Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru
Episode 8

by Theron Martin,

For a few episodes now there has been a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hints have been given that all is not as well as it seems, that there may be something greater – perhaps even tragic – to the role that the girls play as Heroes. The second half of this episode is where that figurative shoe drops.

Surprisingly, the battle with the straggler Vertex is not the cause of it; in fact, that goes quite smoothly. Karin is curious/concerned about why she is the only one to not gain a new faery (and naturally she assumes that it has to do with her not attaining a Mankai form), though the new faeries do make for a troublesome lot. She also notices that, despite their bravado, the others are a little nervous about the possibility of their being an additional physical toll for a new battle, but that doesn't stop them from efficiently taking the Vertex down. Afterwards, though, only Karin, Fu, and Itsuki return where they're supposed to be. Yuna and Mimori are instead transported elsewhere, to a city with a twisted and ruined bridge (as seen in the opener), where they meet a crippled, heavily bandaged girl in a hospital bed. That girl, who claims to be their senior at being a Hero and is now veritably worshiped as a god by the Taisha, summoned them there to lay out the truth for them about being a Hero: that continued use of the Shinju's power (as represented by their Mankai states) will, indeed, cost them permanently, and that those losses are the sacrifices they make for having those powers. In fact, by being Heroes they have effectively all become sacrifices to the Shinju (in the classical sense of young maidens being sacrificed to a god), just in a piecemeal sense instead of all at once.

The idea of having to sacrifice part of oneself as the cost for using the strongest powers has been used before in anime (most recently in Valvrave the Liberator), and it isn't like something like this wasn't reasonably anticipatable. That does not make the revelation any less chilling, however, and seeing the drastic effect that presumed repeated use of Mankai state had on the girl in the bed helps drive home that reaction quite powerfully. By casting this in the light of old stories about sacrificing maidens to appease gods, the storytelling also aims higher and makes a clear attempt to distance the tragic undertones used here from those seen in Madoka Magica. The emotional responses here also seem a little more genuine, and the musical score certainly helps sell the impact of the revelations.

The comparisons to Madoka Magica have been inescapable to this point, and indicating that there is a dire cost to the use of magical girl powers would seem to continue that comparison. However, the way the series makes its move allows it to (perhaps permanently) step out of Magica's shadow. Here there is no villain to point to, no master manipulator who is cruelly exploiting the girls for his own lofty purposes, and no girls doing it because they got personal gain out of their status. They are simply Heroes doing what heroes have to do, who must nobly but cruelly bear the cost for protecting the world. That different direction puts the series into uncharted territory, and how the series may try to handle that in its remaining episodes is difficult to even speculate on. What is certain, though, is that it has not lost one ounce of the quality that it has shown previously.

Rating: A

Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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