First Look: Yuna Yuki is a Heroine

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Alternative titles: Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru, YuYuYu
Anime Original by Studio Gokumi
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Yuna Yuki is a heroine a member of her middle school’s Hero Club, a rag-tag bunch of goody-two-shoes who offer their help to whomever needs it. When even the Gods of their world recruit the Hero Club girls to fight mysterious invaders named Vertex, Yuna refuses to budge from her desire to become a true heroine.

Aqua’s verdict: Heroic Failure

Here’s a little tip for Studio Gokumi, Seiji Kishi, Takahiro or whoever the hell else I can blame for this nonsense, but if you want to subvert your audience’s expectations by pulling a first-episode twist, don’t spoil it in your official summary. Through trailers, released key art and character designs, Yuna Yuki is a Heroine has tried to divert attention from the “dealing with a mysterious being called “Vertex.” it very explicitly boasts in its press release, and as a result, not a single surprise in YuYuYu‘s first two episodes can’t be seen coming from miles away. You can’t turn expectations on their head when no one was expecting a regular old cute girls doing cute things show in the first place, guys. So yeah, YuYuYu is a magical girl show, and a pretty generic, formulaic one at that. As soon as Yuna and friends enter the psychedelic Technicolor dimensions where their adversaries lurk — gee, where have we seen that before — there’s not a single original concept to be found in the meandering exposition it proceeds to dump on its viewers. For such a lot of talking, in the end, it still teaches us very little about the Gods, the Vertex or why the hell out of everyone on the planet, four teenagers with questionably little attitude were chosen to save the world. YuYuYu likes to make up questions no member of the audience would ever ask, and thus serves as the ultimate proof of the fact that those who have nothing new to say should just stay quiet.

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Hence, as YuYuYu rips and bowdlerize most of its creative ideas from other, better anime — especially Madoka Magica, because why steal, when you’re not gonna steal from the very best? — its slice-of-life segments oddly enough end up becoming its very best. While Yuna’s one-track-minded chronic hero syndrome gets old incredibly quickly, the rest of the cast gets a more than decent introduction. The first episode does enough to make its cast’s personality traits and flaws clear in a relatively natural manner, though most of YuYuYu‘s occasional bouts of character writing competence, are focused on Yuna’s best friend Togo. While she already gets a characterization head start on virtually any other anime girl on account of her disability, it’s noticeable how much attention to detail was put into respectfully altering the countless slice-of-life standards YuYuYu features to accommodate for one of its characters being in a wheelchair. It provides the show with a dash of — admittedly superficial — flair, and while director Kishi evidently milks Togo’s angst for all it’s worth, with all the jarring mood whiplashes to be expected from one of the most incompetent directors in the industry, it’s hard to remain unfazed when she only needs to look at her legs to assure Yuna they aren’t dreaming. If they were, she’d be walking, and a small, quiet detail like this coming from one of the least subtle writers alive just melts my heart in all the right ways.

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In the end, however, its uncommon moments of subtlety aren’t enough to salvage Yuna Yuki is a Heroine from feeling outrageously trite most of the time. There’s definitely some likable stuff in there, from the crazy weapons the girls fight with to their use of cell phones to communicate in the heat of battle, but none of it manages to outshine just how much the show as a whole reeks of mediocrity. Its fight scenes are run-of-the-mill, its conflicts artificial at best and its universe is an almost hilariously pathetic attempt at shoehorning the obligatory anime high school banality in a world that is obviously quite different from ours. Virtually everything that is interesting about YuYuYu stems forth from its penchant for alienation, whether its by inserting questionable fanservice in its transformation sequences or wasting significant chunks of an episode on providing information no one understands. By far the most bizarre thing about YuYuYu is its oddly videogame-eque combat, in which the girls quiet literally have to expose their enemy’s glowing weak spot and hack away at it before a highly visible timer runs out. That’s not a narrative device, that’s a game mechanic, and the fact that Seiji Kishi of all people is behind this show has me thinking it’s not a coincidence. Making crappy anime based on beloved video games is one thing, but coming up with video games so you can base an anime on them? Now you’re just taking it too far, man.

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Marlin’s verdict: Total Misstep

As aqua said, you’re not fooling anyone about this being a normal slice of life show when your promo art has random fairy animals on your characters heads. Not sure if that was ever even the intention, but that fact made the first episode a drag until we actually got into the magical girl stuff. I kind of like the fights for the most part, although a lot of the drama gets taken away when the climax of every battle is just stopping a spinning pyramid instead of actually finishing off the abomination it came from. It’s definitely copying from Madoka extra hard, but it at least tries to make everything look cool. Through the first episode, I thought the girls were treated well. I actually thought “huh, this show is actually pretty reserved when it comes to its transformations.” Unfortunately, then we get to Togo in episode. Good lord, I feel like I haven’t seen such an exploitative transformation since Dog Days season 2. It’s so completely gross and unnecessary that it takes away from all the good they did at establishing her character. Togo is a smart girl who rightfully questions Fu for inanely deciding that not telling them they might have to fight extra-dimensional monsters is a good idea. Then, Togo gets a super gross transformation, turns into Doc Oc, and everything is okay. I would have been much happier if Togo agreed to help them, since they needed her, but still didn’t immediately forgive Fu for making such a stupid decision. In the end, it all just proves that this is not a show you should keep up with. Surely we’ve proven there are better choices to be had by this point.

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