Anime Spotlight: Yuki Yuna Is a Hero

Yuki Yuna Is a Hero is an anime series produced by Studio Gokumi and directed by Seiji Kishi. The series is part of a media project called Takahiro IV Project, and it aired on Japanese television from October 16-December 25, 2014. As of this writing, PONYCAN USA holds the North American license for Yuki Yuna Is a Hero.

The series is set on the Japanese island of Shikoku during the God Era. Four girls are part of the Sanshu Middle School Hero Club: Yuna, Mimori, Fu, and Itsuki. One day, while they’re in school, the members of the Hero Club find themselves caught in an explosion of light and transported to a strange forest. Here, they encounter strange monsters known as Vertex, who try to destroy the Shinju, the guardian deity that protects humanity. The girls have been given a special cell phone app by the Shinju in order to transform into heroes with magical powers to protect their world from destruction. As part of gaining their magical powers, the girls also receive familiars. Their goal is to defeat 12 Vertexes.

They are later joined by Karin, a girl sent by the Taisha, who is in charge of the heroes. The five of them defeat the 12 Vertexes easily, but find they must deal with unforeseen side effects of activating the powered up version of their hero powers.

For most of the first episode, the series felt like it was going to be a typical “cute girls doing cute things” show, but by the end of it, there was definitely something more to it. I have to say that the forest they go to in order to fight the Vertexes looks rather trippy. And with the Vertexes themselves, I have to admit that some of them almost looked like they could have been some of the Angels from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

When it was said early on in Episode Two that they would be fighting against 12 Vertexes, I thought it was going to be a “monster of the week” type show, since there are 12 episodes and they already fought one of the Vertexes near the end of Episode One. But I was quickly proven wrong when this episode featured not just one, but three Vertexes in one shot.

When Karin was introduced early on in Episode Three, they defeated one Vertex. But then in Episode Five, all of the remaining seven Vertexes appear at one time. This episode was written in such a way where it came across as if it was the final battle that would serve as the finale for a series. Considering that that there were seven episodes still remaining, that obviously wasn’t the case. But even with this final battle, there was still an overall sense of the light-hearted storytelling that appeared back in Episode One. Starting with Episode Six, the series suddenly shifts to a much darker tone, and remains in that darker tone for the rest of the series.

Unfortunately, I think that Yuki Yuna Is a Hero isn’t as strong as it could have been. The first five episodes feel very rushed, and the remaining seven kind of feel like they drag a little. After watching the series, it seems like that 12 episodes wasn’t enough time to tell the story that they wanted to tell. Not only do the first five episodes feel rushed, there also didn’t seem to be a lot of effort placed on character development. Instead, the character development was primarily saved for the last seven episodes. I honestly think the series needed to be around 24 episodes: 12 episodes to focus on battling the 12 Vertexes as well as character development, and 12 episodes to focus on the aftermath of the side effects.

When all is said and done, Yuki Yuna Is a Hero tries to tell a compelling and interesting story, but the execution of the storytelling hampers it from reaching its full potential. In a lot of ways, I found myself thinking that this series was probably green-lit because of the success of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica anime series, and that this series was trying too hard to become another “dark magical girl” anime.

Yuki Yuna Is a Hero is a series that has the potential to appeal to viewers who enjoy magical girl series, especially stories that ultimately become dark. However, it would be helpful to go into it knowing that roughly the first half of the series is rushed and that there’s a very sudden tonal shift for the second half.

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