The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru

Friends- Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Washio Sumi Chapter Part One Review and Reflection

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.” —Cassian Andor, Rogue One

Before she met Yūna Yūki, Mimori Tōgō was known as Sumi Washio. She is assigned, with her classmates Sonoko Nogi and Gin Minowa, as heroes to defend the Shinju from the Vertex. Despite still lacking the requisite training to be effective in combat, they are pressed into an engagement with a Vertex that presents them with a considerable challenge. In the end, it is the combination of brute force and a team effort that allow them to claim their first kill. Following this battle, their instructor assigns Sonoko to be the team leader, while Sumi struggles to summon the courage to become friends with Sonoko and Gin, all the while lamenting how the other two do not seem very serious or dedicated about their roles. Successful, the group of friends take on their second vertex and only manage a narrow victory over it; their instructor decides to give the girls a training camp, where they hone their ability to coordinate as a team. While improving as heroes, Sumi notices that Gin is consistently late for school, and one day, after tailing her with Sonoko and learning that Gin seems to be drawn into helping others, the third vertex appears. Faltering when Sonoko and Gin engage it, it is with their encouragement that Sumi opens fire on the Vertex, creating an opening that allows Gin to neutralise it. Sumi realises that despite her own determination, she is likely to be holding the team back and dissolves in tears, resolving to strengthen herself. So ends the first part of the Washio Sumi Chapter, the prequel to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, which sets the stage for exploring Mimori’s background as a hero. Veterans have noted that Yūki Yūna is a Hero lacks a formal exposition, dropping viewers directly into the universe without much in the way of explanation. While Yūki Yūna is a Hero managed to present a coherent, well-defined theme, the anime’s original run in 2014 also left audiences with questions: unlike Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which thoroughly explained their universe’s mechanics, very little about the Taisha and Shinju are known even after twelve episodes.

In Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part, the focus is on Sumi’s growth as a character, learning that beliefs and attitudes are only half the battle: when the time comes, action becomes just as important, and discipline during peace time may not necessarily correspond to acting appropriately during an operation. Although Sumi tries to remind herself time and time again that her own self-reliance will mean that she’s looking after Sonoko and Gin, when taking on the Vertex in combat, Sumi freezes up and stops thinking when her mode of attack, taking the form of a magical bow, proves ineffectual. Her ranged weapons have a low travel speed and are easily disrupted by turbulence the Vertex can conjure; these limitations in combat compared to the seemingly more effectual weapons that Sonoko and Gin wield appear to weigh on her mind. Instead of seeing herself as being useful in providing long-range support for her close quarters oriented teammates, Sumi concludes that she must improve to support her friends in new ways, rather than making the most of the loadout she’s got to assist Sonoko and Gin. These elements sum up to present Sumi as being a very consistent but rigid-minded individual, constrained by her own analysis and understanding of a situation; ever interested in studying history and its lessons, Sumi’s love of knowledge is her greatest asset, but both in Washio Sumi Chapter and the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it also becomes an impediment. Thus, right from the beginning, in establishing Mimori’s personality, audiences gain a better sense of what drives Mimori throughout much of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to the strength of Sumi’s belief in her own self-reliance, it is reasonable to suppose that the remaining parts of Washio Sumi Chapter‘s contents will deal with her gradually opening up, only to be sent back to square one as events unfold.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been around eight and a half months since I last wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and the anime itself aired between October and December in 2014. As memory serves, I was starting out on my journey as a graduate student back then; Sword Art OnlineSora no Method and Amagi Brilliant Park were the two anime I watched that season. In this post, I include thirty images of the Washio Sumi Chapter and open with the remark that Sumi Washio will be referred to as Sumi throughout this post even though she is re-christened Mimori Tōgō later on.

  • From left to right, Gin Minowa, Sumi Washio and Sonoko Nogi prepare for battle against their first Vertex. Mysterious beings whose origins are never explained and whose goals seem restricted to “destroy the Shinju”, they act as the antagonists that drive the protagonists together. One of the things that proved quite entertaining about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was that Hero duty is facilitated for by a suite of apps on the girls’ smartphones. Even in the short span since I watched Yūki Yūna is a Hero, smart phone technology has already increased in complexity: the new iPhone 7s do not have a physical home screen button and rely on Force Touch for interactions, and the iPhone 8 is expected to be even more sophisticated, leaving the iPhone 6 that I (and Taki of Your Name) wield in the dust.

  • As per tradition of any mahou shoujo anime, the girls undergo a lengthy transformation sequence when it is shown for the first time. Sumi’s sequence remains unchanged from its successor in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although when one factors into consideration that she’s only eleven here, the question of whether or not there’s any point at all in focussing the camera on her chest and posterior comes to mind. This might cross the line for some, and I’m not ready to consider the ramifications of Sumi’s transformation. However, I am quite ready to discuss her initial loadout as a hero: a magical bow that fires arrows dealing damage to the Vertex but is constrained by low projectile speed and as a result, suffers from serious projectile drop.

  • Gin is equipped with a pair of stylised blades with a rocket engine of sorts to boost her power. Confident, cheerful and easygoing, Gin prefers charging into combat with little semblence of a plan and is voiced by Yumiri Hanamori: a relative newcoming as a voice actor, I’m not familair with her other roles beyond those of Anne Hanakoizumi in Anne Happy, which I’ve yet to watch, and Remo of Garakowa: Restore the World.

  • Gentlest of the heroes but also a natural leader, Sonoko wields a trident that can transform into an umbrella-like shield during combat to cover her teammates. She is one of the longest serving heroes and loses much of her body in the fight against the Vertex as a result of activating her NT-D mankai in excess of twenty instances, later informing Yūki of the fate that awaits heroes. Sonoko is voiced by Kana Hanazawa, a veteran voice actor who’s also played Yukari Yukino of Garden of Words and Your Name.

  • Lacking any sort of combat experience, the girls improvise a plan but find themselves overwhelmed by the Vertex’s water-element attacks. The homing water bubbles overwhelm Gin, who demonstrates resourcefulness by drinking down the entire thing and remarking that while it tasted quite poor, it was a necessary move. Gin’s description suggests that the Vertex is using pure, distilled water free of any minerals: our taste receptors can pick up ions in water, giving water a minor taste, and distilled water will be unusually flat. While some folks consider distilled water the best to drink for its lack of contaminants, the lack of minerals can be detrimental to the body.

  • Ultimately, Sumi is able to shoot off one of the Vertex’s weapons, and Gin capitalises on this opening to slice-and-dice the Vertex, causing it to disintegrate and creating a phenomenon that is visualised as a shower of flowers. Gin and Sonoko celebrate their first victory together, and the world is restored. The soundtrack in Washio Sumi Chapter seems unchanged since its presentation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: composed by Keiichi Okabe (of Nier Automata and Wake Up, Girls!), there is an ethereal quality to his performances that rival those of Yuki Kajiura, who wrote the music for Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

  • The architecture in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is less visually distinct than those seen in Madoka Magica, speaking very little about the characters’ internal feelings. Structures featuring more conventional designs, and there are no major cities with skyscrapers, although some large structures, such as the suspension bridge, have unique features that make them unlike those of the real world: here, a large ring can be seen on one of the suspension bridge towers, and a close-up of the bridge reveals small charms attached to the bridge’s cables.

  • I’m gearing up to help judge at the Calgary Youth Science Fair this Friday, and will be in attendance of an orientation tomorrow evening. Despite being done school, things have remained quite busy, engaging. My reason for helping out with the science fairs is that I’m actually quite curious to see what young minds out there are doing these days. I still recall my participation in the science fair during my second and third year of middle school: on both occasions, I did a research project and won bronze in my category. Looking back, it definitely was a fun experience, and it will be quite exciting to see things from the other side of the fence.

  • Sumi turns luminescent when Sonoko asks her to share her gelato here, after they visit a local place to celebrate their first victory and also commemorate their friendship. It’s not quite as intense as Kon of Urara Meirocho, whose entire body turns pink out of embarrassment. I’ve noted before that Kon and Mimori/Sumi strongly resemble one another, similar to how Itsuki and Nono share some similarities in appearance and manner.

  • The second vertex Sumi and the others face project a powerful windstorm that makes movement nearly impossible. The abstract designs of the spaces the Vertex and Shinju occupy in Yūki Yūna is a Hero lack the same imagery of those seen in Madoka Magica, lacking distinct features of the Witches’ labyrinths. This is because the Witches’ labyrinths are spaces the Witches create to hide in and can provide an approximation of the Witches’ former character (for Oktavia von Seckendorff, her labyrinth is characterised by a fixation on Sayaka’s crush, Kyōsuke, and his musical talents), whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the heroes fight in an alternate space to minimise damage to the real world.

  • While doubtlessly not short with respect to the cool factor, arrows are a very limited weapon against the Vertex, who can deflect them without much effort. Sumi’s weapons are further constrained by the need of a charge time to be effective: they appear to deal their maximum damage only after all of the pedals in the holographic flower are lit. Charged weapons are a feature of some first person shooters (Team Fortress 2‘s snipers, the Gauss rifle’s siege mode in DOOM and the plasma railgun in Titanfall come to mind): a charge mechanic allows support players to deal massive damage in the support role, requiring patience. A good sniper hangs out in the back and targets their opponents from a distance, and it appears that Sumi does not fully understand her role on the hero team.

  • Gin’s melee weapons are oriented entirely for offense, while Sonoko’s trident suggest an intermediary role, allowing her to provide offense and defense as required. While the girls have the basic ranges and roles covered, a part of their limitation owing to their limited experience means that no one really capitalises fully on their abilities even in their second battle: as their instructor remarks, Gin’s final destruction of the second Vertex is more brute force than finesse. A team in touch with one another would see Sumi sit back from direct combat and use her ranged capabilities to provide covering fire. Sonoko would get herself and Gin close to the vertex and engage with their respective offensive weapons.

  • Following their second battle, their instructor decides that Sonoko should be the team leader; Sumi is presented as being arrogant to an extent, supposing that Sonoko was selected on virtue of background rather than skill, but nonetheless resolves to work hard and support the team as best as she can. Like Gin, I’ve never been particularly good with leadership roles and prefer to be in the passenger seat, helping a driver make decisions and provide support, although as the need arises, I can and will lead a team. This trait carries over to Battlefield and other games, where I prefer being a gunner rather than a driver.

  • Transforming her trident into a beach umbrella as a shield, their instructor’s exercise is to storm a beach, working as a team to reach a capture point without getting hit. In the beginning, the exercise is unsuccessful as each of Sonoko, Gin and Sumi act independently. However, when they work as a team as stipulated earlier, with Sumi providing covering fire from the rear and Sonoko shielding Gin long enough for her to close the distance and enter melee range, they complete their task splendidly. Besides practical training, the girls also hone their minds, busying themselves with study and even meditating, although Gin cramps up and falls over during meditation. I’m stupidly inflexible, and it takes all of my willpower to prevent my leg from cramping while I meditate.

  • After Gin tries to mess with Sumi’s assets, their instructor comes in to bring an end to things and restore the peace, promptly blowing Sumi and Gin away when she proves to be bigger…for them, resulting in the reaction here. Although Yūki Yūna is a Hero does have its serious moments, it is not devoid of comedy. Exaggerated facial expressions and reactions are present in the anime, and while there are themes of betrayal, trust and doubt as a part of the story, the overall tone is rather more optimistic than those of Madoka Magica.

  • The events of Madoka Magica were unexpected, coming out of left field and blew away audiences. If word is to be believed, it was the very learnings from Sora no Woto of the Anime no Chikara Project that were utilised in Madoka Magica to create a work that was both entertaining and surprising. The Anime no Chikara project is erroneously assumed to have been discarded after failure, and I myself assumed this to be the case until my recent Sora no Woto posts: looking into things, I learned that the program was intended to only run for a year.

  • Generally reserved, Sumi becomes rather more animated whenever history is mentioned: she wastes no time in conveying her enthusiasm for Japanese history and mentions the battleship Nagato. Constructed in 1910, modernised during the mid-1930s and serving as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s flagship for a period, the Nagato survived WWII, having seen very little in the way of direct combat and survived several attacks compared to other vessels. However, despite their intimidating looks, I myself are a much bigger fan of aircraft carriers over battleships.

  • I’m what is considered a wet blanket, since when I’m out, I tend to try and maintain a sleep pattern as close to that of home as possible so I have enough energy to get through the day’s main events, rather than staying up into the late hours of the evening. I’ve never been a night person, and typically, I get most of my work done between nine and three: in the afternoon, I grow tired, and productivity declines. This stands in stark comparison with some of my friends and coworkers, who work their best as the evening turns to night, at the expense of not being morning people.

  • After returning from their training camp, Sumi grows frustrated that Gin is late yet again, and decides to get to the bottom of things. She uses a periscope here to peer over some cover, with Sonoko in tow, learning that Gin’s propensity to help others seems to be something that can’t be helped. Very much a Japanese concept, Shikata ga nai (仕方が無い) is supposed to be the Japanese spirit of endurance, maintaining face in light of challenges; this stands in contrast with views in the West, where prevailing thought is to figure out a solution to that problem sooner rather than later (“don’t get mad, get even”).

  • Gin quickly becomes my favourite character of the Washio Sumi Chapter: ever ready to help those around her and carrying an inextinguishable spirit as a result of having to look after her siblings, she tends to help everyone along her way to school, explaining why she’s always late for school. Like Madoka Magica‘s original TV run and home release, the backgrounds of  Yūki Yūna is a Hero are quite simple and clean, compared to the more intricate backgrounds of the Madoka Magica movies.

  • The unusual setup of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero leads me to wonder if their world is not unlike of that of The Matrix, being a highly sophisticated simulated reality. In such a world, whoever is running this simulation would have their own reasons for keeping the characters occupied (perhaps similar to how Rick has an entire world inside his battery in the Rick and Morty episode “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”), and also would account for how things freeze as the girls take the Vertex on in combat. Of course, the presence of a microverse in something like Yūki Yūna is a Hero would be one of the biggest plot twists of the century.

  • Audiences should be safe, however: for the time being, there are few indicators beyond my own enjoyment of Rick and Morty that would lead to the potential conclusion that the Yūki Yūna is a Hero universe is set inside someone’s battery. Of course, that would also open up the possibility for someone to develop a miniverse and teenyverse battery, ad infinitum. For now, we return to Washio Sumi Chapter, where the third of the Vertexes appear.

  • In spite of Sumi’s belief in her own abilities, during the third engagement, she locks up after seeing the Vertex taking flight to evade her arrows and fears for Gin. Despite facing an adversary they seemingly cannot beat, Sonoko takes charge and creates a stairwell for Sumi; the elevation allows her projectile to hit, dealing some damage. Meanwhile, Sonoko draws its attention off Gin and is blown away.

  • With its attention divided, the stage is set for Gin to exit her defensive stance and go on the offense. With her rocket-propelled blades, she annihilates the Vertex. It’s a gruelling battle, and the girls sustain a nontrivial number of scratches during the course of this engagement. In keeping with mahou shoujo tradition, the transformation sequence for this battle is much shorter than the initial one: the thrill of the first launch or transformation is always at its maximum, and subsequently, they become a bit of a drag to sit through. In Gundam, for instance, launches shorten as the series progresses, but may become lengthier if the protagonists are about to set out on a pivotal battle, either for better or worse.

  • Rather than reacting to any dangers her team was in, Sumi here laments her combat inefficiency and that she was dependent on a teammate to help her out, rather than the other way around. The whole point of teamwork is that no single person carries an unreasonable burden, and it is with teamwork that great achievements are made. This forms the basis for my page quote: inspired by Rogue One, where the Rebels rally around Cassian’s clear instructions. The end result of a good team, with a good leader, has a synergy in which the team is able to achieve more than the sum of the outputs of the individuals together.

  • With the Vertex neutralised for the present, the girls find themselves back in their ordinary world. The large suspension bridge in the background, when viewed from a particular angle, also appears to have a cable-swayed component to it that brings to mind the Tsing ma-Ting Kau bridge in Hong Kong: their combined span is around 1.4 kilometers in length. At present, Tsing Ma bridge is the world’s eleventh longest single-span suspension bridge. It was finished in 1998 and connects Hong Kong International Airport to the Hong Kong.

  • The contrast of blues and greens in Washio Sumi Chapter‘s first part offset the mood after Gin and Sonoko notice Sumi weeping. The colours suggest the late summer period, a time of calm and where things are unhurried. A glance at the calendar shows that it is now exam season: I’ve been out of school for around eight months now, having formally finished at the end of August last year. It still feels a little unusual to know that it is the midst of exam season, and yet, I’ve got no exams on my plate. On some occasions, I still dream about “forgetting” to do assignments or being late for class; there is no single interpretation of what this actually means, but I do know that I do not have any assignments left for the present.

  • On my end, I’ve been remarkably busy as always, writing and testing iOS apps in Swift 3. Outside of work, I’ve been gaming and generally taking it easy: I’ve suddenly realised that my last four posts have been about games, so it’s high time I broke that streak and posted something about anime. This is how the Washio Sumi Chapter post came to be, as I was planning on writing about it later, but since there’s an opening now, I’d figure I’d take it.

  • These are the faces of two excellent teammates, and straight away, I feel as though Sonoko and Gin are as valuable as Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Mimori were to Yūna despite their having known Sumi for a shorter period of time. The second part of the Washio Sumi Chapter was released just last weekend, on April 15, and I’ll be getting around to watching that quite soon. Before that, however, I will be looking at Sakura Quest after three episodes, as well as wrapping up my journey through Titanfall 2. In the meantime, it’s time for me to kick back and see if the Flames can stave off total defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. If we’re to lose, I hope that we at least put up a good showing and go out in style.

There are three parts to Washio Sumi Chapter, and the upcoming second season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is broken up into two parts; the first part will be a televised broadcast of the Washio Sumi Chapter, which is presently covered as theatrical releases. The second half, titled Hero Chapter, will be a proper continuation of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. Owing to this unconventional setup, it means that when the fall 2017 anime season rolls around, I will likely drop by and discuss Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter quite separately. For the time being, the second part of Washio Sumi Chapter released mid-April, and I’ve set my sights on watching this one. So far, Washio Sumi Chapter isturning out to be solid addition to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, although one of the things high on my wishlist in the second season’s Hero Chapter is a bit more explanation into what the Taisha are and how the Shinju came into being, as well as what the origins of the Vertex are. Unlike Brave Witches, whose complex world-building and Witches are quite separate from the Neuroi, meaning the precise nature of their origins become a lesser concern, the Vertex and Taisha are the reason why there are heroes to begin with in Yūki Yūna is a Hero; to have the characters go through their experiences without properly equipping them with a reason to fight is to limit the series. In the meantime, I will look forwards to seeing what the remaining parts of the Washio Sumi Chapter have in store for audiences.

Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Full Series Review and Recommendation

“Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push. A smile. A world of optimism and hope. A ‘you can do it’ when things are tough.” —Richard M. DeVos

Yūna Yūki is a member of her middle school’s Hero Club, devoted towards lending a helping hand to all who require it. When mysterious entities known as the Vertex appear, Yūna and her friends wield the power of a Hero in order to defeat these enemies and protect the Divine Tree at their behest of the Taisha, their benefactors. However, the Hero system has a lethal trade-off, and as the Hero Club continues engaging the Vertex, they begin losing body functions as a result of awakening their powers. Faced with the prospect of fighting for the Greater Good at their own expense, Yūna and her friends’s predicament drives the narrative behind Yūki Yūna is a Hero (Japanese title: Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru): this is a magical girl series released back during 2014’s fall season and shares numerous similarities with Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Among these similarities include a terrible truth about the system the heroes are fighting to protect, the characters’ temperaments and their portrayal as being alone in their struggles, the concept of fighting enemies in an extra-dimensional space and even elements in the soundtrack. Yūki Yūna is a Hero exists in the shadow of Madoka Magica, and although the series’ merits are contentious owing to the numerous elements shared, Yūki Yūna is a Hero manages to differentiate itself from Madoka Magica with respect to its central thematic element.

In comparison with Madoka Magica‘s magical girls, Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s heroes are chosen by the entity known only as the Taisha based on their amplitude. Yūna, Mimori, Fū, Itsuki and Karin are heroes as a consequence of a decision that they have no part in, and this difference sets Yūki Yūna is a Hero apart from Madoka Magica, where the girls take on the role and responsibilities of a magical girl because there was something they desired enough to give up their life for it. The singular problem of choice is thus stripped away from the girls in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: the anime explores how individuals might react to an undesirable truth in the knowledge that they never had a choice to begin with, and consequently, as Yūki Yūna is a Hero progresses, the actions that Fū and ultimately, Mimori undertake imply that in situations where individuals are drafted into a role without knowing the full picture will almost certainly experience considerable difficulty in accepting the reality when it becomes available. Similar points are brought up in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Harry constantly is haunted by how much Dumbledore had kept from him, and while Dumbledore held his secrets ostensibly in the name of keeping Harry safe, this also becomes a liability when Harry sets out to destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes. In both cases, the appropriate course of action is a compromise, to let individuals know enough of the picture to carry out their task, but not disclose all details as to impede their progress. The Taisha very nearly become undone when Mimori is overwhelmed by the truth, and given their circumstances, Mimori and Fū’s responses are plausible reactions.

By removing the option of choice presented in Madoka Magica, Yūki Yūna is a Hero illustrates what happens in a system built on information hiding, but further suggests that people are strong: it’s ultimately Yūna’s belief in what she feels is right, and her ability to protect her friends, that allow her to annihilate the Vertexes and all threats to their world. In contrast with Madoka Magica, which insists that efforts and hope must give way to despair, Yūki Yūna is a Hero aims to present the opposite, showing that despair and failure is overcome when individuals with strong enough bonds and conviction strive to make a difference. There are no elements of Nihilism in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, and self-sacrifice is not painted as a preferable option. Paired with the fact that Yūna and her friends manage to make the most of things despite fighting a war they never chose to participate in, Yūki Yūna is a Hero winds up being more optimistic in nature than Madoka Magica. Some individuals regard this as a failure in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, suggesting that self-sacrifice is a heroic attribute in and of itself (by this logic, to shy away from self-sacrifice is to renege on what being a hero means, and this is completely false). However, this assumption is incomplete, failing to account for intent in a hero’s actions. It is this intent, the will to make a difference for the betterment of others, and the acceptance that some sacrifice will be required, that defines a hero. Like Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows, who intended to die to Voldemort and spare his friends, Yūna is prepared to do what is necessary with the aim of saving her friends. This determination and resolve makes Yūna a genuine hero worthy of considering herself thus. When everything is said and done, the experience that Yūki Yūna is a Hero confers on audiences is a decidedly different one than that of Madoka Magica: it is not to say that one is intrinsically better than the other, but rather, that each magical girl anime present a different take on what life as a magical girl is like.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I did a recommendation about a mahou shoujo anime was three years ago, shortly after I had finished Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I find Yūki Yūna is a Hero to be a fine anime for applying a slightly different spin on Madoka Magica to present the alternate idea that optimism and hope is viable even in worlds where the protagonists are dealt a particularly poor hand.

  • So, to continue in the tradition of recommendation posts about magical girls, this one is also formatted similarly, featuring a slightly larger collection of screenshots (thirty) and their usual complement of figure captions. One aspect of Yūki Yūna is a Hero that is distinct from Madoka Magica are the designs of the opponents and alternate dimensions where the protagonists fight. Whereas Madoka Magica relies heavily on imagery that has seen numerous fans analyse for the Witches’ backgrounds and philosophical value, the dimensions and enemies of Yūki Yūna is a Hero are more abstract in nature.

  • Fū is the de facto leader of the Hero Club, offering support and guidance to the other members as they go about their everyday activities. She fights with a broadsword in combat, and similar to Mami Tomoe, she’s reasonably well-versed with the fundamentals of the Hero System and combat, fulfilling the role of a senior the others can rally around. The Hero System that powers the girls’ equipment, along with any communications from the Taisha, are run on smart phones as apps, and while it’s a clever sign of the times, their use also means that Yūki Yūna is a Hero could become quite dated if communications technology ever moves away from smart phones.

  • If and when I’m asked, Mimori Tōgō is my favourite character: she’s most similar to Homura Akemi of Madoka Magica in appearance and manner, choosing to make her own decisions after researching any given topic to the best of her ability. This forms the basis for her nationalistic tendencies and motivation for fighting the vertices. There is one additional aspect about Mimori that leads her to claim the position of being my favourite character, and there are several screenshots in this post that should provide the justification for why this is.

  • Karin joins the Hero Club, ostensibly to keep an eye on the other Heroes and monitor their combat proficiency. With the most experience of anyone in the Hero Club, her primary weapons are a pair of katana swords; Karin fulfills a similar role to that of Kyōko Sakura and even share a similar character development path, opening up to the other characters at Yūna’s persistent attempts to befriend her and bring her close to the group.

  • Madoka Magica and Yūki Yūna is a Hero differ slightly in how they handle the depiction of their respective worlds: in the former, the world at large becomes increasingly cold and detached relative to the central cast as the girls become more entangled on the implications of being a magical girl, but in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the girls continue to be a part of their world even as they continue fighting the vertices that are encountered. This particular aspect is probably meant to hint at the idea that becoming removed or withdrawn in the face of adversity is probably one of the reasons why the magical girls in Madoka Magica fell prior to Madoka’s sacrifice.

  • While Karin takes some time to warm up to Yūki and her friends, there are subtle signs even early on, that she’s begun to accept Yūki and the others. Here, they celebrate Karin’s birthday; visible on the table are cakes and sweets that are common to birthdays. I suddenly realise that I’ve never celebrated my birthday before with friends; all of my birthdays have been celebrated with family, and this year, I returned to Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse to take on the ribs-and-half-chicken dinner. I enjoyed every bite of the St. Louis maple bourbon ribs, smoked half-chicken, cornbread, steamed vegetables and fries, but this is about as much food as I can realistically finish in one sitting.

  • In the downtime between taking on the Vertices (the enemy leviathans are singly known as “Vertex”), the Hero Club enjoys an outing where they partake in Karaoke. The fourth episode deals with Itsuki and her shyness preventing her from performing well on a music exam. She’s shown to have a great singing voice, and with encouragement from Fū and the others, she practises to ensure that she performs her best on exam day.

  • This practise pays off, and it turns out Itsuki’s aced her exam. With all the other characters having a counterpart from Madoka Magica, Itsuki is unique in that she does not resemble Sayaka to any capacity, being a soft-spoken girl who greatly admires her sister, enjoys reading fortunes with her Tarot cards and fights with magical vines in combat. After this exam, Itsuki sets her sights on performing for others and participates in an audition of sorts.

  • Prone position is one of the better stances for sniping, since one can absorb the recoil more easily , although Mimori’s assets may make it difficult for her to lie flat on the ground. Fielding ranged weapons in combat, Mimori wields a long range rifle, two pistols and has access to remote funnels, as well. Her transformation sequence is surprisingly fun to watch: a challenge I issue to readers is to see the minimum number of iterations that pass before one takes their eyes off the GIF.

  • The mankai form (“full bloom”) that heroes take allows them to wield an extraordinary amount of firepower in combat for short periods of time after they’ve taken sufficient damage or expended a certain amount of energy (similar to the Revenge or Super gauges in Street Fighter IV). The tradeoff for this power is that the Hero loses a bodily function permanently, since the power comes directly from the gods.

  • I wondered how well Hiroyuki Sawano’s themes from Gundam Unicorn would work with the Heroes activating their Mankai systems for the first time, and found the answer was “remarkably well”. Despite the initial similarities to the NT-D of Gundam Unicorn, the Mankai system is much more difficult to control or master, coming at an extreme cost to the user.

  • One of the more notable aspects of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the solid presence of optimism and humour even in light of the aftermath of the girls’ battle with the last of the Vertices. As a result of using their Mankai, Yūna loses her taste, Mimori suffers from hearing loss in her left ear, Fū loses sight in her left eye, and Itsuki becomes mute. In spite of this, everyone is in high spirits for having beaten the last of their enemy and looks forward to a speedy recovery.

  • I remarked that the school rooftop in Madoka Magica represented the distance and uncertainty associated with being a magical girl in that universe, but in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the girls hang out up here during their breaks, where they share various conversations in a much more cordial manner. Here, everyone is looking forwards to some well-earned R & R following the successful completion of their assignment.

  • Following their latest mission, the Taisha finance an all-expenses paid vacation for the Heroes. Fū and Itsuki enjoy some shaved ice on the beaches as their vacation begins in earnest, with traditional beach-going activities, such as swimming, watermelon-smashing and sand castle-building, coming out in full force. This episode marks the halfway point for the narrative in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, resembling the halfway point shift in Alien: Isolation where, after the Xenomorph is ejected into the void of space, players need only deal with hostile androids.

  • In Cancún, the turquoise waters averages 26°C – 29°C; it is warm enough to feel like bathwater and is incredibly pleasant to wade through and swim in. Beaches in the southern regions of Japan attain similar temperatures and would yield an equally comfortable experience, giving Mimori and the others no problems in relaxing. This stands in stark contrast with the 11°C or so for beaches in Vancouver; at these temperatures, swimming for long periods without a wetsuit could grow uncomfortable for the uninitiated.

  • Besides their accommodations, the Taisha have also arranged for exquisite cuisine to be prepared for Yūna and the others: crab, lobster and Kobe beef appear to be on their evening menu here. Seafood in the Prairie provinces is unsurprisingly expensive owing to the cost of transportation, and ever since experiencing fresh lobster in Boston a few years ago while travelling the Eastern Seaboard, I’ve longed to visit the Maritime Provinces to experience lobster and other seafoods.

  • For the readers, here is the fourth “reason” why Mimori occupies the throne as my favourite character. I assure readers that this will be the last of such images: Yūki Yūna is a Hero switches to a more serious side after the eighth episode, which deals with the girls’ reactions to the revelation that their gods are acting for the Greater Good at their expense.  This particular aspect of Yūki Yūna is a Hero became a polarising element, with at least one individual feeling “insulted” that Mimiori’s actions appear inconsistent with her establishment as someone who meticulously researches things.

  • The individual in question is demanding that the authors hand them Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s main theme on a silver plate, claiming that elements, such as why Mimori chooses to fight against the others and why a system where recovery of lost body functions is purportedly impossible is reverted, are “unattended”. In response to this, I remark that Mimori is fourteen, an age where the frontal lobes have not fully matured yet to make the same decisions as adults. She reaches a particular conclusion through reasoning based on her experiences and while her decision may not completely be rational to viewers, applying an empathetic outlook will find that through Mimori’s eyes, her decision makes some sense.

  • Karin and Yūki engage a Vertex together once it’s shown that new enemies have arisen, more than the initial twelve the Heroes had assumed to exist. Concerning the second point about how the Gods can turn the system around, this can be boiled down to the fact that the Heroes are dealing with Gods who can perform miracles, such as healing mortals. As it stands, it is quite unreasonable to expect that a story be consistently forwards all the time,

  • Following their latest showdown against the Vertex, Mimori and Yūki meet Sonoko, a Hero whose frequent use of the Mankai deprives her of mobility. She explains that the Taisha work under the Shinju, deities that aim to preserve humanity for reasons unknown, and Mimori later learns that the “defeated” Vertices are constantly being regenerated in an endless cycle that will eventually see the Heroes reach a similar state as Sonoko.

  • After Fū learns that their disabilities are permanent, she is pushed over the edge by the knowledge that Itsuki will never be able to fulfill her dream of becoming a singer and seeks to annihilate the Taisha on her own, wrought with guilt at having brought everyone into this mess. She engages Karin here, and it takes a bit of effort from Yūki and the others to convince her that they have no regrets for joining the Hero Club.

  • Curiously enough, the tenth episode of Yūki Yūna is a Hero is functionally identical to the tenth episode of Madoka Magica in objective, telling Mimori’s story in flashback and explaining where she’s coming from in order to explain why she’s about to carry out the actions that she does. Some viewers believe that the sudden inclusion of all of these elements “forces” drama in a bid to engage the viewer’s pathos, being “cheap” and “manipulative”. However, this is not a point that can be held against Yūki Yūna is a Hero: the anime as a whole aims to show the opposite message of Madoka Magica in that being together is how individuals can overcome seemingly overwhelming adversity.

  • This is why Mimori is depicted as attempting to make the decision of ending the world on her own, and why it is Yūki and the others who convince her otherwise. Here, Karin engages no fewer than five Verticies on her own, engaging the NT-D Mankai in order to defeat them more quickly at great personal cost. By this point in time, Karin’s completely embraced the Hero Club’s five core tenants and is fighting for something precious to her. While I would have included a pantsu screenshot here, so chaotic were the angles, the more serious tenour of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s second half means that would be quite unnecessary.

  • Repeated use of her Mankai costs Karin her sight, hearing and right limbs, prompting Yūki to enter the fray and bring an end to the madness. Concerning the sort of madness that I’ve heard surrounding discussions of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, it appears that it’s limited to only a handful of individuals who, to use an idiom, missed the forest for the trees. Thus, while the ending comes across as unclear and ambiguous for them, I find that it’s actually reasonably clear what Yūki Yūna is a Hero is about. For that, Yūki Yūna is a Hero is hardly a “full-fledged failure”.

  • Blue-on-blue combat occurs as Fū tries to stop Mimori from realising her plans, but Mimori is willing to resort to any means of ending everyone’s suffering by bringing about the end of their world, eventually removing Fū from the combat. This leaves Yūna the only Hero left to stop her, and taking a leaf from Junko’s advice to Madoka about doing something out of the ordinary to stop a friend from making a mistake, Yūna closes the distance and decks Mimori in the face, before sorting things out through talk rather than force.

  • While I found the themes and message in Yūki Yūna is a Hero to be acceptably presented, I acknowledge that it can be a little difficult to ascertain what they are. However, there is one review out there that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be a hero and misses the entire point of Yūki Yūna is a Hero. The claims are as follows:

The problem here is that Yuki Yuna is a Hero wants to have its cake and eat it too; it advocates heroism, repeatedly pronouncing the tenets of the Hero Club as if they were the Buddha’s Five Precepts, but it denounces self-sacrifice. Puella Magi Madoka Magica flagrantly thumbs its nose at the law of physics that says energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it understands the deeper truth that this law of physics embodies, that nothing comes from nothing, that an effect cannot be greater than its cause, that everything in the real world has costs and benefits:  Madoka is able to save the world by self-sacrifice, and her self-sacrifice is only possible because of what Homura has already done for her. Outlandish as the story is, this reflects reality—a hero can change the world, but he cannot bring benefits into being with no cost, because nothing comes from nothing. Out of what can a hero possibly make a better world, except his sacrifices?  This principle is so fundamental that story structure demands it: we expect the conclusion of a story to arise out of what has gone before, and when it does not, we balk at it. Thus the ending of Yuki Yuna falls flat because its underlying message is wrong.  In the end, Yuki Yuna is not so much a Hero as she is a Deus ex machina, and of a particularly blatant variety. The show intends to praise heroism, but instead inadvertently makes light of it because it shies from what heroism demands.

  • By this logic, if a hero does not sacrifice themselves totally for their cause, they are not a hero. This contradicts the underlying definition of a hero and does not reflect reality: a hero is an individual who sacrifices at least some of their personal concerns or values for a cause. Yūna, aware of what her continued fighting entails, decides to accept them in exchange for her friends’ safety. This is consistent with the definition of a hero. Similarly, the claim that Madoka Magica succeeds where Yūki Yūna is a Hero fails is completely false; Madoka’s total sacrifice, though creating a better world in the short term, ultimately leaves her unable to prevent and precipitates Homura from rebuilding the universe again for her own visions of protecting Madoka in Rebellion Story, undermining Madoka’s sacrifice completely (and with it, the entire comparison).

  • Even supposing that the misconceptions that a hero necessarily must experience the consequences self-sacrifice to be of any worth holds true, the statement fails to account for intent. Yūna decides to place her own health on the line with the intent of saving Mimori, Fū, Itsuki, Karin and their world. This choice is what makes Yūna a hero, and that she later recovers from her coma is merely a bonus, suggesting that not all sacrifices need to have permanent consequences. Far from the misconception that “the underlying message is wrong”,  Yūki Yūna is a Hero comes through successfully with its message and paints a more optimistic, neither better nor worse, alternate message to that of Madoka Magica.

  • Ultimately, Yūna’s sacrifice results in a coma that she recovers from, and similarly, the other heroes recover from their injuries, as well. The rationalisations of the Taisha and Shinju are not expressed to viewers presumably because they would be beyond our comprehension. Considering their status as Gods, this is not unreasonable. There is one limitation in Yūki Yūna is a Hero that is not so easily explained, and that lies with the aftermath of Yūna’s actions; the girls now know that their world is a sham, being similar to what would happen if Neo had taken the Blue pill that Morpheus offered, with the exception that the Blue pill did not wipe one’s memories.

  • With this caveat in mind, I find that the idea of the girls’ returning to their routine and living every day to their fullest, even in light of this knowledge that the world sucks, to be an appropriate one. People find the most meaning in their lives when they learn to make the most of their situation. Yūki Yūna is a Hero imparts the message that life can be lived with an optimistic outlook, and this brings this review to a close. I note that my perspectives on Yūki Yūna is a Hero mirrors my own outlooks on life. Not everyone will share this belief, and it’s quite acceptable to explain the merits of other viewpoints in the comments provided the discussion focusses on the ideas themselves.

Yūki Yūna is a Hero will likely continue to remain in the shadows of Madoka Magica, but the anime itself represents a solid anti-thesis and complement to Madoka Magica, making it worth watching. Thus, my final verdict is that this anime earns a recommendation for fans of the magical girl genre or those who greatly enjoyed Madoka Magica. While not all of the charm from Madoka Magica carries over to Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the different take on things is sufficient to merit watching. For fans whose interest lie outside of the genre, Yūki Yūna is a Hero can be worth watching, as well: enough of the details of this world are presented so that the narrative is self-contained (leaving only a few minute holes), leaving the decision of watching down to personal preference. From a technical perspective, Yūki Yūna is a Hero remains of a generally high quality with respect to both its animation and aural aspects. I certainly enjoyed watching Yūki Yūna is a Hero and seeing where the theme would end up: I’ve never been particularly fond of the belief that “grimdark” confers additional weight or value to a story per se, and it is refreshing to see Yūki Yūna is a Hero remind audiences that making the most of one’s circumstances with an optimistic outlook results in a worthwhile existence.