The Wonderful Frustration That is Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru

With every new season of anime there is a scramble by viewers to take the measure of each new anime – how good is it and how good (or bad) will it be. With even moderate experience with anime it’s possible to accurately guess the future prospects of roughly 90% to 95% anime after a few episodes. (Hence the popularity of the 3 episode test.) Some series can be a little stubborn like this season’s Shirobako; it was episode 5 before I was sure that Shirobako will be the mature office drama that I’ve been wanting done in anime form for a long time.

Then there’s series like Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru. It took nine – yes, nine – of it’s twelve episodes before the potentialities snapped into place and I can finally assert and predict that Yuuki Yunua wa Yuusha de Aru belongs with other titans of the season: Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis, Shirobako, and Parasyte.

Episode 9 of Yuki Yuna is a Hero was a spectacularly good episode, one of the best across all anime for this season; but, it’s not like this series has been slacking before this episode. Instead, from episode 1 this original series struck off the well-beaten path to chart it’s own course and it was difficult to figure out if it would be lost in the wilds or if would it find it’s destination.

I now think Yuki Yuna is a Hero will find it’s destination and the viewers that traveled with it will be rewarded for sticking with it. How we will rewarded remains to be seen. In light of a recent episode from another anime that really jolted me, I’m now hoping Yuki Yuna is a Hero will not end in a way that right now seems very possible. (Be warned there will be spoilers.)

To see why, let’s start at the beginning.

Words have power but they are also an imperfect medium to communicate with. I detest the current push to corrupt the ability for words to be used as a tool to foster communication between people because different groups, from all across the political spectrum, have agendas that are served by having the definition of a specific word or words twisted to fit their purposes. One such word is the word “hero”. An example of how I’ve seen “hero” twisted was on an American kids show I happened to catch a few years ago. On this show they pushed the idea that every person that worked a job in the town were the characters of the show lived were heroes. No. Just no. Every job, from the most humble to the most exalted, is important for society to function but that doesn’t make them heroes.

What it takes to earn a Medal of Honor is a very good definition for what a hero is and it would read like this – a hero is someone who “distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” And since this general definition was adopted during WWII over 60 percent of people who have earned a Medal of Honor have lost their lives while completing the action that earned them the medal.

So, if an anime is titled Yuki Yuna is a Hero then Yuki Yuna had better at some point be asked to distinguish herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of her life above and beyond the call of duty. This was a test this anime had to pass and episode 9 argued quite convincingly once and for all that it understand what a hero is.

[HorribleSubs] Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.32_[2014.11.21_19.45.35]A hero doesn’t exist in a vacuum; however, they have to be somewhere to do something to have the chance to be a hero. In Yuki Yuna is a Hero we are in the year 300 of the Age of Gods in a Japanese settlement shielded from the rest of the world. In episode 7 we are told that the gods who are protecting these people kept them safe from a virus of death. At various times in the past and present the gods have called on a select group of humans to defend their homeland from an outside evil. To accomplish this the humans are gifted with power from the gods and in episodes 8/9 our characters learn the strongest gifts require an offering each time they’re used.

It’s a harsh reality but, under the right light, it could be a believable scenario. However, the level of secrecy and manipulation to get the characters to become Heroes as well as observations like this – since the gods will be harmed as well if the outside forces invade, why are humans even needed as Heroes when the gods could just protect themselves and everyone else – makes me think there’s something very dishonest about these gods that are “protecting” the humans. Which leads me to wonder if the outside invaders might actually be the good guys trying to save everyone.

I had been thinking this would be a cool direction for Yuki Yuna is a Hero to go; namely, our heroes are actually fighting the good guys to help ensure the sliver of humanity that these “gods” have enslaved continue to be repressed. And this leads me to my problem. Several weeks ago, episode 7 of the anime Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de featured the epic rant to end all epic rants. During the course of the rant I started to nod my head as Hatoko indicted the main character’s chuuni lifestyle and one line particularly stood out. She asked:

Between justice and evil, why is evil better?

[HorribleSubs] Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_11.37_[2014.11.21_19.22.32]This sounds an awful lot like Hatoko is wanting to know why the main character of the anime Inou Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de accepts the glamour of evil. That this anime ultimately ducks answering Hatoko’s rant disappointed me. However, I’ve been turning this point over in my mind since then, so, when I was watching episode 9 of Yuki Yuna is a Hero and once again started thinking about how cool it would be if the main characters were actually fighting for the true villain’s side, this time I heard an indignant Hatoko ask me ‘between justice and evil, why is evil better?’ Why do I want to see a hero’s sacrifice trampled upon and made useless?

I had no good answer. Because it would be cool really is a lame answer. Maybe if the series hadn’t done such a good job developing the main characters into real people and hadn’t done such a good job turning them into true heroes I could look forward to this potential pseudo-intellectual twist. They did, though, so I can’t. I guess I’ll have to watch the rest of the series with a sense of trepidation. However it ends, though, I feel I can trust the animators to do a good job of it, even if I don’t get what I want.

And if you think this 1200+ word post exhausted the material that episode 9 of Yuki Yuna is a Hero could provide for a post; you thought wrong. There’s at least 2 other posts I could write about this episode without any overlap. (Not that I have the time to write them 🙂 .) What I’m trying to say is, more people should be watching Yuki Yuna is a Hero.

[HorribleSubs] Yuki Yuna wa Yusha de Aru - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.20_[2014.12.09_02.50.44]

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3 thoughts on “The Wonderful Frustration That is Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru”

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree with most everything that you said, and I love your analysis of how someone truly earns the title of “hero,” but most of all I agree that more people need to watch this show. Being the person who wrote the first (and so far, the only) review of Yuki Yuna on MAL, it has been frustrating me to see such a well-done series getting so little recognition. Some of that I blame on poor marketing – starting almost two weeks after everything else had premiered, and then giving us teaser stuff that fooled a lot of the initial audience, including me, into thinking it was going to be primarily a slice-of-life show, are both decisions that seemed to really hurt its momentum at first. And then, as you alluded to, even while it kept giving us those ass-kicking battle scenes through the first half (and episode 5 remains one of my favorite episodes of the entire Fall season), it STILL insisted on keeping coy about its actual intentions for as long as possible.

    Fortunately, now that Takahiro and Kishi have finally laid their cards on the table, it looks like people are belatedly coming around. The weekly reviews on ANN were mostly very positive right from the beginning, but elsewhere episode 9 earned it a spot in the top 10 of Nihon Review’s seasonal Anime Power Rankings for the first time last week, and its fan rating on MAL has risen at a remarkable clip over the last few weeks. That includes a .08 jump from week 8 to week 9, which was the biggest one-week shift in any show’s rating since week 3 of Your Lie in April.

    After next week’s penultimate episode airs, I’m planning to go back and re-watch the whole series before the finale. I want to get a better feel for how the action/drama/slice-of-life balance all fits together when I’m watching several episodes consecutively, instead of having to wait a week for each one.

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  2. @Jim: Thanks for the comment.

    I think part of the problem with Yuki Yuna was because it started so late and because this season is so stacked with great anime that unless one had a specific reason to watch it – for me, I loved Tentai Senshi Sunred and will always give the director’s other series a chance – it got passed over. Now if it had run in the upcoming Winter season it would probably be one of the most talked about anime of that season.

    From what I read it looks like disc sales in Japan will be high enough that this anime will be considered a hit over there. Which, in the grand scheme, is more important then what the English anime fans think because it helps reinforce the idea to them of spending money on good anime equals making more money back.

    I’m glad my vote for Yuki Yuna helped push it into the top 10 of the APR – hopefully this won’t be a one time thing.

    If I can find the time I’d also like to do a rewatch before the final airs because I’m sure I missed a bunch of things in the first few weeks when I was paying closer attention to other anime series.

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  3. I hear you. I can’t even remember what inspired me to try it, other than liking what I saw from the preview trailer; I’m just glad I did.

    That’s good that the Japanese sales are going well. I saw that the initial print runs of BD1 with the bundled visual novel looked like they were selling out, but I couldn’t tell how the series as a whole was doing. Like you said, that’s really what matters, especially since most magical girl not named “Sailor Moon” has been a tough sell in the Western market anyway. Though I’m still holding out hope that Ponycan US will release Yuki Yuna here at some point, even if it’s just an Aniplex-style limited print run – much as I’d love to own it, I can’t really afford what it would cost to import the full set of BDs from Japan.

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