The Magical Girl genre has grown a lot lately. Between shows like the recent Fate spinoff “Prisma Illya” and the Madoka series, Magical Girl shows keep entering into more mature territory, despite still starring casts of young superheroines.
Yuki Yuna is a Hero continues that trend, with a cast of five young ladies who form a special club at their school called the ‘Hero Club’. The Hero Club’s goal is to help people around their community, and these four young ladies take to this task. But there’s a second, hidden goal that only the club’s president is aware of… and that is to save the world, quite literally.
One day as the girls are at school, something strange happens. Time seems to stop and this strange, beautiful forest landscape appears covering up the world they know. As they stand there, in that weird and amazing landscape, the club president turns to them and reveals the truth. The truth that they have been chosen by their world’s deity, known as the Shinju, to be heroes. By using powers granted by the Shinju, they are to protect him from monsters who invade their lands through this strange forest landscape and that, if one of these monsters reaches him… their world will end.
The Hero Club
The Best of Friends
This show’s protagonists – Yuki Yuna, Mimori Togo, Fu Inobozaki, Itsuki Inubozaki and later Karin Miyoshi – are all very well designed characters with believable personalities. But more than that, while they are all friends, they have more realistic relationships than that. They have struggles, they aren’t always perfect to each other, and even the sisters don’t always see perfectly eye to eye. And, these relationships also help to define the characters… I actually really connected with these characters, even the perpetually excited Yuki, and it helped to make the show’s events have some real impact. I particularly enjoyed Togo’s intellectual personality, as well as the charming and adorable Itsuki.
One thing to be aware of… there are a surprising, and unfortunate, number of fanservice shots of Mimori – but these are easily ignored and don’t detract significantly from the story. She is also the source of one of the most noteworthy points. You see, she is in a wheelchair – and she doesn’t let that stop her. Sure she gets magical artificial leg-things to help her move around, but her legs don’t ever start magically working for seemingly no reason. She is arguably the strongest member of the team, in fact… for reasons you find out later.
Similar to Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya, the creators of Yuki Yuna weren’t willing to settle for the ‘standard’ Magical Girl style fighting. These girls have to actually put out some effort to beat these beasts, and they have a variety of interesting weapons to do it with. My personal favourite is Itsuki’s weapon – a ring with flowers around it that shoot out ropes. I’ve always been fond of rope-based weapons, since I think they aren’t used fully often enough. Not so here, you get to see a variety of different uses, both offensive and otherwise, for this clever and unique weapon.
A High Price
I found myself in tears several times… there was one point where my wife actually made the decision to cut me off, so to speak. You see, this show isn’t all sunshine and rainbows (gorgeous though the visuals may be), there’re real consequences for these young ladies. I won’t go into specifics as that’s a major plot point, but powers don’t come free… and these girls learn that the price for saving those you love isn’t cheap. Especially for when these girls level up, or go ‘Mankai’ as they call it – the burst of power is taxing, as it should be.
But that doesn’t mean we’re in for just sadness… Yuki Yuna is a Hero has focuses a lot on how to be happy when things aren’t great, and these girls have remarkable resilience. Despite all of the things these girls go through, they always put on their best face for the others – you see a lot of scenes of one of them crying or going through hell but then acting happy and composed, drawing strength from her friends.
And, of course, it does have a happy ending – which I think is important for a show like this. The ending is actually exactly what I was hoping for for these girls, although it doesn’t provide an adequate resolution to the underlying story. But the emotional impact of the ending makes up for the unresolved issues, and I was not left wanting in this show.
If I had to be honest, I think this might be the best Magical Girl show I’ve seen. It does everything I’d hope from the genre. It has characters who have real, meaningful struggles but who overcome them. It offers both highs and lows, has good pacing that never feels too sluggish or overbearing. It even has a great final battle. Yuki Yuna is a Hero just makes one unfortunate mistake… it never quite closes the door. You’re left with the impression that matters aren’t resolved but its really impressive how effective the ending is despite not wrapping everything up perfectly.