“‘Mankind.’ That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests…we are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!'” —President Thomas Whitmore, Independence Day
Yūna learns that the Shinju is on the verge of death, which would bring about the demise of all humanity. With her own time coming to an end, Yūna agrees to a complex procedure known as the Shinkon, where she will become married to the Shinju, which would be sufficient to save humanity. When she tries to emphasise doing this to Fū and the others, they vehemently disagree, feeling that there must be another way. Under pressure from her friends and fearing the effects of her curse will impact them, Yūna runs off. Her friends begin searching for her, but encounter their old instructor, a member of the Taisha. She explains the necessity of Yūna’s actions and assign them one final task: to keep a massive enemy at bay while the Shinkon ceremony proceeds. The next episode will be aired during the first Friday of 2018 as the winter holidays are upon us, and the fifth episode in Hero Chapter drives Mimori and the others closer to the edge of their own destruction as Yūna agrees to lay down her own life ostensibly for their world. The rising action has escalated in an unpredictable manner during Hero Chapter, and given the situation this world is in, it goes without saying that designing a logical progression to address this situation would require masterful writing. How things get resolved in Hero Chapter, if at all, remains quite unknown, and it is not outside the realm of possibility where deus ex machina will be applied, or a completely melancholy ending will result.
In this fifth episode, I take a closer look at the Taisha‘s actions and beliefs through the words of instructor Aki, primarily because the Taisha‘s actions are now evidently in contrast with my own. Through Aki’s remarks, the Taisha appear to adhere to the Japanese notion of Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い), which is a phrase corresponding with “it can’t be helped”. It succinctly captures the Japanese spirit and resilience in the face of difficulty: folks will quietly endure hardship, and externally, it is viewed as maintaining a sense of dignity and stoic toughness. Aki’s remarks are similarly thus: the Taisha have (allegedly) explored all options and are resigned to this approach, possibly because it’s the path of least resistance. This stands in stark contrast with Western beliefs of “don’t get mad, get even”. In the face of difficulty, Western culture tends to find a way to overcome difficulty: against adversity, we tend to identify the problem and work out a solution, rather than accepting it. This belief is evident in Western films, where characters will overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in order to stave off extinction or to fight for justice. Such instances include outrageous and often, creative solutions to problems that initially do not appear to be solvable; in the 1997 film Independence Day, Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) and David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) fly a captured alien vessel back into the mothership to destroy it at the film’s climax, after Levinson is inspired by a virus as a means of taking the aliens out during a point in the movie when the aliens appear to have been all but victorious. By Western values, the Taisha are seen as complacent weaklings who would let young women die for the Greater Good; since it’s not shown as to whether or not the Taisha have indeed exhausted all options, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the Taisha are simply picking the easiest solution towards their problem; Mimori and the others would definitely be justified in their mistrust and dislike of the Taisha if this is the case.
Screenshot and Commentary
- The opening of episode five nearly explains the marriage that was brought up during the episode’s preview, and some specifics surrounding the mechanics. Unlike last week’s episode, episode five does not hit with any of the same emotional impact, and chooses to focus on Yūna making a decision. A recurring secondary theme in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is whether or not decisions should be made based on one’s own experiences and reasoning, or whether or not they should be made in conjunction with external feedback. In medicine, this particular element is known as consent, and typically, laws are such that consent can be given if the individual is in a capacity to make that decision such that they are aware of the consequences and risks associated with their choice.
- Yūna’s case is actually a bit of an interesting one: while she is under emotional duress and worried about her friends, Yūna is nonetheless sound of mind. For the present, we will ignore a central part to consent: that minors usually cannot give consent without their parents’ approval. After Yūna hears of the Taisha representative’s information, she remarks that she’ll need some time to think on them.
- From the dialogue, Yūna’s parents have given their approval to her for making whatever decision that she feels is best. With things worsening, Yūna begins to believe that the Shinkon is probably the only way for her; she wonders if it will spare her a painful death at the hands of the curse, and ultimately decides that she should run things by her friends so that they are in the know about what her intended actions are.
- The artwork and landscapes in Yūki Yūna is a Hero have always been of a reasonably high but otherwise unremarkable standard, but here, when Yūna climbs to the top of a nearby hill and realises how beautiful her world is, she is overcome with emotion when she sees her town shortly prior to dawn. The absence of warm colours associated with sunrise give the landscape a colder, distant feeling.
- Discussions elsewhere on Yūki Yūna is a Hero have previously emphasised that Yūna’s decisions are driven by emotion and lack any rational basis, which in turn undermines the anime’s themes. My counterargument for this is that, given Yūna’s and her friends’ ages, it is an unreasonable demand to expect that the girls approach problems as adults would, especially considering the development of the frontal lobe is still in progress at the age of fourteen.
- By comparison, viewers are at least in their twenties or so and should have a mature frontal lobe for decision-making. Consequently, I expect discussions on this anime to at least have some semblence of logic and reasoning, as opposed to people acting on their emotions when they see what’s going down. This is the reason why I’m much more tolerant, even accepting of Yūna’s actions: her situation is doubtlessly a difficult one, and I appreciate that there’s no easy decision to be made.
- This episode of Hero Chapter is one of those few moments where Fū openly reprimands Yūna. Her friends are trying encourage her to think her choice through, but in Yūna’s voice, audiences hear a sense of desperation that has gripped her. It’s only been recently that I’ve begun paying closer attention to visuals and aural aspects of a scene; far more than specific choices of words, the way things look and sound go a long way in conveying an idea. This is especially useful for folks like myself: while I don’t have anywhere near enough familiarity with Japanese to differentiate what a particular choice of words mean, there are some things that are universal and can be just as effective in quickly assessing a situation.
- Clever use of spatial organisation in this scene allows viewers to visually pick up on the mood in the Hero clubroom and even foreshadows what might happen in the finale: notice the directions in which the characters are facing. Everyone is facing Yūna, who has her back to a door. It can be said that everyone is united against Yūna’s choice to sacrifice herself for the Shinkon, and Yūna herself is backed into a corner. The close placement of effects in the Hero Club room within this scene similarly gives a caustrophobic feeling, as though Yūna’s options are closing in on her, leaving no way out.
- Yūna and Fū’s shouting match frustrates Itsuki, who wonders why things are this way. It’s a quiet lull in the Hero Club room, and when Yūna tries to speak once more, the visions of each of the Hero Club’s members bearing her Mark of Shame returns in full force. However, given that everyone’s still seemingly unharmed despite having learned of Yūna’s condition, it seems that it’s largely Yūna’s own fears driving her actions at this point. I stress that this perspective can only be taken because as the audiences, we are privy to the characters’ thoughts and do not have the same emotional burden as they would.
- Terrified, Yūna runs off, with her friends taking up the pursuit moments too late; they’ve lost track of her signal. Karin wonders if there’s even a solution for when things have devolved to this state, but receives no answers.
- Mimori decides to use their smartphones to lock onto Yūna’s signal, which is originating from the Yūki residence. However, when they arrive, they find Yūna’s phone here, along with her journal. Opening it, Mimori and Sonoko open it to find a new entry, in which Yūna states that she’s going to go through with the Shinkon ceremony. Sonoko’s phone rings, and it’s the Taisha summoning all of the Heroes to the seaside memorial.
- After arriving, the girls run into Aki. Only her surname is given, and some folks have speculated that she’s the descendant of another Hero. I did not list her name during my Washio Sumi Chapter discussions, and here, I note that she’s voiced by Rina Satou, whose repertoire is extensive and includes Brave Witches‘ Gundula Rall. I recall that at this spot, folks were finding the blank tombstone to be an ominous sign, but it’s equally likely that it was either an animation mistake or what is colloquially known as a “red herring”, an element that serves to mislead or distract audiences.
- While Sonoko and the others voice their discontent towards Aki, Yūna begins preparing for the Shinkon ceremony. The fifth episode of Hero Chapter is largely exposition-driven, and much of it is spent in conversation as plot-sensitive elements are explained to the characters and audience. As such, screenshot distribution inside this post is a little skewed. In the review for the finale, I will have a review of thirty screenshots to cover everything. It is conceivable that the finale could be longer than twenty minutes, especially given what’s occurred within this episode.
- One of the things that I missed in the original Yūki Yūna is a Hero is that Taisha are an organisation with a physical location: I was wondering how Fū was planning on assaulting them, but it seems that they really are just the middle-men in the grand scheme of things. Fū and Mimori both seemed on the edge of doing just that this episode, but mid-conversation, the Heroes’ phones go off when a massive entity appears in their vicinity, but their phones suddenly short out. The skies begin darkening, and the very fabric of reality itself seems to be burning.
- Unless I’m mistaken, Yūna is preparing for her Shinkon ceremony at the same spot where the previous-generation Heroes were upgraded to the new Hero System. Looking more closely, one does wonder what kind of a world would be forced to expend the lives of young women in the name of our species: we’ve not seen any sort of professional armed forces with emotionally-mature individuals ready to step into harm’s way for the people.
- The inconsistencies and missing pieces in the world making up Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if the author had spent any time properly designing the world as J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkein had theirs. World-building is essential in creating a well-characterised, consistent set of rules that ensures narrative elements can occur in a plausible manner as specified by the aforementioned rules. For instance, there are rules J.R.R. Tolkien built into Middle Earth and Arda so that no Maiar could directly intervene during the War of The Ring. When no such rules exist, consistency evaporates, allowing characters to break or forcing characters to follow rules as the plot demands.
- The reason why there are so many Independence Day references in this post is primarily because of both my thoughts on the Taisha‘s attitudes towards things, as well as for the fact that the approaching enemy resembles the City Destroyers, twenty-five kilometre wide flying saucers the Harvester aliens used to wipe out major population centres. For their formidable size and defensive shields, in Independence Day, a single well-placed missile at a City Destroyer’s while it was charging its primary weapon was sufficient to cause a chain reaction that destroyed the entire vessel, and considering their destructive power to size ratio, I’d say that the ISDs from Star Wars are easily more powerful: a small group of ISDs could reduce the entire surface of an Earth-sized planet to a molten slag with the base-delta-zero bombardment.
- With their phones offline, and faced with an enemy unlike the Vertex seen previously, it remains to be seen as to how Mimori and the others handle their new adversary: Aki remarks that their goal is to hold it back rather than defeat it, suggesting that this enemy is of a caliber far beyond anything we’ve seen previously. If there is to be a battle next episode, it will answer whether or not the Heroes’ Mankai gauges recharge between battles.
- This weekend, DICE has offered a super-rare skin for anyone who completes the community mission requirements of scoring two hundred pistol kills. While the skin itself looks nice, my weekend is quite busy: besides tonight’s hockey game, I’m going to check out Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi tomorrow, followed by a family Christmas dinner. My plans for this Christmas are simply to rest and relax, in the company of a good book: in light of how busy things have been, I’m most looking forwards to having quiet time to myself.
- In last week’s post, I mentioned that this talk for the fifth episode might be delayed since I was attending tonight’s Flames game against the Montreal Canadiens, but I was given a half-day off, so I went home after submitting the last of my files to the App Store and promptly settled in to watch this episode. With due respect, the timing of this episode and the fact that an Independence Day-level assault occurs means that the wait for the finale could seem quite lengthy, but this time will disappear in the blink of an eye. This is definitely the fastest I’ve ever put out a Hero Chapter talk, and with this done, it’s time to see whether or not the Flames can extend their win streak to three.
The solution proposed in Hero Chapter is dubbed the Shinkon; once Yūna marries the Shinju, it will initiate a restart and save all of humanity. It brings to mind the workings of The Matrix, where every so often, The One must return to the Source and allow the Matrix itself to reboot in order to save humanity. Neo ultimately chose to save Trinity and put the human species at risk, but ultimately sacrified himself in a titanic battle with Agent Smith to save both Trinity and humanity. Yūna’s decision in Hero Chapter would then be akin to Neo simply choose to return to the Source, killing himself and rebooting the system to save humankind. However, there is a caveat: while I’m not familiar enough with the workings of Yūki Yūna is a Hero to say for certain, it feels that the Shinkon ceremony could go either way. Killing Yūna and the rest of the world is a very real threat, and there’s no guarantee that Yūna’s decision is necessarily the right one. Similarly, audiences would have been forced to take the Architect’s words that there were five iterations of the Matrix prior to the one that Neo inhabits. If The Matrix indeed can be used to set precedence for what is unfolding in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, then the likely outcome would have to be that Yūna herself dies in the end after her friends successfully repel an assault from the Independence Day-like vessel that’s appeared, although this time, the sacrifice would not have been in vain. Whether or not this is the case will be something that audiences will have to wait two weeks for — the finale is scheduled for the first Friday of January 2018.