Shows You Might Have Missed: Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero

Created as part of the Takahiro IV project, Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru is a magical girl anime detailing the lives of a group of girls recruited into a "Hero Club" that supposedly do odd jobs to help others, but granted powers by their Gods, are also responsible for defending their world against mysterious invaders known as the Vertex. If you are not one to be spoiled and just want a recommendation, I can safely say it will be well worth the 12 episodes if you can spare the time for it and make it to the powerful climax.

(Skip the next 2 paragraphs if you are not into long-winded drivel and potential spoilers XD)

Despite being one of many in the packed magical girl genre, Yūki Yūna proves itself to be a little of an oddball with its rather grim, dark and heavy tone past the midway point, as the girls realize the power and status they were granted comes with responsibilities they cannot shirk and costs they may not be ready to pay. Existing in a post Madoka Magica world of anime, there will inevitably be  comparisons between the twos series, what with the dark twists and power at a high cost, but Yūki Yūna is very much its own show and thematically at least is fundamentally differently.

Madoka Magica is based on Faustian promises and the paradoxical nature of becoming an inherently selfless magical girl to achieve intrinsically selfish goals, and where nobody ultimately gets what they originally wanted (classic Urobutchi). In Yūki Yūna however, the girls were never given a choice in the matter, and must soon find their own motivations to continue a task they never signed up for. The undertaking, as necessary as it is, is thankless as much as it very well pointless from their perspective, but someone has to do it. That someone happened to be them, and they will have to go above and beyond call of duty despite any personal risk to find what it means for themselves to be a hero. Or is it?

Wait what?

Now I rambled enough about all that, now to talk about the actual show. For the story, without giving too much away, it starts slow to introduce the various characters to prepare for the inevitable twists to follow, ramping up rapidly to the very rewarding climax. I initially found the given ending somewhat at odds with the show's overall tone, but on further reflection quite liked it as it satisfied the themes it was ultimately going for. 

The characters are all distinctive and likable but scores high points for their strong group dynamics, coming across as believable and often genuine. Bonus points for their sensible portrayal of a disable character as is - handicapped but still with agency. There are some really strong character arcs for a couple of the show's main cast but the short run time meant not all character arcs are as well fleshed out as I would have liked.

Presentation wise the show is plenty solid. The slice-of-life portions of the anime are well produced though unspectacular, but it steps it up in the alternate world where the magical girl action takes place. It is a decidedly dreamlike land bathed in a flurry of psychedelic colors, as alien as it is beautiful. The fights there are fast, energetic and remarkably well choreographed and animated. It also helps that there is palpable tension in some of these encounters, something I was not expecting from this genre. All this is backed up with an awesome soundtrack by (typically video game) composer Keiichi Okabe. Perhaps not his most memorable work, but well worth the listen for his very unique style. On a side note I definitely recommend his works on Nier and Drakengard 3 as standalone soundtracks.

All in all Yūki Yūna is a nice and short 12 episodes of entertainment which kept me engrossed throughout. If you can spend some time watch it to its conclusion you will be in for a rewarding ride in one of 2014's finer shows.


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