YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world.
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. ?
Part of me doesn't want to keep harping on the visual novel elements that have been jammed into the YU-NO anime from its source material. It's an easy criticism to say that a series based on a video game feels too much like watching someone play a video game. But YU-NO keeps on making this too easy for me, determined to give audiences unfamiliar with all the other permutations of its story the opportunity to experience it as faithfully as possible. Fortunately, aside from how distractingly game-like it feels, this is still probably the most successful episode of YU-NO yet.
This week, Takuya needs Kaori to break into Geotech headquarters to obtain evidence that will prove Ayumi's innocence. I kept wondering why Takuya was playing his knowledge so close to the vest in his dealings with Toyotomi last episode, but it makes sense that Takuya needs to get hard evidence to truly save Ayumi, and tactical espionage action is the only way to obtain it! It's funny, because Kaori insisting that Takuya be involved in the heist seems almost arbitrary, a way to keep us in his viewpoint, even though we have to assume the newscaster could have done it herself. Fortunately, the real reason turns out to be that YU-NO has finally learned to pace out its revelations better. The plot devices and twists in this episode genuinely surprised me.
Kaori's been suspicious from the get-go, of course, conspiring with Ryuzoji and seemingly orchestrating some televised public shame for poor Ayumi. So her deciding to help Takuya was too good to be true in hindsight. But the series has devoted so much time to the technical aspects of her team-up with Takuya that I was buying it right up until she betrayed him at the apex of their break-in. As much as this episode seems to be about finishing out Toyotomi's villainous role in this arc, this twist also builds up Kaori as a greater overarching threat. Her true role as an industrial spy is only barely touched on, and we still know she's running other conspiracies in alternate timelines. YU-NO's time-travel-based nature means a character like this could come back with other things to do, even though she's ‘defeated’ at the end of this specific story arc.
The particulars of how Takuya seals her defeat are where I take issue with this episode. Virtually every step of the sneaky situation feels like a GameFAQs walkthrough, from Takuya outlining his path into the building to getting the perfect opportunity to add an item to his inventory that he needs to win the day. The first time we saw Kaori take her temporary leave to allow Takuya to use a key-card to open the door, I was floored by how nonchalantly the adventure-game mechanics were being left in the story. Takuya even calls attention to how “you see this in video games all the time”. To YU-NO's credit, the show still manages to pace this all out for satisfying reveals, from Kaori's heel-turn to the revelation of Takuya's walkie-talkie (cheap boner joke notwithstanding). The plot works well enough at this point, but I still found myself distracted by the video game mechanics of how we got there.
The other thing that stands out about this episode is its unique placement as the end of an arc in a time-travel story. Takuya seems to have reasonably saved Ayumi and come away with some useful information about the plot devices at the heart of all this, but then the cruel hand of causality boots him back to the beginning of the whole show. It's an interesting way to resolve things using that time-rewind gimmick. On top of that, Takuya's character is already being informed by the time-travel process. Even if he still comes off as a meatheaded idiot, it's amusing to see him use the knowledge he gained through multiple repeats to make himself appear smarter, and he even seems to pull off his victory against Kaori and Toyotomi with just one do-over. That last part is appreciable, given how much the ‘Takuya keeps rewinding and failing’ mechanic has already worn out its welcome.
For all my concerns about the overt game mechanics on display in this episode, it still makes a good case for how this story must have worked well as a visual novel. It's got interesting plot twists and developments of its larger mysteries, and the central gimmick gives it a solid in-universe way to cover the various ‘routes’ of the game. The show thus far has hardly made a great first impression, but this arc ends with YU-NO's best foot forward. Now we'll have to see if this series can learn from its past mistakes or keep on stumbling into the same ones on its repeats. Given the way its protagonist has operated his time machine so far, it could go either way.
YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world. is currently streaming on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
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