Yuki Yuna is a Hero is currently available on Crunchyroll for FREE viewers and Netflix as part of their monthly subscription. The 2014 anime has spun-off a manga, video game, digital novel and two prequel light novels, but lasts only 12 episodes. For more information, please visit the Official Yuki Yuna website.
Yuki Yuna is definitely a local hero to her softly drawn town, but she isn't the main focal point despite lending her name to the title. In fact, she has slightly less screen time than her companions in most episodes.
The series starts with a sleepy "Yawn" lulling you into a false sense of comfort. We see Yuki and her friends helping out the community and hosting stage plays for the local kindergarten. everything seems hopeful and bright for this eclectic gang of middle school students and it feels at first like you just slipped into another Slice of Life program.
And then suddenly, time stops. Fu, the eldest of the group, starts panicking while trying to tell her little sister that she's harboring a dark secret. but before we can even figure out what's going on, BOOM. The girls are transported to a colorful, creepy and tentacle filled forest where battle suits and fairy animals are your only hope of survival.
Such is the jolting fantasy that is Yuki Yuna is a Hero. Soft, petal drawings with warm sunlight are mashed with dark and creepy imagery without warning. It's tailored for those who don't think Sailor Moon S was dark enough, but thought that Madoka Magica was too disturbing.
The basic plot starts off as your average "good vs evil" shoujo story, but then drags you into the personal drama of each girl, as she strives to protect the Divine Shinju Tree (a guardian that blesses humanity) from a disgusting evil called The Vertex, which are monsters that resemble the stuff of nightmares.
As the story unfolds, we learn about the girls who form their school's Hero Club, a telling name for the cast of five.
Yuki is a bubbly girl who loves making new friends, battling the Vertex and playing with her Familiars. (The fairy like animal creatures I mentioned earlier.) She loves putting on plays and has the biggest heart of the team. Her mother taught her flower pressing, while her father taught her fighting.
Mimori is a slightly emo girl with amnesia, bound to a wheelchair. At first, we're told she lost the use of her legs in a car accident, but we later learn she has been a fighter against the Vertex since she was around 11 years old, and that her health issues stem from a deadly battle that claimed the life of her friend Gin and paralyzed her other tween friend Sonoko several years before the start of the show. She seems to have more than one set of parents, with her adoptive set being more familiar with The Vertex. Because of Gin's death, the Taisha (an entity that gave them these powers) and their familiars alter everything the girls are given, in an effort to prolong their lives.
Fu and Itsuki are sisters, sperated by a year or two, who live alone despite being between 13 and 15 years of age. Fu has been a fighter in secret for quite some time, while Yuki and Itsuki are new to the game. Fu is motherly and strong willed while Itsuki is shy and childlike. They are recent orphans raising themselves.
Karin is a stuck up tsundere who joins the cast 2-3 episodes in. She too lives alone at age 14, however her family is still alive. She carries the terminal of Gin.
Sonoko and Gin are by far the more tragic characters, but are mercifully limited to select scenes. Gin dies heroically, leaving behind a baby brother, while Sonoko is left in a hospital on an IV. Obtaining the manga and novels creates a better ending for Sonoko, one full of hope, but not so for Gin, who just couldn't be saved.
Over the course of the 12 episode series, the girls learn that in order to defeat The Vertex and complete their mission, they have to give up pieces of themselves, up to the point of death. Each girl ends up either paralyzed, mute, blind or suffering through some other handicap, as reward for saving two worlds, essentially. The girls have to deal with their grim realities while muddling through everyday school life and trying to act like this is all normal. but if watching schoolgirls get mutilated and break down is too depressing for you, don't worry. Episode 12 comes with a story that "should" satisfy you, the way changing your nightmare before you wake up usually does. Or it may leave you scratching your head and wondering if the writers just took an eraser to the previous episodes.
Yuki does eventually become a true hero, but not in the glamorous, action packed way you'd expect after seeing her create explosions with her fists in episode one. Without actually spoiling anything at all, the power of friendship, as saccharine-sweet and overused is that cliche, ends up being the one power that can fix the future, just not in the way you'd expect, unless you believe in the sort of Hollywood miracles usually saved for Christmas movies.
The ending will either leave you in tears, confusion, anger or satisfied, and it's so bizarre to use those four, polarizing terms all at once, but such is the emotion evoked by Yuki Yuna.
Yuki Yuna is a Hero may not be for everyone, but it will force you to feel on different levels. It's a weird blend of drama and action with a color palette that will draw you in.
Codename Sailor earth
Codename Sailor Earth is a lifelong anime and wrestling fan. IRL she is cartoonist Koriander Bullard, formerly Koriander Ake, a happily married Chicagoan. Her favorite anime is Sailor Moon. A baby in the late 80's, the first anime titles she ever saw were Speed Racer, Voltron and Robotech.