Hey guys! Long time no see!.Though I think a good number of you guys already know how I roll.
Which is of course being the sporadic aniblogger that pops in and out whenever he pleases. But enough of that, and let’s get right on to this here post – this post in particular is something that I’d been meaning to put out for quite a while now. Not because it’s timely or relevant, but I suppose it does touch on that issue.
As some of you may know, Quick Looks is where I normally try to showcase to you guys shows that I find interesting enough to recommend. I suppose what I’m aiming for now is a little bit of that still, mixed with my own musings on the matter – as I believe there is something to be said about this feature, specifically in regards to current anime trends. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. *ehem*
So, for the next couple of minutes (or, y’know, read at your own pace), allow me to ramble about Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero.
As is my self-imposed standard for this, I’ll start by formally introducing Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru (or YuuYuuYuu, for convenience) was a Fall 2014 feature from Studio Gokumi. In the simplest summary I can provide, YuuYuuYuu is, for the most part, a slightly-darker-than-usual magical girl series.
Well, of course, if it was just that then I wouldn’t have made this post sound so urgent. Though perhaps urgent in itself is not the right word. I’m sure a lot of you would agree that Yuuki Yuuna flew beneath everyone’s radar when it came out. Fall 2014 was pretty stacked after all (as the Fall season is wont to do). So it was very easy to turn the other cheek from ‘just another Madoka’ ripoff, seeing as those that came before it didn’t exactly make the cut – which is what I did. Now, here I am, roughly two seasons after, and I say to myself ‘Why didn’t I watch this?’.
Let me catch myself there for a second. Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru is not a masterpiece. The story itself is alright, but the pacing was a bit rough. The animation isn’t anything special either. If not for my LoveLive! loving uni friend, I never would have even heard of it. To those curious as to why I had to point out that my friend likes LoveLive!, well, it’s because of her – Suzuko Mimori, or Mimorin, voice of LL’s Sonoda Umi, who also voices one of YuuYuuYuu’s main heroines, Tougou.
But, I admit I felt a tinge of regret that I didn’t get to watch it when it aired. Regret because I believe that I missed out on not just a show, but a message. One reserved only to those who took a chance with a random magical girl show and stuck through with it until the end. Whether they were rewarded in their efforts, that is to say, if they got the message, good on them. If not, well, maybe there was no message at all. I’d like to believe that there was one.
A faint one at best, but one that stuck with me once I finally finished watching the show. It may just be me, but I can’t help but think that Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru is a good example of how we have become so unappreciative.
If not, then I’m sure at the very least I think most of you would agree with me that we have been an audience that is hard to please as of late. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if you think about it. There have been genuinely good and critically acclaimed titles that have come and went that now serve as our benchmarks, and that just goes to show how anime has evolved to match the evolving audience.
When Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica suddenly came out of the nowhere that was Winter 2011, it was like the anime world went through a paradigm shift. Urobuchi Gen deconstructed mahou shoujo, and the result was something a lot of people didn’t expect. It took Madoka three episodes to convince people to look again. So we did. And as result, Madoka, to this day, is still considered a contemporary milestone for anime. And equally as a result of that, people now look to Madoka whenever something tries to do the same.
Somewhere along the way, we came to look to Madoka, and its fellow highly-acclaimed shows, as if they were the standard – and anything that vaguely resembles them are shoddy knock-offs of a genuine article.
Okay, I admit. I’m most likely blowing my generalizations way out of proportion, and I assure you I say these things in slight jest (think of it as my inner hipster kicking in). I do, however, think I have a point here, that I wish I got across.
So, going back a few.. Why does YuuYuuYuu stand out, exactly?
Looking at it objectively, the added factor of mortality conversely added a new layer to the mahou shoujo archetype, almost reinventing it in a way. What YuuYuuYuu did with that mortality was it brought new light to a particular facet of these kinds of stories that is normally taken for granted – that is, the everyday life.
More often than not, the everyday life of fictional heroes is only meant to serve as a background, if not a means to make the hero more human. In anime, the depiction of the everyday life is usually only a means to slip in slice-of-life/comedy moments, while often keeping the action/fantasy aspect separate. In the case of YuuYuuYuu, the everyday life (to me at least) was not so much a background, as it was the foreground. The everyday life of Yuuki Yuuna served to represent the world that they wanted to protect.
That may not seem much at first glance, so allow me throw this rhetoric – if the everyday life is the world, then is the end of the everyday life also the end of the world? The world ends with you, as one DS game (heh) would have it. As one of the focal trouble points of the plot, it was fairly interesting to see, given the dual-nature of the show.
One would think that the use of light-hearted scenes and such were only a means to evidently further progress the foreboding conflict. It made you care about these four-five girls, to some extent.
On the subject of YuuYuuYuu’s ending – a lot of people that did watch the series seemed displeased with what had transpired, saying it could’ve been handled better. To a lot of viewers, the conclusion they reached after the final sequence and the subsequent big reveal (being intentionally vague here, sorry), was that everything that has led to that point, every plot and character development, was all for nothing; seeing as by the end of the show, the enemy still stands – and by the way things are looking, they ain’t backing down just yet. So was the twelve or so episodes worth of fighting really a waste of everyone’s time? This is where I throw my two-cents in and say that no, it wasn’t.
To me, YuuYuuYuu was never a story about beating the big bads once and for all. Of course, that would be the most favorable outcome. It would certainly be easier that way – blast off the monster of the week and everything’s A-OK. But it is that exact structure of mahou shoujo, and fictional heroes in general, that I think Yuuki Yuuna went out of its way to deconstruct.
You may say ‘But Leap, Madoka did it four years ago.’, and in turn I’ll say to you; first, daaamn has it really been that long since Madoka; and second, as similar YuuYuuYuu is to Madoka tone-wise, thematically I can’t help but say that there’s a fair enough difference.
With Madoka, it was about dismissing the pastel-colored ideals of selflessness – that the once pure and resolute magical girls have their own demons. True selflessness is giving one’s self fully. Or so I’ve come to believe.
With YuuYuuYuu, it was the plight of the hero – that being one was as much of a curse as it was a blessing. Having the power to protect the ones you love, yet powerless to give up that power for their own sake. In the show, Yuuki Yuuna was a hero, but there were others before her. To ensure that others will follow after her, Yuuki Yuuna fought with all she could until she couldn’t anymore. That is what YuuYuuYuu is really about. I didn’t see its ending as a compromise ending. Everything, from the first episode to the last, was about defining what it really means to become a hero, with all the ugliness and despair that it brings (cue F/SN Archer feels), and at the end of the day be able to say that being a hero is still worth it.
Yuuki Yuuna was a fine hero ’till the very end. Had she debuted at a different time (*cough* Winter *cough* *cough*), who knows, maybe she would’ve fared better. You may be thinking ‘So what? A lot of shows have done that already. Just look at x’. And you’re right. Like I said before, YuuYuuYuu is nothing special.
And that’s the point. Often times, we look for shows to be special in some form or another. Sometimes they just don’t have to be.