that when the fall 2017 anime season rolls around, I will likely drop by and discuss Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter quite separately. For the time being, the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter released mid-April, and I’ve set my sights on watching this one. So far, Washio Sumi Chapter isturning out to be solid addition to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although one of the things high on my wishlist in the second season’s Hero Chapter is a bit more explanation into what the Taisha are and how the Shinju came into being, as well as what the origins of the Vertex are. Unlike Brave Witches, whose complex world-building and Witches are quite separate from the Neuroi, meaning the precise nature of their origins become a lesser concern, the Vertex and Taisha are the reason why there are heroes to begin with in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; to have the characters go through their experiences without properly equipping them with a reason to fight is to limit the series. In the meantime, I will look forwards to seeing what the remaining parts of the Washio Sumi Chapter have in store for audiences.