“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are today’s Hero Club! I only have one question. Where is Mimori Tōgō? You know where Mimori is? You know who she is? You know where I can find Mimori? I need to talk to her about something.” —The Joker, The Dark Knight
Life begins settling into a new routine after Yūna and the others return to their daily lives in the aftermath of their triumph over the Vertex. Sonoko transfers into their middle school, and immediately takes a liking to Yūna. However, both Sonoko and Yūna begin feeling as though something is missing; whether it be the fact that Itsuki originally partitions a cake made during home economics class into sixths, Sonoko subconsciously making three portions of noodles or a particular phrase impacting Yūna, it soon becomes clear that Mimori Tōgō has been absent from proceedings, forcibly removed from their memories. They recall that Mimori had longed to atone for her actions during the final battle, considering them inexcusable in light of the situation, and had taken up the mantle of a masked crime fighter to help out. Their memories return shortly after, but Mimori’s precise fate remains unknown to the others, and the camera cuts to a girl, who may or may not be Mimori, imprisoned in another dimension. Originally anticipated last week, Hero Chapter‘s first episode brings the sequel off to a flying start. With only a half-season’s worth of space to explore the narrative and detail what happens following the events of the first season, Hero Chapter wastes no time in establishing a new status quo that has materialised: Mimori’s fate is the focus, and unless I’m very much mistaken, the first challenge the Hero Club faces will be reuniting with Mimori given this first episode’s events.
The unique juxtaposition between the light-hearted and the dramatic had been an integral part of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Therefore, it is unsurprising that much of the episode is given to the easy-going and hilarious antics that are central to the Hero Club. Sonoko feels right at home with Yūna and the others, partaking in jokes and initially drawing much awe from this generation of Heroes. Sonoko admits that she’s longed to live a normal life after being immobilised in the wake of engaging her Mankai on twenty occasions to save Mimori and the world. However, it seems that her friendly and playful manner has endured; from her enthusiasm in joining Yūna and the others in their play, to helping them study, Sonoko has fit right in. However, her initial presence also raises the question that remains on the audiences’ minds from the first moment the Hero Club is shown: where is Mimori at? While it’s a little surprising to see Yūna and the others blissfully unaware of this in the episode’s beginning, it turns out that each of Yūna, Karin, Fū, Itsuki and Sonoko are subconsciously aware that one of their number is misssing. Manifesting in subtle manners, this sense becomes stronger, and by the episode’s end, it’s quite apparent that Mimori’s absence is significant. At this point in time, episode titles for each instalment in Hero Chapter are available, giving some insight as to what future episodes entail, and my best guess is that audiences will have a chance to see what happened from Mimori’s perspective in the upcoming episode.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It’s been a while since I’ve done episodic reviews, with last year’s Brave Witches being the last anime I followed in this format. Being an episodic review, this one (and the other upcoming five) has twenty screenshots, and I remark that this is probably one of the first Hero Chapter talks out there, coming ahead even of Random Curiosity. I’ve chosen not to do episodic reviews for Washio Sumi Chapter, since I covered all three movies previously, and as such, I had a bit of open time in this month’s first half. I ended up capitalising on that time to play through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and looking back at my journey, it was well worth the price of admissions – aside from just being a good game in general, the start of December is looking quite busy.
- It’s amusing that Sonoko and Yūna get along with one another so well, and par the course for an episode out of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the opening moments are filled to the brim with amusing facial expressions, comedy and antics worthy of Pure Pwnage. It seems quite a world away from the suffering that Heroes experience from fighting in a system whose mechanics are not fully explained to them, and the first episode opens with the girls performing a play for kindergarten students, as they’ve done previously.
- Fū was once an excellent student, but the stresses caused her grades to plummet. Sonoko is helping her study and prepare for the transition into high school; they’re seen working on matrix operations with complex numbers (described by the expression a+bi, for real numbers a and b, plus the imaginary i being the solution of the expression x² = -1). Despite nailing that course when I was an undergraduate student, I’ve not done linear algebra or matrix operations for quite some time, much less linear algebra on matrices with imaginary values, and so, I’m thankful that Hero Chapter only mentions these in passing.
- In the opening episode to Hero Chapter, Karin and Fū tie for the category of most “funny faces made”; Karin is reacting to the fact that Sonoko practises ventriloquism with a stuffed animal here. While seemingly out of place, it’s worth remembering that everyone in Hero Chapter is of middle school age. Even adults have stuffed animals that they’re fond of, and while the biochemical mechanism isn’t well-characterised, some studies suggest that it’s a form of essentialism, where objects can have additional attributes, such as memories and emotions, associated with them. Similarly, the tactile feedback stuffed animals give evoke memories and feelings of care and nurture; our fondness for stuffed animals is shared by other mammals, as well.
- After a baseball game, Karin and Yūna return home, sharing their enjoyment of the day’s events and complimenting one another on their performance. Yūna’s life philosophy is that “You’re likely to succeed if you try”, and it’s the fifth tenant of the Hero Club. The Hero Club’s tenants are similar to my karate club’s dōjō kun, where we have five tenants as well. We recite them in Japanese before the start of class and once more in Cantonese at the end of class. When Yūna spots a girl in a wheelchair, she pauses, evidently remembering Mimori.
- Even only a handful of minutes into the episode, Mimori’s absence is noticeable, and it is quite striking that even Yūna does not seem to be overly concerned that Mimori isn’t around, especially considering their promise to never forget one another. Here, Itsuki brings cake from her home economics class to share with the others.
- It’s been quite some time since I baked things for a home economics class, this would have been in middle school, where I made a banana bread in my first practical class, and we eventually reached cookies and cheesecake. I’ve never really been too unskillful with basic baking, since it’s a simple matter of properly mixing the right quantities of ingredients together and then sticking the results in the oven for a period of time. Of course, one can’t subsist on cake and pastries alone, so in subsequent years, I took cooking classes so as to better prepare meats and vegetables.
- At present, I would say that I’m passable at cooking: my cooking certainly hasn’t killed or injured anyone, which is a good sign, but I’m a bit slower at chopping vegetables and stripping excess fat from meat. One of my goals in the upcoming year is to cook more so I can be more proficient. Back in Hero Chapter, Itsuki gets a positive result from her friends, who enjoy her cake. Following Yūna’s reaction to a wheelchair, Itsuki suddenly wonders why she’d made six slices rather than five, and while Sonoko’s evidently superior math allows her to divide up the final slice, it’s another sign that that Mimori’s absence is troubling.
- The Great Bridge was destroyed during the battle when Sonoko engaged her Mankai to take on an increasing number of Vertex during Washio Sumi Chapter‘s final moments in the name of protecting Mimori and everyone’s memories alive. The exertion leaves her catatonic and bed-ridden, with the miracle at the end of Yūki Yūna is a Hero fully restoring her functions. However, the bridge remains destroyed, and a war memorial has been erected at the site to remember those who died during Vertex attacks.
- Prior to her first play with the Hero Club, Sonoko visits the memorial where Gin’s headstone is located. Her death in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act was a particularly difficult one that forced the Taisha to update their system. Like all revisions, the changes brought new advantages and disadvantages that drove Fū and Mimiori over the edge in season one. The sheer number of tombstones here could be a grim and somewhat macabre reminder of just how lethal the vertex are.
- When Sonoko is absent, the Hero Club considers postponing the day’s performance, especially in light of the sense of unease that Yūna feels. However, when the instructor of the kindergarten class appears, Yūna decides to proceed with the performance, speaking of her commitment to the Hero Club and responsibilities. It’s an admirable trait, and in conjunction with her sense of integrity and perseverance, Yūna is a capable Hero who looks after both her teammates and the objective.
- The Hero Club’s plays are highly enjoyed by both children and parents alike; their activities are diverse and varied, ranging from helping out at charity events and volunteering to entertaining others. When first introduced in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the Hero club’s everyday activities belied its true purpose. Here, Fū plays the role of Satan, while Yuūna is the hero who stands up against evil even as her list of allies grows thin. A line in the play causes Yūna to remember what Mimori said to her earlier, and overcome with emotion, Yūna finds herself in tears, unable to continue with the play.
- Sonoko arrives mid-play; of the Heroes present, she remembers Mimori and works out what Yūna is feeling. Yūna herself earlier had a flashback to a conversation that she shared with Mimori where Mimori made a promise to a comatose Yūna to be together forever.
- A glance at the calendar shows that Hero Chapter‘s first episode was originally expected to release last week, but a recap episode intended to help viewers reacquaint themselves with the first season was shown instead, leading folks to wonder if Hero Chapter would only consist of five episodes. This is not the case: looking through materials show that there will be six episodes to Hero Chapter. We’re now a month away from Christmas now, and it’s been a bit of a rough week for me. I’m glad it’s the weekend, which will give me a bit of time to recover, regroup and return to work on Monday to take on the new challenges that have arisen.
- Because this post is about Hero Chapter, I won’t go into more details pertaining to what happened except that I wholeheartedly hate folks who pretend to know more than they do, can’t actually get the job done when the moment calls for it, and have the audacity to look down on others in spite of their own shortcomings. It’s a consolation that we won’t be seeing this particular individual again. Returning to Hero Chapter, Sonoko and Yūna share the truth with the others to bring everyone into the loop.
- The body language, facial expressions and camera placement illustrate the sort of pain and corresponding courage that Sonoko and Yūna have for sharing their knowledge with Itsuki, Fū and Karin. The truth can be difficult to express at times, but time and time again, being truthful is important, saving critical time and enabling issues to be properly addressed rather than being dismissed and allowing them to grow into unmanageable problems.
- Sonoko’s appearance is to Mimori and Yūna’s pleasant surprise: Yūna is overjoyed to be meeting one of the most prolific Heroes of all time, while Mimori is reuniting with an old friend she’d forgotten about. After a theatricality-filled entrance and introductions, Sonoko continues to refer to Mimori as Washi, her nickname derived from her old name Sumi Washio. When the final act to Washio Sumi Chapter concluded, I said that I would stick with the convention of referring to Sumi as Mimori.
- Through the flashback, it is suggested that shortly after the events of the first season, everyone returned to their everyday lives together, but at some point, Mimori was removed from the proceedings, and everyone’s memories were imperfectly modified. This suggests that the Taisha, whatever their capabilities might be, have limitations, and while seemingly trivial for now, it could return later this season.
- Yūna’s naïveté is one of her more endearing qualities, and when the club brings in a certain “National Defense Mask”, they learn that Mimori is trying to step up her game and recompense for her actions during the first season’s climax. Yūna seems blissfully unaware that this individual is really Mimori. It’s interesting that shortly after this incident is discussed, the flashback draws to a close, and the scene transitions into another dimension or universe, where a young girl is subdued and held amidst flames.
- Some folks believe that, it this is Mimori, it’s a warranted punishment for Yūna, while others have better argued that Yūna’s actions were justified and well-chosen. I wasn’t around to see discussions for Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season, but it looks like some are letting their emotions get the better of their judgement already in Hero Chapter. It’s still early in the game to be passing judgement on the characters, and so, with the first episode in the books, it’s onwards to the next episode. In the meantime, I’m going to aim to finish Wolfenstein II and also get a ways into The Division, which I picked up earlier this week during the Steam Black Friday sale.
I found myself quite impressed with Washio Sumi Chapter when the movies were screened earlier this year, despite the lack of world-building with respect to why the Vertex and Heroes exist to begin with. While the first episode of Hero Chapter does not cover this, I’m nonetheless going to give this sequel the benefit of the doubt and remain optimistic that there will be some explanation of what drives their world. The fact that Mimori is imprisoned in some alternate dimension suggests that Yūna and the others might finally be able to learn more about this conflict: Yūki Yūna is a Hero has always been solid from a thematic perspective, being quite clear in what messages that Yūna and the Hero Club’s experiences are intended to convey, but in spite of their fascinating world, audiences who’ve only seen the anime tend to be shafted as far as background information is concerned. If omitted, this diminishes the strength of the themes that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is aiming to present to viewers; not knowing more about the world that the Heroes are fighting to protect takes away from the urgency of their fight. This is the importance of the world-building, to help audiences understand and develop some connection to the world that lets them appreciate what about Yūki’s world that is worth fighting for. With this being said, if Hero Chapter chooses to go in a different direction and the execution is satisfactory, I wouldn’t hold it against Hero Chapter.