Note: I’m watching this show blind so please do not post spoilers in the comments.
Goodness, where to begin with this one.
I guess to start off: if I somehow didn’t suspect Yuki Yuna is a Hero to get darker in the past eight episodes, that notion has definitely been thrown out the window at this point. The suffering is here in all its “splendor”. Kind of surprising that it’s been happening so late. Going only by this season, we’re in the last third of the show. Madoka revealed its true colors in its third episode and other contemporary magical girl anime usually just admit theirs from the get go because Madoka has made anime viewers wary forever. It’s a strange move on YuYuYu‘s part and I can’t help but wonder how many people stuck around for this long and if the story was meant to be longer than this (hence why Season 2 got made). But darn is the execution solid so far.
At the beginning of this episode, Yuna and Mimori tell Fuu what they learned from Sonoko. Fuu is surprised but her initial reaction is a bit mellower than I anticipated. More importantly, she decides to keep the news a secret from Itsuki and Karin which I find to be very questionable. If anyone deserves to know, it’s Itsuki and you also have a scene where the Taisha order Karin via email to keep a close eye on her friends, essentially trying to making her a double agent. Fortunately, those two aren’t kept in the dark for long and you quickly learn why Fuu makes such a call.
It becomes very apparent that Fuu is in denial about the truth. Even after Mimori and Yuna tell her, Fuu still holds onto a glimmer of hope that everything will somehow be okay. She even sends the Taisha a couple more emails just to get an “official” answer (spoiler alert: the Taisha are full of shit). Ultimately, Fuu is forced to accept the truth when Mimori reveals she’s been trying to kill herself in various ways (what the fuck, Mimori?!) and her fairies won’t let her, thus proving everything Sonoko said about the Hero system to be true.
What pushes Fuu over the edge however is what the truth about the Hero system means for Itsuki. I admit that I’ve grown to find Itsuki’s musical subplot one of the weaker parts of YuYuYu‘s story, as evidenced by me poking fun at it, but this episode utilize it incredibly well. The obvious route would’ve been to focus on Itsuki but it’s instead used for Fuu’s arc. She finds out Itsuki has been suffering in music class because she can’t sing, finds out she won an audition, sees the effort she’s put into recovering, and finally hears the music demo she recorded episodes ago. Ituski’s decision to keep her aspiration a secret ends up doing more harm than good. Fuu is struck with the realization of how little she knew Itsuki has been affected by Sange, how she’s been used and deceived by the Taisha and even the Shinjuu to an extent, and how powerless she is to do anything about them.
For me, the most evocative aspect of this episode is the sound. Yumi Uchiyama does a solid job voicing Fuu here and conveying the varying emotions her character goes through, especially during the climax. Hearing Itsuki’s voice again via her demo really makes you realize how long it’s been since you last heard her speak. That you hear it from a computer also feels intentional, as though it denotes how detached Itsuki literally is from her voice. Most notably, the music is pretty sparse this time around. A lot of scenes play out in silent, setting a more grounded tone that fits Fuu spiraling down into despair. The most prominent track comes in the fight at the end. I’m surprised how well Itsuki’s demo song works there. In any other action scene, it’d be ill fitting but here, it not only suits Fuu’s current feelings and motivations but also convey that, somehow, everything will be okay.
For me, the climatic fight scene in this episode is my favorite one in YuYuYu so far. I do enjoy the fights with the Vertex, especially the first two involving Yuna and Mimori, but they are mostly fun set pieces at the end of the day. They don’t strike a chord like this one does. Fuu genuinely looks and sounds like she’s out to kill the Taisha, so much so that it’s a punch to the gut to see her like this. She engages both Karin and Yuna in combat and while this marks the first time we’re seeing magical girl vs. magical girl in this show, it doesn’t feel the least bit cool as we are also seeing friends fight against each other.
Speaking of friends, I kept noticing the varying levels of success Fuu’s opponents have with reaching out to her. Karin is the first to intervene but she’s not the right person to calm her friend down. She’s finding out the truth about the Hero system as she’s fighting and on top of that, she’s too closely tied to the Taisha. Perhaps because of those ties, when the two fight, it comes across as Fuu treating Karin as a proxy for the Taisha and taking her anger out on her. Yuna is a better fit since she’s been a friend of Fuu for much longer and obviously knows about the truth already. That said, she comes across as pretty neutral in the fight, understanding Fuu’s distress but also protecting Karin in the process. She also acts defensively during the fight, blocking Fuu’s attacks and only countering once.
While Yuna does a great job here, it is of course Itsuki that calms Fuu down. It’s implied that she now knows the truth but the episode is vague about when and how. Maybe Yuna and/or Mimori told her off screen or maybe she overheard everything Fuu told Karin during the fight (which would be kind of silly, to be honest). It doesn’t really matter. Even though Itsuki transforms into her Hero form, she actually doesn’t do any fighting here. She just embraces her sister and that’s all she really needs to do. An even more heartwarming moment comes when she pulls out the letter everyone gave her in Episode 4 and writes her own comforting message to Fuu. It’s a beautiful and uplifting contrast to the cold, disingenuous emails the Taisha kept sending to Fuu. As for how Itsuki is handling things herself, she clearly looks glum that her dream has been shot down but her focus seems more on helping her sister. In a twisted way, this whole Hero ordeal is allowing Itsuki to achieve her biggest goal: being a pillar of support for her sister.
Now what about Karin? I currently have no reason to assume Karin denies what she’s learned. During the fight, she starts off as doubtful but the more Fuu explains and vents, the more it seems that Karin is compelled to believe it. I expect the show to elaborate further on her reaction. She’s taking the news far better than I anticipated. Then again, I guess she was preoccupied with defending herself against a giant sword. The funny thing is that wherever her loyalties now lie, she’s likely to do exactly what the Taisha wants her to do which is keep an eye on her teammates. The Hero Club isn’t in a great state right now.
Meanwhile, Yuna looks like she’s taking the news better than anyone else but that isn’t to say she doesn’t merit concern. As she fights Fuu, her emblem fills up completely which means her Mankai is at the ready again. Karin briefly notices it and even urges Yuna to stop fighting, perhaps fearing that she was going to resort Mankai to defeat Fuu. That’s the thing I worry about Yuna. She has everyone’s backs but she doesn’t seem terribly concern about hers. I expect Yuna having Mankai available will come into play in the next fight. Everyone does their darnedest to stop her from activating it and Karin feels even more compelled to risk herself since she still has the least to lose. And yes, I do expect another fight to happen. I trust the notion that the battles are over about as much as these girls trust the Taisha.
Thanks for reading!