DISCLAIMER: major spoilers from Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuushi de Aru and Puella Magi Madoka Magica, minor (near zero) spoilers from Mahou Shojo Ikusei Keikaku. I’m indeed assuming you have some sort of knowledge of Yuuki Yuuna (you’ve already watched the 2014 show).
I’m in summer break right now, even if I’ll have to start working next week, and this mean a couple of things: nothing to study (still doing math for the sake of it) and plenty of free time. I’m actually spending most of this spare time in watching animes, writing things here and sometimes hanging out with friends (and they’re so damn skilled in forcing me to go out when I’m in my “I don’t want to see anybody” mood). However this summer I started to do a thing I’ve never done before: focusing on a single genre; I selected Majokko (Mahou Shojo) over all genres because I found myself re-watching Puella Magi Madoka Magica, finishing Little Witch Academia and getting involved in an argument about deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre (you can read about this last thing here) in a short period of time and I really enjoyed all of those experiences. The day before yesterday I finished Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru, usually called Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero, and to be frank I’d never expected such a thing: I found it to be a great anime with some great drama and some sort of reconstructive elements; I want to discuss this last thing here, so, let’s start.
Characters from Yuuki Yuuna are members of a school club named The Hero Club and their main activities all revolve around helping people: they help other clubs in their activities, they organize shows for children, they do beach-cleaning and seek owners for lost animals; that’s what they call being an hero. Hero club‘s members also compiled a list of five tenets a club member (i.e., a hero) should respect:
- Give people a good greeting.
- Try not to give up.
- Sleep well, eat well.
- If you’re troubled, talk to someone!
- You’re likely to succeed if you try.
Then the Hero Club‘s members truly become Heroes (i.e, Magical Girls) in order to save the world from the evil Vertexes. But what does it mean to be a Hero/Magical Girl? That’s a question worth asking because different kinds of Heroes/Magical Girls show up in Yuuki Yuuna. I think that for the sake of analyzing the show we can classify heroes in 3 main classes:
The standard Hero: that’s the hero we’re all comfortable with. A classical character that fight for good and it’s selfless with all the standard clichés: never give up, always try to do his best, optimistic and risk his own life for others. The standard hero is the kind of character that would do anything to strictly follow the 5 tenets.
The mercenary Hero: I’ve personally not seen that much of this hero type around but it’s definitely something we have to discuss. This hero is a mercenary not because he’s paid for fighting, but because of how he approach battles: a mercenary hero is focused on taking down the target because he was told to do it, he trained for this and he usually don’t care about others (or at least not as much as the standard hero) since his only interest is doing his job. A mercenary hero would put tenets number 1 and 4 on a lower level.
The beyond-man Hero: I don’t know if this type of character can be considered a proper hero but, as we’re going to see, Yuuki Yuuna feature one of this beyond-men characters. As someone could have noticed the term arises from Nietzsche‘s philosophy1: a beyond-man is a man that refute society’s values and moral, creating new values for himself transcending traditions and old values (in some sort of heroic quest); a beyond-man is then no more a man, but rather an evolution of the standard man, he’s beyond it, beyond Good & Evil and all sort of other values and so he’s also beyond the 5 tenets.2
In Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuushi de Aru we’ll met initially standard heroes that then evolve (or don’t evolve) into different characters as the story goes on: during the first 12 Vertexes battles all members of the Hero Club are standard heroes with the exception of Karin; she’s a mercenary hero that strictly follow the archetype described above. The 5 hero tenets play an important role here since all the magical girls follow them according to the type of hero they are: Yuuki, Togo (even if she initially refuse the role), Fuu and Itsuki are complete standard heroes and so they respect all 5 tenets while Karin, as mercenary hero, is more devote to tenets 2, 3 and 5 putting tenets 1 and 4 on a lower level. At this stage in the show all of the girls are canonical magical girls/heroes but soon things will start to become dark: following the ideas of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011) and Magical Girl Raising Project (2012) the girls are tricked and dragged in a system that will hurt them; the power of the mankai take some of the girl’s physical abilities. After the girls discover the truth behind heroes we got a huge breakdown by Fuu and a complete evolution of Togo while Yuuki and Karim, at least till the final battle, remain kinda the same hero as before.
Fuu ends up putting all the blame on herself and so she become a corrupted character that seek revenge from the Taisha: she believe so much in the standard hero archetype that it’s impossible for her to accept the truth that heroes have to do something bad in order to be able to protect the world from evil. With this Fuu refutes the 5th tenet: to her trying to do something good (protecting the world) necessarily lead to something bad (the loss of physical abilities, particularly the loss of her sister’s voice) and so it’s not worth trying to do good things since they’ll always lead to something bad. Her reaction is a great example of a non-stereotyped character that believe in the standard hero archetype facing the truth of the real world: we can say that Fuu was never a true standard hero but indeed that she intensely wanted to be one (like Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica), but failed falling in despair where true standard heroes, like Yuuki, prove to posses their canonical strong will and incurable optimism.
Togo’s reaction to the truth is otherwise a complete subversion of the standard hero archetype and of the 5 hero’s tenets; she lose all of her optimism and state that the world, being the very last piece of universe left over from the Vertexes‘ destruction, can’t be saved: the enemies are just too many to be destroyed, the chances of succeeding are zero. Trying to fight them is not even worth it: you will end up living as a vegetative being and forgetting your beloved friends (i.e, the people you fight for); there’s no point in fighting, better not to do that. With this Togo renounce to most of the 5 tenets, in fact she: gave up, does not talk about her troubles with others and assume you can’t save the world no matter how hard you try; thus you can’t be a hero. But, if the impossibility to become a true standard hero caused a breakdown in Fuu, in Togo this cause a transformation of her values: optimism is taken over by pessimism, there’s no more will to fight Vertexex nor hope in her. This is the moment her transformation in a beyond-man begins: as she overcome the old, standard, values she is able to come up with a plan to end all of this unnecessary sorrow: let the Vertexes win. Her quest is now to destroy the Shinju-sama (the Yuuki Yuuna‘s universe’s God), this idea is a literally reference to the Death of God in Nietzsche’s philosophy: a moment that sign the birth of a beyond-man (God is the symbol of all the old values); however in Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuushi de Aru Togo’s attempt to kill God is not a mere way of affirming her new values, but also a way of denying them and trying to end all of this suffering. I also want to point out that there’s a scene in Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s episode 10 where Homura propose a similar, if not exactly the same, idea:
“I’ve got an idea. How about we both become witches? And we can tear up this rotten world together. Until there’s no more evil, no more sadness, until there’s nothing left. We’ll break and smash and pound it into dust. What if we did that? Wouldn’t that be great?”
Given these characters’ evolution it is natural to suppose that the show will conclude similarly to Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Magical Girl Raising Project mixing good and bad things in a fluid finale; let’s pick as example Puella Magi Madoka Magica: it’s impossible to say if it is a good conclusion or a bad one (this was in fact one of the main ideas of the show), magical girls were saved from being tricked by Kyubey but despair wasn’t erased from the world and then there’s the final message of the show that isn’t so optimistic. But surprisingly Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuushi de Haru move against this new “dark magical girl genre” and propose an happy ending making “corrupted” characters re-embrace (or embrace for the first time) the standard hero archetype and thus being one of the best, if not truly the best3, reconstructive Majokko anime.
All of this return to standard values take place in a very precise moment in the story: the final battle. First we have Karin’s conversion from mercenary hero to standard hero: she take over 5 different Vertexex all by herself going mankai several times and destroying each Vertex shouting one of the 5 tenets; this is the final proof that Karin finally understand the standard hero and want to be one. Then there is Togo: her quest on destroying the Shinju-sama and thus affirming her new values as beyond-man is interrupted by Yuuki that succeed in convincing Togo to re-embrace the standard hero archetype, stopping her from becoming a complete beyond-man and making her fight again as a standard hero together will all the other girls; this is a clear opposition to what Nietzsche thought the evolution of the man should point towards. The message the show want to transmit here, and that is is strongly antithetical to the one shows like Madoka Magica and Raising Project promote, is that there’s good and that is worth fighting for it. This is a very common message that plenty of Majokkos promote and it usually does not have much effect on me, I know that Majokko are usually aimed to children and so I expect simple moral concept like good wins over evil to show up, but in the case of Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuushi de Aru, since it feature some dark (and deconstructing) elements, the “old” moral tasted differently, and tasted really good. However the conclusion is not a complete happy ending: Vertexex are still around and someone need to fight them but all the main characters are able to return to their normal life without physical impediments; an overall happy ending if compared with the ones by Madoka Magica and Raising Project.
To conclude I really think that Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuushi de Aru and it’s reaffirmation of standard values is a really valid show that can make you think (look at this whole wall of text if you need some sort of confirmation), laugh (some scenes are really funny to me) and give you hope if you need some.
- The term beyond-man is the English for Übermensch according to Alexander Tille’s 1909 translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
- Daily reminder: don’t read Nietzsche, he’s bullshit.
- And probably the first one as well.