I’m a huge sucker for anything bright, colorful and cutesy, but I also love crazy, high energy action shows like Dragon Ball Z. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Yuki Yuna Is A Hero caught my eye. Adorable girls clad in awesome armor? Cool weapons and fights against giant alien creatures? Throw in a super interesting and emotional character driven plot, and I’m sold.
Yuki Yuna Is A Hero centers on the five members of the Sanshu Middle School Hero Club: Yuna, Togo, Fu, Itsuki and newcomer Karin. At first glance, the Hero Club appears to be just an ordinary after school program that is dedicated to helping local citizens in need. The first episode reveals that the Hero Club is actually a part of a much larger organization called the Taisha. Taisha’s goal is to defend the world from the threat of the Vertex, alien like creatures that seek to destroy the Shinju (Divine Tree), a guardian deity that protects humanity.
That basic explanation is about as much as the show gives you in its opening episodes. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero introduces us to its principal characters, and gets right into the action. And man, the action is pretty cool. Action sequences are few and far between, but they are always a sight to behold in the moment. Yuna and the other girls are granted the ability to transform into Heroes, increasing all of their physical parameters, and giving them access to unique weapons and abilities. Seeing the girls zip around the dazzling, technicolor landscapes, all while dodging attacks and retaliating with their own, really appeals to the Shonen anime fan in me.
The action makes for really entertaining spectacle, but you’re not really watching Yuki Yuna Is A Hero for high octane fights. No, you’re watching this show for the characters. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is a character driven Magical Girl anime, with various elements of Slice of Life (but really, what anime doesn’t have bits of Slice of Life?) While there are a number of episodes that get really deep into the overarching narrative, the majority of the show features the girls going through various normal tasks.
What do I want to do in life, what’s my purpose, what should we for the Culture Festival? Episodes like this are standard for Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, and because of this, the show’s pacing may be off-putting to some. Episodes about the girls enjoying a fun beach vacation are interspersed with tense fights and emotional turmoil. This sort of dissonance didn’t really bother me, but I can see how it would be an issue for others.
The most important part of any character driven story is making the viewer care about the characters, thus making them care about what happens them. This is why the slower, Slice of Life style episodes are so important. They give a closer look into each girl’s personality, hopes and dreams, and did a fantastic job of making me fall in love with each girl (especially Karin, the best girl). Plus, it’s super fun to just see the girls have a good time and enjoy each other’s company.
Circling back around to the main plot, it does actually pick up later on. After a hard fought victory against the Vertex, it is revealed that the girl’s Hero powers have negative repercussions. While exerting themselves in battle, the girls can activate a second stage transformation known as Mankai. Mankai takes an incredible toll on the girl’s stamina, and each use of Mankai results in the girls gaining a new Faery (magical animal companions), in exchange for one of their bodily functions (sight, voice, hearing etc). This gives the fights against the Vertex an extremely emotional component, and it genuinely made me sad each time I had to see the girls activate their Mankai.
As much as Yuki Yuna Is A Hero makes me smile and laugh, it is also incredibly sad and emotional. Seeing how the girls deal with the threat of losing their bodies to the Hero system, the pressure of defending the world from the Vertex and the secrets of the Taisha organization made for tons and tons of emotional conflict (special mention to the side plot regarding sisters Fu and Itsuki).
Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is also not afraid to explore really dark themes, which is why it’s typically credited along with shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica as being a “deconstruction” of the Magical Girl genre. I can’t say too much in this regard without going into heavy spoiler territory, but you shouldn’t be alarmed if you start to get a little choked up while watching the show.
I stated earlier that Yuki Yuna Is A Hero jumps right into the action without much explanation in regards to the Hero system, the Taisha, the Vertex or really anything at all. Well, this is because Yuki Yuna Is A Hero isn’t just a standalone anime. Washio Sumi wa Yūsha de Aru (Washio Sumi Is A Hero) is a light novel that serves as a prequel to the story of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, and while I haven’t personally read it, I’ve heard that it does quite a bit to establish the world, lore and history of the Hero system. However, Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is a perfectly enjoyable anime without the knowledge of Washio Sumi Is A Hero.
Speaking of Washio Sumi Is A Hero, it’s getting an anime adaptation this year. In addition, the main anime series is getting a second season, as well as a film. I’m super excited for what’s to come for this series, and can’t wait to spend more time with Yuna and the rest of the Hero Club.
I’m really glad I watched Yuki Yuna Is A Hero. I was completely in love with each one of the girls (especially Karin), and some of my favorite episodes featured the girls just having fun. Whether it’s in games, anime or books, I’ve always loved really emotional, character driven stories. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero achieves this in a really cool way, with plenty of cuteness and fighting thrown in for good measure.