「君ありて幸福」 (Kimi Arite Koufuku)
“Only You Can Make Me Happy”
So ends Yuusha no Shou, and with it what feels like the end of the Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru series. Probably. (It being a franchise at this point, one can never tell.) At least they got pretty definitive at the end, but—well, let’s take it in steps.
This episode felt disconnected. Not from its own internal mythology, but from any active role the characters could play in order to effect events, beyond their will to try. Which isn’t nothing! It was just so much light and color and pedal effects, and at any one point I didn’t know what the girls could possibly do because their toolboxes were tapped out, which probably meant we were about to get a deus ex machina, and that’s what happened. The took the first of three paths I outlined last week, the expected one, but also the one with the highest likelihood of failure. And they—well, how much you feel they succeeded in bringing this series to a satisfactory close really depends.
The ultimate resolution itself wasn’t bad. Shinjyuu-sama is dead, and good riddance. Now humans have to fend for themselves with limited resources, which—okay? I didn’t know this was a problem. I thought Shinjyuu-sama was just protecting them from the lake of fire, not from food shortages. Humans are crafty. I’d take those problems over being surrounded by fire, attacked by monsters, at the mercy of an unethical society, and sustained by the sacrifice of young girls any day of the week. Food shortages is easy compared to that. So we have an actual resolution, even if it’s disconnected from the stakes we thought we had, and arrived at because of prayer and a sudden power up and because Yuuna punched something really, really hard.
As far as deus ex machinas go though, I really liked that the spirits of the deceased heroes is the path they took. I like that they led with Gin’s ghost, then the symbolic projections or spirits of the living heroes, then all the other ones who went before in a big ol’ swarm. I also liked that they included what I’m told is a NoWaYu call back without making information about the prequel necessary. As I argued in the comments last episode, if we had to read the prequel novel to understand this it would have been a huge mistake NO SHUT UP IT’S TRUE. But they didn’t do that. Instead they did what they should have done with any prequel novel references: used it as spice for those in the know, without detracting from those who don’t. That, plus the sheer heartwarming glow brought about by seeing all these deceased heroes still choose humanity, and still choose life—yeah, a good moment.
It was still a deus ex machina though, where all the events that really mattered were set into motion or decided upon by someone other than the main characters—by the Taisha, by Shinjyuu-sama, by the deceased heroes—to the point that the Yuusha-bu members were turned into passive characters in their own story. They didn’t die, they didn’t give up, these are essential. But they also didn’t actually solve the problem themselves, unless you think praying counts, and I’m sorry, no. “Deus ex machina” comes from when gods would solve the problems of the characters in Greek tragedies and comedies, so a god doing it in this Japanese anime is no different. The writers still wrote themselves into a corner, and they still couldn’t get themselves out of it without cheating.
How could they have accomplished this? It’s damn hard, but it’s been done. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica built the basis of its own seeming-deus ex machina into the very DNA of the series: in the wish that’s granted to magical girls upon signing Kyubey’s contract. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann also sowed the seeds of its insanely over-the-top ending, and made it work, by baking the idea of Spiral Power into the story’s very DNA (ha ha ha) from the beginning. What YuYuYu never did was figure out their exit strategy before they started. Which, like I said, is very hard! The original series’ twist was so well thought out that I bet they started this franchise to tell that story, and thought they’d figure out the ending when they got there. Well, they didn’t then, and they didn’t now, even if I do appreciate the ultimate resolution more this time.
Either way, it’s done. This ending, at least, I think I can live with better than the previous one—the uneven part is in the first half of the episode, rather than the wobble coming at the end. More thoughts in the final impressions below.
- HEY, LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE LIKELY TO SUCCEED IF YOU TRY! Guh. Damn Taisha. I’m glad they’re mostly plants now.
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What I was hoping for with Yuusha no Shou was a proper ending to the original series. When I was writing that finale post, I was okay with the ending, considering is something of an ass pull, but no more so than the ending of Madoka. As I discussed above, that was totally wrong (especially about Madoka), and as time went on, I realized that. I grew dissatisfied with the ending, if not the rest of the series (mid-season original YuYuYu was fuckin’ fire, yo), so when I heard there was a sequel coming, I was game. Another chance to get this right and give us the resolution these girls deserve. Rockin’.
And they did . . . all right. The ultimate resolution was pure deus ex machina, and once again, if I have to read the prequel novel to understand what’s going on then they’ve fucked up. But I doubt that would save it, because unless the prequel novel outlines the specific circumstances in which praying will move Shinjyuu-sama, and unless at least some characters are aware of that, they were still passive within the ending of their own story, and they still got lucky. Yet the ultimate resolution was more final, so I think this sequel might make me enjoy my memories of the original better. It smooths over the part that was annoying me. Or at least that’s my opinion as of now. It could change, as my opinion of the original ending did.
The rest of the sequel season continued many of the traditional strengths of YuYuYu—mixing goofy slice-of-life antics with throat-tightening despair, and giving us enough hope to prevent us from dissociating with the characters to shield ourselves from the pain—while regrettably continuing its history of weak endings. I do think the lack of a moment that truly “wowed” me will hurt this one in the remembering, because, as a film critic I’m fond of said in his most recent video, “the long-term experience of absorbing and remembering the essence of a piece of art will always ultimately override the immediate firsthand experience of watching it,” and long after I’ve forgotten Yuuna’s pain and despair in the middle episodes of Yuusha no Shou, I’ll still remember the out-of-nowhere first episodes and the huge mid-season twist in the original series—plus maybe Gin’s sacrifice in the WaSuYu, that got to me—so this one will probably recede. But if it only lets me enjoy the original series more by smoothing over the rough spots of its ending, that’s fine. We could do worse.
In the end, I think Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru is a series that had some good ideas, an excellent twist in the original series, but it’s groaning under the weight of its own mythology at this point. It reminds me of How I Met Your Mother, where it went on long enough for viewers to realize that adorkable ol’ Ted has actually become as much of a slut as Barney. The more time we spend in this world, the more it feels pointlessly cruel, Taisha seems pointlessly incompetent, and all of the character’s actions become more and more pointless as they have to be deus ex machina’d out of the corners the writers keep writing them into. Nothing against what they’ve given us so far, I just have the feeling of a building with shaky foundations, and I don’t want to see what happens when the support struts go. Best to take it in a new direction, or cut it off before it all implodes, sez I. I’m fine with either. I just hope, if they do anything else, they learn how to plan ahead enough to not need a god from the machine to trundle in and save them. That might not be as audacious of a hope as these girls tend to have, but it’s what I’ve got.