Yuki Yuna is a Hero Season 2 Episode 9
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Yuki Yuna is A Hero Season 2 ?
Episode 8 left us with an image of a girl who may or may not have been Mimori suspended in flames in a crucifixion-like pose. Episode 9 confirms that the girl, despite her somewhat distorted appearance, is indeed Mimori; the flames from beyond the barrier were becoming more active due to the hole in the barrier that Mimori made, so a radical shift in the Taisha's plans was necessitated. (Amazon's translation is wonky, as it mentions a “crime plan” but that term makes absolutely no sense.) That radical shift involves a sacrifice, and while the Taisha did have other shrine maidens who could do it, Mimori's qualification as both Hero and shrine maiden made her ideal. Of course, the deeply duty-driven Mimori, who probably already felt she needed to be punished for making the hole, didn't hesitate to volunteer, asking the Shinjyu-sama to erase her from the memories of the others so they wouldn't come looking for her. So in a way, she was being punished, but her fate and erasure from the other girls' memories was her own grim choice. She's carried to the site in a manner consistent with classic sacrifices, reinforcing the fallback to old traditions.
We also eventually find out why her appearance was distorted. That was her astral form, as Yuki's astral form looks similarly altered when she arrives for the rescue. Bringing astral forms and astral chains into the picture, as well as having access to the astral space look somewhat like a black hole, ups the mysticism of the series to a level beyond most magical girl series and makes for a wealth of interesting visual effects in the latter part of the episode. What happens to Yuki as she rescues Mimori also raises many questions about the long-term consequences of her actions, which will no doubt be the foundation of the plot for the remaining four episodes.
Though it was clear that the girls would have to regain their Hero forms to hunt down Mimori, the mechanisms for how this happens are also interesting. Sonoko essentially threw her weight around to get their phones back, but without the Sange system, their powers now work differently; they start with a full charge that can be burned out all at once to achieve Mankai form or used gradually to generate protective shields. Although this places a hard limit on their powers and does deny them the extra fairies they gained for going Mankai before, it also maintains a sensible mystical balance for avoiding the need for sacrifices. Besides, teamwork would allow one of them to safely go Mankai while the others defend, which is exactly what they end up doing. Hence we get the return of Sonoko's wonderful airship and spme poignant advice from Sonoko to Karin (who clearly inherited Gin's phone) about forging dangerously ahead. This results in their tense and thrilling battle with the Vertexes and Vertex-forming critters while speeding through the flame realm toward the black hole for Yuki's daring rescue.
The visual quality for the action-driven parts is hard to pin down because of the extensive use of distortion effects, including out-of-phase overlays during Yuki's trip through the astral space. Even so, the episode is practically pure visual spectacle from the moment the girls take off; even their hopping toward the barrier showed signs of an animation effort beyond what you'd normally get in these kinds of situations. The spectacle's strength shifts to a more conceptual style as Yuki enters the astral plane, but it's still impressive. The musical score, which was always a strength, is on point for those parts too. This episode also features the debut of the gently wistful new closer and the debut of the new opener with full visuals.
As it should at this point in the story, this episode raises all kinds of questions about what we and the girls don't yet know about the big picture. Also intriguing is one brief detail that a sacrifice like Mimori's was also done at the end of the “Christian era” – i.e., the time when the Shinjyu formed to close off this world. This is something that I don't think has been brought up before, and interviews included with the first physical release indicated that the staff tried to avoid irrelevant details and loaded episodes with foreshadowing, so this is almost certainly not an idle revelation. Finding out where it will lead is all part of the fun.
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