So this season, or at least a chunk of it, is an adaptation of the Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero light novel series. I think. I’m trying to approach this season with as little prior knowledge as possible, just like I did with the first two seasons, so I don’t sound 100% confident here. By some small chance, maybe this is actually new material featuring Mebuki Kusunoki (Minami Tanaka) and company but let’s just go with the more logical and less stupid explanation. I don’t mind if the other spin-offs are getting animated. Unless they’re garbage, they deserve to be adapted. It’s just that I watch Yuki Yuna…for Yuki Yuna as well as the whole Hero Club. Following a whole new cast for Season 3 is not the curveball I expected to see. I also have to wonder why this presumed portion of Season 3 isn’t called “The Kusunoki Mebuki Chapter”. Were the two different titles for Season 2 that confusing?
This episode starts off by jumping back in time, taking place two years before the start of Season 1 and some time after The Washio Sumi Chapter. We see the Taisha gather dozens of young girls, all of whom are potential Hero candidates, training them until one “lucky” winner is selected to inherit the powers of a recently deceased Hero. Among the candidates are the ambitious Mebuki Kusunoki, the conceited Yumiko Miroku (Naomi Oozora), and familiar face Karin Miyoshi. While not explicitly stated, it’s pretty obvious the Hero these candidates are training to replace is Gin. Given the chronology, she’s the only one who fits the bill. Plus, all the candidates seen here are practicing at fighting with dual swords which were Gin’s weapons.
That Karin is ultimately chosen to become Gin’s replacement is a given though a surprising tidbit is the fact that Mebuki technically scored higher than her. The implication is that Karin won for her personality. She may be in it to win it but Karin is still deep down a kind person and you see that when she treats her opponents, never talking down to them and expressing concern at any injuries they might sustain during training. Mebuki is just as ambitious but becoming a Hero is the only thing on her mind. She makes no effort at getting along with Karin, Yumiko, or any other candidate even when they attempt to make small talk with her. Considering that Heroes work in a team, it makes sense that Karin would become the favorite. Even if she were to butt heads with her future teammates (which she certainly does), she’s more likely to connect with them in the long run. Also, how fitting that Karin gets chosen despite not being the strongest candidate. Part of her arc in Season 1 is talking big about herself and gradually shedding that away. The idea of her boasting when she’s well aware that she didn’t have the highest marks during Hero training puts a new light on her character. Perhaps she was convincing herself just as much as she was trying to convince the members of the Hero Club.
Some time after the Hero Club’s victory at the end of Season 1 and before the start of “The Hero Chapter”, the Taisha eventually finds a new use for all those failed candidates, including Mebuki, recruiting them all as “Sentinels”. Their task is to explore the realm beyond the barrier and plant a Divine Tree sapling in the hopes of restoring the world back to its original state. Mebuki appears to be assigned as the leader of the whole fleet and her own squad consists of Yumiko, a scaredy cat named Suzume Kagajou (Atsumi Tanezaki), and a quiet girl named Shizuku Yamabushi (Suzuka Ishigami). The fleet also appear to be aided by a Miko, Aya Kokudo (Yuuko Ono), who imbues the ships they’re using to travel with divine protections. What exactly the Sentinels are isn’t explained very well in this episode. Like, they’re Heroes but not really? They don’t appear to have Terminals or Fairies to channel their powers. Their attire and arsenal are more uniform in design, lacking the variety that you see with the fully-fledged Heroes and therefore giving off the impression that these are “standard issue” in some way. There’s also Aya and Mikos in general. Season 2 mentioned something about Mikos albeit briefly so the extent of their powers wasn’t made clear until now. I guess I could chalk all of this up to some Tasiah tech and Divine Tree magic, the typical mumbo jumbo in this series, but a proper explanation would be nice.
You get an action scene where the Sentinel fleet takes on an army of the lowest level Vertex. I’ll admit that it felt a little underwhelming compared to past YuYuYu action scenes but that may actually be intentional. There’s no fancy weaponry at their disposal. Their ships aren’t powerhouses like Togo and Sonoko’s Mankais and seem prone to permanent damage. Most of their tactics involve coordinating their attacks to suppress the enemies. The fact that there are dozens of these Sentinels means that they’re banking on numbers. All things considered, they act less like action heroes and more like a military unit. Perhaps that’s less exciting but it makes sense. These Sentinels are clearly not as strong as the Heroes we’ve seen in the past two seasons and any action involving them has to reflect that.
My biggest problem with this episode is that I don’t really connect with the Sentinels. Between flashing back to the candidates’ training to establishing the Sentinels to showing their first battle, this episode is forced to skim through so much characterization. With only four of them named, we’re definitely not going to learn about each and every one of them. Yumiko and Suzume currently boil down to quips and there’s hardly anything to say about Aya and Shizuku. All four of them are just there on the screen. Aside from being next to each other in the frame in some scenes, they don’t really have the group chemistry that past YuYuYu teams had. There’s a few interesting threads to Mebuki such as her apparent desire to seek the approval of her strict father and the idea that she has to look after a whole army of girls despite not wanting to connect with any of them. Whether or not these amount to a compelling arc however remains to be seen. Honestly, the best characterization in this episode came from Karin and that’s unfair to say considering how long she’s been in this show. Following a new cast of characters is going to take some getting used to and I really do want to give them a chance. But the show also needs to do the same so I hope that subsequent episodes will flesh these characters out some more.