“If a black hole is an oyster, then the singularity is the pearl inside. The gravity is so strong, it’s always hidden in darkness beyond the horizon. That’s why we call it a black hole.” —Romilly, Interstellar
It turns out that even the Taisha‘s recollections of Mimori have been removed; Sonoko relays this to the other Hero Club members and also provides them with their smartphones. Having spoken with the Taisha themselves, Sonoko has deduced that Mimori might be beyond the barrier, and is encouraged to begin looking for Mimori out here. While Fū expresses concern with the Hero System, Sonoko explains that the new system makes use of a fully-charged mankai reserve that depletes during combat if the Heroes sustain damage. Engaging the mankai system will fully deplete reserves and also render the Hero vulnerable to attack, but in exchange, Heroes no longer lose body functions when the mankai system is used. Heartened that the Taisha have been a bit more forward about the Hero System’s operating limits, Yūna decides to join Sonoko. The entire Hero Club subsequently activate their Hero Systems and enter the barrier, where they find a black hole-like entity as the source of Mimori’s signal. Sonoko engages her mankai and carries her teammates to this portal – Yūna soldiers forward into the portal and the extremities cause her body and spirit to separate. Past the event horizon, Yūna finds Mimori here, along with her memories and learns that Mimori intended to become a sacrifice to atone for putting a hole in the barrier, endangering their world. Against risk of damage to her mind and body, Yūna retrieves Mimori. She reawakens to the sight of her friends, and Sonoko informs her that the Taisha have since managed to stablise the situation, removing the need for a sacrifice. Yūna later learns that she’s inherited the curse mark from Mimori.
The shortened timeframe of Hero Chapter corresponds with a much quicker pacing, and in the second episode, the cheerful atmosphere seen in the first episode is largely replaced with a grim determination when Yūna and the others resolve to bring Mimori back. Here, the Hero System is explored to a slightly greater extent, illustrating the vulnerabilities and limitations more fully, suggesting that the Taisha have learned after two iterations. The newer system removes invulnerability and is probably the most fair: Heroes die if they fight too aggressively, but engaging the mankai no longer comes at a terrible cost. With the episode’s focus on recovering Mimori, it would seem that Mimori’s old habit of reaching a decision has not changed, and similarly, Yūna is as headstrong as she’s always been. That she succeeds in bringing Mimori back this early in the game suggests that, in conjunction with Yūna being marked for sacrifice, suggests that Hero Chapter is heading in a direction where Yūna will find herself requiring help from her friends, or else see the Hero Club take on a new opponent. Of course, folks with a more substantial background in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will likely have more to add to discussion and correspondingly, a better guess of what’s to happen, but I’m approaching this one from a naïve position. As such, what I will be looking to see, as Hero Chapter continues, is how well the anime stands on its own from a thematic perspective.
Screenshots and Commentary
- That the girls manage to retain some memories of Mimori despite the higher powers modifying them indicate that memory modification is not fully effective even with their god-like capabilities. In Harry Potter, the memory charm shares similar limitations – although quite effective for the most part, Voldemort has defeated a memory charm through use of the Cruciatus curse. Like all of my upcoming talks on Hero Chapter, this post will feature the standard of twenty images.
- Before we proceed any further with my talk on Hero Chapter, I note that I’m not fully caught up with or familiar with all of the supplementary materials out there on Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and as such, I will be basing most of my discussions from purely the perspective of someone who’s only seen the anime. Discussions of Hero Chapter have seen folks begin trying to piece together what the additional materials have stated, and it seems to be a tricky exercise from what I’ve seen so far: even people who have this additional intel don’t seem to have a particular leg up on figuring out what’s what.
- Because I’m hearing what appear to be inconsistencies in the supplementary documentation, going in blind isn’t always a bad thing, and I’m free to draw cleaner conclusions based purely on what I’ve seen in the anime. During the transformation process, Sonoko explains the rules underlying the new mankai system are. Compared to the previous iterations, the one seen in Hero Chapter is more similar to that of a balanced system: Heroes can activate their mankai at will provided they are at full charge, while sustaining damage will deplete their charge. Engaging mankai completely drains their power and leaves them vulnerable to attack.
- Hero Chapter does not detail whether or not energy is regenerated in between battles, but Sonoko notes that this is not possible while the girls are in their Hero modes. Sonoko’s new transformation is seen, and it’s rendered with more detail than those of the other girls’. Of all the transformations, I still maintain that Mimori’s is the most entertaining to watch: all of the others are clean and to the point, with each Hero applying her unique personality to the transformation process.
- Karin’s resemblance to Gin is quite pronounced now that I’ve seen Washio Sumi Chapter, a consequence of her inheriting Gin’s terminal and role. At the start of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, I was not particularly fond of her character – she reminded me of Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Kyōko Sakura in manner, but like Kyōko, I warmed up to Karin over time. It’s quite nice of the anime to provide a single frame with all the heroes, otherwise, I’d likely be forced to use more screenshots (and expend more time in captioning these) to showcase all of the heroes.
- When I saw Urara Meirocho‘s Nono and Nina, I was respectively reminded of Itsuki and Fū. The current description of how the Hero System works provides a set of rules and restrictions that make sense from a balance perspective: Heroes must choose between offensive firepower and defense, as picking the former would almost certainly result in death if one were careless, as mankai would leave the Hero subsequently exposed to enemy attack.
- The second episode of Hero Chapter thus marks the first time in the sequel where the Heroes have transformed and gain access to their familiars, which act as their guardians. Different familiars have different personality traits, but all of them are present to prevent any harm from coming to the Heroes. Here, Fū shares a moment with her familiar, who makes it clear that she’s been missed.
- The Heroes head towards their destination, a wall at the edge of their world, under fantastically blue skies. The weather today was similarly pleasant, and on this first day of December, I stepped out into the cool afternoon to grab a poutine: this variation had Italian sausage, double-smoked bacon, mushrooms and sautéed onions. Mushrooms and onions add a different taste and texture that stand out: they’re excellent as poutine toppings, and it took a bit of eating through the toppings to reach the fries, cheese and gravy below. Hearty and tasty, it was a fine accompaniment to this week’s Hero Chapter episode. It’s proven to be a warm December so far (I say with only a sample size of one day so far).
- The fact that the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero consists of a seemingly normal world protected by a barrier, existing inside a veritable Hell, leads me to cast doubt on the “realness” of their world. In The Matrix, I’ve always wondered how the world works, given that characters only refer to geographical locations as “the City” or “the mountains”, implying that there is only one city or one area with mountains. Citizens remain quite unaware of this fact and go about their everyday lives normally in The Matrix, and it is reasoned that the Machines keep their world in this equilibrium to keep the population under control. The limited world space and a clearly defined edge is one possible indicator that Yūna’s universe is a simulated reality.
- There is a counterargument against whether or not the world as we know it is a simulation: a civilisation would need to be exceptionally advanced in order to simulate a reality. Civilisations would then either have destroyed themselves or have been destroyed before they reach this stage. If they managed to advance to the point where whole-reality simulation is possible, their computational capability would far outstrip anything else that we can fathom, and presumably, they would not direct the resources towards seeing how a simulated civilisation might develop in favour of other pursits. Back in Hero Chapter, Karin compliments Sonoko on her fighting prowess; she’s lost none of her edge and is quite formidable against the Vertex. In this second episode, the Vertex appear as the smaller infection form-like units see towards the end of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Washio Sumi Chapter.
- While the Vertex present a degree of challenge for the Heroes, Sonoko decides to activate her mankai, providing the Heroes with a vessel of sorts that lets them sail towards the “black hole” where Mimori’s signal is emanating from. With this new system, I imagine that team work would very quickly become a necessity for Heroes; some Heroes would immediately engage and rapidly decimate enemy ranks, while other Heroes would provide covering fire for both them and any Heroes they wish to reserve as an ace-in-the-hole. Whether or not we will see this sort of teamwork dynamic in Hero Chapter remains unknown for the present.
- The Heroes’ description of the object where Mimori’s signal is coming from is that of a black hole, and as they close the distance, it is possible to see the resemblance between this structure and Interstellar‘s Gargantua. While Hero Chapter did not have theoretical physicist Kip Thorne on board to provide guidance on what black holes might look like from closer up, physical cosmology is definitely not the focus of things in Hero Chapter and as such, would be counted as being outside the scope of discussion. With this in mind, the “black hole” in Hero Chapter is “similar enough” to Gargantua so that one cannot reasonably say that it is an incorrect depiction.
- After Sonoko brings Yūna close enough to the portal while her friends fend off attacking Vertex, Yūna hops off and falls into the “event horizon”, where tidal forces place a severe strain on her shields, causing them to deplete. Before they completely run out, Yūna manages to cross the event horizon and enters the space where Mimori was seen in the previous episode. She finds herself under assault from an unknown entity (or entities), and shortly after, her spirit separates from her body.
- In this state, Yūna manages to intercept Mimori’s memories, learning about how Mimori’s status allowed her to fulfil the role of both Hero and a shrine maiden who could be sacrificed to save their world. Mimori walks into the decision without consulting with her friends, and it turns out that she made the request to the Shinju directly to remove her friends’ memories of her so that they wouldn’t attempt to save her from her fate.
- Given that Yūna and the others do remember, it seems that even the Shinju has limitations, rather similar to how the Matrix itself was limited by the fact that it was a system built on rules and as such, in the knowledge that the world was not real, rebels could perform superhuman feats. Presumably, Yūna and the others are aware to some extent that their world is a fabrication, allowing them to override some of the rules the Shinji have defined within their world.
- Hero Chapter has so far left me with more questions than answer, and with its run limited to six episodes, there’s not a whole lot of real estate with which to properly explore what the Shinju and Taisha are about. I’m at a crossroads with respect to Hero Chapter: on one hand, the character dynamics have largely been Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s main strength, but on the other, world-building would serve to improve audience understanding on what it is Yūna and the others are fighting for, making it easier to empathise with and root for them.
- On sheer willpower alone, Yūna fights off excruciating pain and manages to pull Mimori from the mirror she’s held in. In doing so, she frees Mimori from her fate and inadvertently takes on this responsibility for herself, visually represented with the dead-looking black crystals fading from Mimori as Yūna’s body is covered in a glowing red light. The mirror-like object shatters and the portal disintegrates, allowing the others to recover both Yūna and Mimori. Presumably, this means that viewers will be able to see Mimori’s transformation sequences once again in all of their glory.
- When Mimori comes to, it’s to the faces of her best friends. Relieved she’s alright, Sonoko explains to Mimori that the breach has been contained, and given the seeming ease in which this particular problem was resolved, the fact that it’s still early in the season means that there will certainly be a new disruption that follows. Perusing other discussions, I’ve heard Yūna is special the same way Reina Kousaka of Hibike! Euphonium is special: more specifically, Yūna is supposed to be this universe’s version of the Avatar, but instead of being able to bend all four elements, these individuals (dubbed “Yūna”) possess the a bit of the god’s powers. What this entails might be seen later in Hero Chapter.
- With the Hero Club reunited in full since Hero Chapter began, Mimori is immensely grateful that everyone managed to remember her, and Fū remarks that each member of the club should share with one another any thoughts or concerns that they might have. Yūna’s mind immediately returns to letting the good times roll, but as the episode draws to a close, Yūna finds that she’s picked up the same curse mark that Mimori had. Some folks are quick to brand Yūna as a hypocrite for supposedly not informing the others of her situation despite having said for the group to share their troubles, but this is evidently a misinterpretation: Yūna only discovers it after she gets home and it was Fū who makes this statement, not Yūna.
- I’m going to hazard a guess and say that this isn’t like the blackened toenail I’ve developed as a consequence of hiking a little too enthusiastically. This brings my talk to a close, and while those same folks making all of their assertions might tell me to git gud (apparently, this phrase all the rage these days and has nothing to do with GIT version control) by reading more, I remark that that’s not happening this weekend. DICE has given players a diabolical challenge for Battlefield 1 players: “get 300 shotgun kills before December 3 ends”. This unlocks the coup coup machete. At the time of writing, I’ve gotten 128 of the required 300, and foresee spending the rest of the weekend trying to get the remaining 172. This means all plans to play The Division and wrapping up Wolfenstein II‘s Übercommander missions will have to be shelved for now.
If Hero Chapter is structured similarly to Washio Sumi Chapter, then the remaining structure of Hero Chapter is reasonably straightforward: the upcoming episode would likely be a bit more lighthearted in nature to begin with, and things would gradually become more serious in the episodes leading up to the finale. This is the nature of the beast in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and while it is likely that world-building is likely to be eschewed in favour of the abrupt swings between gentle everyday life and heart-wrenching moments amidst the chaos and madness of battle. With this being said, Yūki Yūna is a Hero tends to bring characters to the brink before invoking some form of deus ex machina to drive a happy ending: it’s still early to be considering whether or not this route will be taken. In the meantime, it looks like I will have to delve into the supplementary materials to learn more about the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero if I do intend to do a more serious, less irreverent discussion. My lack of knowledge with the actual mechanics in their universe aside, this isn’t likely stopping me from speculating that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set inside a simulated reality like that of The Matrix, or better yet, the Teenyverse as seen in Rick and Morty, which, if we assume to be true, would eliminate all of the complexity surrounding whatever rituals and entities that are present in Yūki Yūna is a Hero.