YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. ?
Anime based on visual novels and adventure games can find themselves hamstrung by their format. The act of uncovering details or solving mysteries is no longer in the hands of the player, with the audience being passive viewers to characters who can't simply restart if they fail or take too long figuring things out. This can leave anime like Phoenix Wright feeling bland due to this lack of audience participation. YU-NO gets around this issue by incorporating its time-travel mechanics to allow bad endings and failures to occur and be overwritten in-story, and also by making Takuya an unfathomable idiot.
Takuya's never been the sharpest knife in the drawer, lazily stumbling from one plot point that explains itself to him to the next. But after Ayumi's suicide from the previous episode, he's sprung into action to find a way to overwrite the tragedy. But despite having all the information about the situation with Ayumi and Toyotomi that the audience does, Takuya's initial plan isn't much different from his actions pre-time-travel. He chases Toyotomi out when he finds him with Ayumi this time, but no sooner was I wondering why Takuya hadn't mentioned the stolen files than he immediately stumbled upon Ayumi having hung herself! He rewinds again and tries staying with his stepmom, but makes a poor show of convincing her that Toyotomi's up to no good, so she ends up throwing herself in front of a truck. And over and over it goes, with Takuya running in boneheaded and Ayumi killing herself in a different way every time, looping around like the world's worst Groundhog Day.
Despite my gallows humor, if you're strongly affected by scenes of suicide (as well as a degree of sexual assault) you should probably just skip this episode. The complete lack of nuance in the ridiculous montage that takes up to half the episode undercuts any drama that may have been effective the first time we saw Ayumi commit suicide. The show goes from bare-minimum levels of pathos to unintentionally hilarious tragedy porn in the space of just fifteen minutes. It's so tonally unnecessary beyond communicating the now obvious point that Takuya is extremely bad at this that I have to wonder if it was included as a useful way to fill time.
Beyond cracking wise about this sequence that feels like watching someone else play a video game badly, there are more serious criticisms to be leveled at YU-NO's handling of Ayumi's suicide. Most pertinently, she has shockingly little agency over her own self-inflicted death. Her suicide is treated less as a symptomatic response to issues she needs to work through and merely as a challenge for Takuya to surmount so that he can win her life back. Even at the end when he does manage to buy enough time to actually stop her before she goes through with it, there's little discussion of the feelings that are causing this compulsion; Takuya simply yells at her to stop, slaps her, calls her a child, then promises to fix all her problems himself so she won't want to commit suicide. I know this story is from a generation ago and that Takuya's viewpoint-character status necessitates him being a little overpowered, but it feels unfair to center an arc on Ayumi only to treat her as a tragic prop whose destructive feelings will simply have to be fixed by solving all the right logic puzzles.
Seeing that adventure-game logic in action does make for the most genuinely entertaining part of the episode. Takuya finally realizing that he needs a more nuanced plan leads him to finally start thinking fourth-dimensionally, to acquire useful items and knowledge ahead of the disastrous event. Seeing the payoff to Kaori's request for the key card is clever and rewarding in ways that the infodumps from the previous episode were not. And I suppose that hammering on the grisly consequences of Takuya's catastrophically slow learning curve was a fine way to demonstrate the dangers and limits of time travel. This all built up to resolving the first big time-travel storyline of the show, so it works in that respect.
Unfortunately, Takuya hasn't smartened up that much, leading the audience to face-palm as he leaves Ayumi alone to chase down Toyotomi, only for the guy to get taken out by Kaori cracking him over the head with a flower pot. So much of YU-NO's bizarre tonal choices leave large swaths of it alternately infuriating and unintentionally hilarious to watch. But the parts that are basically compelling as a time-travel narrative almost make it worth sticking around to see what ridiculous thing it will do next. There was a half-episode escalating suicide montage in this episode, and we aren't even done with this arc yet. I can't imagine where they're going to go in the future (or the past).
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
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