Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today it seems like we’re past due for a check-in on Yuki Yuna and her brave companions in the Hero Club, as they continue to fend off all who would do harm to the Divine Tree. In spite of lacking any high-tension battle scenes, Yuki Yuna’s last episode was undoubtedly my favorite so far, as its exploration of Fu and Itsuki’s unequal yet cherished bond felt thoughtful and convincingly true-to-life, grounding the generalities of the show’s genre structure in the specificities of one family’s circumstances. Believing in the distinct humanity of a show’s characters is what elevates sterile narrative beats into emotionally resonant drama, and episode four did a fine job of convincingly articulating that humanity.
Getting all this personal context was well appreciated, but judging by episode four’s dramatic stinger, the time for singing lessons and cat-ferrying assignments is now behind us. As expected, the death of the sisters’ parents was revealed to be linked to the vertexes, meaning Fu has ultimately dragged her classmates into a mission of personal revenge. Between that, her existing issues with leadership, and the ominous flipping of Itsuki’s death card, I expect some troubled times ahead for our young heroes. Let’s get to it!
“There are seven left. And it looks like they’re all here.” Oh man, what an intriguing play on convention. These creatures have already been messing with the usual monster-of-the-week formula, but having the entire enemy squad appear in unison even before the show’s halfway point is something else entirely. A choice like that seems like it’s intentionally playing off the audience’s understanding of seasonal structure – it prompts an immediate question of “if they’re all here now, what could possibly come next?”
“This’ll be so satisfying I’m going to need more supplements.” Karin solidifying her reputation as the endearing kind of health nut. You’d think more magical girls would be like this!
Ever-attuned to the group’s emotions, Yuna tickles Itsuki to help her calm down
Karin’s transformation sequence is confident and aggressive, just like her. Rather than beauty or elegance, it focuses on her carefully practiced sword maneuvers
We run through a montage of all their other transformation sequences, which in magical girl parlance generally means they’re using bank footage to fill in an episode that’s otherwise going to be particularly impressive animation-wise. It’s an economically essential distribution of resources that’s essentially become its own sort of medium-specific form of meta-foreshadowing; after watching a thousand episodes of One Piece, my brain instinctively responds to a lightly animated first episode half by thinking “man, they are saving up for some madness in the second half”
Their seven opponents make for a distinctive and disquietingly alien collective, their lack of humanoid bodies or facial features emphasizing that there can be no mutual understanding or negotiation with these creatures. There’s a reason Ramiel is one of the most iconic Eva designs
“If we get through this, I’ll buy us a meal!” Fu’s paltry encouragement only emphasizes how they’re still treating this as an extension of their school club activities, not a genuinely life-or-death situation
The first enemy goes down quickly, but Togo suspects a trap. And right on cue, a massive vertex begins ringing a bell at its peak, overwhelming the senses of our frontline fighters
After the sisters perform a combined attack pushing back the front line, the enemies retreat and combine, four of them fusing into some kind of bizarre superstructure
As expected, lots of nice action choreography, and particularly some generously fluid, voluminous effects animation for the explosions and dust clouds raised by the enemy’s attacks
In spite of these opponents’ ambiguous, versatile nature, I appreciate how the show continues to set up clear patterns of enemy attack that demand specific, inventive solutions. You can actually feel a sense of strategic progression across these fights, as specific enemy attacks are met with unique counters, prompting the enemy to adjust their tactics accordingly
The team is swiftly overwhelmed by this combined menace, and the creature continues its path towards the Divine Tree. Another idea that feels reminiscent of Evangelion – the way these beasts move slowly, inexorably towards their destined point of oblivion, seemingly indifferent to anything that does not directly inhibit their path. It’s a great way to make our heroes feel that much smaller, like they’re ants attempting to inhibit the movements of gods
Determined not to fail the people she’s drawn into this mess, Fu calls on all her energy at once
“She’s… blooming.” Karin ties this powerup directly to the show’s persistent flower and nature imagery – she is a flower blooming in defense of the divine tree. Of course “flowers blooming” also has its own separate connotation in the context of girls’ coming-of-age stories
Togo transforms as well. Their second forms also make them look all the more like priestesses or shrine maidens, cloaked in layers of white ceremonial robes with a vast halo behind them
“They always die so strangely…” The deaths of these vertexes is visually portrayed as close to the opposite of our heroes’ powerups – the vertexes erupt in fountains of rainbow light, while the heroes draw rainbows of light downwards to infuse them, seeming to imply they’re exploiting a common energy source. Also, both processes echo how roots extend outwards from a tree, perhaps quietly implying a further connection between both sides and the divine tree
The motes of fire that are combining into this larger attack are interesting – not CG animation, but so fluid that they don’t appear to have any linework, either. I wonder if this was the effects animation that Kou Yoshinari was consulted for? Those brothers are often responsible when it comes to animation that doesn’t look like humans could have actually animated it
Also just a nice mix of filters and smoke animation to create a proper sense of bedlam as this giant fireball pushes down on our heroes
The core of this combined vertex is even larger than the monster itself, its form extending backwards all the way into space
“No matter how big it is, I’m not going to give up. That’s what it means to be a hero, isn’t it?” Yuna embodying the true spirit of anime heroes, embracing that dash of obstinate stupidity that always seems to bolster their confidence. From Goku to Hibiki and beyond, anime’s most persistent heroes have always been kinda stupid
I suppose you could more charitably define it as “optimism in spite of all possible obstacles,” which is definitely a spirit I can relate to. My favorite stories tend to champion hope in the face of a fundamentally hopeless world; it’s why I find Madoka so inspiring, because it acknowledges just how bad things are and preaches hope in spite of that, rather than just assuming the world is kinder than it is
“Our sealing power’s going to run out!” Not sure this further clock is necessary, but it certainly bolsters the Eva vibes
Nice mix of CG and traditional animation as Togo and Yuna charge the giant core. CG is often useful for emphasizing a sense of scale between opponents of wildly different sizes – Land of the Lustrous employed it to similar effect
Also effective cut to silence as the two exchange some final words
Yuna’s mankai form just gives her even bigger robo-fists to punch with. Truly embodying that Hibiki spirit
Damn, some fantastic compositions and color design as Yuna smashes through the core
Bathed in rainbow light, Yuna falls back towards Togo like a star falling to earth
Their fond, regretful exchange really feels like some end-of-season stuff. Intensely curious as to where we go from here
Itsuki uses the last of her strength to create a sequence of nets for their craft to soften its landing. Again appreciating this show’s smart application of its distinct powers
You’ve done it, heroes! Through pluck, teamwork, and endless determination, you defeated all twelve vertexes, and ensured the survival of the Divine Tree! Only problem is, we’re actually just five episodes into the first season of your story, meaning this whole divine protector situation clearly involves some as-yet unmentioned fine print. I’m quite curious to see how exactly this production moves beyond its own premise, but as for now, I’m also plenty satisfied by the energetic mix of tactical ingenuity and just-plain-impressive flourishes of animation provided by this episode’s bombastic not-finale. The production went above and beyond to ensure this really felt like a climactic victory, leaving both heroes and audience staring out at a vast, unknown horizon. Next episode can’t come soon enough!