“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” –Antonio Brown
After stopping the world from being consumed by shadow and flame, Yūna and her friends resume their lives with the Hero Club and participate in helping out around town with things ranging from playing in a band, to substituting for another team in an airsoft competition. While it appears as though peace has finally been attained, Mimori and Sonoko speak on how they’d forgotten about Gin despite their promise. Later, the Taisha reach out to Mimori with another request, leaving her shocked that there remains something to do: it turns out that a special task force, called the Sentinels, are in trouble: two years earlier, Mebuki Kusunoki and Yumiko Miroku were recruited for training, but ultimately, Karin was selected to be a Hero. The other candidates ended up being assigned to the Sentinels, whose assignment is to explore the world outside the barrier and participate in restoring the universe to its former state. During their first assignment, the task force comes under attack from the Stardust, and although they repel this, several Sentinels are overwhelmed and quit their posts, leaving the group short-handed. Mebuki ends up befriending a miko, Aya Kokudo, in the process, but is dismayed to learn that Aya is to be offered as a human sacrifice to appease the Shinju. Adding insult to injury, the sapling they’d planted to restore the world must now be retrieved, as the Shinju appears to be dying, leading Mebuki to conclude that the Sentinels were expendable. Here at the third season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, three episodes show that an new storyline is being adapted into the animated form, dealing with the aftermath of Yūna’s deeds at the end of Hero Chapter: The Great Mankai Chapter indicates that although the threat to their world has abated for now, this world a shadow of its old form, and there is a desire to bring back what was, even if it means sacrificing the lives of youth to achieve this end.
Despite this being denoted as a Yūki Yūna is a Hero series, The Great Mankai Chapter‘s first three episodes have spent a considerably amount of time on Mebuki and the Sentinels so far, as they set about trying to lay down the groundwork for rebuilding their world. The shift in focus suggests that Yūna and her team will likely become a part of helping the Sentinels accomplish their assignment without any further casualties, and perhaps help Mebuki to understand that Hero or not, people can still make a difference regardless of their station. This has been something that was very prevalent in The Great Mankai Chapter; Mebuki is very stubborn and single-minded in her approach to things, and while she is a dedicated leader devoted to whatever task she’s assigned, she also holds both herself, and those around her, to almost unreasonable standards. These traits could be why she was never selected for a Hero, and much as how it took Karin some time to adjust to life with Yūna and the Hero Club, I imagine that a major part of The Great Mankai Chapter will deal with getting Mebuki to understand that teamwork is essential in any endeavour, especially one as complex and daunting as forging into unknown territories and attempting to revive the gods’ power so they can return their world to its original glory. At least, this is the direction that appears likely given what we’ve seen of The Great Mankai Chapter thus far: one of the aspects about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that I’ve always enjoyed is how the series pulls no punches and can always find ways to surprise viewers. While The Great Mankai Chapter is, strictly speaking, not a necessary continuation, I’m always game for more Yūki Yūna is a Hero because it could roll back the curtain on the the mysteries enveloping the world that Yūna and the others live in.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The last time I wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was for the spin-of, Churutto, an endearing and lighthearted jaunt about the desire to craft the perfect bowl of Hero Udon, but the last time anything to do with Yūki Yūna is a Hero proper would’ve been early 2018, when I finished writing about Hero Chapter. While answering some questions I had about Yūna’s situation and resolving the problems the Heroes had been afflicted with, the series also left much unexplored, especially with respect to world-building.
- Generally speaking, Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s strong suit lies with its characters and their experiences, but where the series falls short is exposition and development of the world Yūna and her friends live in. What I do know of their world is derived from supplementary materials, which are similar what was seen in the J.R.R. Tolkien legendarium: after the world was created, there was a clash between two factions of deities, and the Shinju, the gods sympathetic to humanity, banded together and gave humans the means to resist the Vertex. It turns out that the Vertex were created by the faction hostile to humanity. At the end of Hero Chapter, the remaining gods granted Yūna the power destroy the flames threatening the human world and perished.
- From this, it sounds like the world’s in an even worse state than it had been before, since the gods hostile to humanity still exist. However, out of the gates, The Great Mankai Chapter opens with the heroes partying it up and living life to the fullest; nothing seems amiss, and the Hero Club is back to doing what they do best. The events of The Great Mankai Chapter are set after the events of Hero Chapter, and while Fū’s presence threw more than a few viewers off, one can suppose that the events of The Great Mankai Chapter take place perhaps only a few weeks after Hero Chapter. Here, she tucks into a plate so vast, Karin remarks that it’s unbefitting of her.
- The easy-go-lucky events of The Great Mankai Chapter are intended to re-establish the sort of things that the Hero Club would typically do. Here, the Hero Club participates in an airsoft match against another team after the original team they were slated to play was unable to make it. Although they are initially out-played, the moment that Yūna is “downed”, Mimori goes ballistic and single-handedly causes enough destruction to allow the Hero Club to scrape a win, all the while creating a few good laughs.
- While on a camping trip together, Karin is shocked to see that Sonoko brought a self-erecting tent, while the others had brought traditional tents so they could experience camping properly. Of everyone, Karin seems to get the most blank white eyes in response to the antics the Hero Club pull; while she’s an all-serious Hero utterly devoted to her duty, and was initially reluctant to work as a team with the others, the events of the first season and Hero Chapter changed things. Karin might not enjoy the various misadventures as much as the others, but she’s happy to be present all the same.
- The sum of the events in the first episode led some fans to create faux posters suggesting that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is K-On!, Sabagebu! and Yuru Camp△ rolled into one. This was fairly amusing, and Here, Sonoko and Yūna become unexpectedly excited when Karin brings out meat to grill for their camping dinner. By this point in time, Sonoko has become an integral part of the Hero Club – she gets on very well with the others and matches Yūna’s vibes quite closely at times.
- While the others prepare to turn in, Fū can be seen with her face in a mathematics textbook; while she’s very much fond of club activities, she’s also doing her best to prepare for the future. Hero Chapter indicated that Fū had intended Itsuki to succeed her as the club president to help her build confidence, although since graduation has yet to come, Fū is still running the Hero Club.
- Signifying their friendship, the Hero Club takes a group photo together by sunset. It turns out that they also have a website of sorts, where they upload the club activities’ photographs and recollections. Yūki Yūna is a Hero has enough going for it so that the series could be carried by the Hero Club going around town and doing various good deeds for the community, but that wouldn’t be in the series’ spirit: the sharp contrast between the characters’ everyday lives and the horrors they face in combat exist to create a sense of how perilous their world’s situation is.
- While Yūna is in fine spirits now, Mimori finds herself a little disheartened: as a part of the costs incurred for using the Mankai System, she’d lost her memories of Gin Minowa, the previous Hero she’d fought alongside. I’d been quite fond of Gin, since she was confident and capable. I am a little surprised that there is very little being said about The Great Mankai Chapter: for Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter, the series was discussed with great fervour amongst the anime community, and like Madoka Magica, was also the subject of quite a bit of speculation.
- These days, it appears that interest in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is lessened, although I suppose I could count this a blessing that giants like Random Curiosity are not covering this series. Of late, it feels like their quality has declined (most evidently, with their coverage of The Aquatope on White Sand, which now consists of little more than lambasting Tetsuji Suwa). If that is what readers are getting, then it is better that The Great Mankai Chapter isn’t being subject to the same treatment: here, Mimori outright asks the Taisha why they’ve come to pull her back into service despite the sacrifices they’d made earlier, implying that the events of Hero Chapter had already occurred for her here.
- The second episode introduces Mebuki Kusunoki, a Hero candidate who was fiercely devoted to the role: her father had stated that the biggest goal in life is to make something of oneself, and to never be complicit in being used as a stepping stone for others. To this end, Mebuki is cold, distant and sure of her own ability to a fault: she is unable to recognise that there could be anyone more worthy of the Hero position than herself, and during training sessions, shows her fellow candidates absolutely no mercy.
- Here, Mebuki speaks to another trainee, Yumiko Miroku, who comes from a family that fell from grace. In spite of this, she acts in a haughty manner and attempts to maintain the façade befitting of an ojou-sama. After being handily defeated in a training exercise, Yumiko declares herself Mebuki’s rival, but also ends up hanging out with her more. For Mebuki, the only other person in their group of note is Karin: while Mebuki appears to have better performance overall, she lacks the sort of compassion that Karin exhibits.
- During one exercise, Karin demonstrates that she’s still kind to her fellow trainees, and after besting one during a bout, offers to help her get back up. In the end, this is the gap between Mebuki and Karin: while Karin is very focused on her duties, she cares for those around her and indicates that when the moment comes down to it, she would likely choose to save a team member over completing the mission. Conversely, Mebuki initially appears to be the person who might sacrifice her team to complete the mission, even if she’s the only person standing.
- Unsurprisingly, when Karin is chosen to be the next Hero, Mebuki goes ballistic and makes a bit of a scene during the announcement, leading her to be dragged away, showing that she lacks the tact to lose gracefully. In the aftermath, Karin resolves to do what she can to fulfil her duties, leading her to join the Hero Club, and the remainder of the candidates are reassigned as “Sentinels”. These Sentinels are completely unrelated to the autonomous Forerunner constructs of Halo, the warrior caste of DOOM‘s Argent D’Nur or the squid-like robots in The Matrix: instead, the Sentinels (防人, Hepburn sakamori) are individuals who are tasked with exploring the world outside the barrier.
- Outside of the barrier, Sentinels are responsible for exploration and data collection: while the Heroes had eliminated the Vertex, the assignment remains a dangerous one, and the Taisha gather everyone at what is equivalent to Utazu’s Play Park Gold Tower, an observation tower that was built in 1988 that has a height of 158 metres. It is part of a play-park that features arcades and bowling for children. In The Great Mankai Chapter, Play Park Gold Tower is used as the Sentinel’s base of operations and act as a nexus point to the barrier.
- Even with the risks of their assignments, The Great Mankai Chapter still finds time to portray Yumiko with an expression of shock after learning that Mebuki had forgotten about her in the time that’d passed. For better or worse, this happens to me more often than I’d like – I occasionally run into people I were classmates with or mentored as a TA, and while they immediately recall who I am, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to extend them that same courtesy. The moment causes Yumiko to lose all composure, creating a bit of humour among a group of characters that has, insofar, not given viewers much to smile about.
- It turns out that the Sentinels are to perform something called the Kunizukuri (国譲り), named after the mythological event in Japanese pre-history in which the lands of Japan were passed from the Earthly Gods to the Heavenly Gods, and eventually, the Imperial House. In the original version of the story, the Heavenly Gods desired to take control of Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni (Japan) after deciding the land to have grown corrupted, and sent their sons to investigate. These missions were met with failure, until Ōkuninushi finally allowed two messengers to take control of the land. After Ōkuninushi retreats, the messengers smash all resistance on Earth and return to the heavens to report that their mission is completed.
- Like the original myth, the Kunizukuri in The Great Mankai Chapter is portrayed as a forceful transfer of power: the Sentinels are equipped with a combat suit that protects against the flames that linger outside the barrier, and the Sentinels themselves are armed. Sentinels with reduced combat ability are equipped with large shields to defend the ships and other Sentinels. Sentinels with modest combat abilities take on a long-range rifle that can double as a melee weapon, while the highest-ranking Sentinels lead the others and sport a distinct visor with wings on the side to denote their rank.
- While the world outside the barrier is quiet, it is populated by the Stardust, the most basic form of the Vertex. These blob-like entities do not possess any cognitive functions, but they can combine to form more deadly Vertex: the Stardust can be thought of as the Flood’s infection form. Both are individually weak and use their numbers to overwhelm foes, but can combine. By the events of The Great Mankai Chapter, the Stardust do not combine on the first of the Sentinel’s expeditions, but speaking to the incredible power that Heroes possess, the Sentinels are only able to escape their first encounter.
- Here, two other Sentinels can be seen alongside Yumiko (far right): to the left is Shizuku Yamabushi, who has a troubled background and developed two personalities as a coping mechanism (like Gundam 00‘s Hallelujah, she becomes violent and unpredictable when a fight begins, but otherwise, is quiet and reserved), and in the centre is Suzume Kagajō, a low-ranking Sentinel who fears combat and would rather be anywhere but the mission. The ferocity of combat reduces her to a squeaky puddle, and here, she’s reacting to having survived the group’s first fight.
- By the third episode, the Mebuki’s group is established: from Mebuki (lower left) in a clockwise direction, we’ve got Aya, Yamabushi, Suzume, and Yumiko. While differing greatly in combat ability and disposition, this group begins to unify as a result of their duties together. I believe that The Great Mankai Chapter would be an adaptation of Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero: this was a light novel that was released in 2017 and formed the basis for the claims that The Great Mankai Chapter is an interquel, since the story is set between the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter.
- Assuming the animated adaptation is largely faithful to the original, then, what Mebuki and her team will experience here in The Great Mankai Chapter will likely lead everyone to a path where they fight alongside Yūna’s group at some point. Mebuki’s team knows of Yūna and the Hero Club: suspicious of things, Suzume ended up tailing the group on one of their outings to see what was going on, had her cover blown and ended up being invited over to tea. Since Mimori still has her wheelchair here, the events here are plainly set during Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season.
- Because moments like these occurred with a nontrivial frequency, it is a little difficult to take the combat in Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero seriously: subsequent excursions outside of the barrier and the encounters with the Stardust leaves Suzume in tears. Granted, the Stardust are an intimidating-looking foe whose teeth appear to be quite lethal, and moreover, they have the advantage in numbers. Against such foes, cluster munitions would be effective, but lore states that the Vertex are largely unaffected by human weapons. When they first appeared, the JMSDF were soundly defeated, with 127 mm rounds and even cruise missiles failing to turn the tide.
- The second encounter ends up being a disaster for the team; they’d been sent out to plant a seedling for the Shinju, and this time around, are accompanied by miko Aya, whose role is to carry out the rituals needed to set in motion the world’s restoration. While the ritual appears to have gone well enough, the Sentinels come under attack, and in the aftermath, although there are no casualties thanks to Mebuki’s leadership, Sentinels begin quitting en masse after feeling that the task is overwhelming.
- However, there was one positive to come out of this second excursion past the barrier – the remaining members on Mebuki’s team come to bond with one another more closely, and while Mebuki recuperates, the others end up creating a sort of charm that reminds her of how close everyone’s become. Difficult moments often bring people together, and it felt like at this point in The Great Mankai Chapter, Mebuki’s finally gotten her team together.
- In particular, Aya ends up being the first to really break the ice and befriend Mebuki – when they’ve got some time off, Aya decides to hang out with her, and it is here that viewers get a glimpse of the sort of person that Mebuki really is, when the moment has no immediate obligations or duties to fulfill – it turns out that she’s actually quite like Mimori in personality, and never does anything halfway, whether it be the work or recreation.
- Like Mimori, Mebuki has a particular fondness for all things Japan; when Aya asks where Mebuki would like to go first, they end up hitting a hobby shop. Mebuki is a big fan of Japanese castles and also enjoys building military models. After this stop, the pair head of a home hardware shop. Because The Great Mankai Chapter presented Mebuki as a bit of a hardass, seeing this side of her is important to remind viewers that like Karin and the other members of the Hero Club, at the end of the day, Heroes and Hero candidates are human.
- Unfortunately for Mebuki and viewers, because of Aya’s duties as a miko, she’s later offered up as a human sacrifice with the hopes of slowing the flames while the Taisha and Sentinels retrieve the sapling they’d planted for the Shinju – the Shinju appears to be dying, and the Taisha are desperate to try any measures in order to stave off destruction. This mission angers Mebuki, who realises that contrary to her goals of becoming more than a mere footnote in history, the Taisha regard her team as expendable.
- Rather than refuse the mission, this only serves to reinforce Mebuki’s determination to prove that she and her team are more than capable of fulfilling their assignment. Over the two episodes that Mebuki and her team have been shown, I’ve gained a better sense of who she is as an individual, and together with the task the Sentinels have in front of them, The Great Mankai Chapter is finally hitting its stride as Mebuki leads the remainder of her forces on their next assignment.
- Thus, having passed through the first three episodes of The Great Mankai Chapter, I am rather looking forwards to seeing where this show is headed next. I imagine that with the next little while, we can expect Mebuki and her team to be at the forefront of things for the next few episodes, and then Yūna’s Hero Club will likely return to help the Kusunoki team out in their hour of need (hence the Taisha‘s imploring Mimori and the others to return to active service for one more assignment). It’s exciting times ahead that bring back memories of what had made the original Yūki Yūna is a Hero so compelling to watch.
When Hero Chapter concluded, it left numerous questions in its wake: granted, Yūna and her friends had successfully saved their world from destruction, but how the world came to reach its current state was never explored, and the nature of their world similarly remained a mystery. The Great Mankai Chapter appears to be following in its predecessor’s footsteps: there’s a new problem to sort out, and similarly to Hero Chapter, leaves many details unexplained. At present, viewers are shown that Sentinels are a group of prospective Heroes who didn’t make the cut, but still possessed enough attributes to be useful. The Taisha are attempting to begin taking back the universe from the ravages of war, but as this is a dangerous task, they have no qualms about sacrificing young women to achieve their aims. In general, Yūki Yūna is a Hero has traditionally found ways of making its primary themes clear, but on the flipside, never bothered with exposition to the extent where their world became convincing. The end result of this is that while the characters in Yūki Yūna is a Hero are always compelling, their world continues to operate on terms that viewers are not privy to: perspective is never shown from the Taisha’s perspective, and without any illustration on why they pick the course of actions that they do, the Taisha become very difficult to sympathise with. The end result of this is that viewers can immediately rally behind the main characters of a given series and root for their survival, or success, but at the end of the day, every victory is muddied by the fact that something unknown could always return and diminish the Heroes’ accomplishments. As it stands, I am interested to see if The Great Mankai Chapter addresses any of the questions left by Hero Chapter, and further to this, it appears that the possibility of Yūna’s team working with Mebuki and the Sentinels could be quite real: having long felt that Yūna’s team operated in isolation, it’ll be nice to see them fighting alongside others for a shared goal, as well.