- 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