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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).

Important Memories- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter Episode Two Impressions and Review

“If a black hole is an oyster, then the singularity is the pearl inside. The gravity is so strong, it’s always hidden in darkness beyond the horizon. That’s why we call it a black hole.” —Romilly, Interstellar

It turns out that even the Taisha‘s recollections of Mimori have been removed; Sonoko relays this to the other Hero Club members and also provides them with their smartphones. Having spoken with the Taisha themselves, Sonoko has deduced that Mimori might be beyond the barrier, and is encouraged to begin looking for Mimori out here. While Fū expresses concern with the Hero System, Sonoko explains that the new system makes use of a fully-charged mankai reserve that depletes during combat if the Heroes sustain damage. Engaging the mankai system will fully deplete reserves and also render the Hero vulnerable to attack, but in exchange, Heroes no longer lose body functions when the mankai system is used. Heartened that the Taisha have been a bit more forward about the Hero System’s operating limits, Yūna decides to join Sonoko. The entire Hero Club subsequently activate their Hero Systems and enter the barrier, where they find a black hole-like entity as the source of Mimori’s signal. Sonoko engages her mankai and carries her teammates to this portal – Yūna soldiers forward into the portal and the extremities cause her body and spirit to separate. Past the event horizon, Yūna finds Mimori here, along with her memories and learns that Mimori intended to become a sacrifice to atone for putting a hole in the barrier, endangering their world. Against risk of damage to her mind and body, Yūna retrieves Mimori. She reawakens to the sight of her friends, and Sonoko informs her that the Taisha have since managed to stablise the situation, removing the need for a sacrifice. Yūna later learns that she’s inherited the curse mark from Mimori.

The shortened timeframe of Hero Chapter corresponds with a much quicker pacing, and in the second episode, the cheerful atmosphere seen in the first episode is largely replaced with a grim determination when Yūna and the others resolve to bring Mimori back. Here, the Hero System is explored to a slightly greater extent, illustrating the vulnerabilities and limitations more fully, suggesting that the Taisha have learned after two iterations. The newer system removes invulnerability and is probably the most fair: Heroes die if they fight too aggressively, but engaging the mankai no longer comes at a terrible cost. With the episode’s focus on recovering Mimori, it would seem that Mimori’s old habit of reaching a decision has not changed, and similarly, Yūna is as headstrong as she’s always been. That she succeeds in bringing Mimori back this early in the game suggests that, in conjunction with Yūna being marked for sacrifice, suggests that Hero Chapter is heading in a direction where Yūna will find herself requiring help from her friends, or else see the Hero Club take on a new opponent. Of course, folks with a more substantial background in Yūki Yūna is a Hero will likely have more to add to discussion and correspondingly, a better guess of what’s to happen, but I’m approaching this one from a naïve position. As such, what I will be looking to see, as Hero Chapter continues, is how well the anime stands on its own from a thematic perspective.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • That the girls manage to retain some memories of Mimori despite the higher powers modifying them indicate that memory modification is not fully effective even with their god-like capabilities. In Harry Potter, the memory charm shares similar limitations – although quite effective for the most part, Voldemort has defeated a memory charm through use of the Cruciatus curse. Like all of my upcoming talks on Hero Chapter, this post will feature the standard of twenty images.

  • Before we proceed any further with my talk on Hero Chapter, I note that I’m not fully caught up with or familiar with all of the supplementary materials out there on Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and as such, I will be basing most of my discussions from purely the perspective of someone who’s only seen the anime. Discussions of Hero Chapter have seen folks begin trying to piece together what the additional materials have stated, and it seems to be a tricky exercise from what I’ve seen so far: even people who have this additional intel don’t seem to have a particular leg up on figuring out what’s what.

  • Because I’m hearing what appear to be inconsistencies in the supplementary documentation, going in blind isn’t always a bad thing, and I’m free to draw cleaner conclusions based purely on what I’ve seen in the anime. During the transformation process, Sonoko explains the rules underlying the new mankai system are. Compared to the previous iterations, the one seen in Hero Chapter is more similar to that of a balanced system: Heroes can activate their mankai at will provided they are at full charge, while sustaining damage will deplete their charge. Engaging mankai completely drains their power and leaves them vulnerable to attack.

  • Hero Chapter does not detail whether or not energy is regenerated in between battles, but Sonoko notes that this is not possible while the girls are in their Hero modes. Sonoko’s new transformation is seen, and it’s rendered with more detail than those of the other girls’. Of all the transformations, I still maintain that Mimori’s is the most entertaining to watch: all of the others are clean and to the point, with each Hero applying her unique personality to the transformation process.

  • Karin’s resemblance to Gin is quite pronounced now that I’ve seen Washio Sumi Chapter, a consequence of her inheriting Gin’s terminal and role. At the start of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, I was not particularly fond of her character – she reminded me of Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Kyōko Sakura in manner, but like Kyōko, I warmed up to Karin over time. It’s quite nice of the anime to provide a single frame with all the heroes, otherwise, I’d likely be forced to use more screenshots (and expend more time in captioning these) to showcase all of the heroes.

  • When I saw Urara Meirocho‘s Nono and Nina, I was respectively reminded of Itsuki and Fū. The current description of how the Hero System works provides a set of rules and restrictions that make sense from a balance perspective: Heroes must choose between offensive firepower and defense, as picking the former would almost certainly result in death if one were careless, as mankai would leave the Hero subsequently exposed to enemy attack.

  • The second episode of Hero Chapter thus marks the first time in the sequel where the Heroes have transformed and gain access to their familiars, which act as their guardians. Different familiars have different personality traits, but all of them are present to prevent any harm from coming to the Heroes. Here, Fū shares a moment with her familiar, who makes it clear that she’s been missed.

  • The Heroes head towards their destination, a wall at the edge of their world, under fantastically blue skies. The weather today was similarly pleasant, and on this first day of December, I stepped out into the cool afternoon to grab a poutine: this variation had Italian sausage, double-smoked bacon, mushrooms and sautéed onions. Mushrooms and onions add a different taste and texture that stand out: they’re excellent as poutine toppings, and it took a bit of eating through the toppings to reach the fries, cheese and gravy below. Hearty and tasty, it was a fine accompaniment to this week’s Hero Chapter episode. It’s proven to be a warm December so far (I say with only a sample size of one day so far).

  • The fact that the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero consists of a seemingly normal world protected by a barrier, existing inside a veritable Hell, leads me to cast doubt on the “realness” of their world. In The Matrix, I’ve always wondered how the world works, given that characters only refer to geographical locations as “the City” or “the mountains”, implying that there is only one city or one area with mountains. Citizens remain quite unaware of this fact and go about their everyday lives normally in The Matrix, and it is reasoned that the Machines keep their world in this equilibrium to keep the population under control. The limited world space and a clearly defined edge is one possible indicator that Yūna’s universe is a simulated reality.

  • There is a counterargument against whether or not the world as we know it is a simulation: a civilisation would need to be exceptionally advanced in order to simulate a reality. Civilisations would then either have destroyed themselves or have been destroyed before they reach this stage. If they managed to advance to the point where whole-reality simulation is possible, their computational capability would far outstrip anything else that we can fathom, and presumably, they would not direct the resources towards seeing how a simulated civilisation might develop in favour of other pursits. Back in Hero Chapter, Karin compliments Sonoko on her fighting prowess; she’s lost none of her edge and is quite formidable against the Vertex. In this second episode, the Vertex appear as the smaller infection form-like units see towards the end of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Washio Sumi Chapter.

  • While the Vertex present a degree of challenge for the Heroes, Sonoko decides to activate her mankai, providing the Heroes with a vessel of sorts that lets them sail towards the “black hole” where Mimori’s signal is emanating from. With this new system, I imagine that team work would very quickly become a necessity for Heroes; some Heroes would immediately engage and rapidly decimate enemy ranks, while other Heroes would provide covering fire for both them and any Heroes they wish to reserve as an ace-in-the-hole. Whether or not we will see this sort of teamwork dynamic in Hero Chapter remains unknown for the present.

  • The Heroes’ description of the object where Mimori’s signal is coming from is that of a black hole, and as they close the distance, it is possible to see the resemblance between this structure and Interstellar‘s Gargantua. While Hero Chapter did not have theoretical physicist Kip Thorne on board to provide guidance on what black holes might look like from closer up, physical cosmology is definitely not the focus of things in Hero Chapter and as such, would be counted as being outside the scope of discussion. With this in mind, the “black hole” in Hero Chapter is “similar enough” to Gargantua so that one cannot reasonably say that it is an incorrect depiction.

  • After Sonoko brings Yūna close enough to the portal while her friends fend off attacking Vertex, Yūna hops off and falls into the “event horizon”, where tidal forces place a severe strain on her shields, causing them to deplete. Before they completely run out, Yūna manages to cross the event horizon and enters the space where Mimori was seen in the previous episode. She finds herself under assault from an unknown entity (or entities), and shortly after, her spirit separates from her body.

  • In this state, Yūna manages to intercept Mimori’s memories, learning about how Mimori’s status allowed her to fulfil the role of both Hero and a shrine maiden who could be sacrificed to save their world. Mimori walks into the decision without consulting with her friends, and it turns out that she made the request to the Shinju directly to remove her friends’ memories of her so that they wouldn’t attempt to save her from her fate.

  • Given that Yūna and the others do remember, it seems that even the Shinju has limitations, rather similar to how the Matrix itself was limited by the fact that it was a system built on rules and as such, in the knowledge that the world was not real, rebels could perform superhuman feats. Presumably, Yūna and the others are aware to some extent that their world is a fabrication, allowing them to override some of the rules the Shinji have defined within their world.

  • Hero Chapter has so far left me with more questions than answer, and with its run limited to six episodes, there’s not a whole lot of real estate with which to properly explore what the Shinju and Taisha are about. I’m at a crossroads with respect to Hero Chapter: on one hand, the character dynamics have largely been Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s main strength, but on the other, world-building would serve to improve audience understanding on what it is Yūna and the others are fighting for, making it easier to empathise with and root for them.

  • On sheer willpower alone, Yūna fights off excruciating pain and manages to pull Mimori from the mirror she’s held in. In doing so, she frees Mimori from her fate and inadvertently takes on this responsibility for herself, visually represented with the dead-looking black crystals fading from Mimori as Yūna’s body is covered in a glowing red light. The mirror-like object shatters and the portal disintegrates, allowing the others to recover both Yūna and Mimori. Presumably, this means that viewers will be able to see Mimori’s transformation sequences once again in all of their glory.

  • When Mimori comes to, it’s to the faces of her best friends. Relieved she’s alright, Sonoko explains to Mimori that the breach has been contained, and given the seeming ease in which this particular problem was resolved, the fact that it’s still early in the season means that there will certainly be a new disruption that follows. Perusing other discussions, I’ve heard Yūna is special the same way Reina Kousaka of Hibike! Euphonium is special: more specifically, Yūna is supposed to be this universe’s version of the Avatar, but instead of being able to bend all four elements, these individuals (dubbed “Yūna”) possess the a bit of the god’s powers. What this entails might be seen later in Hero Chapter.

  • With the Hero Club reunited in full since Hero Chapter began, Mimori is immensely grateful that everyone managed to remember her, and Fū remarks that each member of the club should share with one another any thoughts or concerns that they might have. Yūna’s mind immediately returns to letting the good times roll, but as the episode draws to a close, Yūna finds that she’s picked up the same curse mark that Mimori had. Some folks are quick to brand Yūna as a hypocrite for supposedly not informing the others of her situation despite having said for the group to share their troubles, but this is evidently a misinterpretation: Yūna only discovers it after she gets home and it was Fū who makes this statement, not Yūna.

  • I’m going to hazard a guess and say that this isn’t like the blackened toenail I’ve developed as a consequence of hiking a little too enthusiastically. This brings my talk to a close, and while those same folks making all of their assertions might tell me to git gud (apparently, this phrase all the rage these days and has nothing to do with GIT version control) by reading more, I remark that that’s not happening this weekend. DICE has given players a diabolical challenge for Battlefield 1 players: “get 300 shotgun kills before December 3 ends”. This unlocks the coup coup machete. At the time of writing, I’ve gotten 128 of the required 300, and foresee spending the rest of the weekend trying to get the remaining 172. This means all plans to play The Division and wrapping up Wolfenstein II‘s Übercommander missions will have to be shelved for now.

If Hero Chapter is structured similarly to Washio Sumi Chapter, then the remaining structure of Hero Chapter is reasonably straightforward: the upcoming episode would likely be a bit more lighthearted in nature to begin with, and things would gradually become more serious in the episodes leading up to the finale. This is the nature of the beast in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and while it is likely that world-building is likely to be eschewed in favour of the abrupt swings between gentle everyday life and heart-wrenching moments amidst the chaos and madness of battle. With this being said, Yūki Yūna is a Hero tends to bring characters to the brink before invoking some form of deus ex machina to drive a happy ending: it’s still early to be considering whether or not this route will be taken. In the meantime, it looks like I will have to delve into the supplementary materials to learn more about the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero if I do intend to do a more serious, less irreverent discussion. My lack of knowledge with the actual mechanics in their universe aside, this isn’t likely stopping me from speculating that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is set inside a simulated reality like that of The Matrix, or better yet, the Teenyverse as seen in Rick and Morty, which, if we assume to be true, would eliminate all of the complexity surrounding whatever rituals and entities that are present in Yūki Yūna is a Hero.

The Child of the Wind: Revisiting Fuko’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Right now, Fuuko likes you more than a sea slug” —Fuuko Ibuki

When Fuuko tries to invite Tomoya to her sister’s wedding, Tomoya is initially dismissive and declines. However, as his efforts to help Nagisa gather the requisite number of drama club members falls short, he seeks out Fuuko and learns from Nagisa that Fuuko is the younger sister of Kouko Ibuki, who is Nagisa’s art instructor and moreover, Fuuko is supposedly bed-ridden from a car accident. The two decide to assist Fuuko by carving wooden starfish and passing them around as invitations to Kouko’s wedding, then recreating a high school experience for Fuuko with help from Sanae and some classmates. During the school festival, Kouko attends the school’s Founder’s Festival at Nagisa and Tomoya’s invitation, but cannot see or hear Fuuko. In spite of this, Tomoya and Nagisa convince Kouko to carry on with their wedding, feeling that Fuuko would have the same wish for her. As Fuuko’s condition deteriorates, her memories begin fading. Feeling their time is short, Tomoya and Nagisa prepare a birthday party for Fuuko, celebrating at the school during the night, and while they appear to have forgotten Fuuko by the next morning, they manage to recall Kouko’s wedding. On the day of the wedding, only Tomoya, Nagisa and Fuuko appear, although by means of a miracle, the entire student population attends to wish Kouko and her husband, Yuusuke, happiness. Fuuko disappears after thanking Tomoya and congratulating Kouko, while Tomoya feels that it is possible that Fuuko will recover. In CLANNAD‘s visual novel, Fuuko’s route is the first arc that players must complete: it sets in motion the remainder of the game, and also trigger the events of CLANNAD After Story, so players looking to get the full experience must sit through this section of the game.

Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of CLANNAD faithfully reproduces the events of Fuuko’s arc, which initially begins in a gentle, comedic manner. However, as Tomoya and Nagisa discover more irregularities in their experiences with Fuuko against what others are saying, it becomes clear that CLANNAD is involving supernatural elements into its story. This is most evident in Fuuko being able to freely interact with select individuals, as well as the environment; by the time this revelation is made, it spurs Nagisa and Tomoya to work towards fulfilling Fuuko’s wishes despite Tomoya’s general irritation at Fuuko’s antics. In doing so, the Fuuko arc begins to illustrate that underneath Tomoya’s cynical exterior is the heart of someone who genuinely wishes to help out. In asking Tomoya and Nagisa to attend her sister’s wedding, as well as prompting the two to begin addressing one another by their given names, Fuuko hints that of the possible pairings for Tomoya in CLANNAD, Nagisa is the best fit for him; even though the two are not a couple at this point in the story, they spend a considerable amount of time together as friends, getting to know one another better as he helps her resurrect the drama club. While discussions are numerous on whether or not Nagisa really is the best person for Tomoya, I personally found this to be true; Nagisa is able to bring out the best in him and find things to look forward to, and Tomoya’s encouragement is what gives her the confidence to accomplish her dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While my earlier CLANNAD discussions had twenty screenshots apiece, the talks for each of the arcs will be a bit larger, with thirty screenshots each. This will give me more time to explore some of the elements that I find to be worth commenting on, or else insert a few remarks about what I thought of a particular scene. Five years after watching CLANNAD, my own experiences in the journey of life has advanced in some areas, but in others, remain woefully unchanged.

  • In the early stages of the Drama Club’s revival, the club room remains quite empty aside from some boxes in the back. The members-to-be sit in a desk centred in the room, and the spaces arising from this arrangement give the sense that this is a fresh canvas for Nagisa to create from as she wishes. The cooler lighting suggests a sense of distance that is introduced when Tomoya recruits Youhei to help out, and their conversation here is to first find enough members such that the Drama Club can be brought back.

  • Tomoya never passes up an opportunity to prank Youhei, which is partially why he’s never on the receiving end of any beatdowns that Tomoyo or Kyou are likely to administer. Here, at Tomoya’s suggestion, Nagisa asks Ryou to join the Drama Club, but Nagisa’s hesitancy and the setup that Tomoya proposes leads both Kyou and Youhei to get the wrong idea. The misunderstanding is cleared up, and when Kyou asks her to toss Youhei and Tomoya in favour of her and Ryou’s help, Nagisa feels that for having started the journey with her, she can count them as friends.

  • After classes, Tomoya and Nagisa run into Kouko, who asks if the two are dating. Nagisa’s response is immediate and says that there are others worthier. As Tomoya’s single, Kouko feels that Nagisa’s odds with him are good, and subsequently asks if Tomoya finds Nagisa agreeable, putting both on the spot. Sharp thinking from Nagisa steers the conversation away from these waters. It’s a conversation that I’m somewhat familiar with, and in the aftermath of my MCAT, entering my fourth year, some folks wondered what my sitrep was. The story itself has been recounted countless times by now, and while I note that CLANNAD indirectly precipitated what would happen, it’s not too relevant towards talk of the Fuuko arc.

  • It is in conversation with Kouko that hints of the supernatural in CLANNAD begin materialising, when she reveals that Fuuko is hospitalised in a coma following a vehicle accident. Pieces in CLANNAD do not initially add up from a logical sense, leaving audiences wondering what’s going on. Nagisa becomes quite fond of hugging Fuuko when the opportunity presents itself, and with the impression that Fuuko chikd-like in nature, it foreshadows Nagisa’s maternal sense. Here, Tomoya and Nagisa diffuse a situation where Fuuko nonchalantly swipes the Furukawa’s neighbours’ surnames, leading Tomoya to swat her.

  • The race to carve starfish-shaped invitations for Kouko’s wedding with Yuusuke is on, and here, large wooden blocks await turning into invitations. The process of creating the shape with a small carving knife is arduous, although the hand-made quality reinforces the notion that Fuuko, and those helping her, are putting their genuine feelings into making the invitations – using a jigsaw would allow for a much larger number to be produced in a shorter time, but at the expense of the message that can be conveyed with hand-made carvings.

  • Whenever Fuuko begins thinking about starfish, her concentration is diverted from reality and can be subject to various pranks without being fully aware of them. Tomoya usually is responsible for said pranks, and while Fuuko resents their happening, she’s unable to prevent it. Fuuko is shut down in a similar manner when Nagisa hugs her, bringing to mind how cats grow limp when held by the scruff. Mother cats will do so to kittens to quickly move them safely and never do so as a disciplinary measure.

  • When Fuuko wishes to attend high school normally, she foreshadows her own supernatural presence. Not knowing the full story but sympathising with her, Nagisa asks her mother to help set up a mock class to give Fuuko the experience. Voiced by Kikou Inoue, whom I best know as Ah! My Goddess‘s Belldandy, Sanae is surprisingly adaptive and can convincingly take in the air of almost any profession or role asked of her. She plays a school teacher surprisingly well, and while it’s not immediately apparent, this also foreshadows at Sanae’s past interests.

  • A conversation between Nagisa and Tomoya leaves Nagisa embarrassed when she likens them to being Fuuko’s mother and father. It’s another hint of what’s upcoming; Nagisa is slowly growing more accustomed to Tomoya’s presence and is the first person to begin unearthing a side of him that folks previously did not see. A loud silence lingers between the two until they encounter Yuusuke, and it is here that both learn that Kouko is marrying Yuusuke’s. At their suggestion, Yuusuke agrees to try and convince Kouko to check out the Founder’s Festival.

  • The operation to invite as many people as possible to Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding means going into overdrive and creating as many wooden stars as possible. The effort exhausts Fuuko, and she falls asleep while making one. Tomoya feels that it is imperative to bring Fuuko and Kouko together to work out what the mystery surrounding them entails.

  • To make sure Fuuko isn’t late for school, Tomoya carries her on his back, while Nagisa hauls the stars they’d made the previous evening for distribution at the school festival. Fuuko herself is hauled into one of the activities, giving the sense that she’s an ordinary student, and Nagisa helps her class as a waitress. The combined efforts of everyone mean that excitement for Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding is tangible amongst the school’s student population: some folks have even started a Fuuko fan club and will go to the end of the earth to keep her from harm.

  • When Kouko arrives at the Founder’s Festival, she enjoys herself but is unable to see Fuuko. The mystery deepens here, as Kouko clarifies that Fuuko’s been in a coma for quite some time, leading to inconsistencies with what audiences share with Tomoya and Nagisa. The revelation changes Tomoya’s perspective of Fuuko, and while he’s still willing to play the occasional prank on her, he begins to view Fuuko as someone who’s quite precious.

  • This change in perspective is not unlike that of Makoto’s arc in Kanon, where Yuuichi kicks Makoto’s ass in all things related to pranks and finds himself growing irritated with her, but when he learns that Makoto is really a fox spirit taking human form and is rapidly losing her memories, he spends more time with her even as her cognitive capacities fail. In both Kanon and CLANNAD, supernatural elements contribute to both extraordinary challenges and their attendant miracles. We return to CLANNAD, where the quest to distribute the wooden stars as wedding invitations continue even in light of the unusual information that Kouko’s brought to the table, and here, Fuuko gives one to Kotomi.

  • Kouko expresses a desire to have a wedding at the high school with her fellow instructors and students. Tomoya asks about the kind of person Fuuko was, and learns that Fuuko’s never really been good around people. During the whole of the conversation, Nagisa is fighting back the tears, but the next day, Nagisa gets into a bit of a dispute with Fuuko about what is more adorable. In the eternal war between starfish and dango, I’d have to say that dango win: Nagisa can be a bit immature at times, and this early in the game, Tomoya lacks the familiarity with Nagisa to put her back on track.

  • As preparations for the wedding plough forward, Kouko informs Nagisa and Tomoya that Fuuko’s condition has worsened, reducing her odds of waking up from her coma. Presumably from overexerting herself trying to project a Force Ghost, Fuuko’s placed a great strain on her body. The pattern of setting up a fall right as things are proceeding smoothly is not unique to CLANNAD, although CLANNAD certainly has a way of evoking a powerful response from audiences. Quick to tears, Nagisa takes the news quite hard, and even the normally-stoic Tomoya begins tearing up.

  • Tomoya comes to the realisation that Fuuko’s efforts might have resulted as a desire to see her older sister happy, and so, while she’s not physically present, the strength of her feelings allows her to manifest as a physical presence. While hanging out with Youhei later, Youhei remarks that he cannot help but feel as though he’s forgetting something. Fuuko’s ability to maintain her presence seems tied with her health, and corresponding with abrupt decline, people begin losing their memories of her.

  • It would appear that the strength of Fuuko’s memories is directly tied to how close people were to her, and while the remainder of the student population is beginning to forget, the Furukawas, Tomoya and Youhei manage to retain their memories longer than most. Nagisa fears losing her memories of Fuuko, treasuring their time together, and Tomoya reassures that Nagisa that they won’t forget, encouraging her with optimism that they’ll be able to see things through because Kouko’s wedding is close. Relative to his interactions with the other female characters, Tomoya’s unconscious decisions to look after Nagisa suggests that he is drawn to looking after and supporting her, even though the two aren’t really close yet. Similarly, while Nagisa isn’t terribly fond of Tomoya’s way with words, she likes the fact that his actions are always considerate and his intents are kind.

  • Fading memories and the attendant increasing sense of loss are mirrored in darkening lighting conditions and pronounced shadows inside the school, but when Fuuko, Nagisa and Tomoya leave classes, they set off under a warm evening’s light. Oranges and yellows give the sense of a quiet end to a day where the three can share yet another memory together; the mood lightens when they decide to go buy something for Fuuko. They settle on a small birthday party kit, which Fuuko finds agreeable.

  • Watching CLANNAD again frame-by-frame reveals some minor inconsistencies in the animation, although on the whole, the animation quality in CLANNAD is of an incredibly high standard. Known for their top-tier animation, Kyoto Animation’s quality and consistency were among the strongest in the animation industry a decade ago, featuring detailed backgrounds and making use of animation that only became more commonplace recently. Some of Kyoto Animation’s recent titles, including Hibike! Euphonium and Koe no Katachi are so detailed that they rival Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of detail.

  • While the memory loss has been a nagging feeling for audiences since Youhei mentions it, the enormity of its impact is not really felt until Sanae collapses in tears and says that, try as she might, she can no longer remember Fuuko. Her anime incarnation greatly resembles Belldandy, and the melancholy here is compounded with the use of colours: red tinges appearing in the evening light indicate that the sun’s very nearly set, and is a fantastic visual metaphor for how Fuuko’s presence is disappearing.

  • Thus, after the sun sets, Nagisa and Tomoya are left wondering what options they have available to them; after deciding where the best place to go is, they settle on returning to school. The moment admittedly brings to mind Poe Dameron’s quote from The Force Awakens, where, during the assault on Starkiller Base’s Thermal Oscillator, he rallies his fellow pilots after they learn their attack run has no effect on the target:

“Remember, when the sun is gone that weapon will be ready to fire. But as long as there’s light, we got a chance.”

  • Star Wars isn’t known for having the best dialogue in the world, and I remember it best for things like The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise, that spinning is a good trick and the importance of having the high ground, but The Force Awakens and Rogue One have acceptable dialogue now, so I’m hoping that The Last Jedi will follow in this pattern. Back in CLANNAD, Fuuko wastes Tomoya after Tomoya’s prank on her backfires.

  • For me, this was the magic moment in CLANNAD, nine episodes in. There was something indescribable about the light cast by the candles that Tomoya and Nagisa light. They decide to have celebration commemorating Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding, and here, Fuuko sees something that Kouko spotted: the distance between Nagisa and Tomoya has lessened somewhat, leading her to wonder why the two aren’t calling one another by their given names yet.

  • Five years after watching the scene where Nagisa, Fuuko and Tomoya spend time together in the drama room, I think that the magic comes from the symbolism that is present in this moment: if the light is representing the strength of everyone’s memories of Fuuko, then darkening skies visually indicate that people are beginning to forget. Against this, the act of lighting candles is then important for the fact that Tomoya and Nagisa are willfully trying their best to remember, even as the candles deplete; they spend Fuuko’s last moments close together.

  • The next morning, Nagisa and Tomoya have forgotten the events of the previous evening. The cold, grey ambiance in the classroom is a far cry from the inviting warmth candlelight cast in the room: the closing distance between Tomoya and Nagisa seems undone somewhat, as seen when the two address one another as they did prior to Fuuko’s suggestion.

  • When they recall Kouko’s wedding, Fuuko reappears before Nagisa and Tomoya’s very eyes. The cool morning skies give way to warmer hues that signify the return of something important, and encouraged by her return, Nagisa warmly hugs Fuuko.

  • On wedding day, only Tomoya and Nagisa show up for the proceedings, with the rest of the world seemingly having forgotten about the wedding. However, when the ceremony is over, and Yuusuke and Kouko are wedding as husband and wife, Kouko, Yuusuke, Nagisa and Tomoya are treated to a sight that can only be described as a miracle. The first sign that things have turned around is the arrival of Botan, who is accompanied by Kyou and Ryou.

  • Here’s a bit of random trivia about my blog and the way I romanise things: while I usually roll with macrons for long vowels in Japanese on my blog, such as “ō” in place of “ou” (おう) and “ū” for “uu” (うう) CLANNAD remains one of the exceptions owing to the way that it’s romanised. Quite simply, I’m used to spelling out things the long way: Kyō and Ryō look a little different than what I’m accustomed to, so in CLANNAD, I’ve chosen to pick one style and be consistent with it. Another bit of trivia is that I learned Japanese during my undergrad formally and so, have a bit more of a consistent approach in romanisations, whereas with Cantonese Chinese, I grew up with it, and so, struggle to convey things: I’ll likely stick with the jyutping system.

  • I’m thankful that I do not review Cantonese movies, otherwise, I’d get my ass kicked. For now, we return to CLANNAD, where an entire group of students have arrived to watch Kouko and Yuusuke get married. Sharing her sister’s happiness with the world has succeeded by dint of Fuuko’s determination and substantial assistance from both Tomoya and Nagisa: in CLANNAD‘s visual novel, this is supposed to unlock the globes of light that players can collect as karma points, as well as allowing Fuuko to randomly appear at inopportune moments to lighten the mood up.

  • In a fitting close to CLANNAD‘s first true arc, both sisters are able to see one another; Fuuko congratulates Kouko and disappears, but not before thanking Tomoya and Nagisa one final time. With her life force no longer spent on projecting a Force Ghost, Fuuko is able to focus on recovery, and Tomoya feels that she will reawaken later. I realise the rest of the world counts Fuuko an ikiryō (literally, a living ghost), but as I am not versed in Japanese lore or anything occult, I’ve chosen to fall back on what I do know. With this being said, Fuuko is not a true Force Ghost, being neither deceased or Force sensitive. With this CLANNAD post in the books, I will be returning in mid-January to write about Kotomi’s arc, and in December, my focus will continue to be directed towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter, my journey continuing journey through Tom Clancy’s The Division and my experiences with Battlefield 1‘s “Turning Tides” DLC.

With its combination of humour and poignancy, the introduction of the supernatural as being a very real part of their universe and a remarkably enjoyable soundtrack, CLANNAD‘s first arc draws to a close. While it might only be the first act, CLANNAD wastes no time in delivering a highly poignant narrative whose resolution comes about not because of deus ex machina, but because of Tomoya and Nagisa’s joint efforts in seeing Fuuko’s wishes through to the end. As much as Tomoya would rather not deal with Fuuko, Nagisa’s gentle insistence and his own desire to help overcome his general annoyance with Fuuko: the arc shows the true nature of Tomoya’s character and consequently, will continue to reinforce the notion that while there are miracles within CLANNAD, these miracles only occur because Tomoya takes the initiative to make things better and finish what he’s committed to. This aspect of his character is intended to bode well for Nagisa and her wishes to restart the drama club: Tomoya isn’t the sort of individual to give up, and is very resilient, making him the perfect partner in helping the gentler but also more hesitant Nagisa reach her dreams.

Spectacular Days- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter First Episode Impressions and Review

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We are today’s Hero Club! I only have one question. Where is Mimori Tōgō? You know where Mimori is? You know who she is? You know where I can find Mimori? I need to talk to her about something.” —The Joker, The Dark Knight

Life begins settling into a new routine after Yūna and the others return to their daily lives in the aftermath of their triumph over the Vertex. Sonoko transfers into their middle school, and immediately takes a liking to Yūna. However, both Sonoko and Yūna begin feeling as though something is missing; whether it be the fact that Itsuki originally partitions a cake made during home economics class into sixths, Sonoko subconsciously making three portions of noodles or a particular phrase impacting Yūna, it soon becomes clear that Mimori Tōgō has been absent from proceedings, forcibly removed from their memories. They recall that Mimori had longed to atone for her actions during the final battle, considering them inexcusable in light of the situation, and had taken up the mantle of a masked crime fighter to help out. Their memories return shortly after, but Mimori’s precise fate remains unknown to the others, and the camera cuts to a girl, who may or may not be Mimori, imprisoned in another dimension. Originally anticipated last week, Hero Chapter‘s first episode brings the sequel off to a flying start. With only a half-season’s worth of space to explore the narrative and detail what happens following the events of the first season, Hero Chapter wastes no time in establishing a new status quo that has materialised: Mimori’s fate is the focus, and unless I’m very much mistaken, the first challenge the Hero Club faces will be reuniting with Mimori given this first episode’s events.

The unique juxtaposition between the light-hearted and the dramatic had been an integral part of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Therefore, it is unsurprising that much of the episode is given to the easy-going and hilarious antics that are central to the Hero Club. Sonoko feels right at home with Yūna and the others, partaking in jokes and initially drawing much awe from this generation of Heroes. Sonoko admits that she’s longed to live a normal life after being immobilised in the wake of engaging her Mankai on twenty occasions to save Mimori and the world. However, it seems that her friendly and playful manner has endured; from her enthusiasm in joining Yūna and the others in their play, to helping them study, Sonoko has fit right in. However, her initial presence also raises the question that remains on the audiences’ minds from the first moment the Hero Club is shown: where is Mimori at? While it’s a little surprising to see Yūna and the others blissfully unaware of this in the episode’s beginning, it turns out that each of Yūna, Karin, Fū, Itsuki and Sonoko are subconsciously aware that one of their number is misssing. Manifesting in subtle manners, this sense becomes stronger, and by the episode’s end, it’s quite apparent that Mimori’s absence is significant. At this point in time, episode titles for each instalment in Hero Chapter are available, giving some insight as to what future episodes entail, and my best guess is that audiences will have a chance to see what happened from Mimori’s perspective in the upcoming episode.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a while since I’ve done episodic reviews, with last year’s Brave Witches being the last anime I followed in this format. Being an episodic review, this one (and the other upcoming five) has twenty screenshots, and I remark that this is probably one of the first Hero Chapter talks out there, coming ahead even of Random Curiosity. I’ve chosen not to do episodic reviews for Washio Sumi Chapter, since I covered all three movies previously, and as such, I had a bit of open time in this month’s first half. I ended up capitalising on that time to play through Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and looking back at my journey, it was well worth the price of admissions – aside from just being a good game in general, the start of December is looking quite busy.

  • It’s amusing that Sonoko and Yūna get along with one another so well, and par the course for an episode out of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the opening moments are filled to the brim with amusing facial expressions, comedy and antics worthy of Pure Pwnage. It seems quite a world away from the suffering that Heroes experience from fighting in a system whose mechanics are not fully explained to them, and the first episode opens with the girls performing a play for kindergarten students, as they’ve done previously.

  • Fū was once an excellent student, but the stresses caused her grades to plummet. Sonoko is helping her study and prepare for the transition into high school; they’re seen working on matrix operations with complex numbers (described by the expression a+bi, for real numbers a and b, plus the imaginary i being the solution of the expression x² = -1). Despite nailing that course when I was an undergraduate student, I’ve not done linear algebra or matrix operations for quite some time, much less linear algebra on matrices with imaginary values, and so, I’m thankful that Hero Chapter only mentions these in passing.

  • In the opening episode to Hero Chapter, Karin and Fū tie for the category of most “funny faces made”; Karin is reacting to the fact that Sonoko practises ventriloquism with a stuffed animal here. While seemingly out of place, it’s worth remembering that everyone in Hero Chapter is of middle school age. Even adults have stuffed animals that they’re fond of, and while the biochemical mechanism isn’t well-characterised, some studies suggest that it’s a form of essentialism, where objects can have additional attributes, such as memories and emotions, associated with them. Similarly, the tactile feedback stuffed animals give evoke memories and feelings of care and nurture; our fondness for stuffed animals is shared by other mammals, as well.

  • After a baseball game, Karin and Yūna return home, sharing their enjoyment of the day’s events and complimenting one another on their performance. Yūna’s life philosophy is that “You’re likely to succeed if you try”, and it’s the fifth tenant of the Hero Club. The Hero Club’s tenants are similar to my karate club’s dōjō kun, where we have five tenants as well. We recite them in Japanese before the start of class and once more in Cantonese at the end of class. When Yūna spots a girl in a wheelchair, she pauses, evidently remembering Mimori.

  • Even only a handful of minutes into the episode, Mimori’s absence is noticeable, and it is quite striking that even Yūna does not seem to be overly concerned that Mimori isn’t around, especially considering their promise to never forget one another. Here, Itsuki brings cake from her home economics class to share with the others.

  • It’s been quite some time since I baked things for a home economics class, this would have been in middle school, where I made a banana bread in my first practical class, and we eventually reached cookies and cheesecake. I’ve never really been too unskillful with basic baking, since it’s a simple matter of properly mixing the right quantities of ingredients together and then sticking the results in the oven for a period of time. Of course, one can’t subsist on cake and pastries alone, so in subsequent years, I took cooking classes so as to better prepare meats and vegetables.

  • At present, I would say that I’m passable at cooking: my cooking certainly hasn’t killed or injured anyone, which is a good sign, but I’m a bit slower at chopping vegetables and stripping excess fat from meat. One of my goals in the upcoming year is to cook more so I can be more proficient. Back in Hero Chapter, Itsuki gets a positive result from her friends, who enjoy her cake. Following Yūna’s reaction to a wheelchair, Itsuki suddenly wonders why she’d made six slices rather than five, and while Sonoko’s evidently superior math allows her to divide up the final slice, it’s another sign that that Mimori’s absence is troubling.

  • The Great Bridge was destroyed during the battle when Sonoko engaged her Mankai to take on an increasing number of Vertex during Washio Sumi Chapter‘s final moments in the name of protecting Mimori and everyone’s memories alive. The exertion leaves her catatonic and bed-ridden, with the miracle at the end of Yūki Yūna is a Hero fully restoring her functions. However, the bridge remains destroyed, and a war memorial has been erected at the site to remember those who died during Vertex attacks.

  • Prior to her first play with the Hero Club, Sonoko visits the memorial where Gin’s headstone is located. Her death in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s second act was a particularly difficult one that forced the Taisha to update their system. Like all revisions, the changes brought new advantages and disadvantages that drove Fū and Mimiori over the edge in season one. The sheer number of tombstones here could be a grim and somewhat macabre reminder of just how lethal the vertex are.

  • When Sonoko is absent, the Hero Club considers postponing the day’s performance, especially in light of the sense of unease that Yūna feels. However, when the instructor of the kindergarten class appears, Yūna decides to proceed with the performance, speaking of her commitment to the Hero Club and responsibilities. It’s an admirable trait, and in conjunction with her sense of integrity and perseverance, Yūna is a capable Hero who looks after both her teammates and the objective.

  • The Hero Club’s plays are highly enjoyed by both children and parents alike; their activities are diverse and varied, ranging from helping out at charity events and volunteering to entertaining others. When first introduced in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the Hero club’s everyday activities belied its true purpose. Here, Fū plays the role of Satan, while Yuūna is the hero who stands up against evil even as her list of allies grows thin. A line in the play causes Yūna to remember what Mimori said to her earlier, and overcome with emotion, Yūna finds herself in tears, unable to continue with the play.

  • Sonoko arrives mid-play; of the Heroes present, she remembers Mimori and works out what Yūna is feeling. Yūna herself earlier had a flashback to a conversation that she shared with Mimori where Mimori made a promise to a comatose Yūna to be together forever.

  • A glance at the calendar shows that Hero Chapter‘s first episode was originally expected to release last week, but a recap episode intended to help viewers reacquaint themselves with the first season was shown instead, leading folks to wonder if Hero Chapter would only consist of five episodes. This is not the case: looking through materials show that there will be six episodes to Hero Chapter. We’re now a month away from Christmas now, and it’s been a bit of a rough week for me. I’m glad it’s the weekend, which will give me a bit of time to recover, regroup and return to work on Monday to take on the new challenges that have arisen.

  • Because this post is about Hero Chapter, I won’t go into more details pertaining to what happened except that I wholeheartedly hate folks who pretend to know more than they do, can’t actually get the job done when the moment calls for it, and have the audacity to look down on others in spite of their own shortcomings. It’s a consolation that we won’t be seeing this particular individual again. Returning to Hero Chapter, Sonoko and Yūna share the truth with the others to bring everyone into the loop.

  • The body language, facial expressions and camera placement illustrate the sort of pain and corresponding courage that Sonoko and Yūna have for sharing their knowledge with Itsuki, Fū and Karin. The truth can be difficult to express at times, but time and time again, being truthful is important, saving critical time and enabling issues to be properly addressed rather than being dismissed and allowing them to grow into unmanageable problems.

  • Sonoko’s appearance is to Mimori and Yūna’s pleasant surprise: Yūna is overjoyed to be meeting one of the most prolific Heroes of all time, while Mimori is reuniting with an old friend she’d forgotten about. After a theatricality-filled entrance and introductions, Sonoko continues to refer to Mimori as Washi, her nickname derived from her old name Sumi Washio. When the final act to Washio Sumi Chapter concluded, I said that I would stick with the convention of referring to Sumi as Mimori.

  • Through the flashback, it is suggested that shortly after the events of the first season, everyone returned to their everyday lives together, but at some point, Mimori was removed from the proceedings, and everyone’s memories were imperfectly modified. This suggests that the Taisha, whatever their capabilities might be, have limitations, and while seemingly trivial for now, it could return later this season.

  • Yūna’s naïveté is one of her more endearing qualities, and when the club brings in a certain “National Defense Mask”, they learn that Mimori is trying to step up her game and recompense for her actions during the first season’s climax. Yūna seems blissfully unaware that this individual is really Mimori. It’s interesting that shortly after this incident is discussed, the flashback draws to a close, and the scene transitions into another dimension or universe, where a young girl is subdued and held amidst flames.

  • Some folks believe that, it this is Mimori, it’s a warranted punishment for Yūna, while others have better argued that Yūna’s actions were justified and well-chosen. I wasn’t around to see discussions for Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season, but it looks like some are letting their emotions get the better of their judgement already in Hero Chapter. It’s still early in the game to be passing judgement on the characters, and so, with the first episode in the books, it’s onwards to the next episode. In the meantime, I’m going to aim to finish Wolfenstein II and also get a ways into The Division, which I picked up earlier this week during the Steam Black Friday sale.

I found myself quite impressed with Washio Sumi Chapter when the movies were screened earlier this year, despite the lack of world-building with respect to why the Vertex and Heroes exist to begin with. While the first episode of Hero Chapter does not cover this, I’m nonetheless going to give this sequel the benefit of the doubt and remain optimistic that there will be some explanation of what drives their world. The fact that Mimori is imprisoned in some alternate dimension suggests that Yūna and the others might finally be able to learn more about this conflict: Yūki Yūna is a Hero has always been solid from a thematic perspective, being quite clear in what messages that Yūna and the Hero Club’s experiences are intended to convey, but in spite of their fascinating world, audiences who’ve only seen the anime tend to be shafted as far as background information is concerned. If omitted, this diminishes the strength of the themes that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is aiming to present to viewers; not knowing more about the world that the Heroes are fighting to protect takes away from the urgency of their fight. This is the importance of the world-building, to help audiences understand and develop some connection to the world that lets them appreciate what about Yūki’s world that is worth fighting for. With this being said, if Hero Chapter chooses to go in a different direction and the execution is satisfactory, I wouldn’t hold it against Hero Chapter.

Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! Review and Reflections At The Halfway Point

“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” —Kenneth Branagh

Mayu and Shiho initially find it difficult to act in their assigned characters for the television drama “The Dreaming Duo”, where Mitsuki and Yoko are share dreams and come to realise their love for the same guy. However, with inspiration, Mayu begins to act more fluidly for Yoko’s role, inspiring Shiho to do the same as Mitsuki. While the two agree on their relationship being a strictly professional one, the distance between the two lessens as the two work on their drama, which finishes shooting on a high note. Later, Junko arranges for a Sendai tour with WUG to inspire local fans. A scheduling conflict prevents Minami from attending, and during a performance that evening, Nanami steps in to substitute for Minami. While she falls on stage, her actions earn her endearment from the audience. After WUG announces their plans to release a new album, Ayumi gets lost at the inn and comes across WUG’s zoo costumes. Mayu accidentally spills tomato juice on one and assumes it’s Yoshino inside, deciding that it’s best to visit the hot springs and wash it off before staining occurs. Ayumi manages to escape, but is inspired by Mayu’s words about idols and their duty to bring smiles to their audiences. The next morning, she tells Mayu of her intentions to become an idol and Mayu wishes her luck. This is where things stand at the halfway point in New Chapter!, a series that has managed to retain its charm owing to its sincere narrative and honest characters.

The past three episodes predominantly deal with Mayu; she’s the most experienced of WUG members and, despite being one of the more soft-spoken members, has numerous insights into what expectations are in entertainment. This sort of maturity and professionalism initially caused her to butt heads with the other WUG members during the first season of Wake Up, Girls!, but time has allowed even the taciturn Mayu to open up. By New Chapter!, Mayu is sharing how she feels about her schedule and is expressive about concerns she may have with her duties, in turn allowing the others to support her in their own way. Similarly, having recovered her sense of purpose as an idol, Mayu sees their duty as putting smiles on the faces of their audiences, and that the WUG’s presence can be projected by each and every member. Capable of reassuring others in WUG, Mayu’s definitely been a source of inspiration to those around her, and also outside of the group; Ayumi is star-struck whenever she meets Mayu in person, and a part of this is that Mayu is remarkably kind, humble and approachable. Having found her joy in being an idol once again because of her time in WUG, Mayu is able to put her heartfelt feelings into her performances that, together with the others in WUG, have allowed the group to retain a loyal following, and from an external perspective, these same aspects within the anime have allowed Wake Up, Girls! to similarly retain a loyal following in reality.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • For the record, if The Dreaming Duo were real, I would likely watch it. In this drama, the normally-quiet Mayu plays the spirited, energetic Yoko, who is on the basketball team, and Shiho, who usually is more forward with her opinions, is Mitsuki, a reserved student fond of the arts. The roles are opposite of their characters, and while they initially have difficulty adjusting, the directors notice the improvement once both begin empathising with their respective characters.

  • The dynamic between Mayu and Shiho is similar to that of Mythbusters‘ Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman: Shiho outright tells Mayu that their working together will not be a sign that their relationship has mended, to which Mayu accepts. I was reading an article about how Savage and Hyneman do not get along with one another outside of work hours, but nonetheless are successful in working together as professionals. Like Savage and Hyneman, Shiho and Mayu respect one another’s work ethic, follow similar processes in getting things done, and value getting the job done well over their own egos.

  • Mayu’s busy schedule means that she misses preparing for breakfast on at least one occasion, but here, her teammates step up to the plate and help her out. The dynamics amongst WUG are give-and-take, and in between her work on the set, Mayu also participates in the other activities that WUG typically engage in.

  • I’m not sure what I’m looking at here; one of the stills shows WUG recoiling from shock and horror after touching something unknown for a television programme. This sort of show is a bit less common on this side of the planet: when I was in Japan, a great number of their channels were running game and talk shows. Japanese shows tend to be a bit flashier and text heavy, giving a much more excited sense compared to similar  shows in North America, which by comparison feel a bit more austere.

  • Shiho is momentarily recalled to I-1 Club when Moka sustains an injury, but as it turns out, the injury was relatively minor, allowing her to return to her usual duties. As the two embrace their roles further, they begin gaining a feel for the characters and occasionally offer suggestions to the directors to create a more natural scene. While the directors are initially appalled, the scriptwriter approves of the changes.

  • When the principal photography is complete for The Dreaming Duo, Mayu has a chance to speak with one of the project’s managers, who admits that the decision to cast Mayu and Shiho were originally motivated by a want to draw in more viewers using well-known names, but they ended up getting more than expected through both girls’ dedication towards their roles.

  • Ayumi, Itsuka and Otome find themselves tiring out on a walk for their physical education class and begin losing resolve upon hearing the distance remaining in the walk, but when Ayumi learns of WUG’s plans to do a bus tour of Sendai, Ayumi immediately gains a second wind. Of the three, it seems that Ayumi is the most interested in WUG, and she runs into Mayu herself while playing an extra in The Dreaming Duo.

  • Minami is tied up with a food show and is absent from the proceedings for most of the WUG Sendai tour. Kouhei does his best to keep the show running, and the day begins smoothly. On board the bus, Ayumi and her friends encounter some high school students from Tokyo who’ve become fans of Minami, and they quickly hit it off with one another. The remainder of the folks on this tour are male fans of WUG, and I will note here that, while their antics are a riot, I usually do not feature the vociferous WUG fans from the family restaurant because there’s not much I have to comment about them.

  • The first event on the WUG Sendai tour is a SCAVENGER HUNT type event, where participants must find each of the girls, dressed up as an animal, and collect a stamp from them. Each of the girls end up encountering difficulties in striking a balance between being out in the open and being well-hidden enough so the event is fun for the participants. As an aside, Wake Up, Girls! Zoo! was a spin-off that I ended up watching a ways back. Light-hearted and fun, each episode was a riot, and I also greatly enjoyed the theme song, as well.

  • Ayumi grows weak-kneed when coming face-to-face with Mayu herself. Her tendency to be star-struck has hilarious consequences within New Chapter!. Today’s post marks a three-streak, one of the longest I’ve had this year; in spite of a weekend packed with activities, I somehow managed to get a post out each day. Of course, this pattern won’t be the norm: posts take at least two to three hours to write, and this is why I won’t be writing about Far Cry 4 as of yet, even though I finished the game just yesterday.

  • Today’s events included going out for dim sum and then taking a short walk under the warmer weather: things have warmed up a little over the past week. The last time I had dim sum at this particular restaurant was back in February, and while dim sum appears unassuming, it is quite substantial – we ordered the usual suspects today (炸蝦角, 蝦餃, 燒賣, 鳳爪, 叉燒包 and 腸粉), plus a sticky fried rice. I’m especially fond of 炸蝦角 (jyutping “zaa3 haa1 gok3”), a deep-fried shrimp that goes great with mayonnaise. Dim sum is, in the words of Adam Richman, a Hong Kong institution, and that one can get Dim Sum in Calgary rivalling the quality of Hong Kong Dim Sum is downright amazing.

  • I’ve seen this technique used before in the Hai-Furi OVAs, and of late, constraints in New Chapter!‘s animation budget have become quite apparent. There are photograph-like scenes such as this, re-use of footage seen earlier and numerous stills while the characters are engaged in conversation. In spite of obvious shortfalls in animation, New Chapter! more than delivers the spirit and fun; from a certain point of view, the choppy animation can be seen as a bit of a visual metaphor for the rough-around-the-edges-but-sincere nature of WUG.

  • WUG performs First Rate Smile, a song that Tasuka wrote for them as their debut piece. Upbeat and energetic, the song is later given to I-1 Club to perform, as WUG is tasked with an even tougher song (Seven Girls’ War, the opening song). For the longest time, First Rate Smile could only be heard in the I-1 Club incarnation, although with the Wake Up, Best! album that released in March 2015, a full year after the first season aired, audiences finally had a chance to listen to the WUG version of First Rate Smile.

  • Upon seeing the disappointment in the audience at Minami’s absence, WUG decide to ask Nanami to perform in lieu of Minami on account of her sharing a similar stature, but Nanami stumbles and reveals to the audience that she’s not Minami. Far from drawing the audience’s ire, this action results in the audience cheering for Nanami, as well. Soon after, the real McCoy arrives, with Junko having exhorted transportation crew to get them to the hotel ASAP.

  • At the time of writing, WUG’s real-world equivalent have released numerous albums for the music of Wake Up, Girls!, and performed at several venues where they became a sleeper hit: their real world performers seem to embrace adversity, and as one article on ANN succintly puts it, the group turns disaster into dreams. Born of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, the project was initially to help with rebuilding Sendai. It was on the verge of failure and turned to recruiting voice talent in the Sendai area. The experiences and tribulations that the production team saw fed into Wake Up, Girls!, and in retrospective, it would seem that the reason why Wake Up, Girls! is so authentic and genuine is because it is inspired by real events.

  • New Chapter! is no Murder on the Orient Express, a recent film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic – Miyu finds Mayu after she accidentally spills tomato juice on Yoshino’s polar bear costume, a consequence of Ayumi hiding inside it after getting lost, and the girls must promptly remove it before the stain becomes a permanent feature. The reason why tomato juice is so difficult to remove is because of the pigment lycopene, a long-chain non-polar hydrocarbon. These molecules are hydrophobic and will cling to other similar non-polar molecules, such as those making up plastic containers or the fibres in clothing.

  • The guide to removing tomato juice stains are numerous, and the precise method will depend on how old the stain is. In the case of a fresh stain, the combination of water and detergent will be sufficient. After Mayu takes Ayumi to the baths, her fear of getting discovered leads her to hide. By a stroke of luck, the other WUG members arrive, and in the chaos, Ayumi manages to escape, leaving Mayu to wonder what really happened, but before she gets clear, Ayumi overhears Mayu speaking to the others about what being an idol means.

  • Future assignments will leave the girls with less time spent performing together, leading Miyu to feel depressed, but when Mayu reminds everyone that they’re WUG regardless of where they are, spirits lift considerably. One of the things about being an idol, then is also being able to help one’s teammates and oneself smile: if the point of the business is to give a bit of happiness to viewers, then those doing so must first learn to find their own happiness. Mayu is able to appreciate this, and her presence in WUG is a reassuring one.

  • The next morning, WUG participate in signing autographs for their fans. The tour ends up being a successful one, and it seems that Mayu is quite unaware that Ayumi was responsible for the previous evening’s escapade. Seizing the moment, Ayumi declares that she wishes to be an idol – from our perspective, we roughly know what idols in Wake Up, Girls! must experience. I’ve heard that Ayumi and her friends will form their own group, “Run, Girls, Run!”: their presence in New Chapter! seem to be about the positive impacts that idols can have as role models.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before, but ever since Wake Up, Girls! first season, Mayu’s been my favourite character. While still relatively off the beaten path, discussions about Wake Up, Girls! that I’ve seen have been quite positive. Time is moving at breakneck speed: we’re very nearly halfway through November now, and we’re rolling into December very soon. This anime season has passed by quickly, and I’ve found the other shows I’m watching to be enjoyable. With this post out the gates, I will be turning my attention towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter now – I’m curious to see both whether or not I can make an episodic review work, as well as what Hero Chapter entails.

With the next major goal being the production of a full WUG album, I’m looking forwards to seeing what directions New Chapter! will be taking. By this point in time, WUG has become accustomed to truths within the industry, but their cumulative experiences allow them to appropriately address whatever challenges come their way. The togetherness that is central to WUG’s strengths during performances have become somewhat of a crutch for WUG, and having foreseen this, Junko and Youhei have arranged for the girls to perform and work independently to increase their self-reliance. At the halfway point, this appears to be effective: the girls have definitely become much more resilient and adaptive. Mayu similarly reminds everyone that WUG will be WUG as long as everyone believes in one another, regardless of whether their working alone or performing together. While where all of these lessons and learnings will end up remains open for speculation, one thing is likely to be true: WUG will definitely find a way to overcome adversity that will invariably come their way as the series moves into its final episodes, and it will be enjoyable to watch how WUG goes about solving problems in with their own unique approaches.