YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world.
Episode 4

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 4 of
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. ?

Well, did I ever call YU-NO's bluff! It turns out that preceding full episode devoid of time-travel that revolved around Takuya's step-mommy-issues with Ayumi was setting up for something more. I'm honestly surprised by how much it seems Ayumi will be figuring into the story's overall plot, beginning with Takuya witnessing her bloody death at the beginning of this episode in a dream sequence. (Or was it a dream?) Virtually all the pieces that have been set up come crashing together in an episode that's still hard to call ‘good’, but it's definitely the most interesting YU-NO has been yet.

However, this episode's overall direction is not made apparent by its first half or so. Instead, even more seemingly-disparate elements are introduced, giving the audience additional pieces to a plot that's set to continue for two whole cours. Ryuzoji and Kaori are conspiring together over something, there's a weird old man skulking around the area, and Mio may be changing schools! It's a frustrating back-and-forth of teasing after the pacing has dragged for so long. The show even taunts us with the potential to finally see more time-travel hijinks with Takuya using the mystical remote-control to cheat on a test in school, only for that to get interrupted by the intrigue of the Ayumi plot calling him up on an era-appropriate landline telephone.

I haven't played the original visual novel of YU-NO, nor yet partaken of its old full-hentai anime adaptation, so a fun game to play with this new version has been ‘Guess Where the Sex Scenes Were’. Ayumi in particular has been more prone than others to get into suggestive situations that seem like they'd lead somewhere lurid. The central conflict of this episode is built around Takuya walking into an encounter between Ayumi and that jerk Toyotomi. This scene plays out as an odd back-and-forth, where Ayumi is clearly being coerced by her coworker, but Takuya also seems weirdly jealous of the other guy for getting it on with his step-mom. But before you can dwell on the "yikes" of the whole situation too much, the more complex issues at the heart of what he witnessed, a broader conspiracy, and some shocking consequences pile up on Takuya.

Kaori coming to Takuya in the midst of his hilariously melodramatic depressive episode (we watch him sit motionless in a diner while sad music plays on the jukebox for a solid forty seconds) feels purely mechanical, in terms of keeping the plot moving along. After a whole episode building up Ayumi's issues, she just sits Takuya down and explains the current plot to him. The revelation that Ayumi is being set up to take the fall for the research theft we saw Toyotomi commit last episode at least pays off quickly, but it feels like getting to this point didn't give the audience much opportunity to put the pieces together themselves. That type of engagement should be at the heart of a visual-novel story, but YU-NO just withholds everything for the barest sake of mystery then dumps the answers in our laps when it's time for the next big twist. At least it's setting up other mysterious elements, as Kanna meets up with that skeevy old man in another hotel room.

But to its credit, YU-NO can hit that payoff just right to keep the audience interested even if they're not fully engaged with its mysteries. As long as we're humoring hoary old anime tropes, it's kind of remarkable that we took until the fourth episode to land on this twist ending. Takuya's panicked realization and our own connection to the dream sequence from the beginning brings everything full-circle, with a more blunt depiction of post-coitus than I expected from a show like this and the jarringly grim revelation of Ayumi's suicide. Boy, that escalated quickly!

If I come off like I'm being flippant about Ayumi's shocking death, it's because I don't expect YU-NO to genuinely kill off one of its main ladies at this point; it is a time-travel story, after all. At least as far as the main plot surrounding Ayumi, Toyotomi, and the research goes, I feel like the show has given me a solid handle on its current arc. Of course, this is still a story succeeding at pretty baseline melodrama. Even if it can keep the audience's attention, it's still a mess of too many disparate threads being introduced, ludicrous pacing and structure, and largely-blown payoffs. But at least it's ascended to ‘airport novel’ levels of intrigue at this point.

Rating:

YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.


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