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Yuki Yuna is a Hero – Episode 8

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’m hearing the rumble of storm clouds on the horizon, as the peaceful days of the Hero Club’s summer vacation are swiftly coming to an end. In spite of having defeated the twelve vertexes and sustained a variety of lingering injuries in the process, Yuna and her friends are being called to battle once more, facing both an uncertain threat and an increasingly suspicious alleged benefactor. Though their tour of duty was explicitly framed as a clear and finite quest, it seems a hero’s duties are never truly ended – or at least, that our Taisha is far less certain of this venture’s scope than Fuu and the others expected.

This is all great fun for me, of course, as wandering into uncertain structural territory means Yuki Yuna’s thematic intent is now certain to reveal itself. For the first half of this season, Yuki Yuna presented a reasonably executed but generally familiar narrative, focusing on the magical girl genre’s common themes of finding community and developing self-confidence through adolescence. However, the show was always seasoned with an uncommon dash of fatalism – a quiet implication that its heroes were less “destined warriors” than “conscripted soldiers,” forced into mortal peril yet considered expendable by their distant overseers. Fuu’s bargain to protect her family, Karin’s maniacal focus on combat, Tougou’s fear of being called a “traitor” – all of these lingering peculiarities seem to at last be resolving themselves, and I’m eager to see where the show ultimately lands. Let’s get to it!

Episode 8

“Some vertexes survived, so now we’re in overtime. That’s the gist of it.” Fuu already doing her best to soften the ambiguous orders of the Taisha, treating the clearly open-ended directive to fight more vertexes as a presumably finite “overtime,” rather than an implication their battle may never end

“We won against an all-out attack, so what’s it matter if one or two survived?” And Karin, who’s always had the most faith in their project, is quick to echo Fuu’s words

Fuu’s eyepatch is definitely adding some impact to her gallant leaderly statements

In spite of their preparation, their second term begins without incident

Yuna’s new familiar Kasha is sadly not quite as delightfully round as Gyuuki, but still pretty adorable

The familiars are such a goofy afterthought in this show. Madoka reframed the familiar as a villain, but Yuki Yuna doesn’t seem interested in similarly interrogating their function – they just sort of exist, because such things exist in magical girl shows

“Blessings of the Gods”

And now Tougou’s up to four dang familiars, all of them trained to swiftly follow their master’s commands

Yeah, it’s just a goddamn Pokemon school in here at this point

“At the end of the day, everyone but me got a new fairy.” Given Karin’s also the only one who didn’t activate her bloom form, it seems safe to assume bloom forms come with their own fairies. So are the fairies actually some portion of these characters’ souls or vitality, externalized in order to be used as a weapon? That would also put their injuries in a new context – they essentially sacrificed parts of their bodily functionality in order to become better soldiers, and those sacrifices were turned into fairies. Alright, we’ve found our characteristically bleak way to contextualize familiars in the world of Yuki Yuna

“Even Zhuge Liang lost some battles.” That’s it, I’m reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms. This shit just comes up too much in anime, it’s as essential as Journey to the West

Just then, the enemy strikes! Quite nice to return to the kaleidoscopic colors and surrealist root systems of this show’s battle arena

Only one enemy is approaching. “Once this enemy is defeated, overtime is over” says Fuu, though she has no way of knowing that. Still, the leader has to project confidence

Love the groups’ pre-battle huddle. There’s something very human about them seeking battle rituals to pump themselves up, but only being able to draw on ideas like a team huddle before a soccer game. It’s a beat that naturally emphasizes the disconnect between their adult duties and their young identities

The vertex approaching looks just like the speedy one Itsuki defeated previously, to which the girls wonder “maybe they come in pairs, like twins.” So do the vertexes echo the girls who are fighting them? That feels a bit too much like Madoka to be plausible

“Now that it’s actually here, they’re afraid. They worried about incurring more physical problems.” It was all a fun adventure when their hero duties didn’t have any impact on their mundane lives. Now that every battle leaves scars, it’s much harder to wholeheartedly commit to combat

Karin preps herself to take the lead, but Yuna once again proves her merit as a leader, saying “let’s get it over and done with so we can talk about the Cultural Festival skit!” Don’t think of this as a potentially crippling fight, just think of it as a chore we gotta complete to get back to our mundane lives. She is very good at mitigating the horror of their duties

The fight actually goes remarkably smoothly, and the group swiftly move on to the sealing ritual

But the creature turns out to actually be full of cores, somehow. And Fuu unsurprisingly takes this duty on herself, feeling she cannot ask anything more of her subordinates

Of course, Karin is quick to volunteer herself instead. In addition to her always having been the one most invested in these battles, she’s also suffering under the survivor’s guilt of being the only one who didn’t bloom, and thus the only one with no lingering injuries

And while the two of them are arguing about who gets to sacrifice themselves, Yuna just does the damn thing herself. A fine articulation of how all three of them essentially sub in as leaders depending on the circumstances – and also the merits of Yuna’s “kick first, ask questions later” approach

They achieve victory, but Yuna’s blooming insignia appears to be filling up – and when they return to reality, both Yuna and Tougou have disappeared

Instead, the two of them appear far away at the destroyed bridge, beside a bedridden girl who refers to Yuna as “Wasshi.” So presumably this is a former hero, who’s fought so often that this is all that’s left of them

The perspective emphasizes how much these battles have taken from her – she seems to be missing both legs and one of her arms

Her name is Nogi Sonoko, and she is indeed a former hero

“Along with my two friends, I used to be really into it.” So she’s actually the “lucky” one, while her friends were consumed entirely

“I used to be pretty strong.” The matter-of-fact way she’s describing her journey makes it all the more devastating

“What do you think happens to a flower after it blooms?” Yep

“There’s a hidden process called abscission that follows blooming.” The natural departure of leaves and ripe fruit after blooming. And though she calls this a “hidden process,” the fact that multiple generations of heroes have gone through this process means it’s already clearly been documented – meaning the Taisha was lying to our heroes when they stated they didn’t know the reason for their injuries, and assumed they would dissipate over time

“In exchange, heroes can never die.” Right, they only live forever in bodies that can no longer support them

“This is the state all my fighting has left me in. It’s lucky that staring off into the distance is something I’ve always enjoyed.” Jeez, what a crushing takeaway! Again, Nogi’s smiling acceptance of this cruel sentence makes it all the more painful – she really was a gallant hero, so much so that she’s not even willing to condemn the Taisha for destroying her life

“In any age, innocent girls have always been sacrificed to the gods.” So this Taisha and vertex system is just a continuation of the old rituals, human sacrifice with extra steps. And as always, it is young women who are asked to bear the weight of their society’s sins

“In exchange for the power we’re given, parts of our bodies go to the Divine Tree as offerings.” Yep, just as expected. So is fighting the vertexes even necessary, or are they just framed as attackers to encourage heroes to sacrifice themselves in defense?

Yuna protests that at least they won’t have to fight and lose anything more, and Nogi isn’t willing to contradict her

“I’m kind of like a god now.” The Taisha’s foot soldiers are faceless men in the formal dress of priests, aesthetically emphasizing the ancient continuity of this system of sacrifice

“I think the Taisha keeps the truth of this system hidden as an act of kindness. But… even so, I wish they had told me.” Even now she can’t condemn this system. I imagine this is all coming as a particular shock to Tougou, who saw this hero system as an extension of her beloved Japan

“If I’d known, I would have spent even more time with my friends.” How dare you go for the throat like this, Yuki Yuna

“That ribbon looks very nice on you.” So is Tougou actually Nogi’s old friend Wasshi, and both her paralysis and amnesia are symptoms of a previous bloom?

And Done

Whoof, what a brutal episode! Well, the hammer finally fell, and it turns out the situation is even more dire than I anticipated. Not only was the Taisha explicitly lying to our heroes, it’s now not even certain if our heroes were actually accomplishing anything with their battles against the vertexes. What is most important is that Yuna and her companions suffer – that they struggle and bargain and ultimately bloom, sacrificing their bodies to perpetuate a system that only sees them as fuel to be consumed. Just as I’d hoped, this episode’s revelations have reoriented Yuki Yuna’s conflict entirely, shifting an initially mechanical conflict into a condemnation of how societies exploit youthful passion and patriotism for entirely self-serving ends. I was expecting that thematic recalibration, but wasn’t ready for just how painful Nogi’s appearance and explanation would be. You gotta topple this system for her as well, Yuna!

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