Yuki Yuna is a Hero: Great Mankai Chapter – Ep. 12 (Series Finale)

It has personally taken me a long time to get here but at long last, I’ve crossed the finish line: the end of Great Mankai Chapter and presumably the end of Yuki Yuna is a Hero as a whole. I say presumably because truth be told, you never know with anything in media. But given that this episode is actually labeled as “The Final Episode” and the contents of both it and Season 3 as a whole, I feel pretty confident in believing this to be the end.

I’ll admit that I probably had unrealistic expectations for Great Mankai Chapter. I don’t recall if it was announced that this wouldn’t be a sequel to The Hero Chapter but rather a companion piece to the previous arc but regardless, it would’ve been nice to have known that ahead of time. What got me excited about a third season of YuYuYu was the prospect of seeing how the story would continue on, especially the apparent finality of the last arc’s ending. Naturally, that piqued my curiosity a ton. If I had known that this season is a companion piece, maybe I’d be less shocked with it at the beginning and maybe I’d have more tempered expectations for it.

Regardless of what my pre-conception was or could’ve been, I ultimately have to admit that I came out of this season with mixed feelings. I’d go as far as call this the weakest season of the three. The thing about Great Mankai Chapter is that it both wants to expand on the events of The Hero Chapter and adapt all the remaining supplementary material at the same time. I haven’t read the spin-offs so I don’t know how they were originally presented but save for a few moments, it rarely felt like their contents had any direct correlation with The Hero Chapter, let alone improve on it. More importantly, this meant that the season was mostly about the spin-off characters and that had mixed results in and of itself. I enjoyed the first gen Heroes the most out of the two new groups but only half of them really got the spotlight. I cared even less about the Sentinels and that really irked me as they were given more screentime. Personally, I would’ve liked it if the Sentinels and the first gen were given more self-contained adaptations, something along the lines of The Washio Sumi Chapter. If the staff really did want to expand on The Hero Chapter, they should’ve instead made an extended edition with the new scenes added into the pre-existing episodes. We kind of got that in the last two episodes. If only the entire arc got that treatment.

Now about the actual episode at hand. At long last, YuYuYu finally advances its canon forward. Being that this is the very last episode however, this is pretty much an epilogue to the events of The Hero Chapter. In fact, there is no sequel hook to be found here. It’s as though the staff really are insisting that this is the end of the story. I can’t say I’m disappointed with this. Even though I was curious to see things continue, it was a shot in the dark. I don’t blame the staff for not wanting or not being able to come up with a sequel. The Hero Chapter did end so definitively after all. Really, I’m just shocked and happy that we got a continuation in any fashion.

Looking back at The Hero Chapter, I must admit that it was brief with the aftermath. Like, it was sufficient in telling you what happened after the final battle. The Hero Club helps with the relief effort, Togo and Sonoko finally get to visit Gin’s grave together, Itsuki becomes club president after Fu graduates, and everyone returns to their normal lives. On one hand, that’s all you really need to know. On the other, it’s also just a minute long montage so a more expanded look at that is nevertheless appreciated.

To start off, you get a more in-depth look at how the public reacts to the loss of the Shinju. YuYuYu is actually quite lacking when it comes to a supporting cast of characters so I don’t mind that The Hero Chapter brushed over what a bunch of nobodies thought about their deity kicking the bucket. Then again, I suppose finally seeing the reactions does make the story more believable. Apparently, Aki-sensei isn’t the only member of the Taisha who didn’t turn into primordial wheat. There’s some others left in the ranks and they’re scrambling to pick up the pieces. As for the civilians, they have all sorts of takes, some more radical than the others, but the overall consensus is disbelief over the Shinju’s death and confusion on how to move forward. For a second, I thought the show might have the public discussing the Heroes and their actions. That would have been a neat parallel to the scrutiny the first gen Heroes constantly faced during their arc.

Being that this is Great Mankai Chapter, it of course can’t help itself from shoehorning in the Sentinels one last time. And here I thought the show had completely forgotten about them…again. To be fair, it would’ve been extremely hilarious if the last thing we saw of the Sentinels was them getting caught up in the heavenly gods’ assault. I say Sentinels but really, it’s mostly Mebuki and Aya. The others do appear at the end of the episode in a cameo but that’s it; they’re not even voiced in that appearance. Honestly, I find that emblematic for the group. Mebuki and Aya are the only two members that you’d have any attachment to so you might as well just focus on them and no one else. At the very least, I enjoy the little moment between these two. Aya is just as unsure as the public over the future and being one of the Shinju’s faithful, she feels guilty to be alive in its stead. At the same time, she knows she can push forward so long as she’s with Mebuki (and I guess the other Sentinels but let’s face it, it’s just Mebuki).

Much like in The Hero Chapter, we see Togo and Sonoko visiting Gin’s grave. Both are initially able to maintain their composure though they eventually break into tears again, showing that they’re still mourning for their friend. One thing I will give this season is that it does show more of these two coming to terms with Gin’s death. I didn’t say it in my last Hero Chapter review but I like that the two bring the banner their old junior high class made for them. That’s a nice touch.

Also present at Gin’s grave is Aki-sensei. In The Hero Chapter, we see Aki-sensei turning away from the Togo and Sonoko, presumably feeling ashamed for the role she’s played in their lives. This episode changes that by having Togo and Sonoko notice Aki-sensei and convince her to stay with them. I like this retcon a lot more. It has the three characters reconciling after the events of The Washio Sumi Chapter and it’s nice to know that despite everything that happened, Togo and Sonoko either forgive Aki-sensei or they have no hard feelings towards her. Later in the episode, we learn that Sonoko hires Aki-sensei as an assistant. It’s not explored in detail but it’s a god way to put Aki-sensei on the path to redemption and have her return to the good old days as one of the girls’ guide.

In line with the continuity, Itsuki succeeds Fu as the Hero Club’s president. I wish that we actually get to see Fu appoint her sister in the role. From my understanding, that was going to be in The Hero Chapter finale but it got cut for time. The closest thing we get is a live reading performed by the cast during one of YuYuYu‘s live events. This episode would’ve been the perfect opportunity to have the scene animated. Still, it is nice to see Itsuki acting as club president. It’s also funny to see Fu still attending the club’s meetings even though she has graduated from junior high.

During one such meeting, Sonoko finally reveals what the deal is the gardening hoe she randomly showed in Episode 8. Apparently, it once belonged to Utano Shiratori, the apparent first girl to have ever become a Hero. Wakaba somehow procured it and left it for future Heroes to see as symbol representing their job to save and restore the world. Frankly, this revelation falls amazingly flat. Fact of the matter is that this show didn’t even introduce Utano. The only way you’d know about her beforehand is if you noticed her spirit and her gravestone during the last episode and you could easily blink and miss both of them. Why then should I care about the hoe she left behind? Also, I’m confused with the fact that she is the very first Hero to have ever existed. I thought Wakaba and her team was the first Heroes. You’re telling me there was someone before them? How important is this girl? And if she is important, why doesn’t she make a proper appearance? Nothing about this makes sense!

The bizarre nod to the canon aside, the message behind Utano’s hoe is not lost as the Hero Club agrees to help restore the world to the way it was. Initially, Sonoko proposes to take over the Taisha. Given the Nogi family’s influence and the Taisha’s current state, she could pull it off. And really, given what Sonoko has been through, this is probably something she’s wanted to do for a long time. Naturally, everyone else in the club finds the plan extreme, including Fu which I find amusing considering that she wanted to murder the Taisha two seasons ago. Ultimately, Sonoko is convinced by Itsuki to take a more subtle approach and she instead decides to become a omikoshi to lead Taisha back on the right track. That Itsuki is the one who convinces Sonoko is an interesting choice. Anyone in the club could probably succeed here, Togo especially, though I think it’s important to have Itsuki step here as it shows that she does deserve to be the Hero Club’s new president.

This episode doesn’t really focus on Yuna which I only find a little weird considering that the events of The Hero Chapter is mostly her arc. You’d think this epilogue would give her the spotlight. Then again, her arc was effectively resolved the moment she reached out to Togo for help and punched the gods in their nonexistent faces. Really, all you need to know about Yuna at this point is that she’s finally at peace. Still, this episode manages to squeeze in one last Yuna-centric moment where she writes one final entry into her diary (and I’m now realizing that it looks the exact same as Wakaba’s). What was once a coping mechanism now serves as a way for Yuna to record and remember the fun times she’s had with her friends. There’s some cheeky details included such as Yuna writing down the Hero Club’s tenets and, even cheesier than that, the show’s title. They’re silly and I don’t know if YuYuYu has earned the right to title drop but they’re also the kind of things Yuna would write down so I’ll give them a pass.

YuYuYu could easily have ended with that final diary entry though it does give one last footnote set four years later. Everyone in the Hero Club has now gone their separate ways though they continue fulfilling the Heroes’ goal in their own way. Yuna and Togo are traveling in mainland Japan in search of any survivors (or I guess the descendants of any survivors). Karin is assisting them on a boat and she’s apparently recruited the Sentinels on this endeavor (and yes, this is hilariously the only time the Hero Club acknowledges the Sentinels in this entire season). Sonoko has stayed true to her work and has become an omikoshi leading the Taisha, with Aki-sensei again as her assistant. Fu now works in technology, using magical materials left behind by the Shinju. The odd one out is Itsuki who now spends her days performing on the street. I suppose it keeps public morale up but really? Everyone else is changing the world and all Itsuki is doing is sell her music? At least have her perform at a concert hall or something. That one nitpick aside, this is the perfect scene to end the show on. It shows what everyone is up to long after the final battle and it has them heading off into an unknown yet also optimistic future.

Yuki Yuna is a Hero is far from perfect. It has it fair share of ups and downs. This season in particular is especially uneven. I wouldn’t go as far as say that it tarnished my feelings towards the first two seasons but part of me does wish it was a stronger and more consistent note for the show to end on. That said, I really am going to miss this show. Despite its flaws, it really delivered an emotionally engaging journey from beginning to end as well as a lovable cast of characters whom I’ve grown attached to over the course of three seasons. Out of all the dark magical girl shows out there, this is currently one of my favorites.

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