See, Deku?! If Yuna can do it, you can do it too! You can be a hero!
…Sorry. Pumped for Season 3. Hehe… Ahem…
Yuna Yuki is an ordinary second-year middle school student. She gets up in the morning, gets ready for school, goes to classes, participates in club activities, and has fun with her friends. But there is one extraordinary thing about Yuki — she belongs to the “Brave Hero Club.” What does the Brave Hero Club do? Who is the mysterious being called “Vertex?” Yuki Yuna and her friends’ story takes place in Year 300, Era of the Gods. (Crunchyroll)
With Washio Sumi no Sho now airing in the West, and Yusha no Sho due out in November, I figured it was about time for me to actually sit down and cover this little series, which caught my attention some time ago. Unfortunately, I was unable to actually finish it until recently. But now’s as good a time as any! Call it a retrospective! And, in all honesty, this is a strong contender for “Chris’s favorite magical girl series.” Just for a bit of context, I’ve always loved the magical girl genre, when done right. Or when they introduce something different enough that it stands out from the traditional formula. I grew up on Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura. I don’t need more of them. Things like Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Flip Flappers, and now Yuki Yuna is a Hero are exactly what I’m looking for. But what is it that I like so much about Yuki Yuna? What is it that really stands out?
Understanding the magical girl genre really isn’t that difficult. It’s probably why there are so many of them. But simply understanding the basic devices doesn’t guarantee you a great series. At the heart of the genre is that the very idea of a Magical Girl is sort of a metaphor, in and of itself. One for the blossoming and maturing of girls into young ladies, and (depending on how long the series runs) eventually full-grown women in their own right. In many cases, it’s taken so literally that their actual physical forms change beyond just their hairstyles, outfits, makeup, and what have you. The various monsters and evils that the titular magical girl(s) must face on a weekly basis are themselves, metaphors for the challenges they face in growing up. It is exactly that simple (again, barring some key exceptions).
But that’s just it. Yuki Yuna isn’t really that. It’s actually both a knife-edged deconstruction of the genre and a guilty participant of it, much like Flip Flappers. And I love that sort of thing. See, What Yuki Yuna does is play within that world for a bit, then halfway through the series, it turns the whole thing on its head. It revels in picking apart the very horrifying notion of young girls being selected by some otherworldly/divine power to fight monstrous evils on a regular basis. Will I go as far as saying the series takes it to its logical conclusion? No. But I will say it’s one of many logical conclusions the idea could ultimately have led to.
What you get from a deconstruction like this is an analysis of how exactly being a magical girl would affect someone. It isn’t exactly like being an ordinary superhero (in most cases). They don’t have a choice. If not them, then no one. Magical girls are almost invariably “chosen ones.” Or are at the very least, given some other sort of explanation as to why it has to be them. That. SUCKS. Amplified by the fact that these girls are in middle school. And this series does a really good job of showing it. The reality of their situation is bleak and unfair in every sense of the word.
But it wouldn’t have pulled it off if it drove that nail too hard. See, the reason the drama of the series works so well is that of the other half of the series – the slice of life element. When this series is firing on all cylinders, there’s no other word for it but epic. But when the series slows down (and boy, does it), it actually becomes a very relaxed, charming, and perhaps most importantly, funny slice-of-life series. Seeing how the girls lead their normal lives outside of being magical girls helps build up the empathy for their situation by showing you exactly what they’re sacrificing. And once those sacrifices start to bleed into their ordinary lives, you notice.
On top of that, the characters are all likable. Even a haughty late addition to the team is endearingly insecure, and overall a strong part of the cast. The eye-patch-sporting leader of the team, Fu, is also quite the entertaining character, and not at all what I expected her to be. But on top of that, they’re all very believable characters. Because of what’s set up for them, they all have very genuine reactions to the events that transpire around them. This sense of raw emotion really comes across well in some of the heavier moments of the series, and is realized with some excellent voice acting and animation to really drive things home. What follows is some top-notch dramatic writing and a series of revelations that really pay off in a big way. Also, I’m pretty sure this goes without saying, but uh…
The animation is great. Far from the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen, but it is excellent throughout, never really dipping at all that I could see. Though there were a couple of awkward CG rendered frames in fighting scenes that I couldn’t figure out the “why” of. They weren’t bad, they just kind of stood out since it wasn’t like the entire fight was done that way. So just having a few frames of it was weird.
There are a few other things that seemed to be pretty notably deconstructed as well. For example, the hot-blooded nature of some of the characters does come back to bite them at times. And it stings when it does. But one thing’s for sure. Yuna and Midoriya would definitely get along.
If there’s one thing I can certainly be very critical of, it’s that I felt the climax was a tad bit… easy. I don’t mean in that it wasn’t a challenge. Good lord, was it a challenge. I mean that it inexplicable tied itself up pretty easily. I don’t mind it being tied up neatly, but they didn’t exactly explain how things turned out the way they did. That said, it’s likely they’ll be explaining it in Yusha no Sho.
I won’t be reviewing the prequel, Washio Sumi no Sho, which is airing right now. But I will be covering the direct sequel, Yusha no Sho, when it premieres in November. Here’s hoping it’s a worthy successor. In the meantime, check out some of my reviews of anime premiering this season!
Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru is available to stream on Crunchyroll. For anyone who maybe likes the ideas in something like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but that series is just too… intense for you (it certainly isn’t quite my own thing), I’d highly recommend this one. The prequel, Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru: Washio Sumi no Sho is streaming on Anime Strike.