YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 16 of
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. ?
Well, I guess this was only a matter of time. (*rimshot*) YU-NO's slow spacing out of its mysteries has made it less-than-engaging to watch sometimes and even less interesting to write about on a weekly basis. That's honestly not a major indictment of the show's story overall; for all my disparaging comments about its rigid visual-novel structure, I can totally see how this worked in that format. It may still work out in the long run once the show is done and can just marathon through its various long arcs. But for now, I can understand why trying to care about this for just twenty-two minutes a week would cause interest to wane.
Right here in the middle of the Kanna arc, I'll be leaving YU-NO pretty much the way I picked it up. We've been teased with some mysteries and connections the focal girl has related to Takuya and his timeline-jumping jamboree, but they're just barely starting to get unraveled. Far from the surprisingly effective emotional ideas of the previous episode, this one goes right into the plot business, basically picking up from where the episode before the beach trip left off. Kanna's sickness is still giving her trouble, Takuya uncovers more clues about her financial and potentially more intimate connections to his father, and he along with Mio and Yuki make more speculation on the historical elements that led to all the weirdness perpetually afflicting their town.
Even though the story elements surrounding Kanna are being drip-fed every bit as glacially, the pacing isn't as infuriating as in the Mio arc simply because it feels more focused. It's not just that Kanna herself is clearly more integral to the most interesting elements of YU-NO's plot, it's also that the storytelling feels more focused around her specifically. What sunk the Mio arc wasn't just that Mio's plot was uninteresting, it was that she had so little going on that the show kept having to take detours involving Ryuzoji, Mituski, and others. Even as we were obtaining background information that would prove useful to unraveling the plot later, at the time it never made what we were watching feel important.
In contrast, Kanna's plotline focuses on Takuya's emotional connection with her, which also worked for the Ayumi arc at its high points, and integrates the sci-fi elements well enough with every new stone we turn over. Sure, she's probably not a Timecop like Eriko, but we can tell there's something funky going on with Kanna's aging process and the odd past Takuya remembers with her. It creates an element of excitement for how the fantastical elements will come into play, which engages us to really pay attention.
Not that YU-NO has risen above dragging things out. That damnable pacing is probably always going to be its worst habit. Even as we get more information on resident skeezebag Hojo (who turns out to be a private investigator working for Ryuzoji), the show keeps beating around the bush regarding what kind of relationship he's had with Kanna. Between his comments and the fliers that get put up later in the episode, we're clearly meant to presume there's some uncouth sexual situation going on, and given the source material of this show, it's easier to expect that to be the case. But even then, I'm still not buying it, given how hard the story is going out of its way to avoid stating the obvious. Either way, my point is that even if this drama is well-focused, dragging it out and hinging so much of it on the suspected sex acts of the character comes across as cheap.
The other problem with this plot is that Hojo simply isn't that threatening as an antagonist, even compared with some of the other minor meddlers Takuya's dealt with like Toyotomi. He's able to be somewhat threatening to Kanna, only pushing her to resolve to do something to move this plot forward, presumably next episode, but he's completely ineffectual against anyone else. Even Yuki is able to chase him off! It says a lot that the simple focus of mysteries and drama between Kanna and Takuya is enough to keep interest in this storyline, as the supposedly suspenseful parts of the storyline powered by its villain feel like mere distractions.
Maybe it helps that after all this time spent slowly building up its world and characters, there is now a decent sense of momentum to YU-NO. A thematic repeat of the scandalous fliers scene from Mio's arc nicely indicates that both she and Yuki may have inherited some character development from that previous arc's timeline, which makes for a neat aside detail. And that dimension-crashing theory gets brought up again, reminding us that it will probably become more integral as the plot thickens approaching the finale. If only the show could have consistently found a way to relate this information in ways that didn't feel like just reading the VN's GameFAQs page.
This Kanna arc has always felt like the story was really going somewhere. With only ten episodes left, I'll probably end up riding YU-NO out just to see where it ends up. Call it the sunk-cost fallacy if you'd like, but this story's endured one way or the other in the anime fandom for a long time, and this is the version I've spent so much time familiarizing myself with. But perhaps it will be more interesting to just marathon the rest of its season all at once, rather than trawling through it week-by-week, hoping for more Timecops to show up.
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