- Genre : Magical Girl, Action, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Studio Gokumi
Yuki Yuna is a hero. Ok, so the title isn’t really that hard to get. All the other girls in the club are also heroes, but the Sanshu Middle School Hero Club does in fact try to help anyone who requests it and for free at that, unlike certain Gintokis we could name. Yuki and her friends go out of their way to make people’s lives just a little easier and a little bit brighter, now if that isn’t a hero, I don’t know what is. Oh they also travel to another world to fight pandimensional monsters bent on mindless world destruction and risk their lives to protect the life giving god tree but that’s only after they’ve rescued your kitten!
I saw a random image of the girls in their armor(?), combat uniforms(?), fighting dresses… my mind immediately flashed to Puella Magi Magica Madoka because, well – tell you what, I’ll just plug a picture in here and show you what I mean.
If you’ve looked through any consistent amount of the reviews on this site (thank you, your sacrifice is appreciated), you’ve probably seen me write at some point that I really like genre deconstructions and Magical Girls seem to get this treatment a whole lot. At least, it’s the genre I’ve personally seen played with most often. I must say that even when I don’t necessarily like the show, I usually find some interesting elements or commentaries in deconstructions, to make it worth my time. With that in mind, I was really looking forward to watching this show.
Visually, Yuki Yuna is not only a hero but quite a stunning one. The designs are traditional but they are lovely and beautifully rendered. The animation is also really solid making those fight scenes a real pleasure to watch. There is extensive use of computer graphics but these are blended well with the rest of the animation, working in concert with the overall visuals rather than distracting from them. Some people should be taking notes. The other dimension is a gorgeous blur of soft watercolors that creates an interesting dissonance with the tension of the scenes taking place. It is also reminiscent of the witch dimensions, but a light and peaceful version thereof. The soundtrack and voice acting was a bit more average but unobstructive and in no way, took anything away from the experience which at this point I’m going to count as a win.
That is not to say that this show has nothing more to offer than eye candy. If you are one of the many drawn to this title with the promise of a “Madoka-like” experience, here are my thoughts on it. One of the biggest weaknesses of Yuki Yuna is a Hero is probably characterization and development. When Madoka came out, there was something seemingly revolutionary in the idea of taking these girls that were very ordinary and relatable and throwing them into an unforgiving and twisted universe. Madoka is hardly the magical girl archetype. She’s shy and timid and very reasonably scared. She wants to do the right thing but she doesn’t really want to die or get hurt. Her hesitation is understandable and familiar so when we see her trying to deal with these impossible situations, we instinctively see ourselves and not just some “hero”. That series made a point that the traditional purity and innocence associated with the shoujo heroine doesn’t exactly mesh well with the harsh realities of the battleground.
By contrast Yuki and her friends are the embodiment of the magical girl we’ve all come to know and love. Yuki is endlessly optimistic and impossibly heroic, selflessly sacrificing herself for others without a second thought. If the other girls may be a bit less enthusiastic, they remain just as intrepid and beyond reproach. They have no flaws, no selfishness, endless reserves of courage to overcome whatever fears may temporarily plague them. They are Heroes (capital H) and I don’t know about you but I will never see myself that way. This somewhat flat depiction really drags down the emotional impact and sadly there is not much in the way of character evolution to counter that shortcoming.
To its credit, the show does seem to attempt to inject some relatability, by adding in episodes and vignettes that would normally belong in a school girl slice of life anime. We see them go about their club activities, fret about school and social events, deal with decidedly more commonplace stresses, such as a recital or organizing a party. I’m going to guess that this melding of formats and storylines is going to divide most of the audience. It doesn’t meld well enough to go unnoticed and the contribution it makes to the whole of the story is debatable but I see what they were trying to do and I for one appreciate it.
Sadly, I think they may have tried to solve one problem by creating another. The Yuna Yuki universe is complex. A lot of these single season run magical girl shows are, and a lot of them share this problem of lack of development. The Vertexes (horrible alien evils!), Taisha (shadow government entity) and Shinju (god tree), are all explained but only superficially and very quickly. The actual consequences and stakes are never made really clear which prevented me from ever truly engaging with the show. Although that big reveal was still very impressive, it wasn’t all it could have been. Personally, I think the time spent insisting on the fact that these are ordinary school girls with ordinary school lives, would have been better spent one some additional world building and exposition. Of course then the central premise of throwing the ordinary into the extraordinary would have been watered down but hey, we’ve seen that anime before. For my money, I think Yuki Yuna would have been better as a weirdly emotional and introspective Magical Girl shoujo which concentrates on the interestingly unique universe of the show and conflict raging therein and pulls away from the more personal aspect of the girl’s lives.
For example, in order to access their full power, the girls must defeat a number of enemies in combat and then activate the power willingly. This will boost their strength considerably and give them the advantage in combat but at the cost of some permanent physical handicap. This rather heavy-handed symbolism of literally sacrificing part of oneself for power really had some fascinating implications. Who is the ultimate enemy? How far will each character go when escaping unscathed isn’t just unlikely, it’s impossible? It also serves as an in-universe stop gauge conveniently limiting the power of any single character and avoiding the risk of creating a god like entity that would trivialize everything. As unsubtle a device as it may have been it was still super smart and I really want to see it explored more.
So there you have it. A potentially fantastic series which made some questionable compromises and ended up a good show. If you like the genre you should see it, there is definitely something there but it just hasn’t been polished enough to be considered a gem.
Favorite character: Miyoshi Karin
What this anime taught me: Anime school uniforms are really my favorite type of fashion
You know you are drunk when you think the bartender is making your drinks weaker
Suggested drink: The Perfect Bloom
- Every time a Hero fills her manai – take a drink
- Every time a flower withers – take a drink
- Every time a flower blooms – switch to water
- Every time Itsuki sings – take a drink
- Every time the show creates a new word – take a drink
- Every time you realize the foreshadowing – take a large drink
- Every time Fu is an embarrassing “mom” – take a drink
- Every time Karin is being pretentious – take a drink
- Every time the girls go to the Junkai – have a snack
- One you realize the truth – down your drink
16 thoughts on “Yuki Yuna is a beautifully flawed Hero”
There’s a part of me that wants to see this show. After I read articles from Remy and Zeria defending this show by not calling it a Madoka rip-off while explaining all the reasons why, it kind of made me want to see it. Come on, people. Anime properties like Paprika, Kimba the White Lion, and Akira got ripped off WAAAAAAAAAY worse than Madoka, so let’s stop the otaku rage, okay? I also found out that Seiji Kishi directed it. I know most anime fans know him because of Danganrompa, Angel Beats, and the Persona series, but I know him because of his directorial debut Yugo the Negotiator which is a favorite anime of mine and one that I feel is one of the most criminally underrated anime series ever. I would’ve never expected him to make a show like this. Good review though!
Remy and Zeria are fantastic reviewers. We have very different tastes in animes but their posts are always such a pleasure
Of course. I feel like I have different tastes in anime since I tend to lean more towards the obscure even though I reviewed Your Name last Saturday. Both of them are great at reviewing anime if it involves genres I wouldn’t normally seek out.
Any time man 🙂 WordPress being dumb shouldn’t won’t stop me from talking with folks. That’s true though, shows have been known to scrap the source or really stray the course. Didn’t realize you read the manga, or maybe your told me before, not sure. There’s a lot of manga readers and I’m not one of them so hard to remember exactly who’s read what. Hopefully it was a good read though.
No worries, this was the first time I told…anyone actually. It doesn’t come up much in conversation. The manga had it’s problems but there is a lot of interesting elements to develop on if they chose to go that way.
While I remember YuYuYu being fairly flawed and a bit dumb, I did enjoy it. I feel like season one was like a big set up for the more interesting bits that come later down the line in the LN’s at least (from what I’ve heard, haven’t actually read). I’m looking forward to season two quite a bit though, should be a good watch at the very least. Finally actually got to comment and such, read this earlier but WordPress was being stupid (again!) so just now letting you know that I liked your article. 🙂
I’m touched you took the time! I actually have read the manga but you never know when a show is going to dump the source material
This is, I think, a good, balanced review of the show. It really is a good show. I have to say this to myself, because the flaws it has are… hard to take for me. I have problems with the wanting-to-be-a-hero trope that cut down deep inside; I’ll explain in a moment. I’ve heard people describe this show as suffering porn, and – emotionally – that’s closer to my reaction that the people who are moved by the show’s heroism, but I don’t really agree. I think your paragraph about “sacrifice” is spot on here. It’s not suffering porn; it’s “hero porn”.
What do I mean by that? Well, the girls want to be heroes, and that – in terms of the show itself – is, I think, an undisputed good. They’re deceived by their superiors, but that doesn’t really make much of a difference. Do you embrace your role, or don’t you. It’s the age-old progression: “I want to be a hero!” (naive version) – “Hah, you didn’t think it would be that hard, did you?” – “I want to be a hero.” (enlightened version). There’s no nuance in that. The questions you mention in the sacrifice paragraph (how will each one go?) can only be answered in terms of personality, not in terms of context, or threat, because that’s kept deliberately vague. And in terms of personality, what sort of traits does a hero have? We celebrate this sort of sacrifice and reward heroes, because this sort of sacrifice is extraordinary, and we don’t like to face that life is hard, and neither do we want to make such sacrifices ourselves.
And then this combines with the moe tropes of slice-of-life shows. Watch a lot of those shows, and you’ll find that regardless of the type, most moe characters have traits that are pretty much in line with heroism. They’re generally not very selfish and like helping people a lot. There’s a type whose charm point it is to indulge themselves and complain about things being too hard, but they still tend to “come through” when it matters (many magical girls start out like that, actually). So if I put the moe tropes together with the hero trope, if you highlight the suffering, and if you neither develop the threat nor that which you wish to protect, you end up with “empty heroism” whose measure is sacrife. The more you suffer, the more heroic it seems. So it’s not suffering porn; it’s hero porn.
I keep bringing up Rolling Girls in that conttext. It’s a show that starts out as a superhero show, but hospitalises the heroine (and villain) in episode two, at which point the heroine’s stubborn little sister sets out on her bike to take on her sisters hero requests (with friends). They never accomplish anything, but their earnest attitude and the way they try their best shames the requesters into solving their own problems. Sometimes it feels I’m the only person on earth who defends this shows writing, and that’s maybe because I’m the only person on earth who doesn’t think heroes are great.
There’s a line in Serei no Moribito: “You’re trying to be hero, aren’t you? People have a habit of demanding sacrifice and then calling you a hero for that.” It’s a much stronger line in context. And it pretty much expresses my take on heroism.
Similarly, I love Madoka, because it relativises the desire to help without actually disrespecting the heroic choice. It’s amazing that way. Sayaka shows what’s wrong with overly idealistic heroism, Kyouko shows what’s wrong with bitter cynicism, Madoka makes an informed choice, and Homura shows what heroes do to the ones who love them when they sacrifice themselves. It’s pretty comprehensive.
It’s also a timely post, because in a few weeks season 2 of Yuuki Yuna will start airing, and I have no idea whether I want to watch it not. I love the visuals, and I like the characters – I just dislike the story. It’s an anime dilemma.
This post keeps generating comments more insightful than the review itself. Not a bad thing.I’m not sure I entirely agree with your blanket statements on moe tropes but I see where you’re coming from. As for heroism, it does usually get portrayed in a very naive and shallow fashion but that may be a reflection of the audience’s desire for a clear black and white morality protagonist. The more real life gets complicated and nuanced, the more a certain amount of people long for simple, straight forward characterizations. I don’t personally fall in that category, but it does have it’s place.
I do think that season 2 has potential for being better than it’s predecessor. It also has potential for being a maudlin preachy mess. I’m curious which way it’s going to go.
Not even I agree with my blanket statement on moe tropes. But if I went into detail, I’d come back with a thirty page dissertation. As a thought experiment, though, try varying things: gender, age, etc. and see if you still come up with the same show. If not, what’s the difference?
(For what it’s worth, I like moe shows and watch tons of them.)
See in tone and themes I find it very similar to something like avengers (different gender, age, setting…) But that same blind shortsighted heroism. A little less suffering but they don’t have a dozen episodes to fill.
Hm, I haven’t seen any Avangers (and I know rather little about the comics, too), but I get that. I have a problem with that sort of heroism in a lot of shows, including the currently airing My Hero Academia. Yuki Yuna stands out for how laser sharp the focus is on heroism. Everyone but the heroes remain faceless: no villains and no victims. Just a general threat, a shadowy organisation (who communicate via text message and wear masks when they finally appear), and distant news reports. The only concrete image is of the heroes, who are in a hero club, where they get to be heroes. It’s so… concentrated. The fighting is cool, the suffering horrible, and here they are having fun, so you can see what they’re losing. A positive way to put it might be “laser sharp focus”.
I think it is really up to personal opinions and even worldview. I always considered Gen Urobuchi’s style odd, lacking that “fireman going into a burning building” middle between complete cynicism and literal jesus-like figures. In that sense, I think Yuki Yuna provided a more clear ground, though by now my view is a bit infected by the movies and extended franchise, so talking about just S1 is hard.
Nevertheless, the whole appeal of the series is the ordinary life paired with the barbarians at the gate situation. Everything is set to be far more down to the ground than say, Madoka. Just compare Kyubey (Alien force beyond mankind) vs The Taisha (Family, Government). I do think they have compelling characterization, for that very reason my favorite episode of the series is episode 3, though the characterization mechanic is different, in YuYuYu the characters are not representing an ideal and they were not made with certain plot arcs in mind, as such I feel some things flow more organically, though right now I have trouble exemplifying that without either bashing my personal issues with Madoka (which I don’t wanna do) or spoiling the prequel to Yuki Yuna, Washio Sumi (which you don’t seem to have watched).
Those daily life moments are what differentiate the show from what else there is in the market, they are part of the whole mindset that made it possible for the show to be successful, with an S2 arriving next season, where other similar dark magical girls failed in the aftermath of Madoka.
I actually have quite a few issues with Madoka myself and think both shows have strengths and weaknesses but I’m not sure I would call this one more grounded – I mean there are a lot of deities and angry ever regenerating wrath creatures. I can argue that a collections of vengeful unknowable gods is just as surreal as aliens. God life trees are a little surreal too…and faeries…. I can’t believe I’m saying this but Utena might be the most naturalistic Magical Girl deconstruction…
It’s been about two years since I watched this, and I don’t remember it clearly, but I remember finding it kinda stupid. The Madoka rip-off was kinda blatant(That show’s been copied more times than a leaked exam), the handicaps felt ridiculously lopsided in severity, and when the girl in the hospital bed was delivering the big twist to Yuki Yuna(or was she talking to someone else?) I got a good laugh out of imagining her saying “Okay, you’re hallucinating, time to turn up your morphine now.”
But the animation was gorgeous, I liked the characters, I genuinely cared about what happened to them, so yeah, I still wound up liking the show quite a bit.
I think corny is sort of a staple of the magical girl genre in general.