Yuuna Yuuki 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?” Yuuki Yuuna and her friends’ story takes place in Year 300, Era of the Gods.
A Maiden's True Heart
In Anticipation of Tomorrow
Blessings of the Gods
Those Who Know Grief
Bonds of Love
Smile At You
First of all, can we please cut the pretence of assuming Yuki Yuna is not comparable to Madoka Magica? Madoka may have not been the first dark magical girl anime but it sure as hell is the point of reference when it comes to such shows. In fact, its plot is WAY too similar to Madoka. Not Princess Tutu, not Full Moon, not even Uta Kata. The comparison is unavoidable. So excuse me if I am constantly doing the obvious when it comes to the staple of this subgenre. So yeah, Yuki Yuna, a magical girl show that begins in a typical fashion (girls get superpowers and protect the world from monsters) and later on turns much darker (holy smokes, there is a price for all those cool superpowers).… What’s that? I just spoiled the big plot twist? Come on; would you even give a damn about Yuki Yuna if you assumed it was yet another kiddy show for little girls? You wouldn’t, would you now? Good, now zip it and keep reading. It’s not like the plot has anything noteworthy if you remove the twist, anyways. That aside, what else is there in this show that Madoka already didn’t do? Well, character fleshing out is definitely the thing it excels at. You see, Madoka’s characters were all cardboard cutouts, and in the typical fashion of the scriptwriter, they felt like plot devises which existed to forward a cynical plot. Yuki Yuna on the other hand is doing a much better job at making you feel the girls have a life outside of their moeblob archetypes. This becomes possible by spending most non-action related scenes at slice of life moments that feel closer to a moe school comedy than a textbook with mouth and legs.Of course, the exact same thing is what also makes many viewers to cringe at it, since if you are not a fan of moecrap, you will be eye-rolling 50% of the duration. Yes, those scenes are there for fleshing out the characters and for hiding the dark revelation later on (which I spoiled for you, so it doesn’t mean a thing). It still doesn’t make it any less boring and nauseating if you are not into cute girls doing cute things. Even if you tolerate (or plain like) the moe aspect of the show, there is another punching glove attached to a spring that can throw you off just as easily; and that is the fan service. There isn’t too much of it and it’s mostly limited to transformation scenes, but DAMN when it happens, you will be looking around, making sure nobody saw you watching that shit. It’s a seinen anime alright, and Japs are into pedoshit, but it doesn’t make it any less immersion breaking when you are trying to watch an action scene full of magic and cool choreography, and out of nowhere the camera zooms on bouncing boobies, arses, and other jailbaits. Madoka had perky moestuff too but it was never in-your-face at sexualizing teenage girls. Speaking of action scenes, they are actually pretty cool. They are not psychedelic like in Madoka but they are still very exciting to the most part, with fluent motions and flashy energy beams. I didn’t even mind the CGI because it was cleverly hidden amongst fast motions and neon glow explosions. As far as a spectacle goes, it’s amongst the best of the subgenre. Yet even this part has its snare. It’s only an aesthetic issue but it’s still a reason. You see, the action feels way too much like a videogame, and the fact the girls use smartphones to transform adds dry wood to the immersion-breaking fireplace. And guess what, there actually is a videogame based on all that, making you feel like the show is promoting merchandise. Sure, all anime are trying to sell toys and accessories but not all of them are doing it so obviously. When I was watching Sailor Moon using her tiara, I never imagined an ethereal tag price appearing on it, nor did I think there was a videogame somewhere out there that played out as such (even if there actually was one).And that’s it with the positives; what follows are now only negatives, and those won’t have punching gloves or snares. They are plain negatives; and don’t worry, there are only two of them.A gripe I had was about the ontology of the world they are living in. Why exactly do the gods want to destroy it and why does one of them want to protect it and why do they need monsters to achieve that and why doesn’t the god stop the monsters or the rest of the gods stop that god? They never explained it properly and it felt like it was there just for the sake of having a plot twist. It sounds like it’s not much but come on, everything happens because of that, I wanted more info. Maybe they will make sequels later on to make it clear, but until that happens, son, I am disappoint. The second grip is the ending itself, which is literally one big troll. They spent a lot of time and emphasized way too much how whatever body functions they lose are permanent. And then the ending happens and it’s all fine and dandy because… the power of friendship? What does that even mean? If it was so simple why didn’t any of the countless magical girls that were sacrificed so far do it? Were they all anti-social or something? If it has to do with technology and they somehow improved the transformation smartphones so they won’t have these backlashes, why didn’t any of the elders prove why they had nothing to worry and left them to slowly sink in despair? One of them almost wiped out the whole world because of a misunderstanding, so it’s not like I’m splitting hairs here. For the build-up the show had, the ending is contradicting everything it was struggling to achieve throughout its duration. I mean, ok, Madoka’s ending was also disappointing but the scriptwriter there was a master at leaving everything so vague that the fans can explain stuff in any way they like, and thus everything can make sense in a meta sort of way. It may be bs, but at least you get your fanfic answers. Over here, it’s a plain obvious cop-out. And don’t give me any of that nonsense excuses many have used, like, it’s a redeconstruction of the genre or something. You don’t throw a twist where you tell me the cute show for kids you are watching is actually much darker, and then you throw a second twist telling me it was a cute show all along. You undo both twists this was and make the viewer feel like he was being trolled the whole time. So there you have it, that is what Yuki Yuna is, in as few words as possible, coming from someone who spent days writing ten pages of a rant about Madoka. It isn’t nearly as good as many presented it to be but it definitely did a far better job at character fleshing out, as well as pacing the events in a much better way. If anything, it helped a lot of people to realize after 3 years how Madoka is not that great after all… something they should have realized by simply watching Princess Tutu, but whatever. Let’s just hope now for something less Madoka-ish in the future, because this formula has already saturated.And yes, I did watch Kamen Rider Gaim.
Five school girls play around a tree Yuki Yuna didn't do much for me. By the end I was unmoved and felt I had wasted six hours. It is not dreadful though. It has its good points and I can see why some people might greatly enjoy it. I did not find Yuki Yuna, he series that is, to be heroic. No sense of triumph. And for a while I was not sure why. The surrounding world of Yuki Yuna was adrift from the five protagonists resulting in a hero club that felt claustrophobic to me. The five heroines were too self-contained from the world that produced them and they were trying to protect. The reason for this was the absence of any supporting characters. Many animes are ruined by too many inconsequential figures stealing screen time from main cast. Yuki Yuna makes the opposite mistake. There are no secondary or supporting characters. We never meet any of their schoolmates or teachers, family or friends. The suffering experienced by the non-main character peoples of this world due to the grand battles of the hero club are only relayed at a distance from a television. The main characters are too removed from the world that they are invested in saving. To the viewer this leaves the girls alone to be the only thing worth saving, removing any true heroism from the story. Yuki Yuna is often compared to Madoka Magica. While the main five girls in Madoka do dominate the screen there are a few other characters that bind them to the world. In the opening scene we meet Madoka’s Mother and father and brother who ground Madoka in the normal world forcing the viewer to empathize with the fate of the world. Don't take my comments too harshly. Yuki Yuna is reasonable anime and if you have already watched the all the better Magical Girl shows then give it try. At only twelve episodes it won't swallow to much of your time.
What I Liked: The beautiful watercolour backgrounds in the Jukai scenes. Characters feel more detailed than their given stereotypes / roles let on. Action scenes are well-choreographed and suprisingly minimalistic, with great intergration of 3DCG and SFX elements. The Mankai designs are super pretty. For a cliche Beach / Onsen episode, Episode 7 is surprisingly inoffensive and cute. The world-building is really interesting and detailed. What I Didn't: The weird obtrusive fanservice in some of the transformation sequences (Togo's is the worst offender). I was a bit divided on the soundtrack - it's good, but it sounds like poor man's Yuki Kajiura. Depending on your point of view, the ending can feel like a complete cop-out. A good portion of the dialogue in the final episodes feels uninspired to the point of bordering on cliche. Final Verdict: An amicable attempt at a dark Magical Girl series, Yuki Yuna is a Hero offers up some quite lovely pastel visuals and an interesting world of characters. It excels in the choreography and world-building department, but the unfortunately sloppy ending and unnecessary fanservice does make the series feel a little shallower in comparison to its contemporaries. Still, if you like your fantastical darkness offset with blue-sky slice-of-life moments, then maybe give this a try.
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