Note: I am watching Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Great Mankai Chapter blind. Please refrain from posting spoilers in the comments.
Having not read the Kusunoki Mebuki is a Hero books, I’m not familiar with how things progressed or paced. Things do feel like they’re going by pretty quickly. The Sentinels manage to find a suitable spot for the Shinju seed (I guess they only have one but I don’t know where they got one to begin with) and they escort Aya to perform a ceremony to make the sapling grow. By the end of the episode, the Sentinels learn they must retrieve the sapling to heal the dying Shinju as well as Aya’s intention to sacrifice herself to the gods. It already feels like this arc is entering its final stretch, possibly setting the stage for the The Hero Chapter. Knowing YuYuYu however, I am expecting a curveball of some kind so it’s possible things don’t end in the next episode. That’s one advantage to this season not having a clear dividing line between arcs. I can’t entirely tell where the finish line is for an arc.
A big concern I have is whether or not anything in the “Kusunoki Mebuki Chapter” matters in the grand scheme of things. I figured the sapling would get written off to maintain continuity but the task of retrieving does feel very futile. I mean, spoiler alert: the Shinju still kicks the bucket so I have doubts that the sapling is going to be very helpful. It’s also possible the Sentinels outright fail their job. I can see Aya being spared and that’s what leads to Togo becoming the sacrifice at the start of The Hero Chapter. It would explain why we transitioned from the Taisha asking Togo for help to this arc. Then again, how important is it for us to know that someone else was going to be the sacrifice? It’s not like that detail was needed for The Hero Chapter. I suppose the fruitlessness of the Sentinels’ work is part of the show’s theme. They are as, Mebuki point out, stepping stones. They’re meant to be smaller players than the actual Heroes. Their work not mattering in the end therefore fits. At the same time though, I’d like for the story make ripples into the canon. Otherwise, why do we have this arc at all?
It would help if I felt more attached to the characters. I can’t say I hate them but I don’t find most of them that particularly interesting. I like Aya just fine but she does feel more of a plot device than a character. She provides an endgame for the Sentinels and she serves to bring out a gentler side out of Mebuki and empathize with what she’s going through. She currently doesn’t have an arc of her own. Yumiko and Suzume can be funny but comic relief seems to be the sole reason they’re in the plot. In the case of the latter, I’m honestly confused why she’s even sticking around. We see in this episode some of the Sentinels quitting due to stress and trauma and the Taisha seem okay with that since they have more candidates who can refill the ranks. What is even stopping Suzume from doing the same? As for Shizuku, we learn that she has a more violent split personality which I find to be eye-rolling. In anime, that’s one of the most obvious thing you can do with the quiet character.
At least Mebuki gets some attention. It’d be real bad if the “titular character” didn’t. A big part of her character is a desire to prove her worth and not be treated as a pawn, something which was encouraged by her father. Losing the Hero candidacy to Karin and becoming a Sentinel instead frustrates her but it also motivates her to prove herself even more and complete the task at hand. That then begs the question of whether or not she’ll ever achieve her dream. Fate already isn’t doing her any favors since she has to retrieve the Shinju sapling, effectively undoing her work as a Sentinel. There’s an implication that she’s still hung up about losing the opportunity to be a Hero which is pretty ironic when you think about it. I’d doubt she’d still wish to be a Hero if she finds about their own cycle of futility.
Interestingly, this desire to be important has extended to Mebuki’s crew. She’s apparently maintained zero casualties in her Sentinel career and while that’s maybe a bit far-fetched, it says a great deal of how she treats her subordinates. Like with herself, she doesn’t want the others to be cogs in the machine nor does she treat them as expendable. And at the end of the episode, she cares more about Aya being sacrificed than her mission being all for nothing. It’s funny, Mebuki was denied the privileges of becoming a Hero and yet that seems to have been for better. During the Hero training, Mebuki really only cared about her own worth. Compare this to now where she cares about the worth of everyone under her wing. Evidently, this has allowed her to become good friends with her team. Yumiko, Shizuku, and (somehow) Suzume have all stuck by her side, even as members quit left and right. Aya trusts her enough to almost reveal her fate ahead of time. All four characters visit Mebuki when she’s hospitalized from some injuries, even giving her a present to boot.
To my surprise, the most frustrating scene is Suzume share with her teammates about the one time she met the Hero Club. This flashback appears to be set during Season 1, with Togo using a wheelchair and Karin being the club’s newest member. Even though I do want to see more of Yuna and company, their appearance in this episode feels like fanservice, as if this arc is contractually obligated to remind us of the the characters that we are accustomed to. It’s really not what this arc needs, not when it’s trying to get us attached to the new characters. At least with Karin’s appearance in the last episode, she played a direct role in Mebuki’s arc and that was the first time we’ve seen her backstory. Conversely, it is a little amusing seeing the Sentinels gossip about the Hero Club as if they’re celebrities even though they are, as Suzume points out, pretty down to earth when they’re not busy protecting the world.
Thanks for reading!
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