Yuki Yuna is a Hero (YuYuYu) is one of the four anime I picked for my first review poll back in January 2019. Ultimately, it landed in second place, losing to School-Live!. I considered putting it up again for my second poll but as some visitors of the blog may know, covering School-Live! went on and off and temporarily unfinished so the polls have been put on indefinite hold. As I am now reviving the School-Live! coverage, I decided I’ll also watch and cover the #2 winner. Consider this as my way of making up for my shortcoming.
Now, I should clarify that I currently plan on watching just one season of YuYuYu. I believe there is a second season (that’s split into two sub-seasons? I’m a little confused on that to be honest) but since there is a chance of me not liking the show, it makes the most sense to dedicate to a single season for now. If I happen to like the show enough though, I’ll consider watching and reviewing Season 2.
That said, if the whole show is anything like its first episode, it’s very likely I’ll sit through all of it.
I already knew that YuYuYu is a magical girl anime but I imagine that if I had gone in completely blind, I’d probably feel a little thrown off by its pilot episode. No, the show doesn’t go super dark (yet) but it does nevertheless pull a bait and switch. At first, it presents itself as your typical slice of life, school club anime. Yuna Yuki (Haruka Terui) is a second-year middle school student participating in the “Hero Club” with her best friend, Mimori Tougou (Suzuko Mimori), and sisters Fuu and Itsuki Inubouzaki (Yumi Uchiyama and Tomoyo Kurosawa respectively). The objective of the Hero Club is helping people in any way they can. You see this demonstrated at the very beginning when the club puts on a puppet show for an elementary school class and later, you see them discuss finding lost kittens or removing trash from a nearby coast. The magic stuff only kicks in at the halfway point and very abruptly so. Time suddenly freezes and the Hero Club finds themselves sent to another world (no, not like that). Soon after, a monster called a Vertex appears. Fuu, who is revealed to know what’s up, explains that the club has been chosen to become magical girls and stop the Vertexes from destroying their deity, the Shinju/Divine Tree, and entering their world.
To be honest, I can’t decide which side of the pilot I enjoy more. The 180 turn is certainly more exciting. The other world and the Vertex give off a surreal and eerie impression with their designs and color schemes. Fuu and Itsuki attempt to hold the Vertex off as Yuna takes Mimori to safety. Yuna has a really badass moment when she transforms and punches and kicks at the Vertex, all while accompanied by some heart-pumping music (seriously, that is one hell of a track). At the same time though, I must admit that I was really entertained by the school club stuff in Part A. The opening scene with the puppet show in which Yuna accidentally knocks down the stage and forces everyone to improvise and salvage itis particularly super charming. More scenes along those lines would’ve been perfectly fine by me. Maybe it’d be weird to go back but I hope the show will do so and balance out the two scenarios together.
Another thing that stood out to me is the worldbuilding. For one, there’s the manner in which the girls to achieve their powers. They have animal fairies to use as some sort of medium but to initiate the transformation, they must use an app on their phones. As silly as that sounds, I do wonder if this mixture of magic and technology will be a major element in the show. You also have a couple of elements that are treated as entirely normal by the characters. While the Divine Tree is a major plot device during Part B of the episode, it’s actually introduced in Part A. In one scene, Yuki’s class prays to it before dismissal. In other words, the Divine Tree’s existence is actually common knowledge. Another example is the Taisha, an organization that serves the Divine Tree. When Fuu mentions she works for them, Yuki isn’t shocked by their existence but rather the Hero Club’s connection to them. She already knows who the Taisha are. I really like that some terminology is stuff that the characters already know. Not only does it make the story more believable, it makes the things that do shock the characters feel more pronounced.
While I enjoy the tone and worldbuilding presented here, it’s of course going to be the characters that make or break the show more. Right now, I must acknowledge that the characterization is currently pretty basic stuff though I do really like some of the personalities translate from the club room to the battlefield. Yuki’s determination to aid others no matter what manifests even in a live or death situation. Fuu is the leader of the Hero Club and still acts that way in combat, feeling responsible for keeping secrets and getting her friends involved. Itsuki, who cares deeply for her older sister, is the second person to take arms because of her sense of sisterhood. The only character who seems to behave differently is Mimori. At school, you see how happy she is to contribute to the club activities but upon arriving in the other world, she’s completely frozen in fear and understandably thinks her paraplegia prevents her from fighting. Maybe her magical girl powers will provide a workaround but there’s still a manner of convincing her to fight to consider. Out of the four characters, I’d say Mimori stands out as the most potentially interesting.
All in all, I really enjoyed the first episode of Yuki Yuna is a Hero. I’m a sucker for when stories start of on a normal note before taking a turn for the supernatural or fantastical and this show checks that box off splendidly. It’ll of course need to find a way to keep me hooked after the pizzazz wears off but I feel hopeful that it’ll pull through and I look forward to seeing some more.
OP: “Hoshi to Hana” by Sanshuu Chuugaku Yuusha-bu
Thanks for reading!