Revisiting Yuuki Yuuna

2014's YuYuYu (Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru, 結城友奈は勇者である) was a flawed show, one that even as I look back at it I can still think fondly of despite its clear flaws. Much of my qualms about the show itself was how it was very much incomplete, a story that was part of a larger whole. YuYuYu is as has always been a full on multimedia project, with complementary anime, novels, games and extras that were envisioned and created together from the get go. 

This level of multimedia integration is a not at all common outside of Japan, and it definitely was no consolation at the time I watched that first season of YuYuYu, There was a clear feeling there was a lot more coming down the pipeline at some point, and 3 years later we now have it. My opinions have changed a lot after going through the complementary material, all of it for the better.  Fast forward to 2017, anime-only viewers now get a prequel series of 3 OVAs (or 6 episodes if you've seen the TV release version) titled Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: Washio Sumi no Shou; and a 6 episode sequel Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru: Washio Sumi no Shou. 

The prequel  subtitled Washio Sumi's Chapter adapts the light novel of the same name that was simultaneously released with the original series back in 2014. It covers the events directly leading up to the first season, following an earlier team of heroes in their battle against the Vertex. 

Mimori Suzuko finally getting to do her 'Love Arrow Shoot' XD

Watchers of the original will know what to expect here. As a prequel it doesn't cover much new narrative ground, but what it does provide is a lot of much needed framing of how wider society functions outside of  our titular heroes, and provides much needed context for future events. Outside of that though, with the first title acting as its foundation, WaSuYu is free to present a much tighter, more effective narrative. Its strong naturalistic character interactions are still there, its action sequences better than ever, and its knows when to deliver true violence and emotional beats for good impact. I may have saw it coming, but it still hit home pretty hard regardless.

What follows directly after is the sequel subtitled Hero's Chapter, and I cannot express enough how well it builds off everything that came before it, culminating in a finale that was pretty damn spectacular.

And boy what a finale it was. My initial impression of the visuals in the first 5 episodes was that while still good looking was markedly less well done that the prequel that immediately preceded it, and seeing that final episode one can't help but understand why. The insanely gorgeous visuals in the climactic sequences paired pretty perfectly with its hauntingly beautiful soundtrack made the climax simply... epic, and in my opinion a good bit more impactful and than this year's thematically similar Nier: Automata's ending.

Now, thematically Yuuki Yuuna has always been pretty traditional in some ways, where the Power of Frienship reigns supreme, while altruism and sacrifice is a hero's strength is their strength and pride. As it stands, our heroes were never given a choice or the full knowledge of the sacrifice it entails, but one that they would've willingly taken anyway, because they had to, because its the right thing to do, because the world depends on it. To the actual gods trying to keep humanity alive, it makes sense. To the adults who resided themselves to the necessary sacrifice, it makes sense. For generations the heroes have willingly kept the system going, and as the odds escalate and desperation mounts, the same old question is asked again, is it even worth it? Or rather, with the never-ending body-count, is it right? How much is too much to ask for?

This final chapter differentiates itself from all previous chapters in its somber tone. Where even our shounen protagonist-esque heroine finds herself in a position no level of gusto or power of friendship simply cannot solve. It was made very clear that the power of friendship was pretty much the main reason they were able to hang on as long as they did, but there comes the point where some burdens can be too much to ask of anyone (even without the show's plot McGuffin). Carrying on like a hero , bottling up problems from people she knew would sacrifice absolutely anything for her, the frustration and depression that came from it, its believable. The very core tenets that carried them well through previous challenges have backed her into a corner of altruistic self-righteousness against basic human selfishness. Choices were made on all sides, choices made as people for people, and thematically it wraps up the story in a neat way the first season never did.

And supporting this is something that has been done consistenyly well through every iteration of the franchise: character interactions. The characters themselves may not be all that noteworthy, but the way they naturally bounce off one another is. Conversations just... flow, with just the right amount of pauses and interjections to make it feel just... normal, and that's nice for a change. They are kids, they goof off, they have doubts, they are a bit selfish, they hurt others while trying not too, they act like believable people of their age. It helps that they are also likable people, with Kana Hanazawa's character being  force of nature and a riot to watch .

And through all of this I would be remissed if I did not bring up the OST for this franchise. Cooked up by Okabe Keiichi and co from MONACA, it will not take long at all to notice its similarities with the Original Nier and Drakengard (complete with Emi Evan's and Nakagawa Nami's haunting vocals), and it matches so damn well with the vibe of the show. I cannot stress enough how much less effective this show would have been as a whole with this sound track that is beautiful, melancholic, sad and seriously epic when it needs to. Its a beautiful soundtrack, and the score for the final climax sequence might well be worth the purchase in itself.

All in all, YuYuYu has been a good ride, with a fitting ending it needed for the longest time. There is more to see in the franchise, lore to cover, novels to adapt. But for now, I can be satisfied with what we got. I will wait to see where it goes in the future.


Popular Posts