Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 08

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru 08 finally spells out just how screwed the girls of Hero Club are going to be by introducing them to a bits-and-pieces mess of barely living parts that used-to-be-a-Hero Nogi Sonoko, who now resides in some sort of parallel dimension and is forced to watch the same vista for an unendable eternity.

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The tone is somber, it gives us the high stakes I’ve wanted for several episodes now and it lays out the “will they/won’t they escape fate” framework facing the girls from here on out.

And it definitely delivers real, raw, and powerful emotions from Togo and Yuna. It’s a tear jerker, and the relative quiet of their conversation with Nogi makes it all the more brutal.

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So why am I dropping YYwYdA? Simply put, this was the dullest, talkiest reveal you can imagine. Little mystery is left to our imagination and the whole ‘snagged on the way back from fighting’ context for Yuna and Togo’s conversation with the fallen hero felt arbitrary. Graceless.

Worse, while I’ve moderately enjoyed the show until now, I can’t help but feel YYwYdA‘s slow pace is a product of not having much to do with the series or having an interesting mystery to reveal, rather than a thoughtful process of lulling us into false security.

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I mean, the girls have had their injuries for several episodes now. We already knew those injuries weren’t going away and that they were the direct result of using Mankai.

Spelling that fact out to us, even with the added context that young girls are still being used like the virgin sacrifices of old, doesn’t make it any more compelling.

Sad panda. Sad panda indeed.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 07

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru has established a weird pattern: it runs 2 calm, entirely pedestrian episodes before charging head long into each battle. This up/down relationship isn’t the weird part, exactly. More that the calm episodes are so calm.

I mean, this week was the happiest, most care free beech style episode I’ve ever seen shoved into a show. It was so playful and, since there are no male characters in this middle-school-girl-cast show, that playfulness came off as authentic.

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The girls play on the beech, have a delicious and classy meal, take a grande bath, and even have fun telling ghost stories to each other — all payed for by the organization that probably knows they’re all doomed already.

Fu is still blind, Itsuki is still mute, Yuna is still a tomboy, Karen is a robot and Togo still can’t walk, after all.

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My favorite moments were how Togo had to be shoved into the setting, every setting, even at the cost of physics sometimes. Take this scene where she’s in a normal wheel chair… being pushed through the water in a way I’m pretty sure would take a body builder’s worth of muscle to accomplish.

At least her floaty wheel chair was cute and made sense. Even nice of the secret organization to provide an unnamed adult supervisor to make sure nothing went wrong in the process.

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As you can probably tell, I don’t have too much to say about this week’s episode. It was very charming, (warm/fuzzy feeling) even by YYwYdA standards, and we learned little bits about the world too. Vertexes are based on the zodiac, which implies there may be more of them than the initial 12 the Heros were told about.

And It was the best looking, non-special effects episode so far too…

But am I excited by all this? Not really. Not, at least, until something more dire befalls our little pretties…

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 06

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru took an interesting direction this week. See, while the girls suffered no physical damage from their battles per sey, each hero who activated ManKai has lost much of a single human sense.

Fu is blind in her left eye, Itsuki is mute, Yuna cant taste, and Togo can’t walk.

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No! I’m kidding because I’m a terrible person. Togo is like normal but now is also def in her left ear.

Only Karen has avoided an unexplained health issue and only Karen was unable to activate her ManKai.

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It takes Yuna and Togo a little while to admit their problems. So, at first, I thought the injuries tied into their character weaknesses. Itsuki is timid, after all. So of course she can’t talk. Fu lacks vision (planning and projection) So of course she’d go blind too.

I don’t think that idea holds weight though. At least, I don’t know what it would have to do with the sense of taste and Togo is all about listening to others…

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Fortunately, the girls all get nice new iPhone 6s for their troubles. Sure, they aren’t heros anymore and can’t download the hero app and, for a while, no one really knows what to do with themselves, but you gotta see the silver lining!

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Not for Karen-chan though. While I thought it was a nice touch that she, the one who came to fight, was the most useless during the fight AND could not use Mankai, the gravity of that, and the weight of being the only uninjured hero hangs heavy on her shoulders.

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I enjoyed the episode, frankly. As with all of YYwYdA‘s pacing, we got a full 20 minutes dedicated to the girls calmly easing into post-hero status. That time to breath and figure out what was going on, and what they wanted to do now, mixed with the dread that their health issues aren’t so temporary, was a good choice.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 05

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru episode 5 gave us all its got: brightly colored characters, vibrant effects, bizarrely abstract looking enemies, and a battle that lasted almost 20 minutes.

So? Was it good?

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That depends on what you want from this show?

For me, last week’s signs of on-coming dread and loss didn’t really pay out. Yes, the girls are all beaten up by the end of this lengthy battle, but no one is lost. More over, four of the girls unlock their Bleach-style ‘Mankai’ level up ability exactly at the moment any fear of loss crept into the battle.

The results felt predictable by genre standards and cheap “friendship power saves the day.” None of their abilities felt earned.

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The Man-kai’s themselves, which transformed the girl’s skimpy sailor-style uniforms into more priestess like robes, looked cool enough. Each costume looks like an upgrade and sports a flowery “Old School Tenchi Muyo” aesthetic.

My only criticism is that each girl’s abilities are all over the map in usefulness and power. Togo gets a flying spider-like weapons platform that can breach the planet’s atmosphere and Itsuki gets… more finger strings.

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In some ways the aesthetic has an odd Persona vibe going on too. While many of the Vertex are just random 3D rendered shapes, many have that game’s gothic icons plus ‘stuff in a blender’ style going on.

The above character shows this pretty well: it’s a book with hands wearing thigh-highs and a gothic lolita dress and chains. It is also a robot, sorta maybe.

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There’s nothing wrong with aping Persona’s style, nor Bleach’s I’m shouting Man-kai to level up style, nor Old School Tenchi’s Jurai costumes… but it starts to make YYwYdA feel like a sum of parts and less a show of its own.

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The loveliest moment came at the end with Togo and Yuna falling back to earth. Both are drained of energy and unsure if they will survive the fall. Togo wraps them in a flower-remains of her robes/weapon platform with the last of her energy and they say good bye and fall asleep.

It’s a beautiful scene and, for an instant, gave me hope that one of the girls wouldn’t make it out of this fight in a touching and lovely way.

Sadly, that’s not the direction YYwYdA has taken.

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So I’m disappointed no one died. YYwYdA toyed with that idea on several occasions but it was pretty obvious the show was never going to go through with it.

The only reason I will tune in next week is the obvious set up for a twist. We are only five episodes in and all the enemies have been defeated. SOMETHING has to happen for the next 7 episodes.

The question is: what?

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If that something is just a second wave of more powerful Vertex… I’m dropping the show from my review list. If that something twists our expectations for the protecting god or what the Hero Club believes to be truth, then I’ll keep up with it.

Okay YYwYdA, next week is your judgement hours!

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 04

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YYwYdA takes a second week off from the Vertex to focus on the girls, their relationships, and surprisingly very little on how they are coping with their do-or-die status as heroes. This week it’s Itsuki’s turn to stand under the spot light and man is she worried…about singing in front of her fellow music classmates!

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You two! You will not have much to do this episode!

Playing the episode so low stakes actually works really well. We learn some important details (Fu and Itsuki’s parents were killed by the Vertex some how and the world has been cleansed by a plague some time earlier) but the girls are given tons of breathing room and it sells their relationships. It sells them as people.

Alternatively, while I may find those stakes low, Itsuki obviously doesn’t. She’s lived in her sister’s shadow — willingly — since her parents were killed (somehow?) and is desperate to carve out an identity. A reason to carry on.

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“Don’t worry. You got four of a kind. So that’s a good thing… right?”

Tarot reading plays a role in this episode too, and it was a great framing device for what is no doubt going to be a massacre next week.

Like everything else, the Tarot is played for smiles and laughs. Itsuki keeps flipping death and she’s worried that it means she’ll totally bomb her music singing test.

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So everyone comes together and the core of this week’s mission is established: help Itsuki pass her test. Obviously, the best place to do that is a karaoke bar!

Even with a bathroom confrontation scene between Karin and Fu, the bar scene is totally understated, cheerful, and sells Hero Clubs internal friendships. (Everyone jumping to military attention when Togo sang a military marching song was my favorite highlight.)

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With their help and repeated support, Itsuki finally gets over her fears, wins the admiration of her class (she’s a year younger than the other heroes) and finds what she wants to do: sing.

Then she flops another Death Tarot from her bag while recording a song on her laptop.

…and the Vertex arrives.

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Giving us such a long break from monster fighting, with no expositional dumps in the process is a fantastically brave move on YYwYdA. It not only lulls us into a super comfort zone but it actually gives us enough time and sense of place to care about the girls that I hope get butchered horribly next week.

If YYwYdA does that, then no matter what it does later — no matter how much it wavers — I will be satisfied.

have I just typed that?

Hero Club! 

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 03

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…And, out of nowhere, a new girl shows up during Hero Club’s fight with the 5th Vertex. She wears a red costume and she’s a badass, easily capable of destroying a single Vertex on her own.

Note: she does not appear to have a ‘charged up tattoo/icon’ like the other girls. However, since we have no idea what the tattoo/icon actually does yet, this may or may not mean anything.

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As you would expect, the new girl becomes a transfer student at Hero Club’s school the following day. Miyoshi Karin is her name and she is a true hero! According to her anyway. (She claims to be chosen from a pool of heroes who’ve trained for years, and that she was specifically chosen because she fits the data the ‘advanced party’ (the hero club) has gathered in their initial confrontations)

Karin-chan is a typical pride-heavy hardhead. Generic, really. She thinks she’s professional, without real combat experience and social skills are minuscule. in fact, her arrogance presumes that she take command of the hero club without a moment to spare.

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Personally, I love the idea that whoever is in charge of the Heroes hasn’t bothered to keep the advanced team informed of their reinforcements, let alone their official command structure. So much so that I wonder if an organization actually exists. I mean, if Karin wore a black uniform, I’d have to wonder if she was actually a villain in disguise!

For now, we’ll have to chalk it up to terrible judgement and logistics. The kind we may expect from an organization that leaves the world in the hands (and emotional judgement) of middle schoolers!

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I’m thankful YYwYdA kept this ‘outsider’ schtick to a minimum. Presuming it was resolved as much as it needs to be here, we can move on and deal with more interesting mysteries.

Otherwise, dragging out Karin’s entry wont be interesting. In fact, she isn’t interesting at all, outside her wonderful costume and surprisingly well drawn practice fighting on the beech!

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Oddly, there were no battles this week. I suppose that would be too cliche, to have the group come together over fighting or to see the value of the other girls in it. That would be too much on Karin’s terms. Lets hope the show sticks to regular battles, though. This slice of life girl social interaction bit was fine… but too much of it risks being dull, unimaginative, and been there done that.

I suppose, too little of that and it’s just a magic girl team fights monsters genre bit? I’m undecided now! The balance is going to be tricky!

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 02

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Inutozaki, Itsuki, Yuna, and Togo wrap up their first missing and are returned to the roof top of the school. Of course, since time froze during the battle with the monster, they are missing class…

However, logistical problems aren’t the real big deal here. The big deal is that Togo is not only angry that she had no warning before being nominated for hero’ship (and thrust into a do or die battle to save the world), she’s angry at herself for deserting her friends and feeling helpless.

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Togo’s conflict boils up during their first post-kill briefing in the club room. It doesn’t matter how forward Inutozaki is now, it doesn’t matter how reasonable her secrecy was, and it doesn’t matter how much Yuna and Itsuki are down with how things played out: Togo is pissed, gets snappy, and exits the room.

Yuna follows to fix things and we get a funny familiar-as-boobs joke to break the foul mood.

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As you would imagine from this kind of show, the next big-bads come sooner than later and this time there are 3 all at once! On the plus side, there will only be 12 total, which means we have plenty of episodes left over for a swimsuit/hot springs episode, a school festival, and a 2-part finale!

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So the battle unfolds the way a second battle should. The new enemies are stronger, more interesting, and provide a variety of individual challenges. Most significantly, the attack as a team.

The second battle also brings Togo into the fold as a full suited-up hero. I have to say, her costume design is awesome! I mean, I was curious how YYwYdA would handle her legs and the design choice does not disappoint!

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Basically, Togo’s legs are still useless. However, these scarf-like arms hold her upright and let her move around. It’s downright creepy by cool looking and, since Togo is the teams sniper, we get an interesting nod to SAO2. If that’s a thing we should be wanting.

Enemies defeated, friendships mended, and purpose set — everything is in place now for… well… for whatever the next major plot twist turns out to be!

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 01

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Sanshu Middle School Hero Club flew so low under my radar for the past two weeks that I almost didn’t watch it. Then, as it looked to be a low steaks civic-minded girl power middle school slice-of-life club genre piece, I almost didn’t finish it. However, one detail caught my attention:

Togo-san, one of the four central club members, is handicapped and must ride out her life in a wheelchair.

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In fact, I almost dismissed YYwYdA as wheelchair-awareness-porn. Not that making people more aware of the disabled, and showcasing their challenges passively through a slice of life drama is a bad Idea. I imagine their population is as glossed over in Japan as gnomes, psychics and the transgendered are here.

Still, this season is packed tight with good shows and a middle-of-the-road slice-of-life with blushing girls trying to do good in middle school didn’t seemed like a hard sell to me. Ethically righteous or not.

Then, plot twist.

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Half way through the episode, club president Inutozaki Fu let on to her sister Itsuki that she had a bit of a secret. Since they’d been talking about the school’s cultural festival and what the club was planning to do for it, I just assumed all her barely hidden shame was, well, kid stuff.

Like she had another responsibility and, despite being the anchor of the club, was going to dump it on Itsuki-chan and didn’t know how to get out of it.

I did not, however, expect that she had scouted the club to be volunteered to defend Shinju-sama (God?) from the Vertex, world destroying monsters!

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One class-interrupting cell call later and Inutozaki, Itsuki, Yuna, and Togo (aka Wheelchair-sama) find themselves transported to a colorful world with a large, abstract monster bearing down on them.

Togo completely loses her shit. She’s been in a wheelchair a long time and the idea that she has to suddenly fight — physically fight — a giant monstrosity or die is understandably hard for her to accept. And this week, we don’t even see what that will ultimately look like.

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It’s a cute touch that their cell phone’s all have an app that ties them together, and ties into their powers. Like everything else, I’d written it off as a funky looking chat-app that was either aping something in Japan that I’m not aware of or was slightly sci-fi for funsies.

While it’s a little silly watching the girls talk to each other over their phones during battle, it works. It certainly points out how difficult communication and coordination would be for untrained fighters who don’t have access to magic brain-to-brain com lines or military style headsets.

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So, is this worth following?

Short answer: Yes! (At least for now.)

Long answer: I can’t exactly call using a handicapped character bold, but it is unusual and I didn’t expect the show’s twist at all. The magic uniforms are pretty nice too, and the world is generally beautiful, even if it has a bit of Trinity Seven’s muddy gray/black color pallet splopping on the school uniforms. At the very least, I don’t know what to expect and will give it another episode!

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