YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 15 of
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. ?
As predicted, this episode of YU-NO turns out to be about Takuya and friends having their beach excursion. It's another of what can be charitably categorized as the ‘faffing about’ parts of the show: These mostly-uneventful interludes where we ostensibly spend time with the characters to endear and develop them so we'll care when the eventual time-travel action starts up again. But you know what isn't so predictable about this one? I actually thought it was okay! Yes, the plot twist this time turns out to be that if YU-NO does something enough it might finally get the hang of it, and in this case that means it got me through a half-hour of Takuya, Kanna, and two supporting characters who don't really matter anymore having fun in the sun without me checking my watch.
The secret to the success of this standout slice-of-life is that it's trading on an idea beyond merely endearing Takuya, Kanna, and their relationship to us. It takes a while to get there, but by the time the relatively low-stress threat of a stray dog has made a mess of the gang's barbecue and fireworks plans, Takuya briefly entertains using the Reflector Device to return to his earlier savestate and try to fix things. He doesn't, of course, because that's a frivolous use of such a power, and robs the friends of the time spent together, good or bad, besides. When you remember that this was the guy who previously was happy to use the device to pass a test in Summer school, it acts as a more-understated-than-expected example of character growth. It also sells us on why this little vacation was presented as uneventfully as it was: These simple, non-sci-fi-enhanced times are the point unto themselves.
Even as I'm not really complaining about it, I should also stress that going on this trip isn't actually as uneventful as I initially described. The main intrigue points revolve around that pendant of Kanna's, and the creepy old man Hojo who seems to be pursuing her for it, for some reason. That he hints at this information while using a public restroom alongside Takuya and also commenting on his junk is probably the least-appreciable part of the whole affair. But then they put him on a train out of the plot for the rest of the episode, so at least that's dealt with.
The other element of the episode with some depth to it is where it's characterizing Kanna. Calling her purely derivative of the old ‘emotionless girl’ anime archetype honestly seems unfair (especially given the age of the character's origins) but thus far there was just that little to go on. This episode actually sneaks in some fun asides that make her seem like she has a real personality, albeit a withdrawn one. Her prowess at watermelon splitting was a fun revelation, and the storytelling and character work here were strong enough to believably present her as someone who wanted to enjoy herself with her new friends. It makes it odd that Takuya's connection with her now was barely established by him trying to speedrun the visual-novel route, since she actually slots into this group quite well despite just barely having met him. Or has she? I'll get to that in a moment.
Just a moment though, because there really isn't that much else to discuss about this episode. It's all very cozy and enjoyably-presented. The aforementioned ideas and functional character work carry it further than YU-NO's usual time-wasting. The most tense part is when Kanna's pendant and the Reflector Device go missing, and even that gets deflated in just a couple minutes when it's revealed to be that stray dog tearing up the place. Even then, I'm so accustomed to the show's adventure-game puzzle-box logic that I was momentary like “Wait, is that supposed to be the curse beast that Eriko's old boyfriend has his soul shunted into?”. Obviously that wasn't the case, but it says something that the episode can deflate a serious situation with an anticlimax like that and have me nonplussed about missed opportunities.
Perhaps that's because this episode is bookended with well-paced intrigue regarding Kanna and how she actually figures alongside Takuya, his father, and the rest of their family. A flashback at the beginning of the episode shows Kanna, seemingly the same age she is now, accompanying a young Takuya at the beach. That's honestly time-travel 101 as far as setting up situations goes, but we seem to be getting right back to it when she has another one of her collapsing fits at the end of the episode. And wait, how did I only just notice that Kanna and Takuya kind of have some family resemblance in their character designs going on? See, this one episode of well-utilized downtime just did its job of pacing out the intrigue in the story, and I'm genuinely ready to keep following it into next week.
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
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