Anime Discovery 2015: YUKI YUNA is A Hero – #144

What a wonderful time to watch magical girl anime in today’s world!! 4 years ago (or 2 since I reviewed it) I stumbled upon a magical girl anime called Madoka Magica and like many others, I see why people bought into the hype and believe me, it is an amazing show. But once you know something has become successful, there is bound to be shows that try to emulate the formula and some have tried and most failed but like what I said before you don’t have to be original all the time but you have to be good, entertaining or at least watchable and make me care about what’s going on and this is how Yuki Yuna is a Hero enters the fray.

The story takes place on the Japanese island Shikoku in the God Era. Yūna, Mimori, Fū, and Itsuki are all members of the Sanshu Middle School Hero Club(讃州中学勇者部), dedicating themselves to helping those that request help. One day in their regular daily lives, the Hero Club members are suddenly caught in an explosion of light and transported to a strange forest, where they encounter mysterious monsters known as Vertex which seek to destroy the Shinju (神樹?, “Divine Tree”), the guardian deity which protects and blesses humanity. Using a special phone application granted by the Shinju itself, Yuna and her friends must transform into “heroes” with magical powers so to protect their world from imminent destruction.

Now watching the whole 12 episodes of this, I have noticed that people are starting to go with the whole “Is it like Madoka?” thing on their minds where you can see that there are some things similar to that show but it is really?

Well, it’s tricky to say.

Remember when Evangelion was becoming a phenomenon in the earlier days of anime and people are lauding it as a classic (and still are today?) and following that, there was a little show by Bones called Rahxephon and people were thinking that this was an clone of EVA and some were questioning it? Yeah, in my opinion, what EVA is to Madoka, Yuki Yuna is to Rahxephon (and just to be clear, I do like Rahxephon more than EVA but EVA is good, too.) and there isn’t a problem to it. The show has a great balance of the action involved, getting to know the characters and even the smaller moments like the beach episode (yes, there’s a beach episode). Hell, most of the moments where people said it felt slow didn’t felt that way to me and if it did, I didn’t exactly mind it because it felt like a refresher from the intense moments. It’s not like a KyoAni show where nothing of importance happens and it continues on and it becomes grating. This is a show where you get the action sequences the one or two episodes and then the relaxing, chill episode and while the show got its dark moments, it isn’t some faux-depressing story where you have to make up a bunch of terrible incidents just to get an emotion from the viewer.

Oh and another fact about this. The person who came up with the idea of this show, Takahiro, is also the creator of the manga Akame ga Kill. Yeah…….this show is a far cry from that manga or the anime based from that (and I’ll get to Akame one day….next year….when the Toonami run ends).

The good thing about the characters in this show is that there’s only 5 of them and all of them are exceptionally good, sympathetic and considerate characters that in good conscience wants me to see them prevail in their mission. The title character herself, Yuki Yuna, does remind me of Madoka for a bit second with the same color choices, personality, sweet girl charm although unlike her, she does get more on-screen focus than Madoka. Fu and Itsuki are the pair of sisters of the team with Fu (the oldest) being the president of the Hero Club and Itsuki is the youngest (and shyest) of them all and their relationship as sisters is compassionate throughout the series and the latter half definitely cements that as so much emotion for them was shown in there. Karin is the more-experienced and newer addition of the group and while I didn’t mind her semi-tsundere ways and she was a decent character, she wasn’t exactly my overall favorite. That honor belongs to Mimori Togo, who practically had the best character arc in the show and I like the fact there is more to know about her and due to something spoilery, I’m not saying anything about that. I will say there is a character in the show that’s like a veteran magical girl and it’s basically:

Well, similar to that but yeah, thanks Tim Meadows.

So, I never heard of Studio Gokumi or watch most of their shows they animate (oh, they made Lance ‘N Mosques so never mind then) but I can say they deliver on visually-appealing animation with their pleasant character designs, stellar use of colors (so much color –that’s used right BTW) and stable action animation throughout.

The score is also an impressive nod here maybe not as high as the works of Yuki Kaijura (but to be fair, her recent works haven’t been too good either) but still has a genuine epic feel to the show and it fits right into whatever sequence its in. The opening theme “Hoshi to Hana” by Haruka Terui, Suzuko Mimori, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Yumi Uchiyama is an example of that as it does appropriate the content of the show and the same is said for the ending “Aurora Days” by Haruka Terui, Suzuko Mimori, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Yumi Uchiyama.

Interesting thing, this is the first anime title to be released by the newly-formed PONY CANYON USA, a North American division of the Japanese company Pony Canyon (yes, like Aniplex) and this is their first dub they released and of course, Bang Zoom produced it and once again, Bang Zoom knows how to make a good dub. These performances were excellent and I do feel the emotion these actresses put in here and they made it work. I’ve been praising these ladies before and I’ll do it again for this: Xanthe Hyunh, Erika Harlacher, Erica Mendez, and Sarah Anne Williams….these ladies keep on performing roles that shows them at their finest and every one of them continues to impress me. Also, there is a newer VA on here, Brianna Knickerbocker as Itsuki and the girl did well in here. Oh, remember the whole Madoka thing and the character that’s the magical girl that’s been through the shit the main characters been into?
Hello, magical girl Christine Marie Cabanos! (From Madoka to Washio to Sailor Saturn…..yeah, being a magical girl isn’t all paradise. Ask Kyubey.)

FINAL VERDICT: In this post-Madoka era of magical girl anime, the bar has been set higher than before and with Yuki Yuna, they managed to get to that high bar. The show has it from intriguing characters with equal parts action, development and fluff that never tires me out and….I would put this on my top anime list (which I might announce soon…..).

Is Yuki Yuna a good anime? Well, yes it is.

9.5/10 – High FIRST CLASS

(And honestly something I would put on my HALL OF FAME)

YUKI YUNA IS A HERO is available on DVD & Blu-ray from PONY CANYON USA. Streaming options are on CRUNCHYROLL (sub only) and recently on NETFLIX (sub and dub).

This is MAK2.0 aka The Blue Hybrid, saying it’s hard out here for a magical girl.

YUKI YUNA IS A HERO – animated by Studio Gokumi / distributed by PONYCANYON USA

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