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Yūki Yūna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter- Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.” –Eckhart Tolle

On their assignment to retrieve the Shinjuu sapling, Mebuki’s team comes under attack from the Stardust, but they’re saved by Yūna and her team. During Christmas, Sonoko shows Yūna and the others an old diary titled the “Hero Annals”, which provide a record of the earliest Heroes’ exploits: Wakaba Nogi, Yūna Takashima, Tamako Doi, Anzu Iyojima and Chikage Kori were the first group selected to defend from the Vertex’s arrival in 2018. Their team came under pressure from both the Vertex attacks and public opinion, and when Tamako and Anzu perish in combat, leading Yūna to go ballistic, Chikage begins losing her composure. She ends up attacking classmates, and during one operation, even turns her weapons on Wakaba, before being forcibly de-powered. However, Wakaba reveals that regardless of what happens, her intention had always been to look after everyone, Chikage included. In the end, Chikage is killed protecting Wakaba, but all mention of her is expunged from the official records. After Yūna Takeshima dies trying to fight off the Vertex, the records come to a close. Yūna herself becomes uneasy about the Taisha’s plans to sacrifice her to appease the gods, and the Sentinels are next assigned with the task of keeping the Vertex busy until the Shinkon Ceremony can be completed. Karin becomes distraught that she can do nothing for Yūna and comes to clash with Mebuki, but the pair end up encouraging one another and reconciling. On the day of the Shinkon Ceremony, the Sentinels provide fire support for a massive cannon intended to keep the Vertex at bay, and while all appears lost when members of the Taishas begin disappearing from the world, Mebuki manages to convince Aya to survive and live on. The cannon fires, and in conjunction with a concerted attack from the Heroes, Mimori manages to break through the barrier and reach Yūna, who ends up taking on the Shinjuu’s powers and wields them to strike down the Gods once and for all. In the aftermath, Sonoko explains that a part of the Heroes’ duties is also to help society recover. Although Sonoko envisions overthrowing the Taisha and managing the recovery efforts themselves, Itsuki convinces her there are other ways, and Sonoko ends up becoming a omikoshi to lead the Taisha. Four years later, Fū’s become a researcher, and Itsuki pursues a career in singing. Yūna and Minori begin venturing into Japan’s other islands in search of survivors while coordinating with Karin and Mebuki’s team. They affirm that so long as they have one another, anything is possible. In this way, The Great Mankai Chapter draws to a close, bringing Yūki Yūna is a Hero to an end and addressing questions that’ve been with me for the past four years.

Acting as an interquel of sorts for Hero Chapter, The Great Mankai Chapter strove to do something that had previously been absent in Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s previous instalments. These earlier acts were so focused on Yūna and her team that much of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero remain largely unexplored, creating a disconnect between the heroes, and the system they were motivated to fight under in order to protect what was dear to them. However, here in The Great Mankai Chapter, viewers are given a bit more exposition. It is shown that the Hero Club’s efforts during the Shinkon Ceremony were supported by the Sentinels, and that Karin had regained her resolve by speaking with Mebuki. Similarly, through The Great Mankai Chapter‘s portrayal of Wakaba and Chikage’s experiences as the first Heroes, The Great Mankai Chapter shows what events lead up to the world that Yūna and her friends were fighting for. Three hundred years earlier, the Vertex’s arrival had brought humanity to the brink of destruction, and even contemporary measures like cruise missiles proved ineffectual. It was only through the formation of the Taisha, and their deal with a faction of the Gods sympathetic to humanity, where humanity was able to fight back, but even amidst the hope of survival, people’s doubts lingered, and the Taisha were forced into adopting increasingly desperate measures in an attempt to stave off total annihilation, in time becoming a corrupt and unyielding organisation whose only concern was achieving their goals, without a concern for those who served under them. However, with the miracle that Yūna had brought forth, and much of the Taisha discarding their physical bodies to join the gods, Sonoko spots an opportunity to change things, promising that she’ll do her best to ensure that humanity can continue to survive and coexist with the Taisha, at least until society is restored. Overall, The Great Mankai Chapter was meant to establish that the Taisha’s corruption and disregard for the girls’ well-being was not always thus; centuries of struggle created a system of complacency, and as such, no change would occur. However, where the opportunity now presents itself, Sonoko now spots a chance to at least improve the system so the Taisha can better serve society, rather than itself. There are parallels within reality, of once-noble systems succumbing to disorder and laziness, as well as of systems that can undergo reform against all odds: The Great Mankai Chapter thus aims to show that when the cogs in a machine are determined, and have awareness of what had occurred previously, this knowledge can be used to impart positive change.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • 2017’s Hero Chapter would’ve been the last time I wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero in full (excluding the Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Churutto! spin-off). Seeing Karin again reminds me of her love for strange supplements, and back during Hero Chapter‘s run, times were quite tough. At the time, the startup I was with had been entering discussions with a local supplements company to see if our software was something they’d be able to use to help users self-report on a given supplement’s efficacy. The founder ended up bringing one of the developers along to the pitch meeting, but this proved to be a mistake, since said developer flatly said one of the functions was something we didn’t have the capability to implement (where in fact, I would’ve been able to build and test said feature within a week). In the end, the deal fell through because of this developer’s attitude, who was summarily dismissed for incompetence.

  • I was glad to see the last of this developer; his tendencies meant meetings would often go nowhere as he lectured the remainder of us, and I remember watching Hero Chapter on my laptop rather than listening to his ramblings during said meetings. Getting rid of this individual was a win, and I remember that the day after, I enjoyed having the office to myself while watching the snow fall outside. The founder had assured me that 2018 would see us look up, and told me to enjoy my well-deserved winter break, during which I drove out to the mountains on a snowy day and visited my founder for a New Year’s Eve party before enjoying a 打邊爐 on the coldest day of 2017. However, despite this optimism we had entering the new year, the damage that developer had done left us in a very rough spot – we never did quite recover from this lost sale, and the company folded not more than a year later. Fast forwards four years, and the world’s become a very different place. My old start up is now a mere memory, but the skills and experiences I gained from these beginnings have accompanied me to the present.

  • When I began watching The Great Mankai Chapter, I had no idea what to expect, but as the episodes continued, it became clear that this series was about Mebuki’s contributions to ensuring Yūna and her team could finish their final assignment, as well as explore what led Yūna to give consent to participate in the Shinkon ceremony. With The Great Mankai Chapter in the books, many critical questions were answered. I’d long been wondering what the precise nature of Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s universe was, and had been hopeful that Hero Chapter would provide these answers. The original Yūki Yūna is a Hero was entertaining and provided an interesting alternative to the messages shown in Madoka Magica, but unlike Madoka Magica, which firmly established how Witches and Magical Girls work, Yūki Yūna is a Hero was considerably more vague.

  • The biggest questions I had concerned the nature of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero: by having Sonoko and the others read the Hero Annals and learning of the first heroes, viewers are able to finally able to see how things came to be, giving me the answers I’d been seeking four years earlier. As it turns out, the Vertex appeared back in 2018 and defeated all conventional weaponry. The first Hero team consisted of Wakaba Nogi, Yūna Takashima, Tamako Doi, Anzu Iyojima and Chikage Kori; like the Heroes that came after them, the team’s members had varying backgrounds, and while Wakaba was dead serious and completely devoted to her duties, Yūna was much more spirited, friendly and approachable. Like Yūna Yūki, Yūna Takashima believed that effort was the key to success and defined herself by always picking herself up after every tumble.

  • However, at the opposite end of the spectrum was Chikage, who came from a very difficult background and saw an idol in Yūna. In the aftermath of the battle that claims Tamako and Anzu’s life, Chikage becomes enraged by netizens badmouthing her team and grows increasingly resentful of Wakaba. Her deteriorating stability was a combination of her own psyche coming under stress and her use of her ace-in-the-hole. Things eventually build to a point where she cuts down several classmates and injures them with her primary armaments before Wakaba steps in, and subsequently, Chikage is suspended from duty pending an assessment.

  • The battle that killed Tamako and Anzu also leaves Yūna injured, and here, Wakaba oversees Yūna as she undergoes physical therapy. Nothing seems to get Yūna down, and for Chikage, this is something that she’s come to deeply admire about Yūna. However, a lifetime of trouble means she’s unable to articulate herself to Yūna, and having now seen her story, the events of Churutto! make much more sense: my feelings of pathos for Chikage only deepens after seeing the spin-off portray the other Heroes sharing their udon with her. Since Chikage isn’t in the right state of mind, she sees Wakaba with Yūna and becomes convinced that Wakaba will take Yūna from her.

  • This culminates in Chikage attacking Wakaba during an operation against the Vertex using her ace-in-the-hole: Chikage is able to summon seven spirits that take her form that can continuously regenerate and press the offensive. The Heroes’ powers in Yūki Yūna is a Hero are similar to those of Madoka Magica in that they seem dependent on the individual’s personality traits, although there are key differences: the Incubators’ magic allows Magical Girls to acquire weapons and powers based on the sort of wish they had, whereas in Yūki Yūna is a Hero, the Taisha assign individuals with certain traits to become Heroes fulfilling a certain role.

  • Before Chikage can seriously harm Wakaba, the Taisha depower her, prompting Wakaba to change her priorities from survival to keeping Chikage alive. It turns out that despite her manner, Wakaba did indeed care about every Hero on her team, even if she did not express it. Shocked by this revelation, Chikage ends up saving Wakaba’s life by pushing her out of the day of an oncoming Stardust, and in the process, is grievously wounded. Chikage succumbs to her wounds, but not before reconciling with Wakaba, who is devastated by Chikage’s death.

  • The Taisha subsequently determine it will be necessary to expunge all mention of Chikage from the official records. Back during Hero Chapter‘s first episode, one reader had become curious to know what meaning an unmarked tombstone had. At the time, I speculated it might’ve been related to Mimori, who had been taken to act as a sacrifice, but with The Great Mankai Chapter, this tombstone presumably belongs to Chikage. I would have liked to convey this to said reader, but after another member of the blogging community, from a certain Lily Garden, had a falling out with me for reasons unknown, said reader followed suit in unfollowing this blog and blocking me.

  • This particular incident is disappointing to me, since the anime community I’m a part of is generally accommodating and welcoming, and I’d shared many meaningful conversations with both individuals earlier without trouble. I have no qualms about reconnecting with these individuals if they feel up to it. Back in The Great Mankai Chapter, after Chikage’s death, the remaining heroes visit her place and find her room totally destroyed; all of her possessions are shredded, and there are large chunks of drywall torn out of the walls. The imagery offers an insight into how Chikage was feeling, and seeing her room always made me feel uneasy.

  • The only item that survived was a handmade diploma that Wakaba had awarded to Chikage after they’d made it past training together. This shows how despite slowly losing her sanity as a consequence of both her ace-in-the-hole and from the social media comments casually disparaging the deaths of her allies, Chikage continued to remember who her friends were even in her darkest moments. It goes without saying that the Taisha’s designs for the first Hero system was a failure: although conferring Heroes with enough power to fight off the Vertex, it also came at an incredible cost, and even these powers were not enough to keep Heroes from falling in combat.

  • When asked to speak at a press conference, Wakaba deviates from her original statement and openly declares Chikage to have been a proper Hero. Wakaba’s boldness prompts the Taisha to at least give Chikage a proper burial where she’d previously been denied one, although her existence would continued to be denied. In fact, were it not for Wakaba recording these events in a private journal, it is likely that Chikage’s memory would’ve been lost to time.  In this way, the Hero Annals become a critical resource for Wakaba’s ancestors centuries later: Sonoko’s willingness to share their contents is what sets off the events in Hero Chapter‘s second half.

  • Even though the original team down to two Heroes, the Vertex are relentless in their assault. For two Heroes, the onslaught becomes too much; Yūna does her best to stop them, but the sheer numbers overwhelm her. Reading through the source documentation, Vertex are an amalgamation of Stardust, the small white blobs that can combine to form larger entities, but individually, can still consume humans quite readily. Because of their origins, Stardust are immune to all existing weapons; I imagine that the Heroes’ weapons are blessed by the earthly Gods and therefore possess the power to damage them, but beyond this, everything from cruise missiles to DU kinetic penetrators are useless.

  • The choice of weapon against a foe like the Stardust and Vertex would probably be Funnel-like weapons; these remote weapons hail from the Gundam universe and mount their own weapons, allowing a mobile suit to engage multiple targets simultaneously. Against swarms, they’d be the most viable weapon to deploy. However, I imagine that the Taisha are limited in what the Shinjuu can provide, limiting Heroes to highly powerful, but ultimately, single-target solutions. Swarms eventually do overwhelm Yūna, and she’s rendered immobile after a fierce attack. Even this is not enough to stop her: Yūna has plenty of spirit and manages to activate a hitherto unknown power, the Mankai, to briefly get back into the fight. With the Mankai, she takes out a Vertex in the process, but succumbs to her injuries shortly after.

  • The Taisha would subsequently adopt the Mankai system over the ace-in-the-hole approach: the latter drew power from past spirits and corrupted the users, while the former derives its power from the user’s own native energy to channel the Gods’ powers. The cost of the Mankai system was that extended use cost users their bodily functions. While the Taisha would incrementally improve the Hero System in an attempt to keep Heroes for alive longer, their learnings are steeped with the blood of previously fallen Heroes, leading some people in-universe to decry the Taisha as incompetent and even evil (which had tragic consequences for Chikage). This choice is a deliberate narrative element, meant to show that even the most well-meaning organisation can fall to complacency over time.

  • As to why such an organsation could allow humanity to survive for three centuries before Yūna Yūki’s team managed to affect more significant changes, the answer is simple enough: every Hero that the Taisha have selected fought for humanity with their best, and coupled with incremental changes the Taisha made to the Hero system, became increasingly effective over time, even if they did ultimately perish in combat. Back in the present, the revelation of Wakaba Nogi’s thoughts have a sobering effect on Yūna Yūki and the others, impacting their thoughts.

  • Besides Wakaba’s journal, Sonoko also finds a common garden hoe stored away. Although it’s been in the Nogi family’s possession for generations, for all intents and purposes, it’s just a regular gardening implement.. Hero Chapter had shown that Yūna had become increasingly isolated from her friends after receiving a cursed scar on her body: without anyone to talk to, Hero Chapter suggested that Yūna was going through a path where she began to believe that her sacrifice would be the only way to save the world, but The Great Mankai Chapter provides further clarification on how Yūna came to reach her decision.

  • In a dream, Yūna Yūki (left) meets Yūna Takeshima (right): the pair resemble one another greatly, right down to their preferred hair style and facial features. In fact, the only way to tell them apart is through their hair ribbons and hair clips. While Yūna Takeshima offers to replace Yūna Yūki for the Shinkon ceremony, the latter declines because she feels duty-bound to end everything. When Yūna Yūki ultimately decides to go through with things, the Sentinels are called upon to provide defense for the ceremony, although Mebuki grows suspicious that the Taisha refuse to explain why her memories of their previous duties were modified.

  • In Hero Chapter, Karin had been distressed by the fact that she and Yūna had been growing more distant, but by the time the Shinkon ceremony begins, Karin had recovered her old spirits. As it turns out, even Karin had grown frustrated with the Taisha, enough to consider beating the answers out of them. When she runs into Mebuki, Mebuki challenges Karin’s resolve, and the pair spar with nothing held back. The bout worries the other Sentinels, but in the end, a reinvigorated Karin thanks Mebuki for reminding her of what matters. She thus enters the ceremony, alongside the other members in the Hero Club, with the intent of stopping things through any measures necessary.

  • Although Mebuki has no idea what the primary objective of the Shinkon ceremony is, she nonetheless commands the Sentinels to do their utmost to ensure a successful operation. If memory serves, the Shinkon Ceremony was to marry Yūna to the Shinjuu, and this would in turn allow humanity to transcend their physical existence and become one with the Gods themselves. One of the challenges about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was the fact that there’s a lot going on at any given time, and viewers are kept in the dark to the same extent as Mebuki and her Sentinels. From a narrative perspective, this is meant to maintain tension, but the end result is that one cannot really anticipate what’s upcoming, and once something has unfolded, it can take a few moments to definitively make sense of what occurred.

  • During the Shinkon ceremony, the Sentinels and their superweapon come under heavy attack when the Stardusts attack en masse. The other priests and priestesses, deciding to ascend to the heavens rather than retain a mortal body, begin disappearing, and without the prayers to support the weapon, it begins to roll back, threatening their original mission. Fortunately, Mebuki is on station and manages Aya that the world is worth fighting for. Mebuki might not be a Hero, but her desire to live and make her own mark on the world translates into an unwavering determination to do what’s right. She’s the opposite of Chikage in this sense, and while she has a large competitive streak that she’s since learnt to manage, she otherwise holds the traits that Heroes hold, leading those around her and doing her utmost to keep everyone alive.

  • Thanks to fire support from the Sentinels and their own powers, the Hero Club manage to break through and reach the Shinjuu. Here, Mimori receives assistance from the spirits of previously fallen Heroes and punch through the barrier. Ultimately, Yūna gains access to the Shinjuu’s native power and uses it to destroy the celestial Gods’ instruments of terror. The immense effort causes the Shinjuu’s death, and in the aftermath, humanity is left to its own devices. When I finished watching Hero Chapter, I found it difficult to comprehend what had happened until I did a bit of additional reading to clarify the events. Once this clarification was in hand, the ending to Hero Chapter made more sense, and it was this knowledge that ultimately made The Great Mankai Chapter easier to follow.

  • Because The Great Mankai Chapter indicates that the Hero Club had support from Mebuki’s Sentinels and finally built out the Yūki Yūna is a Hero world out to a satisfactory fashion, Hero Chapter suddenly becomes much stronger: I originally assigned Hero Chapter a B+ grade, but the additional information from The Great Mankai Chapter means that Hero Chapter can be bumped to an A-; the messages are a little clearer now, and further to this, some closure is gained in that, after Yūna and the others succeed, their futures are also shown. While it’s a bit of an open ending, it is an uplifting one that shows a world where Yūna, Mimori, Fū, Itsuki, Karin and Sonoko are able to find happiness.

  • The Great Mankai Chapter is technically an extension of Hero Chapter, and in my books, inherits the updated score I’ve given to Hero Chapter. Speaking freely, The Great Mankai Chapter wasn’t a series I was expecting, and while I was admittedly a little lost early on, once I caught onto things, it became clear as to what The Great Mankai Chapter was aiming to accomplish. As Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime is fond of saying, it’s the series that we might not have found necessary, but now that we’ve got it, it becomes an indispensable part of things: in the case of The Great Mankai Chapter, questions I’ve had for the past four years are now addressed in a way that I find satisfactory.

  • While Hero Chapter had briefly shown instructor Aki taking pause after spotting Mimori and Sonoko paying their respects to the fallen, The Great Mankai Chapter continues with the scene – all three grieve for those who had given up their lives in the fight against the heavenly Gods. Initially portrayed as a strict instructor, Aki is actually very concerned for her students and ends up deciding to stay behind to look after those who chose to live on. She loses her right eye as a result of the ascendancy, and here, I’ll note that with the four years that have passed between now and when Hero Chapter aired, the notion of people becoming wheat during the Shinkon ceremony brought to mind the effects that occurred when Thanos utilised the Infinity Gauntlet during the events of Infinity War to bring balance to the universe.

  • The resulting peace still creates a bit of a divide in humanity’s remnants, and the Hero Club discusses what to do about the Taisha. Karin blushes furiously after learning that the hoe in Sonoko’s possession was in fact, an ordinary hoe, contrasting her beliefs that it was a legendary artefact rivalling Glamdring or Narsil in stature. While Sonoko is all for forcibly disbanding the Taisha, the hoe also symbolised how a Hero’s duty extended to beyond combat, and after the other members of the Hero Club hear her thoughts, they persuade Sonoko to work with the Taisha in order to help humanity recover. Sonoko ends up suggesting this to instructor Aki herself.

  • Four years later, Yūna and Mimori begin exploring Honshu to see what remains. Amidst the ruined cities, it’s hard to believe that three hundred years have elapsed in-universe; according to Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, most wooden houses would have collapsed within five decades, while larger structures like concrete skyscrapers or bridges, would last about two centuries. It would only take a century for urban areas to be completely overgrown with vegetation. The portrayal in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is not entirely accurate to what the science states is the case, but for the purposes of fiction, this portrayal is satisfactory. While Mimori and Yūna scout ahead, Karin stays behind on a boat to guide them, and they exchange spirited banter during their excursions.

  • I still vividly recall how last year, I misread the moonrise charts and arrived an hour too early at that exact spot under similarly cold conditions. Seeing this particular moonrise had been something I’d wanted to do since last year, and since I’m moving in the new year, this likely represents the last time I’ll be able to watch something like this from that spot. A lot is going to be changing in the new year, and it’s going to be quite exciting ahead. For now, though, it’s still 2021, and that means I’m going to tend to the remaining posts I have left for this month: I’ve got a talk on Yakunara Mug Cup Mo‘s second season lined up for tomorrow, and after Christmas, I’ll focus on getting talk on PuraOre! and Halo Infinite‘s open areas written out. Because of production delays to 86 EIGHTY-SIX, I’ll write about that in the new year, once everything’s finished.

  • The Great Mankai Chapter still leaves viewers with an open ending, with Mimori and Yūna remarking that as long as they have one another, they’ll be able to make anything work out. This had previously allowed Yūki Yūna is a Hero to continue on with the story, but here in The Great Mankai Chapter, there is a sort of finality in how things are presented so that it feels unlikely that we’ll be returning. Because of everything that Mimori and Yūna have been through, viewers do have the confidence in the fact that the pair are prepared to handle whatever’s ahead, making this a suitable stopping point. It’s worth noting that, at this point in time, all of that focus on Mimori’s amble bust and shapely posterior, as the first season was wont to doing, is all but gone. This was to Hero Chapter and The Great Mankai Chapter‘s benefit: as the continuations show, there are other ways of lightening a moment.

Overall, The Great Mankai Chapter‘s most significant contribution to Yūki Yūna is a Hero is the fact that it fills in many of the lingering questions I had surrounding Hero Chapter and the nature of the world in Yūki Yūna is a Hero. The world once existed as what we are familiar with, but the heavenly gods, in their desire to annihilate humanity, created the Vertex and sent them to exterminate the world, swallowing up most of the known world and cutting off the island of Shikoku from the rest of the world. The earthly gods responded and gave humanity the Heroes, young women who would fight on behalf of humanity. To manage them, the Taisha was created. While the Heroes and Taisha both did their best, society’s faith in both waned, leading the Heroes to suffer as the Taisha implemented more drastic measures to defeat the seemingly-unbeatable Vertex. Over the years, a sort of status quo was reached, but by Yūna’s time, accumulated knowledge and particularly strong bonds of companionship would prove instrumental in breaking this status quo. The signifiance of Wakaba and Chikage’s story, beyond highlighting the doubt that Heroes faced from humanity, in addition to the threats the Vertex posed, was that it answers how the world reached its current state, and in doing so, it gives proper weight to the cause that Yūna and her friends were fighting for: the world is real beyond any doubt, and while most of humanity has indeed perished, there remains enough people around such that it is a worthwhile endeavour to defend who’s left, as well as set the stage for rebuilding. While The Great Mankai Chapter initially appeared extraneous to me (Hero Chapter had indicated that Yūna’s fight was over), after going through the series and seeing the Sentinels, as well as the first Heroes, gave context to what had happened in Hero Chapter, making this the series which satisfactorily answered the queries that remained on my mind when Hero Chapter finished four years earlier. Taken together, The Great Mankai Chapter becomes a very valuable resource for folks who are looking for answers that Hero Chapter had raised. Owing to where Yūki Yūna is a Hero concludes, I do not feel that a continuation would be appropriate: Yūna and her friends have far exceeded expectations in their duties, and it would be quite unfair to introduce new troubles into their world. However, because three centuries of history exists between the Vertex’s arrival and Yūna’s actions, the potential for spin-off stories is staggering: while I’m not confident that I would be game to write about every spin-off series that may appear in the future, I can say that Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s greatest strength is how every effort is made to show the characters in gentle, humourous contexts so as to remind viewers that, no matter how bad things get, the joys of an ordinary daily life are worth fighting for.

Yūki Yūna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter- Review and Impressions After Three

“The journey is never ending. There’s always gonna be growth, improvement, adversity; you just gotta take it all in and do what’s right, continue to grow, continue to live in the moment.” –Antonio Brown

After stopping the world from being consumed by shadow and flame, Yūna and her friends resume their lives with the Hero Club and participate in helping out around town with things ranging from playing in a band, to substituting for another team in an airsoft competition. While it appears as though peace has finally been attained, Mimori and Sonoko speak on how they’d forgotten about Gin despite their promise. Later, the Taisha reach out to Mimori with another request, leaving her shocked that there remains something to do: it turns out that a special task force, called the Sentinels, are in trouble: two years earlier, Mebuki Kusunoki and Yumiko Miroku were recruited for training, but ultimately, Karin was selected to be a Hero. The other candidates ended up being assigned to the Sentinels, whose assignment is to explore the world outside the barrier and participate in restoring the universe to its former state. During their first assignment, the task force comes under attack from the Stardust, and although they repel this, several Sentinels are overwhelmed and quit their posts, leaving the group short-handed. Mebuki ends up befriending a miko, Aya Kokudo, in the process, but is dismayed to learn that Aya is to be offered as a human sacrifice to appease the Shinju. Adding insult to injury, the sapling they’d planted to restore the world must now be retrieved, as the Shinju appears to be dying, leading Mebuki to conclude that the Sentinels were expendable. Here at the third season of Yūki Yūna is a Hero, three episodes show that an new storyline is being adapted into the animated form, dealing with the aftermath of Yūna’s deeds at the end of Hero Chapter: The Great Mankai Chapter indicates that although the threat to their world has abated for now, this world a shadow of its old form, and there is a desire to bring back what was, even if it means sacrificing the lives of youth to achieve this end.

Despite this being denoted as a Yūki Yūna is a Hero series, The Great Mankai Chapter‘s first three episodes have spent a considerably amount of time on Mebuki and the Sentinels so far, as they set about trying to lay down the groundwork for rebuilding their world. The shift in focus suggests that Yūna and her team will likely become a part of helping the Sentinels accomplish their assignment without any further casualties, and perhaps help Mebuki to understand that Hero or not, people can still make a difference regardless of their station. This has been something that was very prevalent in The Great Mankai Chapter; Mebuki is very stubborn and single-minded in her approach to things, and while she is a dedicated leader devoted to whatever task she’s assigned, she also holds both herself, and those around her, to almost unreasonable standards. These traits could be why she was never selected for a Hero, and much as how it took Karin some time to adjust to life with Yūna and the Hero Club, I imagine that a major part of The Great Mankai Chapter will deal with getting Mebuki to understand that teamwork is essential in any endeavour, especially one as complex and daunting as forging into unknown territories and attempting to revive the gods’ power so they can return their world to its original glory. At least, this is the direction that appears likely given what we’ve seen of The Great Mankai Chapter thus far: one of the aspects about Yūki Yūna is a Hero that I’ve always enjoyed is how the series pulls no punches and can always find ways to surprise viewers. While The Great Mankai Chapter is, strictly speaking, not a necessary continuation, I’m always game for more Yūki Yūna is a Hero because it could roll back the curtain on the the mysteries enveloping the world that Yūna and the others live in.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time I wrote about Yūki Yūna is a Hero was for the spin-of, Churutto, an endearing and lighthearted jaunt about the desire to craft the perfect bowl of Hero Udon, but the last time anything to do with Yūki Yūna is a Hero proper would’ve been early 2018, when I finished writing about Hero Chapter. While answering some questions I had about Yūna’s situation and resolving the problems the Heroes had been afflicted with, the series also left much unexplored, especially with respect to world-building.

  • Generally speaking, Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s strong suit lies with its characters and their experiences, but where the series falls short is exposition and development of the world Yūna and her friends live in. What I do know of their world is derived from supplementary materials, which are similar what was seen in the J.R.R. Tolkien legendarium: after the world was created, there was a clash between two factions of deities, and the Shinju, the gods sympathetic to humanity, banded together and gave humans the means to resist the Vertex. It turns out that the Vertex were created by the faction hostile to humanity. At the end of Hero Chapter, the remaining gods granted Yūna the power destroy the flames threatening the human world and perished.

  • From this, it sounds like the world’s in an even worse state than it had been before, since the gods hostile to humanity still exist. However, out of the gates, The Great Mankai Chapter opens with the heroes partying it up and living life to the fullest; nothing seems amiss, and the Hero Club is back to doing what they do best. The events of The Great Mankai Chapter are set after the events of Hero Chapter, and while Fū’s presence threw more than a few viewers off, one can suppose that the events of The Great Mankai Chapter take place perhaps only a few weeks after Hero Chapter. Here, she tucks into a plate so vast, Karin remarks that it’s unbefitting of her.

  • The easy-go-lucky events of The Great Mankai Chapter are intended to re-establish the sort of things that the Hero Club would typically do. Here, the Hero Club participates in an airsoft match against another team after the original team they were slated to play was unable to make it. Although they are initially out-played, the moment that Yūna is “downed”, Mimori goes ballistic and single-handedly causes enough destruction to allow the Hero Club to scrape a win, all the while creating a few good laughs.

  • While on a camping trip together, Karin is shocked to see that Sonoko brought a self-erecting tent, while the others had brought traditional tents so they could experience camping properly. Of everyone, Karin seems to get the most blank white eyes in response to the antics the Hero Club pull; while she’s an all-serious Hero utterly devoted to her duty, and was initially reluctant to work as a team with the others, the events of the first season and Hero Chapter changed things. Karin might not enjoy the various misadventures as much as the others, but she’s happy to be present all the same.

  • The sum of the events in the first episode led some fans to create faux posters suggesting that Yūki Yūna is a Hero is K-On!Sabagebu! and Yuru Camp△ rolled into one. This was fairly amusing, and Here, Sonoko and Yūna become unexpectedly excited when Karin brings out meat to grill for their camping dinner. By this point in time, Sonoko has become an integral part of the Hero Club – she gets on very well with the others and matches Yūna’s vibes quite closely at times.

  • While the others prepare to turn in, Fū can be seen with her face in a mathematics textbook; while she’s very much fond of club activities, she’s also doing her best to prepare for the future. Hero Chapter indicated that Fū had intended Itsuki to succeed her as the club president to help her build confidence, although since graduation has yet to come, Fū is still running the Hero Club.

  • Signifying their friendship, the Hero Club takes a group photo together by sunset. It turns out that they also have a website of sorts, where they upload the club activities’ photographs and recollections. Yūki Yūna is a Hero has enough going for it so that the series could be carried by the Hero Club going around town and doing various good deeds for the community, but that wouldn’t be in the series’ spirit: the sharp contrast between the characters’ everyday lives and the horrors they face in combat exist to create a sense of how perilous their world’s situation is.

  • While Yūna is in fine spirits now, Mimori finds herself a little disheartened: as a part of the costs incurred for using the Mankai System, she’d lost her memories of Gin Minowa, the previous Hero she’d fought alongside. I’d been quite fond of Gin, since she was confident and capable. I am a little surprised that there is very little being said about The Great Mankai Chapter: for Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter, the series was discussed with great fervour amongst the anime community, and like Madoka Magica, was also the subject of quite a bit of speculation.

  • These days, it appears that interest in Yūki Yūna is a Hero is lessened, although I suppose I could count this a blessing that giants like Random Curiosity are not covering this series. Of late, it feels like their quality has declined (most evidently, with their coverage of The Aquatope on White Sand, which now consists of little more than lambasting Tetsuji Suwa). If that is what readers are getting, then it is better that The Great Mankai Chapter isn’t being subject to the same treatment: here, Mimori outright asks the Taisha why they’ve come to pull her back into service despite the sacrifices they’d made earlier, implying that the events of Hero Chapter had already occurred for her here.

  • The second episode introduces Mebuki Kusunoki, a Hero candidate who was fiercely devoted to the role: her father had stated that the biggest goal in life is to make something of oneself, and to never be complicit in being used as a stepping stone for others. To this end, Mebuki is cold, distant and sure of her own ability to a fault: she is unable to recognise that there could be anyone more worthy of the Hero position than herself, and during training sessions, shows her fellow candidates absolutely no mercy.

  • Here, Mebuki speaks to another trainee, Yumiko Miroku, who comes from a family that fell from grace. In spite of this, she acts in a haughty manner and attempts to maintain the façade befitting of an ojou-sama. After being handily defeated in a training exercise, Yumiko declares herself Mebuki’s rival, but also ends up hanging out with her more. For Mebuki, the only other person in their group of note is Karin: while Mebuki appears to have better performance overall, she lacks the sort of compassion that Karin exhibits.

  • During one exercise, Karin demonstrates that she’s still kind to her fellow trainees, and after besting one during a bout, offers to help her get back up. In the end, this is the gap between Mebuki and Karin: while Karin is very focused on her duties, she cares for those around her and indicates that when the moment comes down to it, she would likely choose to save a team member over completing the mission. Conversely, Mebuki initially appears to be the person who might sacrifice her team to complete the mission, even if she’s the only person standing.

  • Unsurprisingly, when Karin is chosen to be the next Hero, Mebuki goes ballistic and makes a bit of a scene during the announcement, leading her to be dragged away, showing that she lacks the tact to lose gracefully. In the aftermath, Karin resolves to do what she can to fulfil her duties, leading her to join the Hero Club, and the remainder of the candidates are reassigned as “Sentinels”. These Sentinels are completely unrelated to the autonomous Forerunner constructs of Halo, the warrior caste of DOOM‘s Argent D’Nur or the squid-like robots in The Matrix: instead, the Sentinels (防人, Hepburn sakamori) are individuals who are tasked with exploring the world outside the barrier.

  • Outside of the barrier, Sentinels are responsible for exploration and data collection: while the Heroes had eliminated the Vertex, the assignment remains a dangerous one, and the Taisha gather everyone at what is equivalent to Utazu’s Play Park Gold Tower, an observation tower that was built in 1988 that has a height of 158 metres. It is part of a play-park that features arcades and bowling for children. In The Great Mankai Chapter, Play Park Gold Tower is used as the Sentinel’s base of operations and act as a nexus point to the barrier.

  • Even with the risks of their assignments, The Great Mankai Chapter still finds time to portray Yumiko with an expression of shock after learning that Mebuki had forgotten about her in the time that’d passed. For better or worse, this happens to me more often than I’d like – I occasionally run into people I were classmates with or mentored as a TA, and while they immediately recall who I am, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to extend them that same courtesy. The moment causes Yumiko to lose all composure, creating a bit of humour among a group of characters that has, insofar, not given viewers much to smile about.

  • It turns out that the Sentinels are to perform something called the Kunizukuri (国譲り), named after the mythological event in Japanese pre-history in which the lands of Japan were passed from the Earthly Gods to the Heavenly Gods, and eventually, the Imperial House. In the original version of the story, the Heavenly Gods desired to take control of Ashihara-no-Nakatsukuni (Japan) after deciding the land to have grown corrupted, and sent their sons to investigate. These missions were met with failure, until Ōkuninushi finally allowed two messengers to take control of the land. After Ōkuninushi retreats, the messengers smash all resistance on Earth and return to the heavens to report that their mission is completed.

  • Like the original myth, the Kunizukuri in The Great Mankai Chapter is portrayed as a forceful transfer of power: the Sentinels are equipped with a combat suit that protects against the flames that linger outside the barrier, and the Sentinels themselves are armed. Sentinels with reduced combat ability are equipped with large shields to defend the ships and other Sentinels. Sentinels with modest combat abilities take on a long-range rifle that can double as a melee weapon, while the highest-ranking Sentinels lead the others and sport a distinct visor with wings on the side to denote their rank.

  • While the world outside the barrier is quiet, it is populated by the Stardust, the most basic form of the Vertex. These blob-like entities do not possess any cognitive functions, but they can combine to form more deadly Vertex: the Stardust can be thought of as the Flood’s infection form. Both are individually weak and use their numbers to overwhelm foes, but can combine. By the events of The Great Mankai Chapter, the Stardust do not combine on the first of the Sentinel’s expeditions, but speaking to the incredible power that Heroes possess, the Sentinels are only able to escape their first encounter.

  • Here, two other Sentinels can be seen alongside Yumiko (far right): to the left is Shizuku Yamabushi, who has a troubled background and developed two personalities as a coping mechanism (like Gundam 00‘s Hallelujah, she becomes violent and unpredictable when a fight begins, but otherwise, is quiet and reserved), and in the centre is Suzume Kagajō, a low-ranking Sentinel who fears combat and would rather be anywhere but the mission. The ferocity of combat reduces her to a squeaky puddle, and here, she’s reacting to having survived the group’s first fight.

  • By the third episode, the Mebuki’s group is established: from Mebuki (lower left) in a clockwise direction, we’ve got Aya, Yamabushi, Suzume, and Yumiko. While differing greatly in combat ability and disposition, this group begins to unify as a result of their duties together. I believe that The Great Mankai Chapter would be an adaptation of Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero: this was a light novel that was released in 2017 and formed the basis for the claims that The Great Mankai Chapter is an interquel, since the story is set between the events of Yūki Yūna is a Hero and Hero Chapter.

  • Assuming the animated adaptation is largely faithful to the original, then, what Mebuki and her team will experience here in The Great Mankai Chapter will likely lead everyone to a path where they fight alongside Yūna’s group at some point. Mebuki’s team knows of Yūna and the Hero Club: suspicious of things, Suzume ended up tailing the group on one of their outings to see what was going on, had her cover blown and ended up being invited over to tea. Since Mimori still has her wheelchair here, the events here are plainly set during Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s first season.

  • Because moments like these occurred with a nontrivial frequency, it is a little difficult to take the combat in Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero seriously: subsequent excursions outside of the barrier and the encounters with the Stardust leaves Suzume in tears. Granted, the Stardust are an intimidating-looking foe whose teeth appear to be quite lethal, and moreover, they have the advantage in numbers. Against such foes, cluster munitions would be effective, but lore states that the Vertex are largely unaffected by human weapons. When they first appeared, the JMSDF were soundly defeated, with 127 mm rounds and even cruise missiles failing to turn the tide.

  • The second encounter ends up being a disaster for the team; they’d been sent out to plant a seedling for the Shinju, and this time around, are accompanied by miko Aya, whose role is to carry out the rituals needed to set in motion the world’s restoration. While the ritual appears to have gone well enough, the Sentinels come under attack, and in the aftermath, although there are no casualties thanks to Mebuki’s leadership, Sentinels begin quitting en masse after feeling that the task is overwhelming.

  • However, there was one positive to come out of this second excursion past the barrier – the remaining members on Mebuki’s team come to bond with one another more closely, and while Mebuki recuperates, the others end up creating a sort of charm that reminds her of how close everyone’s become. Difficult moments often bring people together, and it felt like at this point in The Great Mankai Chapter, Mebuki’s finally gotten her team together.

  • In particular, Aya ends up being the first to really break the ice and befriend Mebuki – when they’ve got some time off, Aya decides to hang out with her, and it is here that viewers get a glimpse of the sort of person that Mebuki really is, when the moment has no immediate obligations or duties to fulfill – it turns out that she’s actually quite like Mimori in personality, and never does anything halfway, whether it be the work or recreation.

  • Like Mimori, Mebuki has a particular fondness for all things Japan; when Aya asks where Mebuki would like to go first, they end up hitting a hobby shop. Mebuki is a big fan of Japanese castles and also enjoys building military models. After this stop, the pair head of a home hardware shop. Because The Great Mankai Chapter presented Mebuki as a bit of a hardass, seeing this side of her is important to remind viewers that like Karin and the other members of the Hero Club, at the end of the day, Heroes and Hero candidates are human.

  • Unfortunately for Mebuki and viewers, because of Aya’s duties as a miko, she’s later offered up as a human sacrifice with the hopes of slowing the flames while the Taisha and Sentinels retrieve the sapling they’d planted for the Shinju – the Shinju appears to be dying, and the Taisha are desperate to try any measures in order to stave off destruction. This mission angers Mebuki, who realises that contrary to her goals of becoming more than a mere footnote in history, the Taisha regard her team as expendable.

  • Rather than refuse the mission, this only serves to reinforce Mebuki’s determination to prove that she and her team are more than capable of fulfilling their assignment. Over the two episodes that Mebuki and her team have been shown, I’ve gained a better sense of who she is as an individual, and together with the task the Sentinels have in front of them, The Great Mankai Chapter is finally hitting its stride as Mebuki leads the remainder of her forces on their next assignment.

  • Thus, having passed through the first three episodes of The Great Mankai Chapter, I am rather looking forwards to seeing where this show is headed next. I imagine that with the next little while, we can expect Mebuki and her team to be at the forefront of things for the next few episodes, and then Yūna’s Hero Club will likely return to help the Kusunoki team out in their hour of need (hence the Taisha‘s imploring Mimori and the others to return to active service for one more assignment). It’s exciting times ahead that bring back memories of what had made the original Yūki Yūna is a Hero so compelling to watch.

When Hero Chapter concluded, it left numerous questions in its wake: granted, Yūna and her friends had successfully saved their world from destruction, but how the world came to reach its current state was never explored, and the nature of their world similarly remained a mystery. The Great Mankai Chapter appears to be following in its predecessor’s footsteps: there’s a new problem to sort out, and similarly to Hero Chapter, leaves many details unexplained. At present, viewers are shown that Sentinels are a group of prospective Heroes who didn’t make the cut, but still possessed enough attributes to be useful. The Taisha are attempting to begin taking back the universe from the ravages of war, but as this is a dangerous task, they have no qualms about sacrificing young women to achieve their aims. In general, Yūki Yūna is a Hero has traditionally found ways of making its primary themes clear, but on the flipside, never bothered with exposition to the extent where their world became convincing. The end result of this is that while the characters in Yūki Yūna is a Hero are always compelling, their world continues to operate on terms that viewers are not privy to: perspective is never shown from the Taisha’s perspective, and without any illustration on why they pick the course of actions that they do, the Taisha become very difficult to sympathise with. The end result of this is that viewers can immediately rally behind the main characters of a given series and root for their survival, or success, but at the end of the day, every victory is muddied by the fact that something unknown could always return and diminish the Heroes’ accomplishments. As it stands, I am interested to see if The Great Mankai Chapter addresses any of the questions left by Hero Chapter, and further to this, it appears that the possibility of Yūna’s team working with Mebuki and the Sentinels could be quite real: having long felt that Yūna’s team operated in isolation, it’ll be nice to see them fighting alongside others for a shared goal, as well.