Note: I’m watching Yuki Yuna is a Hero blind. Please do not post spoilers in the comments.
If there is one thing to nitpick over in Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Hero Chapter, it’d be how surprisingly dense it has been. Goodness, five episodes in (out of six) and this show is still throwing curveballs at me. It’s really good stuff, don’t get me wrong, but it is a surprising lot of stuff too. I like to think I’ve been wrapping my head around them just fine too but it’s definitely been a test of attention, no doubt about it.
After dropping hints for the past two episodes, you finally learn what exactly is going on with the Shinju. As explained by our recurring Taisha agent, the Shinju is on the verge of death, hence why it’s been shown withering away. This of course entails the hellfire seeping in to the mortal world and killing everyone in the process. The only way to prevent this is to have a chosen maiden marry the Shinju in a ritualistic wedding called a Shinkon. Being a Misugata, Yuna is effectively the only candidate ideal for the ceremony. Should she go with the ceremony however, she’ll have to depart the mortal world and die.
While not terribly difficult to wrap your head around, there are a couple of things about this revelation that are rather vague. First, you’re not explicitly told why the Shinju is kicking the bucket now. Maybe it has something to do with Togo damaging the barrier. Maybe it hasn’t received an inflow of energy since our current roster of Heroes are so not motivated to help with that. It’s entirely possible a better explanation is in YuYuYu franchise’s supplemental materials…which I would absolutely despise if that’s the case (even if those stories are good).
Second, I’m a bit confused about Yuna needing to marry at all. Is her taking on the Curse of the Gods and dying with it not enough to keep the hellfire at bay? I suppose not if the Shinju happens to be dying in parallel. But then why place the curse on Yuna? Or wait, was it the Shinju who placed the curse? By “Gods”, is the show referring to the gods who tried to condemn humanity to damnation?
And third, what exactly does the Shinkon result in. Yuna dying and becoming a divine tree’s underage waifu I get; it’s what the marriage will do for the rest of humanity that perplexes me. The Taisha agent explains the union created in the ceremony will grant people a new power that will help them “transcend” and become a new being who can live with the Shinju for all of eternity. Implying that people stop being humans in the process certainly has a disturbing undertone and considering how fishy the Taisha are, it’s not to think if they have some motive in this as well. Without a more sufficient explanation however, it’s hard to tell if this is truly meant to be a bad thing. Plus, I have to wonder why such a plan was never executed when the Shinju saved humanity three hundred years ago.
If not for the worldbuilding, the Shinkon certainly bears significant weight for the story and its character. Yuna already has enough on her plate; to find out she needs to die in order to protect the world only adds to it. That she ultimately chooses to go through with the marriage doesn’t surprise me however. She’s too selfless to refuse and the fact that she’s dying anyway only makes it easier for her to decide.
To Yuna’s credit, she does disclose everything about the Shinkon to the rest of the Hero club though naturally, the news is met with vehement objection. Its a really tough scene to watch because you know that there aren’t going to be any winners. Yuna cares too much about her friends that she would indeed die for them and her friends care too much about her that they refuse to let her sacrifice herself to save them. Neither side can get through to the other and the only result to be expect is a falling out between Yuna and everyone else.
What’s really interesting is how each and every one of Yuna’s friends confront her. Togo and Fuu are fittingly the most verbal with their objections. Sonoko is easily the most levelheaded person in the room. Itsuki gets upset at how tense everything is. You’d think Karin would have the same temper as Togo and Fuu but because of what happened last episode, she’s afraid of hurting Yuna’s feelings again and is thus atypically hesitant to speak her mind.
The same can be said about Yuna. She’s clearly far too stressed and paranoid for this kind of conversation. Once she starts ratting off the Hero Club tenets to justify her decision, you know she’s desperate to get everyone to understand and it’s such a sad sight to see. The funny thing about the argument scene is that it feels like a complete reversal to how arguments usually happen in YuYuYu. Usually, Yuna is the one stopping someone from doing something bad or questionable. Even when her argument is clearly weaker or more baseless, such as in her fight against Togo during the Season 1 finale, she still intervenes. This episode marks the first time where she’s on the receiving end for a change. Her friends even have the weaker argument as well as they can’t think of an alternative to the Shinkon nor do they have the time to do so. It very much feels like a reversal as much like how you were inclined to side with Yuna in the past, Yuna has a stronger case but it’s her friends that you’d rather side with.
Needless to say, Yuna runs away to undergo the Shinkon. The rest of the Hero Club try to find her and contact the Tasiha for answers, resulting in them meeting with our recurring member of the organization. This actually marks the first time the Heroes talk to directly to the Taisha and, ironically, what’s great about it is how it shows that talking to them in person does little to improve the two groups’ relations with each other. The Taisha still give cold, logical reasons for their actions as well as the Shinju’s. The girls might as well have just communicated via email like in they have in the past. It wouldn’t make any difference.
Since the beginning of the Hero Chapter, I had always suspect the recurring Taisha member is Aki-sensei. When she finally speaks during the beginning of the episode, that fully confirmed my suspicions. And just in case, you forgot what she sounded like, the show does have Sonoko and Togo confirm that it is indeed Aki-sensei that the club is talking to. Even though it’s nice to see some continuity with The Washio Sumi Chapter, it is rather sad to see Aki-sensei again. In WaSuYu, she was the middle ground between the Taisha and the Heroes; someone who recognizes what needs to be done but still acting as someone the girls can still confide in. Here, she acts like any other member of the Taisha; completely detached from the Heroes’ concerns and anger. What really gets me is when she brings up Gin. Aki-sensei mourned Gin’s death like everyone else. Now, she describes Gin so impersonally as one of the many “necessary” casualties in keeping the world in check. It’s like she’s given up and that saddens me.
While it would be great to have the club crash Yuna’s wedding, especially with Fuu getting all bloodthirsty again, it appears that they’re about to be pre-occupied with an upcoming battle. Surprisingly, it’s not the Vertex they’ll be fighting but a new foe entirely and it’s even appearing in the real world as opposed to the Jukai. YuYuYu is effectively ready for a final battle. About time too. The funny thing is that this will be the second fight in The Hero Chapter. Five episodes in and this series has actually been very light on action. Evidently, I either took it for granted or didn’t mind it at all as this series has given plenty of other material to pay attention to. Still, it’s been a while since these girls fight and it’d be stupid if the show ended without some action.
As for Yuna, I have a feeling she might actually have something up her sleeve. The look she gives at the end doesn’t tell me she’s conceded to her fate but rather, she’s determined to defy it. How though I’m not sure. My only guess is that she plans on pleading with the Shinju though I have to wonder how that’d even work. Also: surely this show can’t end without her joining the fight, right?
Even though I am looking forward to the finale, I must admit that I am bit skeptical as well. This show has a precedent of dropping the ball at the very end. I can’t help but worry it’ll happen again here. My fingers are crossed however for The Hero Chapter to stick the landing. It’s been such a great ride that it’d be a shame if it suddenly crashed at the last second.