Note: I’m watching Yuki Yuna is a Hero blind. Please do not post spoilers in the comments.
Out of all the episodes in Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Washio Sumi Chapter, this finale is the most predictable. That is by no means a detriment but rather due to the nature of this mini-series being a prequel. Our two remaining Heroes receive their “upgraded” Hero forms and fairies (I kind of do wonder what Gin’s would’ve looked like). They use it during the next battle and the rest is history. There’s some things that play out differently than I expected but all the general plot points were a given long before WaSuYu even started. If you’ve seen Season 1 of YuYuYu, you know exactly what to expect. And if you somehow haven’t…why?
The question to ask then isn’t whether or not this episode throws any huge surprises but rather if it does what any good prequel should do: make you still care about its foretold conclusion. And the answer is yes, it most definitely does.
Before getting to the big and inevitable fight, the show reminds you one last time that it isn’t just Washio and Sonoko who will be affected by what’s about to happen. Their friends at school make a banner to thank them for their service and apologize for how they’ve been treating them after Gin’s death. Little do they know, this would be the last day they ever saw either of those two. Meanwhile, you see Washio and Sonoko’s parents voice their concerns on the new system to Aki-sensei (and this is most likely not their first meeting with her). It’s implied that Washio gets disowned not because she served her purpose but because her adoptive parents think they don’t deserve a daughter like her. That’s way different and much sadder than what I had assumed in Season 1. Aki-sensei gives the expected PR to the parents but you can tell she’s ashamed for being involved in this mess. She wears a Taisha uniform throughout the episode and later puts on the typical mask at the end. It’s as though she wants to hide her feelings and disappear into the ranks. Considering that Sonoko is ultimately left in the Taisha’s care, maybe Aki-sensei is also afraid of what would happen if the two of them come face to face. I get the feeling this is the last we’ll see of any of these character but I do really want to know what they’ve been up to since the events of this episode.
While our Heroes receive the powers Season 1 viewers are well familiar with, the manner in which they receive them is a bit peculiar in how ceremonious it is. Washio and Sonoko both bathe under a waterfall somewhere in the mountains, get dressed by Taisha attendees, and their phones are presented to them as though they’re sacred. It’s definitely different from how, in Season 1, most of the Hero Club put the apps in their phones as per Fuu’s request. Maybe Karin did this but that’d be it. Even the transformation sequence (possibly the least sexualized it’s ever been) is different. Both girls don their ceremonial robes before transforming into their Hero forms. These two instances really empathize how being a Hero is a sacred duty, a pretense that was known but considerably less pronounced in Season 1. It also speaks to how differently being a Hero means to Washio/Togo. Washio dressing up so ceremoniously reflects her devotion to serving the Shinju. Togo being wrapped up in vines makes considerably more sense now; she’s trapped in her role but she accepts it (well, for the most part) to help her friends.
I have to give this episode credit for keeping up appearances until shit finally does go down. By now, you know what the Fairies’ exact purpose is but this episode still has them doing goofy stuff prior to the fight because their owners don’t know any better. And when the fight does happen, Washio and Sonoko remark on the defensive boost provided by their fairies and activates Mankai willingly and enthusiastically. It all makes it that much harder to watch when the inevitable aftereffects kick in. Washio of course loses the ability to walk, gaining those familiar ribbons in the process, as well as some of her memories. In Sonoko’s case, we’re only privy to three of her injuries. The first two are the most apparent ones in Season 1, her right eye and left arm. For the third Sange, she loses her heart (is this an Angel Beats! reference?) and I don’t want to know what’s preventing her from dying because of it. The episode doesn’t disclose the next 17 body parts Sonoko loses but honestly, I’m glad it doesn’t.
Something to note about our Heroes’ use of Mankai is that they resort entirely to that ability during their fight. Not once do they perform the ritual to expose a Vertex’s soul like the Hero Club often did during Season 1. In fact, it’s not brought up at all and neither Washio nor Sonoko even recognize a Vertex’s soul when they see it. Even with the knowledge that Mankais are powerful enough to get the job done on their own, those details are very perplexing. I wonder if the ritual might’ve been added later, presumably after Sonoko used Mankai so many times.
Besides the fates of our characters, there are a number of key moments that the finale is expected to portray. To start off, the tunnel used to confine the Vertex dissolves during the fight, causing the corresponding bridge to end up in the broken state it’s in during Season 1. I believe that’s tied to Mankai; every time our Heroes use it, the show cuts to the area losing its color and withering away. Why it’s tied to Mankai however, I’m not sure.
You have Sonoko discovering the real state of the world and that the fighting against the Vertex will never truly end. That was to be expected since she would later relay this information to Togo in Season 1. I wasn’t sure if Washio would find out as well. The show could easily have her find out with Sonoko and then forget about it due to her memory loss. I imagine she’d have the same horrified reaction regardless of if she once knew or not. Still, I think I do prefer her not finding out until Season 1 as it’s more in parallel with the viewer’s reaction.
With Washio losing her memories, my prediction was that the show would formally reveal it right as Washio wakes up in the hospital, lining up with her flashback scene in Season 1’s tenth episode. Turns out the actual depiction is considerably more heartbreaking as Washio loses her memories during the fight, just in time for Sonoko to find out herself. Poor girl is confused and frightened, becoming exactly what she feared to be when this series started: useless. Curiously, Washio still remembers Gin, to what extent is unclear, and that makes it even worse for Sonoko who feels singled out as the one her friend has completely forgotten. As for why Washio doesn’t remember Sonoko pleading for her to remember, it’s implied that she forgot due to stress and trauma. That not only maintains continuity but it also makes the two’s “reunion” in Season 1 so much sadder. Sonoko called Togo “Wasshi”, thinking she at least remembers the last time they were together, only to discover that her friend still doesn’t recognize her. Why, YuYuYu? Why do you have to do this to me?
And finally, we have the moment where Sonoko hands off her hair ribbon to Washio, resulting in the latter wearing it throughout Season 1. I had assumed that Sonoko would simply give it to an unconscious Washio, after the latter did Mankai a second time and right before the former sacrifices herself and fights the Vertex alone. What actually happens instead is Sonoko hands her hair ribbon to Washio before the fight and the ribbon becomes a recurring visual for the remainder of the episode. You see Washio tying it around her wrist and holding onto it throughout the entire fight. Before Sonoko sacrifices herself, she reties it around Washio’s wrist, essentially saying that the two of them will always be friends no matter what. Sonoko realizes what was going to be for something fun is now the sole memento Washio has of her. Having her friend tie it for her also reinforces why Togo has a vague recollection that the object is important to her and holds onto it. Simply put, I’m stunned at how the episode went about this moment, giving it more weight than it already had by default.
I really like Sonoko from the little amount of screen time she had in Season 1 and her characterization throughout much of Season 2. But I think it really is these last couple of minutes that makes me think Sonoko will rank as one of my favorite characters in YuYuYu. Within such a short span of time, she deals with so much. She finds out the truth about the world she lives in, gets disheartened when her best friend no longer recognizes her, and is confronted by all twelve Vertex. Yet in spite of all that, Sonoko quickly steels herself to fight and takes the time to assure Washio thing will be alright when it most certainly won’t for her. Then, she uses Mankai seventeen more time and proceeds to spend the next two years of her life crippled and alone. She’s well aware of the price she’s about to pay and does it anyway to protect her best friend. It’s an incredible and emotional display of sheer will. A pity we don’t get to see how she wins but much like with Gin’s final stand, I prefer it this way. Leaving it to the imagination makes it more powerful and we don’t need to see the fight to get the point across.
As gut-wrenching as this episode has been, it does end on an uplifting note. Washio wakes up and recovers in the hospital, now going by Mimori Togo of course (I love that WaSuYu never brought it up until now). A very familiar scene then plays as Togo meets her new neighbor, Yuna Yuki (Haruka Terui). This is the third time this scene has played out though it’s funny how even in this prequel, things finds it way to Yuna. It’s a reminder that she is at the center of things, a huge driving force in the lives of her friends. Also, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to end this mini-series.
And so ends The Washio Sumi Chapter. It’s been quite the roller-coaster. The middle act is admittedly a bit weak at first but as a whole, the series was well paced and kept me riveted from beginning to end. All three main characters are great and there’s a surprising ton of additions to the YuYuYu mythology. Of course, this finale isn’t really the finale. There’s an entire second half of Season 2 left for me to watch. And with a prequel this good, I really have to wonder how good the sequel will be.
Thanks for reading!
Watch Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Washio Sumi Chapter on Amazon