“And then, there’s the last ten minutes of the movie. A display so powerful it merits the price of admission, and all future admission prices.” —Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One
Taking a leaf from the Auralnauts’ “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”, first off, obviously, this discussion will contain spoilers. If you do not already know that Gin dies in the end, then you should leave right now. Following another training session, Sumi, Sonoko and Gin are presented with unexpected news – they assigned some vacation time, during which they spend a day together at the pool and prepare an orientation for first-year elementary students. Although going overboard with their daily calisthenics routine and landing themselves in hot water, the girls have fun with their presentation, coming to deeply treasure their time spent together. Sumi and Sonoko also meet Gin’s parents for the first time during their break. When term resumes, the girls share a productive day at their school’s training camp, promising that there will be many more treasured memories in the days coming. When the camp concludes, a pair of Vertices appear. In the fierce fighting, Sumi and Sonoko are knocked out of combat. Gin promises to deal with the Vertices on her own, and, spurred on by her own determination to share a future with her friends, manages to defeat both. However, in the process, she sustains grievous wounds and succumbs to her injuries. Grief-stricken at their friend’s sudden departure, Sonoko and Sumi dissolve into tears. This is the short of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, the turning point where Gin’s friendship with Sonoko and Sumi is cut short; to see the dramatic contrast in the second act’s first and second halves was quite jarring even though it was quite apparent as to what would be happening when the Vertex did finally appear.
The idea of presenting an episode of contrasts is not a novel one – in portraying the characters’ ordinary lives and everyday activities, audiences have a chance to see what extraordinary individuals might do outside of their duties. To see them in normalcy, going about their business and sharing precious memories together reinforces the notion that everyone is human, each with their own experiences that give them drive. Consequently, when audiences have seen for themselves how far each of Sumi, Sonoko and Gin come to know one another, as well as the strength of their friendship, the death of a character is intended to evoke some level of response in viewers: empathy, the ability to understand another being’s emotions, is a cognitive function that evolved in social animals. Writers utilise it to convey a particular mood strongly, and in the case of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act, to develop a friendship in such detail (Washio Sumi Chapter’s second acts open up in a light-hearted, even irreverent, tone), only for Gin to be killed during combat, is intended to convey to audiences the extent of the loss that Sonoko and Sumi feel. Friendship, something that takes a considerable amount of effort and time to cultivate, can be destroyed in an instant by external forces. Effective in emphasising this point as its main message, Act Two of Washio Sumi Chapter has raised the stakes for its final part; to be a hero previously meant accepting the risk of personal injury in the line of defending their world. In death, Gin shows the hazards of this duty, and if the documentation holds true, her death serves as the catalyst for changes the Taisha make to their Hero system. The final act of Washio Sumi Chapter will presumably deal with this, along with how Sumi and Sonoko take the loss of a dear friend.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This post on Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part will have thirty screenshots such that there is sufficient room to properly discuss things. Irreverent, whimsical and quite unlike anything Yūki Yūna is a Hero veterans expect, the first part of this movie was immensely cheerful, almost to a fault. When their instructors announce the girls are to have some downtime in preparation for their future operations, Sonoko comes to pick up Sumi, where they subsequently listen to music together, and even the normally collected Sumi begins singing along to the music in her own manner.
- The sheer number of facets to Sumi’s personality drives the comedy in the movie’s first half: after donning some of the dresses in the style that Sumi is fond of, Gin finds herself being photographed mercilessly, leading her to pout. Sumi’s nose explodes with a shower of blood; this was a rather unexpected reaction. Apparently, the nosebleed is an indicator that the character suffering from one is visually stimulated in some manner. While our blood pressure does elevate in the presence of something that excites us, there is no scientific basis for such a reaction happening.
- Conversely, Sumi becomes quite bashful when asked to wear a Western-style dress. The tables have turned, and Gin photographs herself with Sumi. The scene cuts away to Sumi purifying herself at home later in the evening, who remarks that she’s failed as a Yamato Nadeshiko; this phrase refers to an abstraction of what is considered to be the proper Japanese lady, both dignified, graceful and beautiful, but also resolved and responsible in disposition. The second chapter of Washio Sumi Chapter presents Sumi as a personification of almost all things Japanese.
- It turns out that Sonoko is an author who spends her spare time working on novels, and longs to write one about her friends. Sonoko’s existing works are well-received, and when Sumi, motivated, tries to write her own history texts, finds herself assailed by online critics. Here, the girls share a moment after drawing on the whiteboard: Sumi’s rendition of the Zuikaku is visible on the blackboard in the background. Like the Nagato, the Zuikaku survived most of the Second World War and was only sunk at the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1945.
- When Sonoko receives a love letter, Gin and Sumi’s reactions simply must be watched to be believed. Fearing curses, Sumi procures a large number of shide (paper streamers) to purify and bless Sonoko, but as it turns out, the letter is actually from a female admirer. Sumi herself later receives a letter, asking her to “bring it down”. Angered by the letter, Sumi promptly burns it while chanting ominously.
- While Sumi’s warm-up exercises may seem excessive to Gin and Sonoko, there is a good reason for stretching before swimming: the motions of swimming cause the muscles to contract in ways the body may not be accustomed to. Cramps result when the body attempts to rectify this, resulting in pain. Warming up increases circulation that allow the muscles to prepare for the motions ahead, and in other anime, such as Girls und Panzer during one of the OVAs, cramps do indeed occur when the first years hop into the water, forcing the student council to save them.
- As a worthy precursor to Yūna’s Hero Club, Gin here puts on a show for the entering first year primary students in order to welcome them to their school. Anime have always skewed ages, and while only eleven, Gin, Sonoko and Sumi feel much older than their ages would otherwise suggest. As a part of their performance, the play gives way to a scripted event that Sonoko and Sumi present for the students. A highly patriotic song that screams nationalism, a part of me feels as though there is a bit of propaganda here, although chances are that it’s done primarily for comedic purposes.
- While I have a moderate understanding of Japanese history, I am not intrinsically familiar with this particular dress style, which brings to mind the likes of Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi. If and when I’m asked about my own sense of national pride, I am Canadian, and the things that I like most about the True North is our multiculturalism, politeness, majestic wilderness, hockey and maple syrup. With that being said, I also greatly respect my heritage: of Cantonese descent, I carry with me a hybrid of Western and traditional values. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the performance that Sumi and Sonoko perform land them in hot water.
- Scattered intermittently through Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second part’s first act are Sonoko’s dreams, which are surreal and somewhat uncanny to behold. Here, Sonoko comes to after dreaming that she’s now banned from eating Udon as punishment for having overdone their orientation presentation. Upon waking up, her friends reassure her, and audiences are left to wonder if they were really disciplined for their performance.
- On a pleasant day, the girls get together to hang out: it is here that Sumi and Sonoko meet with Gin’s parents and family formally (the events in the previous movie do not count, as Sumi and Sonoko had followed Gin without permission). Gin has remarked that one of her own personal goals is to become a good bride, owing to her love of looking after others and ensuring their happiness. When she jokingly remarks that Sumi could be a bit of a difficult girl for whomever chooses to marry her, she also says that perhaps it would take someone like her to look after Sumi.
- Having spent all night writing and binding their class activity guides, Sumi presents them to Sonoko and Gin, noting that she’s also given them an electronic version. The size of the volumes are unrealistic: the printing company at campus has a hard limit on the number of pages they bind into a volume, and something with this many pages (I estimate around 600 to 700 assuming the same thickness of paper as used in my thesis). With that being said, I’ve got no idea what the rock-like object Sumi holding is.
- Events of the training camp proceed nominally as the girls complete their exercises. Gin and Sumi complete theirs with flair, and it is Sonoko who grows pensive. However, with some encouragement, she manages to finish the course and is petted by Gin. Feeling left out, Sumi endearingly forces her way between the two and is petted in return. I certainly was not expecting this from Sumi, but it demonstrates her desire to be a part of the friendship that all three of them share.
- On a high from the day’s activities, Gin falls from a climbing apparatus when her grip falters. The events’ possible inclusion as a bit of foreshadowing notwithstanding, Gin promises to take it down a peg when Sonoko and Sumi express concern, but when the girls begin cooking lunch for the others, she quickly returns to her usual cheerful self. Grilling meats and vegetables on skewers is a longtime staple featured in anime, associated with summer: the searing of meat always seems to produce a distinct flavour that is remarkable. This flavour comes from concurrent Milliard reactions, which create aromatic rings in the constituent molecules that make up the meat.
- Sumi and Sonoko take on simplified eyes when the former notices an Allomyrina dichotoma (common name Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle) on her shoulder. Distributed in Japan, Taiwan and Eastern China, these beetles are popular in Japan as pets. Sonoko seems unbothered, whereas Sumi is not particularly fond of insects, and sees Sonoko as being covered with the beetles. Pleasant is the weather in Washio Sumi Chapter a far cry from the skies around my city, where it seems spring has not fully ignited yet – trees are only beginning to bud, and a cold overcast sky dominates the area. While I lament the poor weather ahead in the forecast, the skies today became sunny and pleasant just in time for me to partake in this year’s Poutine Week challenge. A charity programme in which a participating restaurant will donate a meal to someone in need for every poutine sold, Poutine Week happens every April.
- The girls’ instructor here struggles to eat a green pepper. I’m not a picky eater by any definition and love trying new dishes out. High on the list of things I like are exotic poutines: for Poutine Week this year, I visited the Midtown Café to enjoy the Philadelphia Cheese Steak poutine – a classy poutine decked out in roasted cuts of beef, beef demi-glace, sautéed onions and marinated chilies drizzled in a horseradish aioli, garnished with mustard microgreens, this is perhaps one of the most fancy poutines I’ve ever had. The heavier flavours of the demi-glace, fries, cheese kurds and beef were offset by the bite the chilies provided, and there was a bit of a kick coming from the aioli that gave the poutine a very complex flavour.
- After lunch, we went back to the office space to host a small 007 GoldenEye Source LAN party. This was immensely entertaining, and after warming up with some TDM hosted locally, we hopped onto a public server whose main game mode was gun master. Aside from some colourful language from other players, we had a fantastic time. The clouds returned in force by the time I returned home, and the rain began falling as the evening set in. Back in Washio Sumi Chapter, the girls take a break atop the bell tower, having completed their assignment for the training camp. Up until this point, there are no Vertex, and Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act presents the precious moments that Sumi, Sonoko and Gin spend together.
- When the Vertex do arrive, however, this instalment of Washio Sumi Chapter takes on a much grimmer tone. There is actually quite a bit to consider during the combat, which makes up the last ten minutes of the instalment and led indirectly to the page quote sourced from the Auralnauts video “Kylo Ren Reviews Rogue One”. As will become apparent, the final ten minutes of this episode of Washio Sumi Chapter is a moving display. Viewers are treated once more to the full transformation sequence. While Sumi’s segment is most pleasing to the eye, Gin’s is pleasing to the ear: perhaps I might be one of the only viewers out there who enjoyed listening to Gin’s small grunts as she swings her blades around in preparation for combat.
- As the fighting begins, the girls learn that they are taking on a pair of Vertices, but the situation worsens when a third appears. Taking their learnings, Sumi stays back to provide covering fire while Gin and Sonoko engage each Vertex at close quarters. Sumi’s aim is true; both Gin and Sonoko land hits against the Vertex, but they soon unleash a powerful counterattack. Sumi and Gin take cover under Sonoko’s umbrella to weather out the storm of missiles the Vertex launch, but are swatted by a scorpion-like tail.
- The impact is so ferocious that Sonoko and Sumi suffer internal injuries, taking them out of the fight. The girls had previously left combat with minor scratches and bruises, and earlier in this act, Sumi experiences a furious nosebleed when seeing Gin in a dress, but the comedy and slapstick vanishes: the injuries and damage here are very real. A closer inspection of this post will find that almost half of the screenshots deal with their fight against the Vertex; the proportion of combat time to time spent depicting the girls’ everyday lives is a deliberate choice, setting the stage for the message that this second episode aims to convey, and goes to show that friendships, constructed lovingly over a period of time, can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
- With the destruction of the Shinju an unacceptable alternative, Gin is forced to engage the Vertex on her own when she sees the state that Sonoko and Sumi are in. The Vertex seen in Washio Sumi Chapter do not appear to have a core as did the ones seen in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and fall after sustaining enough damage. Given this change, it stands to reason that the Vertex appear to be constructs that arise from aberrations in their world, which, in conjunction with how the second act’s opening is presented, gives credence to the notion that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set in a simulated reality.
- Promising to fight in their steed and return to them, Gin sets off against overwhelming odds. It’s the last time audiences see Gin smile, and from here on out, it’s all business. Earlier, Gin had promised her brother that she would return to give him a souvenir from her trip, and this is the bit of foreshadowing that hints at her eventual fate. Still in reasonable shape, and with her blades doubling as shields, she takes off with the intent of taking out both Vertices and fulfilling her promise.
- The differences in scale here simultaneously serve to suggest the odds that Gin is going up against, as well as her own persistence. Abstract entities that are dubbed “Ugly”, “Admiral Aimbot” and “Walrus Face”, the Vertex are described in the opening narration as being the “Pinnacles” of something, a rather ironic description considering the dangers they pose to the Shinju. A point worth bringing up here, is that Vertices in plural will invariably be brought up as Yūki Yūna is a Hero progresses: while Vertex in plural can be spelt as “vertexes”, “vertices” is the much more widely-used variation, hence my choosing to spell it in this manner. Having said this, “vertexes” might be more appropriate in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, considering their unusual nature.
- Despite having closed the distance between herself and the Vertex in order to enter melee range, Gin is punctured by the energy-like projectiles that leave large holes in her body. The damage she sustains does little to stop her: she manages to shear off the tail from one of the Vertices and slashes a hole in another with her blades. However, the onslaught is simply too much for one individual to negotiate: projectiles punch through her foot and other parts of her body, knocking her down.
- Absolutely refusing to give up, Gin feels that her spirit, love for her family and friends, and a determination to fulfil her promises to each, makes her stronger than her opponents. This is the basis for the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s name. However, unlike typical stories where willpower and love for those important to one triumph totally, Gin’s efforts end with her death, whose sacrifice is total as she fights to fulfil her duty to the Shunju and people in her life.
- Gin’s defeat and passing is a plausible outcome for her situation, or, as some might say, “realistic”, similar to how it was implausible for the Calgary Flames to defeat the Anaheim Ducks during the playoffs. While I am a fan of plausible outcomes and to a lesser extent, realism, I feel that these elements should not impede the presentation of a narrative’s thematic elements. There are cases where realism is favoured over consistency, leading a work of fiction to feel jarring on the virtue that the events of a finale are not in keeping with the message the work aimed to make clear. In the case of Washio Sumi Chapter, Gin’s death is necessary to advance things, rather than being included for drama’s sake.
- Here, Gin pushes one final charge that will deal a killing blow to the Vertex, at the expense of her own life. I contend that dark themes and events are similarly related to realism, that realism is not positively correlated with darkness, and it is folly to think that a darker story is automatically more thought provoking. The best stories accomplish several things: they lead us to challenge our own views of the world, vividly experience things that would otherwise be quite unlikely or dangerous, and/or inspire us in some way. Fiction need not be nihilistic and dark to accomplish this, and in the excess, can cause a work to come across as being quite superficial in quality. Madoka Magica and Yūki Yūna is a Hero feature such elements to varying extents, but their success in moving an audience comes because viewers care for the characters rather than because the characters are made to suffer for the sake of drama.
- This is the sight that Sonoko and Sumi are presented with when they come to and reach Gin. Her weapons lying on the battlefield, and standing totally still, the two are initially relieved that Gin is still apparently in one piece. It was mentioned earlier that the girls’ hero outfits provide some degree of protection against the Vertex’s assault, and this does seem to hold true: no one’s had their internal organs blown out or their entire body bifrucated as in Black Hawk Down or Saving Private Ryan as of yet despite the terrifying power the Vertex can wield.
- In the eerie still, Sumi and Sonoko soon realise that Gin’s right arm is missing. Unlike Imran Zakhaev, who survived the loss of his arm despite the blood loss and resulting shock, the damage done to Gin is beyond survival. It is here that Sumi and Sonoko’s fears come to pass. The injuries shown openly on screen might be too much to show on television; if the televised broadcast of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is going to censor the blood and carnage, however, it might also lessen the impact of this moment.
- Sonoko and Sumi let out wrenching sobs in light of the loss of their best friend that match the impact imparted by Hikari back during the days of Brave Witches and then some. The film draws to a close here, leaving audiences with a preview of what the final act of Washio Sumi Chapter entails. Moving into the finale, I am hoping for further details on the Vertex: it is difficult to consider Yūku Yūna is a Hero without them, and knowing about their beliefs, desires and intentions will add weight to the Heroes’ fight against the Vertex.
- Before I wrap things up, for those wondering, I’ve been around the block long enough to be blunted towards tears: although quite moving, I did not shed any tears, much less several individual tears, at the episode’s conclusion. Thus ends another post on Washio Sumi Chapter. I will be returning to write about the final act in July, and for the present, note that discussion on the Washio Sumi Chapter has been surprisingly minimal. This will likely change in the near future once Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season is aired, but for now, the quiet isn’t such a bad thing.
In spite of the opening narration redacting some elements about the Vertex and Taisha, the information that is provided seems to align with the idea that this Yūki Yūna is a Hero occurs within a simulated reality: the Vertex are suggested to be anomalies within the system, and the Heroes would therefore serve as a sort of anti-virus or anti-malware platform for defending the Shinju, the operating system, from threats arising within the programming. The spontaneous creation of Vertex as an antagonist hints at instability in the system, and there is a limit to what speculation can accomplish: there’s still quite a bit of background about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that audiences are not privy to. While not presenting the complete picture, having these dialogues and fragments of information is infinitely preferable to the absence of exposition. Until more documentation becomes available to support or refute my guesses, I will continue to go with the idea that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the mahou shoujo take on The Matrix. With the second act of Washio Sumi Chapter in the books, the stage is now set for the final movie, which is set for release on July 8. I am very curious to see the intermediate story between Sumi’s transition to Mimori, as well as the difficult path that Sonoko chooses to defend her world. Yūki Yūna is a Hero might have been met with a lukewarm reception at best for dropping viewers into the middle of things, but the Washio Sumi Chapter films have been a modest attempt at addressing the background behind this world so far. If the third movie can explain more about the Taisha and Vertices’ respective natures, and the Hero Chapter of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second season can explore how Yūna’s team handles their knowledge following the events of the first season, the world presented in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will feel more complete, and the girls’ actions, more consistent.