“It was space aliens, man!” –Norman “Super Spesh” Caldwell, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
With Christmas approaching, Yūna spends time with her fellow Hero Club members, watching as Fū as she studies for her exams. However, she remains troubled by her being made to bear the Mantle, and considers telling her friends, recalling the Hero Club’s fourth tenant. However, she finds herself unable to do so when she experiences a vision of the Hero Club’s members bearing the same markings as she did. Later, she tries to tell Fū, but when the phenomenon manifests again, Yūna falters. When returning home with Itsuki, Fū is hit by a vehicle and hospitalised. Yūna surmises that there’s a mechanism in play that prevents her from talking to anyone about her Mantle. Hearing Itsuki’s conversation about being with Fū and the others’ support leads Yūna to run away from home to keep her friends from worrying about her. In this week’s episode, Yūna’s response to bearing the Mantle forms the primary focus, with emphasis on how she tends to deal with her issues when on her own. Circumstances outside of her control, however, forces Yūna into a difficult position, and it is quickly shown that whatever forces are driving the world are not to be trifled with.
While normally a fierce proponent of the Hero Club’s tenants, which includes that each member should not bear burdens alone and support one another through communication, Yūna’s been backed into a corner. On one hand, she wants to tell her friends about this mark; despite difficulties in summoning the courage to do so, she tries to do so with the goal of both upholding her beliefs, as well as out of fairness to her friends. However, when misfortune befalls Fū, Yūna realises that upholding the Hero tenants might cause harm to her friends. As one of Yūna’s defining traits is an imperturbable desire to protect her friends, Yūna’s decision to run off follows from her beliefs. While easily appearing uncalculated, made off emotions on the spur of the moment to be certain, Yūna’s decision also reflects on her unwavering devotion to those she cares about. She’s backed into a difficult corner now, and consequently, is distressed, hence her choices. I remark here that this isn’t an unreasonable way of thinking. For example, I operate similarly, preferring to shoulder problems alone because I do not wish for my burdens to become someone else’s problems. However, what is relevant to the long game isn’t whether or not Yūna’s decision was a mature one, but rather, how she might mature as a response to her friends’ wishes or as the situation changes. People can and will mature over time: on my end, I will confide my problems in others if letting others know allow said problem to be solved more effectively.
Screenshots and Commentary
- We’re now a week into December, and this means that Christmas lights are beginning to pop up everywhere. Things are beginning to feel a bit festive, although the weather’s been rather warmer than usual. While driving home from work, I was listening to a radio programme about the weather, and they were interviewing an agriculture specialist, who mentioned that for soil moisture, the spring is a bit more important. However, the impact of warmer winters can be felt, and I’m not so keen on insects surviving a mild winter.
- Karin mounts the star onto the top of their Christmas tree in the Hero Club’s clubroom – the star at the top is meant to symbolise the star that the Three Wise Men saw over the location of Jesus’ birth. Angels and færie ornaments can stand in for the star. A family tradition of mine is that the star is mounted after all of the other ornaments and lights have been affixed to the tree, and ever since we bought an ornament with LED lights inside, unlit tree toppers look rather dull.
- Even as the Christmas season nears, Fū remains deep in her studies as she works towards getting into a high school of her choice to make up for lost time. The last time I was this focussed on academics so close to Christmas was during my third undergraduate year: in the years following, I did not have any major finals of note during the fall term, spending most of my time on papers and projects instead. Sonoko quickly looks through Fū’s practise materials and finds that she’s scored perfect.
- One of the things that took me some getting used to was that in Japan, circles (marujirushi) are used to denote correct answers, and check marks indicate incorrect answers. Thus, when I got my first-ever Japanese quiz back during my introductory Japanese course, I wondered why I missed every question except one: when I was learning written Chinese, circles are for incorrect answers.
- After Mimori attempts to commit suicide out of guilt for interrupting Fū’s studies because of the Interstellar incident, she attempts to commit seppuku with a box opener, but her friends promptly stop her. Mimori’s return is a subtle one, and while it’s great to have her back, her presence isn’t particularly visible, especially now that Sonoko is an active member of the Hero Club. It suddenly strikes me that Ema Yasuhara of Shirobako greatly resembles Mimori.
- In the weeks upcoming, Fū plans to attend Itsuki’s performance. Voiced by Tomoyo Kurosawa of Hibiki! Euphonium‘s Kumiko Oumae fame, Itsuki’s singing voice is remarkably cathartic, and she has since become more confident since the first season with her singing prowess. In Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Itsuki sounds nothing like Kumiko, who speaks with a more earnest and hesitant voice reminiscent of Akari Shinohara’s voice, attesting to Kurosawa’s skill. With this in mind, Kurosawa hasn’t appeared in very many anime.
- Karin’s fond of unusual supplements and attempts pushing some on Itsuki, who grows a bit nervous when the others ask her to remain in good health. I believe that close to this time last year, I developed a cold and unintentionally took out the entire office when I got sick: the colder weather affects the respiratory system and weakens the immune system. In addition, winter weather drives people into closer proximity to one another, allowing pathogens to propagate more rapidly. Health supplements can have a positive impact on health, but their intake must be regulated, as they can have contraindicative effects.
- Mid-proceedings, Yūna spaces out, and this does not go unnoticed: befitting of the Club president, Fū is remarkably perceptive and asks Yūna what’s wrong. Sonoko and Mimori, their efforts concentrated on Itsuki moments earlier, begin focussing their efforts on Yūna. While done primarily for comedy, these moments serve to remind audiences that Yūna is feeling at unease ever since the black curse mark appeared on her body. While I’ve seen it referred to as “duty” or counted as a “curse”, I’m going to call it a Mantle after Halo‘s Mantle of Responsibility.
- The story of how Halo‘s Mantle came to be will be left as an exercise for another time; back in Hero Chapter, Yūna finds herself compelled to share with the others the fact that she’s been marked with the Mantle, and despite her hesitation, her commitment to the Hero Club’s tenants means she begins to try and articulate her concerns. However, Yūna begins having difficulty coherently explaining her situation, and she ultimately botches things, presenting a riddle of sorts with neither head or tail.
- Later during the evening, Yūna watches a conversation unfolding with her friends surrounding Christmas, with Mimori complaining about its foreign nature. A nationalist through and through, Mimori embodies all things Japanese, and being from Canada, I’m quite unaccustomed to nationalism as seen elsewhere in the world – for me, nationalism in Canada is a respect for multiculturalism. While her friends are engaged in talk, Yūna feels that it’s quite unnecessary and unfair for her to trouble them with her concerns.
- While Yūna’s concern for those around her is admirable, she also stands to trouble them a great deal by withholding her situation. Whether or not one should be open about their troubles is largely a situation-dependent decision; my own experience suggest that the best choice is determined by the the severity of the situation and the costs of inaction against action. In other words, if I feel that I can have a situation under control, I will not likely mention it to others and solve it myself: it is my responsibility to take care of that situation. However, if my situation may negatively impact others if I attempt to handle it myself, then I will share my concerns so that a solution may be worked out for the benefit of the group.
- Yūna’s friends each reveal that minor misfortune has befallen them: Mimori’s power went out, Karin’s noticed that the heater’s gone cold, Itsuki accidentally left her keys at home, leaving her and Fū locked out, and Sonoko burned herself on the kettle. Yūna begins wondering if her act of trying to let the others know might have influenced this turn of events, her mind flashing back to a vision of the others bearing the same markings that she’s got. On the topic of misfortune, I’ve picked up Anne Happy! and have made my way through nine episodes since Monday.
- Later, Yūna tries to let Fū know what’s really on her mind, but stumbles again when she sees Fū with the same symbol. Fū’s intuition is off here, and while she’s likely spot on that Mimori will likely become a green-eyed monster if Yūna should ever enter a relationship with anyone, she’s unable to spot that Yūna’s not being entirely truthful. The presentation of imagery suggests that an external force, possibly the shinju, is acting on her, rather than entirely on internal reservations on Yūna’s part.
- While discussing their plans for the upcoming week, during which Fū’s anticipation for Itsuki’s performance is quite tangible, a rogue vehicle appears and injures Fū. It’s a sudden turn of events that was earlier foreshadowed by the mishaps everyone experienced after Yūna attempted to tell them, and since she came closer to telling Fū than anyone else, it seems that Fū’s punishment was more severe. That the Shinju can be this precise in dealing out judgement further reinforces the idea that Yūki Yūna might be set in a simulated reality or another dimension.
- This motivates the page quote, sourced from one of the most hilarious lines in all of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus from my favourite character. Space aliens and simulated reality could likely provide a satisfactory account of why Yūna’s world is the way it is. Of course, as I am counted as somewhat of a heretic amongst folks who are more familiar with Yūki Yūna, I doubt this particular brand of speculation will gain too much momentum. When Yūna learns of Fū’s accident, she is devastated, and her theory is seemingly confirmed: more so than conflicts within her own beliefs, Yūna feels that she’s now got no one to share her problems with.
- Despite her injuries, Fū seems to be in fine spirits and is concerned with missing important events during this time of year more than anything. Upon leaving the hospital, Karin and Mimori share an emotionally charged conversation; Mimori has gone postal before when faced with extreme situations before, and I wouldn’t put it past writers to have her go ballistic if her friends are injured.
- The interactions between Fū and Itsuki greatly mirror those of Nina and Nono from Urara Meirocho; the sisters share a conversation where Itsuki promises to look after Fū, and later, Karin, Mimori and Sonoko make to visit Fū decked out in Christmas hats to bring a little bit of the festive cheer to Fū. Yūna is absent and missed; she had overhears Fū and Itsuki’s conversation earlier and became overcome with emotion. Sonoko later finds an indicator that Yūna was there.
- While Yūna struggles to deal with her internal conflicts, a representative of the Taisha appears at her residence. The sudden turn of events have left some viewers unable to pass judgement with the same decisiveness as they did previously, and I remark that, had Yūna really been the kind of character that some folks have counted her as, then the entire series would have been more appropriately called Yūki Yūna is an Asshole. This clearly isn’t the case, so another solution will need to be worked out, and in the meantime, I’m curious to see just how close or off the mark speculation is going to be.
- If there’s one aspect in Yūki Yūna is a Hero that I’m sure all audience members can agree on, it’s likely that the facial expressions in this series take things to an entirely new level of existence. While running out in the cold, Yūna trips, falls into the snow and finally is overtaken with emotion. Her sobs are heart-wrenchingly painful to hear, mirroring the extent of the conflict within her. While conversations largely suggest that Yūna’s between a rock and a hard place now, I think that there’s one more option to explore before all hope fades: that Taisha representative who’s come to call at the Yūki residence.
- Unexpected in many ways, the third episode ups the ante, and I’m rather curious to see how the narrative will proceed now. This brings my third episode post to an end, and since DICE’s idea of a challenge this week is to get a hundred vehicle kills for a super-rare tank skin, I think I’m going to sit this one out. Instead, I’ll be aiming to get my Christmas shopping done this weekend, and then look forwards to a Christmas break that’s one part festive and one part quiet (provided that my Hero Chapter posts haven’t been so sacrilegious that people will write me hate mail).
We’ve crossed the halfway point for Hero Chapter at this point, and the condensed timeframe means that Hero Chapter has dispensed largely with the cathartic slice-of-life elements in favour of moments fraught with emotions. This particular aspect seems to work against Hero Chapter, since some progression is made to occur much more rapidly, giving audiences less time to take in what’s occurring. In other words, folks will feel that things are becoming a bit more forceful than natural. With this being said, it is apparent that Hero Chapter‘s focus will be on the characters’ journeys, especially that of Yūna’s, rather than any world-building related elements. This is not unexpected, given the series’ focus on character building in its stead, and given this is Hero Chapter‘s direction, my expectations as we advance beyond the halfway point for Hero Chapter is that whatever tribulations await Yūna and the others, the destination that is reached should be consistent with the path they’ve tread on so far. This is to say, if Yūna and the others are doomed to suffer, then this path must be evident in the upcoming episodes and should not come out of the blue, and similarly, if Yūna and her friends are to be graced with a happy ending, then they must have earned it to some capacity through their actions, rather than exploiting any loopholes in their teenyverse (alternatively, microverse or miniverse).