This is review number four hundred and twenty eight. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called Yuuki Yuuna Yuusha de Aru or Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero. It’s a twelve episode anime about some magical girls and one of them is in a wheel chair. Some other stuff happens, but yeah, this review is pretty long. Let’s just read on.
The Hero Club’s Six Tenets:
1. Give people a good greeting.
2. Try not to give up.
3. Sleep well, eat well.
4. If you’re troubled, talk to someone!
5. You’re likely to succeed if you try.
6. Don’t push yourself and make sure you’re happy as well.
Taking the Pants Off
This is Madoka. Yeah, top to bottom, this anime is basically Madoka. It plays around the same ideas as the God Status anime, and by that simple logic I’ll now be awarding this anime a perfect score. I’m sure some of you would object, because some of you don’t even know what this anime is. In its simplest form, it’s Madoka. It’s an original anime that hits all the right notes and becomes one hell of an anime experience. Ok, you need to understand replicating the spirit, the intention and the success of Madoka is pretty hard. It’s basically like recreating Evangelion. It’s really not possible. I haven’t seen the new movies yet, but I’m sure it can’t replicate the essence of the original. That’s the beauty of being an original piece, because no one can really duplicate it. Anything that tries to copy it is just a shameless forgery that lacks the beauty of the original, and that’s why I’m giving Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero a perfect score. It isn’t a cheap forgery of Madoka, it’s a perfect duplicate of the original. I’d be explaining this in a very long winded manner so let’s just get right onto the review proper. First of all, let’s talk about the love child of Hidamari Sketch, Shaft and Gen Urobuchi. Let’s look at gawd damn Madoka.
A Post Madoka World
This is fairly obvious, but Madoka changed the landscape of the industry. It defined the magical girl genre, and you always expect a slither of darkness in magical girl shows now. That’s because Madoka did it so perfectly. We’re really praising this show because of one moment. One pivotal moment that really changed the game moving forward. I’m talking about Mami at episode three. When that monster killed her, it was insanely shocking. No one saw it coming, no one was prepared for it, and no one could believe the intense turn the show took after Mami lost her head. The show just got progressively darker, and we soon realize these magical girls are victims. That’s the main point Madoka established: magical girls are victims in one way or another. They were tricked into accepting a lose-lose situation, they’ll suffer for their mistake and they’ll be constantly punished for it. Even Homura going back in time to save Madoka kinda sets up Madoka for a massive loss as well. The things Madoka achieved are beyond legendary, and that’s why a lot of shows try to replicate its success. Madoka also kinda screwed up its audience, because the three episode rule is such a mother*cker that we always suspect a headless Mami to appear at that episode. This is the post Madoka world the show has created. For better or worse, there are strong elements Madoka established that are now ingrained in the anime industry. It also kinda backed a lot of shows into a corner.
For me, an audience, I’ll forever be tilted in watching a magical girl show because I have experienced Madoka, and the feeling is unmatched. You can also tell there is pressure to be as good, if not better, than Madoka that most shows try to achieve, but it often backfires. When I saw Daybreak Illusion and even Selected WIXOSS, I kinda had a cynical grin in my face because the shows are trying to be too much like Madoka. They want to have a headless Mami moment as well, but that kind of stunt is really hard to pull off twice. The audience will always suspect it, so you’ll let them down if you don’t do it and you’ll let them down if the execution isn’t as good as Madoka. It’s a lose-lose situation as well, but these shows really don’t have a choice. Madoka rewrote the rules, they need to go dark or else their show will just be a lame show that lacks impact. I always believed that during the end of Madoka, when she decided to become the feeling of hope the magical girls will have moving forward, that Mami became a philosophical construct as well. While Madoka represents hope, the headless Mami represents the darkness that magical girl shows now prerequisite. This is the post Madoka world we live in now. The headless Mami persists, and there’s no getting rid of her.
Taking Advantage of the Headless Mami
Now, I’ll be reviewing this anime as someone that saw Madoka first. If some of you readers haven’t seen Madoka, then just stop. In order to fully appreciate Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero, you need to understand that the writers understood the handicap Madoka presented, and they decided to use that against us. As I watch this anime, I was constantly on alert, because I knew the headless Mami moment will pop up. Homura said it best, “burn this moment into your minds” because Madoka told us you can never trust a magical girl show ever again. Here’s the beautiful thing about Yuuki Yuuna: it tried to redefine the genre. Of course, I’m not sure if it worked because I’m writing this review four years after the show came out. The sentiment clearly didn’t land, but really, I believe it’s the headless Mami’s doing. She just really persists, so no one saw beyond that idea. But Yuuki Yuuna actually tried to rewrite the rules that Madoka has set. Understanding the burden of being in a post Madoka world, the writers buckled down and gave us an experience that challenges the thesis Madoka has solidified. Remember, Madoka told us the headless Mami lives on forever and she must always exist. Madoka also told us magical girls are victims. Lastly, Madoka told us the three episode rule is a mother*cker and some insane twist will go down because of this rule. Yuuki Yuuna took each and every one of these concepts and calls it out. Do these things really have to persist? Did Madoka really establish unbreakable rules the moment Mami was killed off? Yuuki Yuuna says no. This show created the same things Madoka Magica has done two years prior, but unlike most magical girls being backed into an unwinnable corner, Yuuki Yuuna proves to be as good but in ways no one really saw coming.
Yes, gawd damn it, this show is brilliant but mostly because it outright challenges a God Status anime. While most would attempt to replicate the God, Yuuki Yuuna outright challenges it. It steps up face to face to the headless Mami and it tells her you can go f*cking crawl to a grave now because we’re going to redefine the genre and we’re going to rewrite the rules that you f*cking ruined.
A Club Anime
Ok, let’s start at the basics. What is the anime about? Well, it simply follows the “hero club” in their everyday routine. The show opens with a bunch of moe blobs playing with puppets and they really love being part of this stupid club. It’s like a volunteer club, but the girls are being cute about it. The first episode is also one hell of a first impression, by the way. When their cellphones rang alerting them of trouble, the girls are suddenly transported to another world. This place feels eerily familiar, and the confusion persists for a long time. The whole picture suddenly becomes clear when you see a monster appear in this familiar place. My reaction is “oh sh*t, this is Madoka. Seiji Kishi is attempting to do Madoka.” If the point wasn’t clear yet, the members of the hero club soon transformed to their magical outfits. Yuuki has the same color scheme as Madoka, and the club president has the same scheme as Mami. I kid you not, seeing her colors frightened me. The headless Mami is immediately established. As an audience that lived through Madoka, I was instantly on guard. One of these girls will die horribly, and it’ll happen at the third episode. The dread was never confirmed by the show though. When the girls transformed, they were all happy at the sudden turn of events. Using their incredible powers, they attack the monster and they successfully defeated it. We are now watching a magical girl show, and it’s scarily reminiscent of the first two episodes of Madoka. That’s really the basic premise of the show. The hero club is actually magical girls fighting monsters in another dimension. Their goal is to stop the monsters from reaching the divine tree, and they must kill the monster’s core to truly end the battle. It’s a straightforward plot, but this anime is already operating on a high concept piece because it is a club anime first.
Club anime are easy to dismiss, but a lot of awesome shows work within a club anime format. Basically, anything goes in a club anime as long as the entire group is present and they’re doing club activities. This general term has been taken to its absolute limit countless times before, and it’s honestly one of my favorite kinds of shows now. Think back to Haruhi Suzumiya and how it juggles a lot of genres. It had a scene where Kyon was assaulted by a girl in a giant sand pit, and that can still be deemed as a club activity. Club anime is high concept, but for this show to outright draw similarities from Madoka Magica, you can tell they’re attempting something big. After all, if you’re going to challenge a God Status anime, then you’d best bring your all. And as an audience, we all know when the horrible sh*t will happen: at the third episode. Oh gawd, are we really going to be forced to relive Mami getting beheaded? Well, I’ll tell you right now that something horrible did happen at the third episode.
Someone gets impaled by a spear.
No, I kid. Someone actually loses a limb.
No, I kid again. Someone becomes comatose after a fight.
No, seriously, I kid. Instead of a giant shocking twist, we are introduced to a different kind of betrayal.
Seriously, it’s a Club Anime
A new character is actually introduced at the third episode. I was naturally concerned, because the headless Mami will still happen. The show went to great lengths to get the audience to compare it to Madoka, so we all know it’ll come. It just didn’t happen at the third episode. Technically, the third episode rule still happened but it feels more like a mocking move by the writers. You expected one of the girls to die, and they grew in numbers instead. You’re all idiots to expect a shocking twist that’ll change the complexion of the show in its third episode. But seriously, the show can delay it all it wants. We all know it’ll still happen. Mami is a symbol of darkness, and a magical girl show operates on it now. Stop dicking around and show us the goods. I personally waited for it, expecting the worst while my guard is up. I waited until the seventh episode, where a beach episode happened and I was seriously confused. Where is the shocking death scene? What happened during the moments you were expecting the betrayal to happen? Well, the girls did a lot of club activities. Seriously, the anime featured slice of life cuteness.
A massive portion of this anime is just the girls having fun together, doing activities together and just growing together as a group. With the added third girl, a bonafide tsundere, the other girls would often do things to make her feel welcome. They’d hang out at her place, they’d sing at karaoke and they’d just be acting cute through and through. No hidden shocking motives or anything. The anime seriously just features the hero club doing club activities. It’s seriously a marshmallow anime at this point where the girls just act cute and do fun things together. These cute girls were doing cute things, and most people would be confused. I mean, they were fighting a monster not long ago but now they’re doing karaoke together as if the reality of their situation isn’t a grave concern for them. I think most viewers would be a bit impatient as well, since the anime promised Madoka and we’re not getting Madoka. I personally didn’t feel confused or disappointed. I felt dread, because I was still on guard. This entire fluff scene reminds me off Madoka’s first two episodes. Remember when Madoka jokingly said she’d exchange her life to wish for cake. That was pretty cute too until it wasn’t. I live in a post Madoka world, so the more cute and happy moment I experience, the more I feel the dread overcome me. Why are these girls so carefree and happy? Why hasn’t the realism of their choices drop on them like a ton of bricks yet? What the hell is happening?!
Now, you might think I’m a weird idiot that compares this anime too much to Madoka Magica. I think so too, if the show doesn’t keep on subtly suggesting that something awful is about to come. In three different instances, the Death arcana card appears and this was always directed at the audience. It keeps on reminding us that the headless Mami still exists, and the show is actually actively mocking us for it. Personally, by constantly fearing the worst, I was actually very alert during the fluff scenes. During the dull moments where the cute girls were acting cute, I was constantly on attention and the anime is intentionally baiting me. It’s mocking me for expecting something to happen. Why did we even believe something shocking will happen? Oh yeah, because we’ve seen Madoka. I kid you not, Yuuki Yuuna is outright mocking Madoka itself.
Bow to the Divine Tree
One thing I really loved about this anime is the world building it established. In the first episode, the class rep goes “Stand up. Pray to the divine tree. Greet the teacher.” In those few lines, the world of Yuuki Yuuna is established. The show never really focused on it at first, because the girls were busy being cute and eating cake. Just like the constant flashes of that damn death card though, the rules and limitations of this world is slowly bubbling over the surface. The anime is also pretty obvious about the fact that it’s hiding something. While the girls are having fun, the show would intentionally avoid explaining how the magical girl concept works. The only information you got about it is during the first episode. The girls have an app that helps them transform, it was given by an organization, and their task is to defeat monsters that threatens to destroy the divine tree. Again, being a magical girl isn’t that straight forward anymore. As early as the first episode, you’re already asking yourself “ok, what’s the catch?” Does Kyuubey pop up and reveal they’re expendable energy for another lifeform or something? There is a downside, but the anime is keeping shut about it. It keeps hinting at it to bait the audience, but the tension really just builds up.
That’s the beautiful thing about this anime. If you watch this without seeing Madoka first then it’s really just a cute show with some dark elements. If you’ve seen Madoka, then you’re expecting something else to happen. The show knows you’re expecting something to happen, so it builds the tension. It gives you some bleak moments lacking context. It constantly remind you the big thing you’re expecting is about to happen, but the show never really hurries in presenting it. It builds the dread, it slowly builds tension and it plans on a very cathartic release. The release is part of the world building though. I really love the explanation of this world. The origins of the magical girls, the explanation of their powers and the main reason why they fight, all of this are properly explained. The explanation is unlike anything you’ve ever heard of too. The concept of this anime is really good and it’s also pretty damn simple. I guess the reveal of the truth and how it ties to the world works immensely because you were waiting for it. You know deep down the headless Mami exist, this darkness will creep up on us, and it’ll be one hell of an experience. Oh yeah, the anime does not disappoint. Mami gets her head eaten one more time, and the impact is a lot more unpleasant.
Allow it to Rot
Now, let’s go back to Madoka. What made the anime work? One moment. One shocking moment that lives on forever. This is actually why a lot of magical girl shows trying to be like Madoka eventually fails. They try to recreate the “one moment will change everything” approach. As you can see, audiences will forever have their guards up now so the impact will never be the same. Yuuki Yuuna understands this, so it doesn’t go for an immediate shocking impact. Instead, the darkness acts like poison. As time passes, the effect just grows stronger until you can no longer ignore it. And when the victim realizes she was poisoned, holy hell, is the impact amazing. I guess I just spoiled it, but the headless Mami did rear her headless torso in this show. Unlike a sudden moment that changed the show though, Yuuki Yuuna really just confirmed our suspicions. Yeah, there is a catch to being a magical girl and it is pretty awful. The big reveal happened very late in the show, and the reveal doesn’t really just stop in one moment or one episode. After confirming our suspicions, the anime really went to work. It pulled the sheets that cover everything and allowed us to see just how much the poison affected the show. It is really bad to the point that the darkness basically turned some parts rotten. The wonderful thing is that the poison really just keeps progressing. It actively spreads all over, affecting the cute slice of life set up, infecting the world building portions of the show and it slow tries to choke the audience. Yeah, I personally felt satisfied knowing the headless Mami exists but its impact still really shook me. The show really degraded a lot of the fun things, and you just can’t help but feel the misery drowning the characters.
But you know what, something really unpleasant happened in this anime. While we expected Mami to spread the darkness and maybe dance in the nihilism, the philosophical construct of Madoka actually saved the day. Yeah, as much as Mami exists in this world, Madoka as the symbol of hope also does and she literally saved the characters. Of course, I won’t tell you how (even though I freaking want to) but it does leave a very unfamiliar impact that I think would’ve benefited Puella Magi Madoka Magica as well. The ending will be the biggest deal breaker of Yuuki Yuuna though. The entire thing feels lazy and it felt like a Deus Ex Machina that feels unwarranted for such a well-crafted series. Hope really saved the magical girls of Yuuki Yuuna, and I’m sure a lot of people will hate how this show ended. But when you do reach the ending as well, always remember that Madoka saved the day.
Idealism vs. Nihilism
Madoka really amplified the feeling of nihilism in a magical girl show. Again, it’s nothing new. A lot of magical girl shows are really dark, and Madoka just emphasized it. Yuuki Yuuna understands that as well, and it refuses to accept that. The magical girls of Madoka were treated as VICTIMS in their world. Despite their awesome powers, they were chained to a life of misery and regret. Everyone experiences horrible things and the audience kinda gets treated as a victim as well. But you know what, magical girls aren’t victims at all. I ask you, is Sailormoon a victim? Is Cardcaptor Sakura a victim? How about the very first magical girl, that Sally chick? Are magical girls really victims? No, Madoka is just so good that it rewrote the rules. Magical girls are heroes, and they operate on the belief that there is total good and they represent that ideal good. Heroes bleed, they suffer, but they also win over any of their adversities. Why? It’s because we look up to heroes, and we adore our heroes. We don’t feel sorry for Batman because he was orphaned. We f*cking love him now, because he fights for justice and he believes in an ideal good. (I only know the movie Batmans, don’t at me.) This is a point that is really now lost whenever you think of magical girls. We no longer treat them as heroes, because they got Urobutchered hard. We now see them as victims, or maybe some perv icon for the creepy audiences out there, but the idea that they fight for an ideal good is mostly an afterthought now. This is really what Yuuki Yuuna sets out to do. It tries to reestablish the fact that Madoka IS a hero.
Throughout the series, it’s the belief of the girls that ideal good exist that saves the day for them. Even when the headless Mami pops up, the girls never really faltered in doing their jobs as magical girls. Despite knowing the dangers of their duties, they still set out to do it and the anime celebrates that fact with them. By believing that there is absolute good in the world, the girls are treated as ideal themselves. They are heroes, and they sacrifice themselves like heroes and they’re willing to die as heroes. Despite the poison choking their body and the burden their duty has placed unwillingly upon them is slowly crushing them, these girls still didn’t hesitate to save the day. This is really why the show ended on a good note. Since magical girls are heroes, it reestablishes the fact that heroes always win in the end. Even though some of the problems kinda went away randomly, the point is still emphasized. Yuuki Yuuna is a hero.
But holy sh*t, the show was really hard to watch once the headless Mami is established. I particularly love this one episode where the cute little sister couldn’t sing because she has stage fright. It’s a very heartwarming episode that contributes to the beauty of the fluff episodes. When the darkness was revealed though, this character really met an awful fate and I honestly cried listening to her recording of her singing. The anime is really effective like this. It establishes certain things during the fluff moments, and the poison just runs over everything afterwards. From their cute magical pets to the purpose of the divine tree, the poison just spreads in the most unpleasant manner. It really came to a point where I cried while watching the girls fight. They truly looked like heroes at the final episode, and I guess I was also a bit confused at how the show ended. It’s a questionable ending, but as a reviewer, I can’t help but smile. As I keep watching, I know Makoto Uezu and Seiji Kishi are outright challenging Akiyuki Shinbo and Gen Urobuchi’s legacy.
The Sunset Motif
A lot of the fluff episodes, and the fluff moments in general, happen during the morning. The girls would often be having fun while the sun is out and blazing. It’s a natural thing, because school happens at morning and club activities happen at school. The atmosphere gradually changes though whenever the sun starts to set. The yellow setting really feels a bit unsettling. A lot of the serious and tension filled moments really happen at sunset. You’ll also notice that the sunset scenes gradually become longer as we head into the headless Mami moment. In fact, the reveal was during a sunset and the poison spreads when we finally see a glimpse of a night sky. It’s brilliant stuff, and it’s these kinds of visuals that really make Seiji Kishi amazing. He isn’t really an auteur. He doesn’t have a definitive style like Satoshi Kon or Mamoru Hosoda. I feel like movie directors really have more leg room to unleash their artistic merits. For a long time now though, I’ve always believed that Seiji Kishi is a masterful director. It’s easy to dismiss TV directors, but Kishi really stands out as both an influencer and just a downright passionate man that directs good stuff. The morning and sunset contrast is something he establishes wonderfully. It never feels forced, it never feels lame and it actually adds to the tension you feel when you watch the anime. The very first episode is actually just Seiji Kishi going nuts. His directorial style, that usually resemble awesome video game cut scenes, are alive and roaring in the first episode. I mention Kishi, because he really doesn’t get any love. I mean, does any anime TV director build a legacy out of doing TV anime? Do they ever reach the level of Hayao Miyazaki? Well, one did. Akiyuki Shinbo has built a career out of extremely influential anime, and Shaft basically survives on his works. Through Yuuki Yuuna, Seiji Kishi tries his best to get noticed and he exclaims “I can be better than Shinbo”.
Seiji Kishi’s talents really speak for himself. Yuuki Yuuna is an original anime, and these shows rarely come out good. In my short time as TPAB, I’ve reviewed maybe thirty or so. I’ve given two of them a perfect score, but majority of them ranks below five or so. Kishi has created above average original anime. Yuuki Yuuna and Tsuki ga Kirei is just phenomenal works, and you can’t really say Kishi’s talent is a fluke. He brought these shows to great heights, and he was able to overcome the common pitfalls of most original anime. It’s no longer news to hear a multimedia project crashing and burning because the anime failed hard. It’s rarer to hear one become a success just like Yuuki Yuuna. Do you understand? It was Kishi’s dedication and talents that really made this show amazing. I don’t really understand why he’s still doing TV directing, since I guarantee you he can rival Makoto Shinkai if given the chance. Or maybe it’s more enticing to build a legacy like Hideki Anno’s or Akiyuki Shinbo’s? Either way, I’ve always loved Kishi’s directing and I’m glad I can finally give it the praise it deserves.
Uezu, Takahiro and Studio Gokumi
Holy hell, this review is long. As I mentioned before, this anime is a multimedia project. It was always slated for an anime, manga, maybe some LNs and some merchandising. A good example of an effective multimedia project would be Love Live, but a lot of adaptations and original screenplays really do plan to branch out into games and printed media. I’m mostly mentioning the media project, because the show was conceptualized by Akame ga Kill’s author, Takihiro, but the anime itself is series composed and written by Makoto Uezu. He has series composed a lot of stuff, and he seems pretty influential in his own right. He even worked on a lot of Seiji Kishi’s directed anime, so I guess the pair really combined forces to create some magic. Makoto is a monster though as he series composed a lot of really standout shows from KonoSuba to Assasination Classroom to even School Days. Say what you will about School Days, but the series composition ensured the final episode ended on a nice boat, and that’s all Makoto Uezu.
If you told me, even today, that Studio Gokumi would one day create a show I would rank a perfect score, I would’ve blocked you on twitter. You don’t deserve my time. I mean seriously, a company made by former Gonzo people remaking Madoka? I’d expect A-1 Pictures to pull that kind of crap or maybe Madhouse. Hell, I’d expect Bones to get a perfect score before Studio Gokumi. I mean, gawd Almight, the studio that gave us Kiniro Mosaic will soon give us a top notch anime. I’d block myself on twitter just typing it. C’mon, this is a f*cking fluke for this studio, but it still stands. Congrats, f*cking studio group five.
My Criteria for a Perfect Score
Now, I do know a lot of people won’t agree with me. I know you don’t believe Yuuki Yuuna deserves a ten, and comparing to Madoka is just ludicrous. That’s fine. This is really just my opinion, but you should know that I don’t give out perfect scores easily. They need to clear the basics first. The premise, story, characters, animation, music, use of theme and genre, the pacing of the anime, AND THE ENDING makes up the basic stuff. Yuuki Yuuna has cleared all the basics, and now it’ll be considered for my three criteria for a perfect score. One, it must be genre defining. As I said before, this anime redefined Madoka and tried to rewrite its rules. Did it work? Maybe not, but I now live in a post Yuuki Yuuna world and I love that fact.
Two, it must be rare. In terms of a show capturing Madoka’s success, then this anime is indeed rare. It also joins Code Geass, Evangelion and Madoka in a rare group of original anime that just blows expectations out of the water. You’ll never see an original show try to be as impactful as Madoka, but I can honestly tell you a lot of shows will attempt it. Now, lastly, the show must have long lasting appeal. If I watched Yuuki Yuuna twenty years later, will it be as good? Yes, I truly believe the slow acting poison will still be as effective after all that time. But, really, shows I give a perfect score often stand the test of time and they build a reputation after existing for so long. Yuuki Yuuna is young, the most recent show I’ve given a ten, and give it five more years and I know it’ll be treated as a thesis piece just like Steins Gate or Evangelion. Ok, maybe not as revered as Evangelion, but hey, it’s up there.
Sight and Sound
Character design is the typical moe blob you’d expect for a marshmallow anime. Since the show is a club anime at its core, the designed needed to emphasize that these are cute girls doing club activities. They have the typical big head and round body, extremely cute faces and a slender frame accentuated by their uniforms. Character design does go nuts when the girls become heroes. Their outfits are pretty cool, and I love the reference to Madoka. Mami’s color scheme still freaks me out and I love how it freaks me out. The outfits still come off as a bit generic, which is emphasizing the magical girl motif, but it does get a lot more impressive as the series progresses. The characters get to level up and their outfits transforms with them. I personally love the fan service touches in the outfit, because it reminds me of the pervy magical girl shows like Nanoha or Strike Witches. The monster designs are also pretty cool. Some of them lacked personality, but they were really just backdrop for the anime. Still, the monster designs are diverse and each fight doesn’t feel like a carbon copy of each other. I know I skipped the characters in this review, but I would like to give some love to the handicapped girl. She was in a wheelchair, and that fact was never really used as a crutch for her character. In fact, her handicap is actually a clever foreshadowing for the series and the ultra-attentive viewers will spoil themselves should they look further into this specific character. I love her, and thanks to this anime, seeing handicapped girls in a magical show now also freaks me out.
Animation is outstanding. Seiji Kishi is known for his cut scene like sequences. He showed off this style when he directed Arpeggio, and he unleashes it here as well. In the first episode, the camera work is just absolutely insane. During the first fight, I distinctly remember the girls jumping and the camera followed. We know have an active shaky camera wobbling midair and landing in the POV of the character. I freaking love it. We also saw intense use of zooms and wide shots during the fights. I particularly love this one scene where the camera zooms into Yuuki’s eyes and flips to see her POV. Yeah, we get a lot of POV shots from the perspective of a travelling bullet camera to the scope of a sniper, the camera work is just so diverse and imaginative. The animation is outstanding, but it’s really the pacing and the atmosphere that made this show amazing. You can distinctly tell the club anime portion of the show, the cool magical girl portions and the headless Mami scenes apart and yet they still blend well together. They don’t clash, nothing feels out of place and the show expertly transitions from one portion to another. You’ll laugh at the fluff scenes, you’d be in awe at the fight scenes and you’d feel dread during the dark moments. Seiji Kishi knows how to f*cking direct and I’d personally love to just give his entire existence a perfect score. I particularly love how he blends the portions as well. The seppuku scene is really masterful, because it looked cute but the feeling of dread is abundant and the camera work moves with the story. We see a shot of the knife, a shot of an exposed stomach, a shot of the two coming together, a long shot of the girl’s terrified face and a big scene of all the shots coming together. It was insane.
The anime’s OP is “Hoshi to Hana” by Sanshuu Chuugaku Yuusha-bu (Haruka Terui, Suzuko Mimori, Yumi Uchida, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Juri Nagatsuma). It’s a pretty subdued song sung by the hero club, but holy sh*t it actually captures the spirit and intention of the anime. It kinda foreshadows the events of the anime and even its theme with the last lyrics being “no matter how tough it is, live on”. That’s pretty cool. The song itself is pretty somber, but the animation perks it up. It follows the fluff portion that transitions to the fight portions that actually transitions to the dark portions. The final shot is even a reference to the headless Mami moment of the anime. It’s brilliant stuff.
The anime has two EDs but different versions are sung by different people. For the most part, it’ll be a group song featuring all the characters. I have no more energy to talk about both songs. For the most part, it feels as somber as the OP and it really just features the Vas amazing voices, since part of the media project is selling audio tracks and maybe some concerts with the cast in cosplay. The songs also kinda foreshadow the anime in some way, but not as spot on as the sequence itself. The girls mostly just walk along a river, but it directly mirrors the actual ending of the show. I like that touch. Not a lot of studios give love into their OP and ED unless they really know the anime will hit big. It goes to show how confident the staff is about this one.
10/10 “Madoka lives on, and she cradles Mami’s severed head while the torso cradles her back.”
This anime is amazing. I know I compared it too much to Madoka, but you should know the anime intentionally wanted the audience to compare the two shows. While most shows would be crushed by the superior Madoka, Yuuki Yuuna stands toe-to-toe with it. The story is outstanding, the mix of different elements and genre is masterful, the camera work and animation is impressive and the characters are really the strongest aspect of the show. This anime proved Madoka’s influence doesn’t have to be infinite and it reminds us Madoka was a hero first before she was a helpless victim. This anime delivers an experience that is truly top notch and certainly consistently good through and through. I highly recommend it.
Great review! Sounds like a cop out, but it is.
“The ending will be the biggest deal breaker of Yuuki Yuuna though. The entire thing feels lazy and it felt like a Deus Ex Machina that feels unwarranted for such a well-crafted series.”
I thought so too… The I saw the sequel and saw the Light.
Personally, I gave YuYuYu a 9 (Tsukigakirei too), both essentially for pacing reasons. If the listing site I used allowed it, they’d be 9.5, but ya gotta work with what you have.
I’ve always wanted to watch this but I keep on snobbing it for some reason. Thanks for reviewing this.
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Interesting review. I haven’t seen Madoka (shock, right?), but I know about some of the plot points. Kishi is underrated and I really like his directorial debut Yugo the Negotiator which is a very original and criminally overlooked series in it’s own right. To be honest, I did hear about Yuuki Yuuna because of the constant “OMG, Madoka rip-off!” claims. I would bet you money that those same people who call this show a rip-off said nothing about anime like Paprika, Kimba the White Lion, and Nadia: Sceret of Blue Water which were shamelessly copied WAY harder than Madoka ever was. It is a unique take from what I took from your review.