Last stand of the Gin brigade.

Everything Shinjyu-sama touches breaks.

It’s hard to write about this anime without getting into the meta-narrative, which is to say, nearly everyone who watched the prequel knew what was going to happen. It’s likely a rare person who watched the prequel before the main, and the main series gave away the game: Minowa Gin was nowhere to be found, Sonoko was broken beyond belief, and Sumi would lose her memories along with the use of her legs. The tragedy was known from the beginning, which makes it hard to judge this as a standalone piece. And should it be? Most people did not experience it as such. So let’s judge it within that context.

Humans open themselves up to the possibility of pain and loss in fiction for the cathartic experience; to see others suffer makes us feel alive. But it’s a rare individual that opens themselves up to the punch, which is why uncertainty and surprise are huge elements of the equation most of the time. Stories can be done well when a character is fated to die, but they have to lean into it, and Washio Sumi no Shou did—well, it did that in part. I went back and forth as to whether all the death flags for Gin, especially during episode three and four, were too much or not enough. If they were trying to maintain the surprise (for the rare viewer who doesn’t know what’s coming), they were too much; if they were trying to rub it in for viewers who knew Gin would die, it was either the right amount or not enough. Your mileage may vary. Personally, I would have given up the game and gone all in on death flags, rubbing it in again and again and again, so that the viewer would never be allowed to forget that this girl would die, and what that would mean. Punch the viewer over and over, so that when the time comes they have all their shields up—and then do a death scene that punches each of those bruises mercilessly. The death scene they gave us was pretty good. I would have gone farther, but I have no complaints about what we got.

And even if we knew she would die, the emotions expressed by the other characters, both Sumi and Sonoko and Sensei and most of all Tetsuo, Gin’s younger brother, were raw enough to drive the knife home. Which is right and proper, because character deaths are so often about the people left behind more than the one who dies; the dead, after all, are in a place beyond having to care. The issue was that, with only two episodes to grieve for Gin, introduce the new hero system, maim Sumi, and completely break Sonoko, it ended up far, faaaar more rushed than the two episodes spent killing Gin. It needed another episode at minimum, maybe two. Episodes three and four were the most focused, and therefore the best. There was little emotion in episode six, for our shields were up and they didn’t pound them mercilessly enough. It suffered for it.

The sum total was a show that I had a hard time watching; past episode three, I knew it was going to get rough, and I could never find a time I wanted to watch just one episode of the tragedy roulette. So I saved them and watched the last three all in a run. Humans shield themselves from pain they know is coming, which is why the original Yuuki Yuuna was so effective—we didn’t know what was coming at all. Six episodes (or three movies, as they originally aired) also has the downside of directly translating into a three act structure, so we knew precisely when Gin would die (end of episode four), and when Sonoko and Sumi would be maimed (episode six). This would have been a difficult show for me, the guy who only blogs shows with optimistic worldviews, to cover weekly. While the original Yuuki Yuuna was dark, its worldview never dived into outright pessimism (Mimori’s did, but the show’s did not), mostly on the back of the titular Yuuki Yuuna. This prequel had no one in that role. It was pain all the way down.

As a prequel for the main series for someone who’s season the original, it was fine. The Gin death hit home, even if the Sonoko/Sumi maiming did not. It will likely enhance the sequel solely due to the work they put in on Sonoko, though, since we knew little of her before and a lot about her now. As a standalone series for someone who hadn’t seen the original, it probably fared better, though at the expense of lessening the impact of the original (not knowing why Mimori had three spirits, or who the shattered Sonoko was, or what Mankai does were big reasons for the original’s effectiveness). In the end, this was a flawed piece, and probably not exactly necessary for fans of the series. I do think it could end up making the sequel a little better, though, which is what I’m really on board for.

I’ll be doing at least an intro post to the sequel next week, and there’s a greater chance I’ll blog all six episodes than there was with this prequel. We’ll see though. Tune in next week to see what the sequel’s got.

Random thoughts:

  • This series is another example of an old argument of mine, of using OPs & EDs properly (or, in this case, not). The tonal shift between the end of episode four and the ED was horrible, it yanks the viewer right out of the grief, whereas the images were relatively well (they rub it in that Gin is gone). Imagine if a mournful song was used instead, or even the same song done in a minor key. Speaking of making it sound eerie, imagine if they took Gin out of every scene in the episode five OP. Leave the scenes in, just take her out. It would be eerie, to see this path where once Gin walked, or to see the scenes with the three girls off-kilter, because now there are only two. It’s an extra detail that can really elevate an episode.
  • It’s buck wild that they changed the girl’s weapons without any training. A bow and arrow is not the same as a rifle!

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  1. I only watched the movies as they came out. Gotta say, I disagree about the last movie (episodes 5 and 6) I thought it was very well done, and I was left destroyed at the end of it all. It was great. Definitely looking foward to the sequel series.

    1. That could have been a side effect of my watching ep4-6 all in one go, but certainly don’t let my experience take away from your own (art is subjective, etc). I’d argue that it was comparatively rushed regardless, though. Ep5-6 (movie 3) just has so much more to get through than ep3-4 (movie 2) did.

  2. Gin’s death killed me inside (she was my favorite of the three), then followed up by Tetsuo asking logical and reasonable questions that no one can or will answer…especially if you already watched the main series…

  3. Tragedy as planned—is stating the obvious. I knew the Japanese were sentimental and I for one will not begin to deny that I am not. I am guessing the first arc with Yuuki Yuuna and group had left a lasting enough impression with the public allowing the producers to create this project then bestow the viewer like ourselves an origin story for Tougou Mimori. This prequel is to the the first season of Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru as Rogue One is to the New Hope.

    I’m not overly fond of Yuuki Yuuna origin story. It’s like knowing your burger or chicken tender needs to be killed to be served then watching cattle be sent to the butcher to be “Humanly” killed.

    I am however, more interested in knowing why Nogi? Why did Sonoko Nogi get chosen to be the only deity the Taisha would praise? Why not Mimori? Didn’t Tougou sacrafice her legs and became half paraplegic? Why not worship both girls and have two deities? This isn’t uncommon with the asian belief system.

    1. My guess is that was Sonoko’s doing, that she bargained to let Sumi Mimori go home and live a normal life—though if that’s the case, I doubt she was happy that Mimori ended up as a hero again. So I guess it’s more likely that they only worshiped Sonoko because she damaged herself more (maybe Sumi didn’t maim herself enough), or because they thought they could get more use out of Sumi by having her fight again.

      Whatever the case, this is one f*cked up religion, to be sure.

  4. I watched all of it in 1 sitting and was totally thrown off by the SOL elements that I forgot that the girls were actually getting hurt while fighting, and that the hero system in the first series wasn’t there yet.

    I think the scene where I really broke down was the scene where Sumi,Sonoko and Sensei were in the car driving back after their battle. After being praised for doing their duty as heroes Sonoko reminds sensei that Mino-san is most amazing out of all of them. She tells her not to forget about her and that they are all heroes not just ones that are still fighting.

    1. Agreed. That’s one of the scenes I was thinking of when I said:

      “And even if we knew she would die, the emotions expressed by the other characters, both Sumi and Sonoko and Sensei and most of all Tetsuo, Gin’s younger brother, were raw enough to drive the knife home.”

      For me though, it was Tetsuo that got me the most. I didn’t break down (my shield were up too much for that), but it definitely struck a chord. He didn’t give a damn about honor or gods. He just wanted his onee-chan back.

  5. Several months ago, after watching this in movie form, I rewatched Yuuki Yuuna and I have to say: I appreciate the ending more now, speaking as someone among those who thought it was a let-down. Coming right off of Washio Sumi I looked at the whole series as Togo’s story (With a change in focus in the middle) and how she started from scratch, to despair, to despair to finally getting a break. It helps that the prequel showed that the Hero system is something that can be modified and improved upon (Mileage may very on “improve”) whereas the info Yuuna gave you would make you think it’s a static system

  6. I rememeber when they got their new upgrades with the Mankai system following Gin’s death, and just when I thought I was prepared(Having set that one sound as my actual ringtone), the goddamn Forestization ringtone plays and just makes me go “Oh god no, NO NO NO NO”


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