Apologies for the rantiness/sloppiness of this post. I have a lot I want to say, but not a lot of time to compose it.
All signs point to subpar writing
English: Yuki Yuna Is a Hero, The Washio Sumi Chapter, The Hero Chapter
Japanese: 結城友奈は勇者である, -鷲尾須美の章-, -勇者の章-
Season(s): Fall 2014, Fall 2017
Length: 12 ep. x 24 min. + 6 ep. x 24 min. + 6 ep. x 24 min.
Studio: Studio Gokumi
An anime original show that aired way back in 2014, Yuki Yuna Is a Hero (YuYuYu) sold well enough to get a pre-sequel from the same studio three years later. There is definitely a target demographic for these kinds of shows (by that, I mean shows that take after the whole serious-magical-girl show genre popularized by Nanoha and Madoka), but I hesitate to say that YuYuYu is even worthy of being considered in the same discussion as those shows. I ended up rewatching the entire first season (that aired in 2014) to refresh my memories, and frankly, the more I watched the less I liked the show.
[Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead]
The Writing, AKA What the F*ck Did I Just Watch
Like so many magical girl shows, YuYuYu is a show with, well, lots of girls. In fact, there’s basically zero males in the show. In addition to the original season that aired in 2014, the series added a six episode prequel and a six episode sequel that, together, aired in 2017. The basic premise of YuYuYu is that the heroines are chosen to fight off enemies for Shinju-sama in order to protect the town from giant monsters sent by other gods.
I’ll start by reviewing the prequel that aired in 2017 (I know, it’s confusing).
The Washio Sumi Chapter
In The Washio Sumi Chapter, we meet three girls chosen to fight. They are classmates in elementary school, and are also good friends outside of class. And here comes problem number one: if you’ve already seen the original season from 2014, you would immediately know that one of these girls dies. Talk about suspense killer.
If you haven’t, well then, you will hit problem number two: they don’t really explain why the girls have to fight in The Washio Sumi Chapter as they explained it in the original show (which you haven’t yet seen at this point). It’s a no-win situation.
But I digress. As a whole, the prequel does enough to explain the backstories for two of the characters in the original show as well to (re)introduce the mechanics of battle. In a sign of the times, the “chosen ones” are given cellphones that contain the ability to transform and power to fight against those creatures.
Some sacred cellphone right there
The heroes are given powers to fight, as well as a, er, super saiyan mode called sange (and later on, mankai, but I didn’t get the difference between the two) that boosts their power. This mode is the “dark twist” to the show; in exchange for using the boosted powers, the girls would lose some ability in their bodies as a sacrifice for using the powers. It is directly through this negative effect that the prequel connects with the main season.
Yuki Yuna is a Hero
On to the original season, chronological set after The Washio Sumi Chapter. This time, we have five girls, including Tougou Mimori from The Washio Sumi Chapter (she had a name change and memory loss between the two timelines), who are all part of the Hero Club in their middle school. Ostensibly, the club was formed to do volunteer work in their community, but the girls find out soon enough that it was actually to gather together prospective heroes.
The main season spends much time showing the daily lives of the girls, perhaps to contrast it with the seriousness of the battles. But this one of my problems with the main season, which I realized after a rewatch: it just wastes too much time on the slice of life side of the show. The main season has about much fighting as The Washio Sumi Chapter but with twice as many episodes.
I get that they have to show off the moe-ness in these shows to sell, but it really detracts from the “serious” tone of the plot.
….I say “serious”, because while it tries to portray its plot as mature and dark, it has a number of developments that didn’t make sense or came off as contrived. For example, each girl is given at least one magical mascot, whose powers prevent the girls from dying in order for them to fulfill their duties to Shinju-sama.
If a magical girl who over-expended her powers in sange mode had her heart stopped due to the side effects and still live, just exactly how did that one girl die in battle? The mascots also prevented one girl from committing suicide in the real world despite several attempts. With such a power to prevent death, is there, logically, any danger left to fear in battles?
But, more atrocious than this plot inconsistency, the main season ends on a completely unfounded happy note. All throughout the series so far, we are told that the sacrifices are permanent; once you lose the use of a bodily function in exchange for using boosted power, you won’t ever get that bodily function back.
Guess what? After the last big battle, everyone regains their lost functions. No reason was given as to why. One can make numerous guesses as the the why, but the fact remains that the unexplained happy end trivialized all the sacrifices that were made throughout the show. A reward for watching the main season till the end, I suppose.
The Hero Chapter
Which brings me to the last part of the series, the sequel to the main season from 2014: The Hero Chapter. Admittedly, by the time I got to this part I was burnt out from the show, and this final addition to series did not help alleviate my weariness at all as things just got crazier. Whereas the main season dragged out a 6-8 episode long story into 12 episodes, the sequel crammed what seemed like 12 episodes worth of plot development into just 6.
Continuing from the happy ending from the main season, it turns out the girls have to fight again, first to save Tougou from inside a black hole, of all things. But wait; this time around, they is no penalty to using the boosted powers any more.
I suppose that’s a minor improvement since the penalties were negated for no reason at the end of the main season anyway, but the removal of this restriction kinda defeated the whole theme of “using great power comes with grave consequences”.
Let’s move on. Tougou was inside a black hole because she was offered as a sacrifice by the religious group that control the town to calm the gods outside, and her rescue drove these folks to seek other ways to save themselves from the wrath of gods as Shinju-sama is dying after 300 years of protecting the town (no, I don’t understand how a “god” can die from old age either). Eventually, they settle on offering Yuuki, our eponymous heroine, to be a bride to Shinju-sama so that humans can gain the protection of the gods (by being their equals or something like that).
For whatever reason, this involves being in a black hole again, a place where one’s body can separate from one’s mind.
While the marriage is getting ready, the gods outside the town attack, and the remaining girls strive to both save the town from destruction AND save Yuuki from marrying Shinju-sama (which would result in her death, and no, I don’t understand why marrying a god would mean death but whatever ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).
Of course, they succeed. This isn’t the tragic kind of show after all.
And this is where the show ends, once again, on a happy note. With no explanation as to why they changed their heart, the gods outside the town stop trying to destroy it. They just give up at the same time the marriage to save all humans was foiled even though they were set on destroying the rest of humanity just an episode or two ago. THIS. MAKES. NO. SENSE.
I don’t how the show can confuse me any more than the main season did, but it succeeded.
The animation is at least decent. The alternative dimension where they fight giant creatures as well as the designs of these creatures are somewhat reminiscent of Madoka’s.
The more I watched this show, the more it became clear to me that this is one of those “shut off your brain and enjoy” kind of shows. I’m not the kind of person who can do that, so YuYuYu ended up very confusing and disappointing. However, to the right person, this can be entertaining enough to be worth a watch so long as you just focus on the moe and the battles without thinking too much about the plot itself.