“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 Day, DragonForce
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.