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Category Archives: Yūki Yūna is a Hero

Yūki Yūna is a Hero Churutto!: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“When we appreciate how much we have, we feel the urge to pare down, get back to basics, and learn what is essential for our happiness. We long to realize what’s really important.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach

When Heroes from across several generations are summoned to attend Sanshū Middle School, Fū realises that the Hero Club lacks an udon dish. Heroes of different eras attempt at working out what makes the ideal udon, but despite their initial efforts, are unable to create a single dish that captures the Heroes’ essence. Undeterred, the Heroes decide to keep trying and enjoy the process. This is Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Churutto!, a spin-off series of shorts based off the 4-koma, Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Bouquet of Brilliance. In contrast with the serious nature of the original Yūki Yūna is a Hero, Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Churutto! (Churutto! from here on out for brevity) is a cheerful and light-hearted set of side adventures that are only tangentially related to the original story, giving familiar characters a chance to bounce off one another in a zero-stakes setting where the only objective is to devise and cook up a winning bowl of udon: the chibi art style emphasises that nothing of note will happen within these episodes, and in the end, Churutto! simply indicates that the journey matters more than the destination; as the Heroes from different eras come together to try and cook up a worthy dish, they get to know one another better, have a blast and realise that even if they’ve yet to succeed in their goals, the process is memorable and enjoyable.

Series such as Churutto!, Azur Lane: Slow Ahead! and the Strike Witches/World Witches Take Off! are more than spin-offs of their original series: they allow a series to simply let the characters relax and partake in calming, adorable everyday adventures far removed from the usual horrors and danger associated with their respective series. For better or worse, magical girl or military-moé have the unusual propensity for drawing in viewers with a deep-seated, persistent belief that every detail exists to be picked apart or criticised, from individual actions to technical aspect behind a world and its mechanics. Such discussions can appear excessively serious, so when spin-off series appear and place characters into gentle, humourous circumstances, the producers and creators typically mean to demonstrate that even though their regular series have a discernible goal and nontrivial amounts of danger, the same characters are very much human: when given the chance to kick back, away from their typical duties, magical girls and military-moé characters all have distinct personalities, along with their unique likes and dislikes. They have triumphs, and they make mistakes, the same as people in reality do. Shorts like Churutto! thus serve to show that at the end of the day, the characters are at the heart of every story; whether it be taking the fight to the Vertex, or fighting over which style of udon is the best, Churutto! stands alongside Slow Ahead! and Take Off! in demonstrating how, even without Siren or Neuroi, amusement can still be had. Consequently, when characterisation alone is already of a solid quality, placing them in a well-developed world with an appreciable threat creates a scenario where it becomes easy to root for the characters and follow their efforts towards success.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Churutto! is clearly for folks who’ve seen the whole of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and all of its spin-off series: being a novice myself, I’m unfamiliar with the other works, and as such, this particular series introduces a bunch of new characters I’ve never seen before. However, while I imagine seeing everyone would be a treat for people who are familiar with everyone, Churutto! itself is highly accessible. Episodes are only about a minute and a half long, following the super-sized Hero Club’s effort to make a new signature dish for themselves.

  • Seeing three Yūnas side-by-side, acting in unison brings joy to Mimori, Chikage and Renge, each of whom are infatuated with their respective Yūna. A quick glance at the calendar indicates that it’s been a shade more than three-and-a-half years since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero: in 2017, Washio Sumi is a Hero and Hero Chapter aired, extending the amount of animated materials to a series that had come to its own despite being thought of as being similar to Madoka Magica. These comparisons were drawn because both series featured magical girls fighting against very abstract foes and making great sacrifices to protect their world, only to learn that those running the world had played them for chumps.

  • I myself picked up Yūki Yūna is a Hero at the behest of one of my readers, who’d been certain I would find the series enjoyable. This reader was not wrong: when I finished, I felt that Yūki Yūna is a Hero had been a more optimistic series. However, people do seem to insist that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is supposed to be a deconstruction (similar to Madoka Magicai), and unfortunately, from a semantics standpoint, this isn’t correct: deconstruction is the act of studying a work by assessing its components and their meaning, and in doing so, one can find meanings that even the authors might not have intended (similar to emergent properties in complex systems). However, the popular (and incorrect) definition argues that a work is a deconstruction if it subverts expectations and conventions for a given genre by being realistic.

  • Unsurprisingly, Tango-Victor-Tango is behind this definition: misinterpretation of Jacques Derrida’s precepts resulted in this concept being taken to mean going contrary to expectations. Derrida had suggested that deconstruction involves creative, lateral thinking. Tango-Victor-Tango’s users, ever intent on imposing their own standards on literary theory, took Derrida’s terms to mean “how would fiction play out if the rules of real life were in play?”, and argued that real life makes everything in fiction darker and more cynical. By their terms, if a work causes the characters to encounter any sort of adversity or setbacks, it’d qualify as a deconstruction.

  • This is, of course, untrue. There already exists a concept that describe works of this nature: “realism”, the practise of representing situations, individuals and outcomes in a manner consistent with the reader/viewer’s truth (i.e. the probability of a good or bad outcome can be described by a normal distribution). In other words, characters can’t unexpectedly suffer devastating misfortune with a low probability of occurring in their context any more than they should be saved by deus ex machina at the last possible second. Moreover, realism and cynicism are not necessary or sufficient conditions for one another – a work isn’t more realistic simply because there is more misfortune or cynicism in it, and a realistic work needn’t be cynical or dark in nature.

  • Consequently, with these definitions in the clear, neither Yūki Yūna is a Hero nor Madoka Magica are deconstructions: they don’t analyse or break down the magical girl genre, but instead, present them in a different fashion where consequences of certain decisions are more consistent with what one might see if real people were presented with extraordinary circumstances. Viewers can naturally deconstruct these works and figure out elements of significance to them, but the works are not deconstructions in and of themselves. Of course, trying to correct a decades-long misconception at Tango-Victor-Tango is to invite a permanent ban from their rather touchy moderation team, and fights like these aren’t worth fighting.

  • When I look back to the last time I wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, we’d just entered 2018, and I finished writing about the last episode in Hero Chapter. Although that initially left me with more questions than answers, the extensive lore in Yūki Yūna is a Hero meant after a little bit of reading, I was able to understand what’d happened a little better. Hero Chapter aired late in 2017, a time when I’d been with my first iOS developer position for a year. It’s always a little shocking to see how quickly time flies by, and back then, I recall being a complete novice with things like UIKit and Autolayout. If memory serves, Hero Chapter‘s finale had aired in early 2018, when Yuru Camp△ first aired.

  • Besides Yuru Camp△, the first bit of 2018 had been quite uneventful, but at around this time of year back then, I received word that there’d been a request for me to go and help bring a Xamarin mobile app to completion. Originally a two month project, the assignment saw me flying out to both Denver and Winnipeg to help out – while it was a very tough assignment, it was also quite instructive in retrospect, and I ended up pulling through by treating myself to a decent meal each and every evening. It suddenly strikes me that I would very much like to go back to some of these restaurants at some point in the future: for me, Winnipeg is only a stone’s throw away, and I remember enjoying two particularly wonderful dinners after long days at the office.

  • While I did have the foresight to make a note of which restaurants I ate at during my business trip, I regret to say that both The Beachcomber and Mon Amis Brasserie in Winnipeg are closed now. This is unfortunate, because both places served excellent food, and Mon Amis Brasserie was particularly special because it was located on the Esplanade Riel Footbridge: the evening I went there, I enjoyed a delicious braised-pork belly burger to the sight of the Red River. Reminiscing about the places I’d been to before makes me long to travel again – I’d probably start by enjoying dinner out at a local restaurant first and then gradually set my sights on grander destinations.

  • While my plans include returning to my favourite poutine place in the mountains, eating a hearty dinner downtown during the cold of the season just before Christmas, trying a local katsu joint whose food look very tasty, and giving ahi tuna a go at some point, it suddenly strikes me I’ve got no plans to go to a udon place. One of my friends has been itching to check out all-you-can-eat sushi places around town, too, and if memory serves, I’ve had udon to “fill up the corners” after an evening of sushi. I suppose that if my Churotto!-induced hankering for udon persists by then, I’ll definitely order some.

  • Whereas I merely enjoy udon, in Churutto!, it quickly becomes serious business as the Heroes attempt to both work on the ideal udon for their club. From researching ingredients to creating the perfect bowl to serve it in, even if the girls’ efforts aren’t particularly fruitful, it was fun to watch everyone doing their utmost to contribute something to the project even if they weren’t particularly skillful at cooking.

  • Sentinel team ends up deciding that they can at least Yakunara utsuwa mo and end up creating their own ceramic bowl, but in a manner reminiscent of Himeno and Mika, make something which, while creative, is totally impractical and ill-suited for comfortably eating noodles. Their final product is a sculpture that brings to mind the likes of the Vertex.

  • Hoping to get at some divine inspiration, the Miko Heroes figure they might speak with the Shinjū directly. Itsuki subsequently shows up to do some fortune telling, but her tarot reading indicates death is on their horizon. This is completely unrelated to the udon, of course, but is a clever callback to when Itsuki’s lethal cooking very nearly kills Karin and Yūna.

  • Hero Chikage had known nothing but loneliness all her life, but after meeting her team and their udon, her world completely turned around thanks to a bit of kindness and a simple bowl of Udon. This story would suggest that even simple gestures can convey a great deal. Here, Chikage is given a bowl of udon in its purest form: udon topped with Welsh onion, egg, dashimirin and soy sauce.

  • Churutto! even parodies Aesop’s The Honest Woodcutter: when the Yūnas go missing, a search for them turn up a bronze, silver and gold Yūna. However, Chikage, Mimori and Renge have eyes for none but their own Yūnas, and Yūna Yūki’s natural disposition to befriend everything that moves means that the Aesop is completely lost.

  • Sonoko, Mimori and Sumi end up being the judges for the udon contest, with Karin emceeing. It was rather enjoyable to see the characters’ old traits come out in a different context. The judges are presented with a creation set to act as the next big thing for the Hero Club, at least until a mysterious challenger shows up and presents a massive bowl of udon loaded with meat, soft-boiled eggs and other ingredients. Although there’s so much additional stuff that the udon are completely covered, Sonoko finds both immensely delicious.

  • The outcome of Churutto! does seem to be that when it comes to udon, the sheer variety that is possible means that the Hero Club would be hard-pressed to find a single version that best represents them. This is similar to trying to determine what the best poutine or pizza is (e.g. the basic poutine is simply hot gravy and squeaky cheese curds on thick-cut fries, while cheese and tomato sauce on flatbread is the simplest possible pizza) – in their base forms, both are delicious, but are versatile enough so that a plethora of toppings could be applied to add flair to the dishes. This is why the Hero Club struggles to choose a single udon for their club.

  • A part of the fun, then, is exploration – as long as the basic udon is nailed with dashi, mirin and soy sauce, the toppings would create variety and yield a delicious udon, whether it be pork, beef, chicken, tempura or any combination thereof. In the end, the Hero Club is unable to settle on just one udon and ends up sitting down to a back-to-the-basics udon while working out their next attempt. This brings Churutto! to a close, and with season three on the horizon, I am going to be watching it. At the present, I have no plans to do episodic posts for this season: Hero Chapter was special in that there had been six episodes, and these aired during the latter half of the autumn 2017 season.

  • The chibi art style in Churutto!, with large heads, short limbs and little hands mean that the characters resemble infants – together with their mannerisms, Churutto! ended up being unexpectedly fun to watch (no different than K-On! or GochiUsa). After watching the first episode back in April, I ended up saving all twelve episodes until the season ended, then watched everything all at once. Since episodes only run for an average of ninety seconds, I finished the entire series in the time it takes to watch an ordinary episode to psyche myself up for the third season.

  • With Churutto! and this post in the books, I’ve got no more posts planned out for the month of July. August is very nearly upon us, and I have a very special post planned out. This post is going to be about as long as my talk for Tenki no Ko, and because I also wish to knock out my talk for Yuru Camp△ 2‘s live-action drama and go over my experiences of DOOM Eternal now that I’ve cleared the Mars Core mission, there’s quite a bit of blogging to get done during the Civic Holiday long weekend. To ensure these posts are give proper attention, it means that I’ll be seeing readers come August!

While Churutto! is a welcome addition to the Yūki Yūna is a Hero series, news of a third Yūki Yūna is a Hero season comes as a bit of a surprise – Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter had ended on a very decisive note, and I had noted the series had made extensive use of imagery to indicate that Yūna and her friends have served their duties to the Shinjū in full. The Taisha were gone, along with the Vertex, and it appeared that the Hero Club were finally able to pursue their futures whole-heartedly, with Itsuki taking up the Hero Club’s presidency as Fū graduates and becomes a secondary student. Hero Chapter left no doubt in anyone’s mind that things were concluded in a satisfactory manner (even if it had left a few lingering questions), and as such, that there is going to be a third season at all means that one cannot reasonably enter with any expectations. The key artwork for this third season, titled Dai Mankai no Shō (Great Full Blossom Chapter) indicates that familiar faces are returning, and while it looks like a stretch, one cannot help but wonder if Churutto!‘s introduction of no fewer than twenty-seven characters, twenty-two of which are from different time frames, would mean that Great Full Blossom Chapter will see the Hero Club’s universe faced with some unprecedented threat on the scale of Thanos or similar, forcing the Shinjū to recall everyone for an Infinity War-style get-together in an attempt to deal with the aforementioned threat. Such a story could prove quite exciting, although given Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s past track record with world-building and pacing, such optimism is cautious at best. At this point in time, I do have plans to watch Great Full Blossom Chapter, and I am hoping that lessons from the earlier seasons are applied to make this one a solid adventure, as well.

​Only You Can Make Me Happy- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter Finale Review and Reflections

“We reached for the moon,
We conquered the stars
We cried for the tears of yesterday,
Still strong to the end
‘Til we’ll meet again,
Remember the glory of the brave”

Judgement DayDragonForce

​Karin, Itsuki and Sonoko begin engaging the new enemy, sustaining heavy damage during the combat, while Fū and Mimori push their way towards the Shinju to save Yūna. At the heart of the Shinju, Mimori finds a partially-assimilated Yūna and pleads with her to be truthful about her feelings. Setting aside her deep-seated beliefs about what being a Hero means, Yūna lets Mimori know of how she really feels about all things, confessing that she wants to live and spend her days with friends. When Yūna voices a willingness to accept help from Mimori, the forces inside the Shinju project a force field that separates Mimori from Yūna. However, in the darkest hour, the spirits of long-deceased Heroes appear and lend Mimori the strength to punch through the barrier. Moved by Mimori’s plight and understanding the human desire to move forward independently of Celestial intervention and assistance, the Shinju transfers its powers over to Yūna, who wields it in a titanic effort to extinguish the flames consuming their world. Spent, the Shinju fades away, and humanity is left to make its place in the universe without any of the Gods’ protection. Liberated from their duties to the Shinju, Yūna and her friends are free to live their lives out normally: Fū is admitted to her high school of choice, and Itsuki is made president of the Hero Club, with Yūna, Mimori, Karin and Sonoko going back to enjoying their everyday lives as members of the Hero Club, serving their world as they’d always done. This marks the end of the short-lived but intensely-written Hero Chapter, which concluded with a bang: Hero Chapter was the candle that lasted half as long but burned twice as brightly, bringing a decisive end to the Yūki Yūna universe as Yūna and her friends can finally have ordinary lives without the ever-present threat of celestial powers snuffing them out of existence.

For all of the tribulations and suffering that Yūna and her friends go through during the course of Hero Chapter, the end solution ended up being one that was out in the open: while the Shinju has been assumed to be a benevolent, if unreasonable entity, it turns out that all that was needed to alter the Shinju‘s perspective, to break out of the ceaseless cycle of sacrifice and death was an impassioned statement vouching for the strength of humanity. Mimori and the spirits of Heroes long gone place their faith in Yūna and in doing so, demonstrate that humanity is quite capable of standing for and defending itself. In doing so, Hero Chapter then suggests that dramatic examples are necessary to overcome systems built on tradition and conservative principles. This is certainly the case in innovation, where disruption caused by new technologies and methods forces disciplines to re-evaluate their relevance in a system that is rapidly evolving. The sum of the Heroes’ actions, from the earliest of Heroes right up to Yūna and her friends show the Shinju that its presence and the costs of its help are not what humanity needs: it is with considerable effort that the Shinju is persuaded, and in the aftermath, Yūna manages to yet again achieve her goals of both being with her friends, as well as looking out for the world around her. While the ending comes across as being the consequence of deus ex machina, the reasoning behind it is not without merit: it’s the ending that Yūna and her friends deserve. During the course of the finale, it was also welcoming to see Yūna openly admit that she is willing to depend on others; under duress in her situation, Yūna finally manages to express this to Mimori, showing that yet again, a dramatic scenario will force individuals to be honest with themselves.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In this discussion, I’ve got thirty images as opposed to the standard twenty seen previously for the Hero Chapter posts owing to the fact that there’s a bit of territory to cover, and we open with the remark that it’s been two weeks since episode five aired. A bit of a brief refresher, then, is in order: Yūna consented to the Shinkon ceremony earlier while her friends square off against a massive enemy unlike anything they’d seen previously and as the finale starts, members of the Taisha begin dissolving into sand, becoming One with the Force as Yūna’s Shinkon continues.

  • Elsewhere, Karin and the others have transformed into their Hero forms. Karin immediately engages her Mankai system, declaring that she’ll take a leaf from DragonForce’s album and go on an once-in-a-lifetime inhumane rampage. However, she’s immediately overwhelmed with fire from the unknown enemy, sustaining massive wounds to her body: her shields have failed, and Karin wonders if it’s action from the unknown enemy, as well.

  • Karin’s remarks that she’s still got her Mankai in reserve answers a long-standing question about how the upgraded system works: it turns out that the system is non-regenerating. Here, Fū agrees to leave Itsuki responsible for supporting Karin, and subsequently, Fū departs with Mimori with the goal of reaching Yūna. While Itsuki has always been presented as a shy, more fragile character, when the chips are down, she’s also capable of holding her own against opponents as anyone else in the Hero Club: this moment illustrates that Fū’s got more faith in Itsuki now.

  • Besides Sonoko, Mimori’s Mankai system confers access to a large vessel that is immensely useful for traversing great distances. Since Sonoko expended her Mankai earlier, it’s now up to Mimori to provide transportation for her and Fū.

  • Despite her best efforts, Karin is overwhelmed against the firepower brought to bear against her. By this point in Hero Chapter, I’ve come to accept that short of looking through the supplementary materials, I’m likely not going to gain any insight into just what kind of world that Yūna and the others live in: the sum of the events in Hero Chapter summarily invalidates the idea that the girls’ world is a simulated reality or a world contained in another world as per Rick and Morty‘s teenyverse.

  • Sonoko arrives to help Karin out before the latter is skewered by incoming fire. On the whole, Sonoko’s presence in Hero Chapter was a welcome one: her personality is a cross between that of Yūna’s and Mimori’s, and with her previous experiences, she’s instrumental in helping the others overcome the challenges that have been sent their way ever since Yūna became cursed.

  • When the fighting intensifies, even Sonoko cannot provide any long-term assistance for Karin, but Itsuki arrives to further help the two out. This is the second major combat sequence of Hero Chapter, and it would appear that the modifications to the Mankai and Hero System were done with the narrative in mind: sustained combat would have caused Mimori and the others to expend their energy at a rate not conducive towards their survival, and the limited use systems imply that the Taisha were preparing for eventual calamity.

  • When an opening appears, allowing the infection form-like Vertex to enter the fray, Mimori makes use of the firepower conferred by her Mankai mode to punch a hole towards Yūna’s position at the heart of the Shinju. The combat sequences of Hero Chapter are fewer than in Washio Sumi Chapter, but fortunately, their infrequency has not translated to a reduction in quality: Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s combat sequences have always been remarkably colourful.

  • One aspect of Hero Chapter that has similarly remained consistent in quality with its predecessors in both Washio Sumi Chapter and Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season is the music: it’s quite distinct in tone compared to Yuki Kajiura’s compositions for Puella Magi Madoka Magica despite simultaneously feeling similar, and one of the aspects of the soundtrack that caught my eye was the unusual naming convention in some of the songs, which make use of symbols. The music is very enjoyable, and Hero Chapter‘s soundtrack is set for release quite some time from now – May 30, 2018 is when it becomes available.

  • With the infection form-type threatening their mission, Mimori and Fū prepare to abandon ship, hopping overboard and closing the remaining distance on foot. Prior to discarding the vessel, Mimori overloads its power supply with the goal of taking out as many Vertex as possible in the process – she salutes her craft for its service in its final moments.

  • With the final path to Yūna blocked by vast walls, Fū engages her Mankai; her broadsword takes on gargantuan dimensions, and she uses it to create a hole in the wall, allowing Mimori to go on ahead. The final battle of Hero Chapter brings to mind elements seen in Gundam 00 Awakening of the Trailblazer, with each of the Gundams working towards clearing a path for Setsuna and the 00 Qan[T] to reach the ELS core. Awakening of the Trailblazer has been out for six years now, and back during 2011, made the list as the best anime movie of 2011 at Random Curiosity. This year, the coveted title of best anime movie of 2017 belongs to Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no na wa.

  • I voted for Kimi no na wa, along with Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni. Both films had their merits, and while the latter didn’t make it, I personally felt it to be more deserving of the title on account of the film’s messages about resolve and making the most of things, even if the visuals in the former are several orders of magnitude more impressive. Back in Hero Chapter, Mimori’s made it to the heart of the Shinju where Yūna is. I’ll take a short moment to note that compared to the likes of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season and even Washio Sumi Chapter, the unnecessary camera focus on Mimori’s body were reduced.

  • However frivolous (not to mention somewhat inappropriate) those moments were, they served one purpose – reminding viewers that Yūki Yūna is a Hero was not meant to be as serious or severe as Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Thus, the total absence of gratuitous mammary and posterior focus on Mimori reinforced the notion that Hero Chapter was all business. Here, Mimori’s finally managed to convince Yūna to be open with her feelings, and tears begin flowing freely as Yūna admits she’s gone in over her head.

  • Yūna and Mimori reach for one another, but before the two can take a hold of one another, a force field materialises, separating them. Having committed to the Shinkon earlier, the procedure is set to continue regardless of how Yūna feels, and Mimori’s body begins crystallising. She crumbles to the ground, defeated. However, when it seems all hope is lost, the Force Ghost of Gin Minowa appears, lending her strength to Mimori.

  • Back outside, Sonoko, Itsuki and Karin notice the unusual phenomenon occurring inside the Shinju. Here, I will take a moment to explain the choice of page quote for Hero Chapter‘s finale: it’s sourced from the song “Judgement Day” from DragonForce’s latest album, “Reaching into Infinity”, which released back in May of 2017. “Judgement Day” is typical of DragonForce’s repertoire, featuring fast rhythms and speaks to notions of courage against overwhelming odds. In the song, the heroes are faced with a challenge that truly tests them,  but they nonetheless carry on in true DragonForce fashion, beating their goals and remembering the achievements of those before them.

  • This same spirit is present in Hero Chapter‘s finale, and its lyrics seem to capture in full the journey that Hero Chapter has portrayed. Overall, “Reaching into Infinity” has been counted as one of DragonForce’s best albums right behind their previous album “Maximum Overload”, and I greatly enjoy their music as a whole. With the spirits of countless Heroes before her time present, the barrier decomposes, allowing Mimori to finally reach Yūna.

  • Mimori and Yūna share a tearful embrace as the two are properly reunited for the first time in Hero Chapter, and while Yūna cries for the world that she feels is lost, a new phenomenon takes place – a warm golden light envelops her and Yūna. No words are necessary here: the sensations alone conveys to the girls the Shinju‘s thoughts, and it is evidently moved by the girls’ conviction in the strength of humanity.

  • In its final act, the Shinju transfers its native power into Yūna, who is transformed into a new Hero: while it’s not totally clear that this has happened, Yūna’s complete heterochromia suggests that her body is housing two entities, that of her native spirit and that of the Shinju‘s. Six orbs are also present: one for each of the active Heroes. The reason why this is possible for Yūna is owing to her lineage; she’s got a unique connection to the Gods themselves and so, is able to accommodate for this unique setup where it would have been impossible with other Heroes.

  • In this Hero form, Yūna brings to mind the 00 Qan[T], which was similarly featured only briefly in Awakening of the Trailblazer and capable of prodigious power. Setsuna did not use the 00 Qan[T]’s combat capabilities to the fullest extent during the final engagement with the ELS, and managed to negotiate with them instead to bring about an end to hostilities. On the other hand, Yūna makes use of her newfound powers to defeat the massive Independence Day-type entity. Support from her friends lights the orbs following her, and Yūna is able to project a powerful shield capable of repelling the heavy laser fire in the shape of five flowers, reminiscent of both the flower in Gundam 00 and the psycofield seen in Gundam Unicorn‘s finale when Banagher and Riddhe are stopping the Gryps II Colony laser from incinerating the Snail.

  • Serving a symbolic role in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, flowers are ubiquitous throughout the series, with the soundtrack and vocal songs referencing flowers. The girls’ Hero modes also predominantly feature flower imagery. I’m not a floral designer or botanist by trade – I can only imagine what an expert might have to say about what story and ideas the flowers of Yūki Yūna is a Hero can tell viewers. With this being said, flowers generally are associated with a beauty and a hidden resilience despite their seeming fragility. After a hailstorm pounds them into the ground, I’ve seen flowers recover and continue to bloom as though the hailstorm never happened.

  • That flowers are so prominent in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is meant to remind audiences that the Heroes are like flowers: beneath their delicate-looking appearances lies remarkable endurance and resolve. With the last of the Shinju‘s power and encouragement from her friends, Yūna reaches the core of the enemy and smashes it into oblivion with her fists. The subsequent destruction also quenches the flames burning at the world and destroys the other deities, as well: the effort completely expends the Shinju‘s life force and it fades from existence.

  • When I first finished watching the finale, I was at a loss for words and thought to myself that The Last Jedi made more sense. Now that I’ve had a chance to rewatch the episode and look through everything again, coupled with drawing some conclusions based on the more subtle details and my previous experiences with fiction in general, I think that I’ve reached a fairer conclusion that has at the minimum, allowed me to write out this post.

  • The Heroes reawaken to find themselves in the real world, similarly to how Mimori and Sonoko had previously lain in grass plains with Gin beside the Great Bridge after slaying a Vertex during the events of Washio Sumi Chapter. Yūna immediately bursts into tears, as Mimori once did, and her friends similarly grow concerned, fearing she’s injured in some way. But as it turns out, Yūna is still torn up about all of the things that have happened as of late, especially her treatment of Karin. Realising that the old Yūna is back, Fū, Itsuki, Mimori, Karin and Sonoko smile.

  • The observant viewer will note that all of the Heroes’ phones have suffered crack screens. The design of the home button and device shape overall, coupled with the fact that Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season was released in 2014 autumn (so, shortly after the Giant Walkthrough Brain‘s presentation at Beakerhead 2014) means that the smartphones the girls have is an iPhone 5. The iPhone 5s would have been more current, but was also the first phone to feature TouchID, which would not have the square icon on the home button as seen here, possibly indicating that for their power, the Taisha are also a bit more frugal with their finances. While the iPhone 5 was one of the most durable iPhones of its time, the destruction of the Heroes’ phones symbolise the idea that their services are no longer required.

  • The blue crow that originally guided Yūna out of the void flies off, suggesting that it returned to help Yūna out one more time before moving on. The vivid blue skies seen towards Hero Chapter‘s end are another indicator that normalcy has returned for Yūna and her friends. Back when Washio Sumi Chapter ended, I remarked that the skies seemed a bit faded, which were indicative of the sort of events that would unfold during Yūki Yūna is a Hero.

  • Their goal accomplished, Mimori and Sonoko stop by to pay their respects at Gin’s grave. The site of the memorial and the nearby bridge are based off of the Marine Dome Amphitheatre in Seto Ohashi Memorial Park, located adjacent to the Great Seto Bridge that links Kagawa to Okayama with its 13.1 kilometre-long span. The town that Yūna and her friends live in, then, is Sakaide in the Kagawa prefecture, and at long last, Sonoko’s remarks about “Kagawa Life” finally make sense: she wants to enjoy the sights and sounds of home to the fullest extent possible.

  • Owing to the emotional intensity surrounding Washio Sumi Chapter and Hero Chapter, I did not give much thought into the location of various landmarks, but with the finale here, the time was ripe to change that. The real Marine Dome naturally does not have any of the tombstones seen in Hero Chapter, and here, Aki is seen mourning Gin from the shadows, showing that she also cared for Gin despite her roles within the Taisha. Unlike other members of the Taisha, she does not become One with the Force.

  • As normalcy settles back into Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the Hero Club returns to doing what it does best, serving the community. Without the gods, humanity is thus responsible for its own fate, and I remark that while our empathy for others, coupled with our ego regarding our place in the universe, might mean that we tend to view anything threatening our species as evil, the truth is that the universe is quite indifferent to what happens to us: a gamma-ray burst could neutralise our species tomorrow and any surviving life on the planet would simply re-colonise it.

  • The Hero Club’s tenants have also been updated to include the clause “無理せず自分も幸せであること” (romaji “muri sezu jibun mo shiawase de aru koto“), which I approximate as “Be happy without asking of yourself the impossible”. It indicates that Yūna has learned that happiness shouldn’t be faked for her friends’ sake, and that happiness isn’t attained by pushing oneself too hard. Fū manages to make it into her preferred high school, and swaggers about, while Itsuki is made president of the Hero Club. The girls finally begin stepping into the future, and the use of visual humour in this scene serves to remind audiences that happiness in an ordinary life is finally attained.

  • Overall, my verdict for Hero Chapter is a B grade, corresponding with a numerical value of 7.5 of 10. I was disappointed that world-building would be left to supplementary materials, and that execution was quite rushed: the series would have benefitted from a full twelve episodes or movie. With this being said, the ending does follow from what’s happened now that I’ve had a chance to sleep on things, and ultimately, this the ending that Yūna and her friends deserve, even if it might not be one that the audiences need. Thus, my talks on Hero Chapter draw to a close, and the only remaining talk I have for anime from the previous season is for Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter!. Moving into the future, Yuru Camp△ and Slow Start are on my radar of shows to write about, along with Violet Evergarden.

The end results of Hero Chapter appear to suggest that all the events within the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe could have been averted had common sense prevailed; while the most practical solution the Shinju could have taken would be to observe and listen more carefully to understand what human desires might entail, this particular action would also have deprived audiences of the anime and its associated works. Overall, Hero Chapter‘s turbulent execution slowly smooths out once the solution is reached, and the journey there was a modestly enjoyable one despite inconsistencies in pacing within the narrative. This is a consequence of Hero Chapter‘s short length, and admittedly, working out the thematic elements during Hero Chapter‘s run was a non-trivial task. In the end, Hero Chapter strives to show the strength of the human spirit and our ceaseless drive for self-determination. My final verdict is that I would not recommend Hero Chapter to newcomers unfamiliar with Yūki Yūna is a Hero on the virtue that there is a considerable amount of a priori knowledge one must have on the series to fully appreciate the events and actions within the anime. Conversely, folks who have some background on Yūki Yūna is a Hero will find this a modestly satisfying conclusion to the events following season one; while perhaps falling back on derivative storytelling techniques, the final result is decisive and one that the characters have earned. Retaining the aural and visual fidelity of its predecessors, Hero Chapter is of a high quality, and while I’m certain that discussions about the minutiae surrounding Hero Chapter will continue for quite some time, I’m more than happy to conclude my own discussion in spite of the numerous shortcomings in Hero Chapter, especially with respect to world-building and pacing. Having said this, Hero Chapter nonetheless offers a more concrete bit of closure for the magical girls who’ve suffered more than their share’s worth for the sake of their world, which makes it worthwhile in my books.

Incorruptible Heart- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter Episode Five Impressions and Review

“‘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.

Unspoken Intentions- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter Episode Four Impressions and Review

“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” —Euripides

While Yūna tries her best to participate in the New Years’ festivities with her friends and make the most of her time with the Hero Club, her friends begin noticing that Yūna is not her usual self. Karin tries to talk to her about things, but with the effects of her curse still fresh in her mind, Yūna declines. Mimori later breaks into Yūna’s room and recovers a journal that Yūna had been using to document her experiences. In this journal, she explains that after their fight during the Vertex, Yūna’s body sustained damage beyond the Taisha’s ability to heal, and she lapsed into a coma. Her spirit ended up where Mimori was held, and while she returned to rejoin the others, her body’s been decaying since. Furthermore, the Taisha confirm that Yūna’s curse will spread and affect the others should she attempt to communicate with her friends about it. When Mimori, Fū, Itsuki and Karin learn of this, they are shocked; Sonoko had begun investigating independently and apologises for not sharing her findings, but stops Mimori from intervening, since Yūna had already been affected. The next morning, Mimori visits Yūna and assures her that this time, she’ll look after her. It’s quite evident that the stakes have been increased, especially since Yūna’s life expectancy has dropped to the span of a few months. With this being said, the ending of Hero Chapter is a foregone conclusion even in light of the current revelations, given the thematic elements that Yūki Yūna is a Hero have previously presented, and what remains intriguing about Hero Chapter largely lies with the journey that Mimori and the others must take to reach an ending free from the suffering Heroes have contended with thus far.

The fourth episode’s execution comes across as being surprisingly strong; it was only a matter of time before Yūna’s friends learned of the truth, and here, the effects of this news on both Yūna and her friends are shown with a surprising realism. Until now, audiences have been placed in Mimori and the others’ perspectives – they’ve seen Yūna doing her best to maintain normalcy and participate as best as she can with the Hero Club, while being left in the dark. Internally, Yūna is trying her utmost to reassure her friends and deal with her condition, fighting off despair and holding onto the hope that she will recover. This act of putting on a mask and dealing with her situation unassisted has placed a severe strain on Yūna’s mental health, and brings to mind the sort of predicament not unlike that which folks face in reality when diagnosed with or facing a terminal condition. The psychological aspects of an illness is not to be taken lightly, as it can dramatically affect the choices individuals might make pertaining to treatment and support they might elect to take. Collecting this information and using it to predict how patients might respond during and following treatments for an illness is an area of interest in medicine, although this particular area of research faces its own limitations, especially with regard to data collection and integrity. In Yūna’s case, her friends have (forcibly) entered the equation, and are now faced with a Herculean task to try and work out what is necessary to save her.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • After the events of the previous episode, nothing initially seems amiss; the Hero Club’s members visit a shrine during New Year’s Day to pray for good luck, and everyone seems to be in high spirits. It typifies Hero Chapter‘s propensity to juxtapose moments of normalcy with those of sorrow, and the fourth episode is no different in its execution. Anime typically show characters as making shrine visits during the New Year, but on this side of the world, it is customary to sleep in following a night’s worth of partying.

  • Both Fū and Itsuki seemingly get hammered after drinking non-alcoholic sweet sake; Fū becomes more melodramatic, lamenting her age, while Itsuki seems to be more irreverent. It’s a rather fun moment that demonstrates the placebo effect, but even in times of joy, hints of Yūna’s gradual withdrawal from her surroundings begin materialising. Here, Yūna is slow to drink her sake, and when Sonoko asks, Yūna remarks that it’s a bit too hot at the moment. While the response is prima facie an innocent one, the actual reasons are a bit more grim.

  • An accident of sorts, worthy of Anne Happy‘s Happiness Class, occurs when the girls try to take a group photo: inference suggests that the girls’ familiars want in on the group photo and their sudden appearance proves to be too much.

  • As of late, Karin’s been showing a great deal more closeness than she had previously to the other members of the Hero Club; she conveys this to Fū, who is rather surprised at the sudden expression of such. Mimori’s been seen with a 4K video recorder. The 4K standard has really taken off this year, and is slowly displacing 1080p as the resolution of choice as the technology to drive these display technologies becomes increasingly affordable. Ostensibly to keep a record of the Hero Club’s activities, Mimori’s actual motivations for recording everything is to closely keep an eye on her best friend’s well-being.

  • Yūna manages to find a lost kitten on one of the Hero Club’s routine activities, and while the kitten avoids her (where normally, Yūna is shown to be a bit more fortunate in such matters), the Hero Club’s operation is a success by all definitions.

  • As the day draws to a close, Karin seeks out Yūna with the aim of talking to her. By this point in time, all of her friends have noticed that something is off; while Yūna does her best to live in the moment, the doubt and concerns she alone is bearing gradually is getting the better of her, causing her to space out. Here, Karin passes Yūna what appears to be a silver fish, which I know better as “白飯魚” (jyutping “baak6 faan6 jyu4”) and enjoy most in its fried incarnation. While a simple act, it captures the closeness between Karin and Yūna.

  • Colour and lighting is utilised to a great extent in visual media to capture a particular mood, and in the West, the warm glow of a sunset, with its yellows, oranges and reds, are meant to signify an ending of sorts. It can be interpreted as the close of a journey and a time to relax, but also doubles as an indicator that light is leaving, displaced by darkness, which humans have long come to associate with the unknown. It is therefore fitting that Karin’s last chance to talk to Yūna about what’s on her mind comes during sunset.

  • It would appear that Yūna’s desire to keep her friends’ happiness stems from what she internally knows about her condition, and this particular desire overrules even her own adherence and respect for the Hero Club’s tenants. It stands to reason that, Yūna will only break the tenants for her friends’ sake, illustrating the extent that she cares for them. We recall that it was Yūna who made the most open efforts to befriend Karin when she joined the group, and she gets along with most everyone: for Yūna, unity and friendship are the things that she treasures the most strongly.

  • Yūna declines to tell Karin of her Mantle of responsibility, and rejected, Karin runs off, feeling burned. Here, Yūna sees the mark of shame projected onto Karin and fears that Karin will be exposed to whatever curse she’s suffering from. Overcome with weakness, Yūna collapses, apologising for being forced to keep Karin in the dark. By this point, concern for Yūna’s well-being materialises into a tangible fear that something terrible has happened to her, and Mimori decides to take a more direct approach in figuring out what’s going on.

  • If memory serves, I began watching Yūki Yūna is a Hero back during the summer of 2016, and I don’t seem to recall that Mimori was left-handed. She manages to confirm independently that Yūna’s reactions to her fortune are much more subdued than before, conjecturing that Yūna would normally be ecstatic to receive a “good luck” projection for the New Year. Mimori and Sonoko are shown to have dramatically different ways of working things out when confronted with an unknown – Sonoko prefers going to the top brass and inquiring for answers directly, while Mimori investigates independently and uses her reasoning to reach a conclusion.

  • After stealthily entering Yūna’s bedroom under the cover of darkness, Mimori does a bit of deductive work worthy of Sean Connery’s James Bond and John Clark; she notices that amongst Yūna’s encyclopaedia collection, the twelfth volume is deliberately protruding from the bookshelf and surmises that there might be something special about this volume. She finds another volume hidden away here, titled “Hero Journal”. It speaks to the gravity of the situation that despite Mimori’s movements, she is rendered as a rigid body object rather than a skeletal mesh with elastic properties: the sort of fanservice so prevalent in Yūki Yūna is a Hero and which made a minor return in Washio Sumi Chapter is largely absent in Hero Chapter.

  • While it’s likely that everyone will face retribution for having read Yūna’s journal, a classified report for the Taisha, the girls nonetheless feel that their friends’ need far outweighs their own. Thus, in deciding to proceed, Mimori and the others, alongside the audience, finally learn of how Yūna was able to bring about the ending that was seen in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; while some individuals felt that this was an undeserved happy ending, Hero Chapter expands on this and shows that there was a price that was paid in order to achieve this.

  • It turns out that Yūna’s consciousness was transferred into the same space while she entered a coma following the events of the final battle. Trapped here, Yūna could do little but listen to Mimori’s impassioned pleas for her to return to them, and, reminding herself that Heroes do not give up, Yūna later encounters a crow that leads her to wake up. From here on out, it seems that the Taisha have expended considerable resources to restore the girls’ bodily functions, but for Yūna, the damage she sustained during the final fight meant she required an entirely new body. This brings to mind the Extended Universes’ Palpatine, who similarly used cloned bodies as a means of cheating death.

  • However, Palpatine quickly learned that the clones were unable to sustain his Dark Side powers and so, deteriorated rapidly, prompting him to seek out the body of a Force-sensitive individual. Back in Hero Chapter, Yūna continues documenting her experiences, recollecting her determination to live life to the fullest possible even as her health fails. She learns that she’s a misugata (御姿, jyutping “jyu6 zi1”, which corresponds with “Royal Position”), an individual favoured by the Gods, and so, when she wished to save Mimori to Bring Balance to The Force and restore balance in the world, it came at a cost.

  • Haruka Terui’s delivery of Yūna’s lines have a melancholy, matter-of-fact tone; as she describes her concerns for others, handling of her condition day-by-day, and that she’s happiest when with the others. Her illness has a profound impact on her physical health: she’s unable to maintain an appetite  and throws up after drinking the sake, experiences nausea and chest pain, and finds herself becoming increasingly lethargic. Because my work involves medical software, a part of what I do is read about accounts from those with terminal illnesses, cancer and the like: the scenes in the fourth episode dealing with Yūna’s recollections really had an impact on me because they were presented very similarly to what a cancer patient might deal with.

  • Between despair and hope, such illnesses have a profound mental health impact on those affected, and it must be terrifying to know that one has no support. With this in mind, I cannot begin to imagine what goes through the minds of these individuals: Yūna feels that what she can do is to write everything into her journal, and again, I am reminded of journalling as a suggestion for these individuals, allowing them to fully express themselves and keep a record of how they’re feeling. Mental health advocates suggest keeping a journal, and I maintain this blog partially for similar reasons.

  • Mimori, Sonoko, Karin, Fū and Itsuki learn about what’s befallen Yūna in a more inelegant manner, and their initial reactions are of shock, anguish and disgust; emotions run high, and Mimori prepares to take Yūna’s place once again, stopping only when Sonoko reminds her that this burden was Yūna’s alone to bear, and that nothing Mimori could do would change that.

  • The look on Fū’s face brings to mind her reaction during Yūki Yūna is a Hero after she learned that Itsuki’s inability to speak would be permanent. While she is the leader of the Hero Club who does her best to look after its members, Fū is quick to anger when she feels that information has been withheld, and it seems that, barring Sonoko’s explanation for Yūna’s decisions, would have likely attempted to engage the Taisha on her own again. It becomes quite apparent that Sonoko’s presence is helping the girls keep their cool and not act rashly during the heat of the moment.

  • Hit hardest by the journal’s contents is Karin, who feels remorse for having run off after Yūna declined to speak with her. Mimori narrates that there seems to be nothing they could do for the present, and discussions elsewhere have turned to wondering why the writers would put the characters, especially Yūna, though such tribulations. It’s not often that speculation on where a series will go hits a brick wall, especially considering how creative the anime community can be, but it seems like Hero Chapter has done just this: simply put, discussion has ground to a halt, and moved in a direction suggesting the authors themselves must be displeased with humanity as a species.

  • The fourth episode draws to a close with Mimori promising to protect Yūna as she had done for her earlier. Following the credits, it appears as though the Shinju has seen better days, as well. This brings my talk to an end for the present, and I remark that next week, I will be attending the Flames vs. Canadiens game; as of late, the Flames’ record has been less than stellar, so I’m wondering if we’ll be able to put on a good performance for this upcoming home game. As a result, my talk for Hero Chapter‘s fifth episode will be written and published into the weekend as opposed to late Friday.

If we accept that the journey is a great deal more meaningful than the destination, then Hero Chapter has certainly found a way of drawing in the audiences and compelling them to follow the journey that Yūna and the others have faced thus far. The suffering and woes falling upon Yūna, seemingly excessive, follows accordingly from the consequences of Yūki Yūna is a Hero; the ending of the first season presented the girls as having been given a Mulligan, getting off seemingly scot-free after their actions during the final battle. As it turns out, this action was not without consequence, and in exchange for granting normalcy back into everyone else’s lives, Yūna is left to dealt with the Mantle of responsibility and bear the burden of a curse. It is here that Karin reveals that she’s genuinely appreciative of Yūna’s friendship, while Mimori begins to feel as though she is responsible for Yūna’s predicament; Sonoko reminds her this is not the case. Similarly, Fū begins to doubt the Taisha once again, reminiscent of the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. There is not a clear way forward for the Heroes, but hope is not extinguished yet: with everyone now aware of the quandary Yūna is in, they can at least begin to support her. While Yūna’s Mantle of responsibility and its attendant curse might not be a condition for which there can be a treatment, that she has her friends in her corner nonetheless provides a significant boost in mental well-being. In the real world, this support can mean the difference between maintaining the will to live and losing it, so it will be interesting to see what sort of difference Yūna’s friends can make for her, as well as what the group’s next course of action will be.

My Heart Hurts When I Think Of You- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter Episode Three Impressions and Review

“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).