Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter ?
Community score: 4.1
It's kind of remarkable how much my overall opinion of the endless bummer that was Yuna's storyline in the Hero Chapter could be brought up just by spacing things out and having some secondary focuses. Or maybe it's the fact that Yuna's component of the plot has been all background noise for this stretch of Great Mankai Chapter; would I still be as burnt out by this curse arc as I was at the end of 2017 if I was watching it now interspersed into that original-Heroes story and this week's Karin interlude? Impossible to say, but I can confirm that said sidebar we get with Karin in this episode is another appreciable addition to the whole cycle that Yuki Yuna's plot has evolved to be across all these years.
Karin's always been a cool character, starting out as the combative, too-serious newcomer way back before growing into a well-integrated team member for the Hero Club whose dynamics have expanded and evolved over all these seasons. The start of that Sentinels storyline earlier in Great Mankai Chapter gave us a peek at the kind of environment that produced the Karin we first met back in the day, so now this episode sees fit to round back with the Sentinels and see how far they, and Karin, have come. Pacing it out this far is a good choice in my opinion, not just because of the structural need to set it near the Hero Chapter finale. The show's given us time to remember how long Karin's been with Yuna's group now; we see her interacting with those dorks in the kinds of silly off-times she's ingratiated herself to them with, and see parallel stories about the original Hero team and the Sentinels coming together to get a sense of how the depths of that kind of team-building must progress. It's not just that Karin's come a long way – it's that everyone involved with the story by this point, and us following it along, have all come a long way too.
That's the kind of neat convergence that I already appreciated in last week's episode, so looping Karin in from one of the more harsh gut-punches of the preceding season is basically gravy for my good graces. There's a unique challenge for this presentation, given that it's attempting to wring pathos out of a tragic situation which we already know works out in the end. But it's enough to start by showing us the struggle of Yuna being forced to reject her friends' help specifically from Karin's point of view of the denied exchange. That makes it seem more 'fair' to all parties involved, and the efforts by Juri Nagatsuma to vocalize Karin's frustrations at her lowest, most desperate point make for an impressively visceral effect. I personally kind of love the contrast of Karin's defiant yelling here with what we might remember of Yuna's pained screams from her side of the story. We know things work out for Yuna eventually, sure, but we hadn't gotten to watch Karin work through all the stages of grief beforehand. The show hasn't spent three seasons building up our empathy for these poor girls to make that not land somehow.
The real selling point of this aside, though, is obviously bringing those aforementioned connections full-circle so Karin and Mebuki can meet up and compare late-game character development notes. They nail the writing of the relationship, at least, the pair's reunion having all the realistically awkward tones of running into an old classmate or co-worker. There's some spectacularly dry humor in the way Mebuki resignedly deduces that Karin's never even heard of the Sentinels or what they do, or Karin's desperate attempt to make small-talk about their big CGI boats. It is funny, sure, but it's also effectively representative of everything these two girls have been through at this point, how little they each understand of the other one's stories. While primarily for the sake of energizing Karin's interstitial character development, Mebuki is also being used here as a stand-in for how an in-universe sideline observer might see the Heroes at this point: Much like with those original Heroes we just saw the story of, people aware of those girls but not involved with them might not realize the kind of hell they're putting themselves through for the sake of what they have to protect.
But again, that's more of a general idea hanging in the back just for flavor. Rather, I get the sense the main idea of this story for Karin was to retroactively indicate that she (and by extension the other members of the Hero Club) weren't entirely standing around being confused and sad while Yuna was suffering during the Hero Chapter. My impression is that the storytelling is shooting for something of a middle ground between Mebuki's insistence that any effort must be made in the face of a tragedy and Karin's dejected immobility, but I firmly agree with Mebuki on this one: Nothing gets solved just by standing around crying, and as we learned from the original airing of Hero Chapter, doing so isn't terribly entertaining either. That does make elements of this come off like kind of a retroactive fix, the narrative arguing that the Heroes were spurred to wanting to make some kind of effort prior to the orders they received around the Shinkon ceremony that hit yet another reset button and fixed everything. I appreciate the energy of the effort, anyway.
The 'friendly' fight between Karin and Mebuki that unfolds this narrative device makes for an entertaining way to present that concept, which helps. It's funny that this is one of the least-serious battles we've yet seen in this season, but this was actually one of the most entertaining ones I've watched here. It actually comes off like a meaningful, get-your-feelings-out brawl between two people who know each other this way, and it definitely helps that it culminates in some positive development for the people involved. Or maybe it's just that there was less noticeable CGI. Either way, it's an effective little climax for this kind of in-between story, bolstered by cute little details like the revelation that their unique heart-to-heart took the whole night, or the cut to the other Sentinels falling asleep on their feet as a result of waiting that long. It makes the various roads we've already followed in this season feel that much more calculated than I might have predicted from initial interstitial light-novel adaptations. And if I question where it's going to go, now taking place on the doorstep of the previous season's finale with around another month left to go, they do seem to have some sort of plan.
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.
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