Yuki Yuna is a Hero originally aired back in the fall of 2014 for a single season, entering the stage that is the dark magical girl genre prepared by earlier anime like Puella Magi Madoka Magica. If you have not seen the first Yuki Yuna series, then I suggest you stop reading now and go back and watch it before proceeding with Washio Sumi Chapter. That, or start with Washio Sumi, go back to Yuki Yuna, then proceed with the currently airing Hero Chapter for a chronological viewing. Here, I will share my thoughts on Washio Sumi’s backstory, which unfolded over half the current season with six episodes.
Given how the first season took twelve episodes and warranted both a prequel and a sequel, I was surprised at the decision to air the latter two as half seasons. I now consider that choice a wise one, at least for the prequel. We already know how the first heroes fared with Sumi’s memory loss and re-entry into the Hero System as Mimori Togo. Surprises are not the goal in this chapter. Instead, we spend much of the time getting to know Washio “Wasshi” Sumi and her former teammates, Gin and Sonoko, and experiencing their struggle to win against impossible odds.
Seeing Wasshi pre-wheelchair was probably the most enjoyable aspect of the story for me. Instead of acting as the team’s support, she initially strove to lead the group and shouldered much of the responsibilities of their failures. She prioritized her duty to serve and protect above everything else. At this point in time, Wasshi also struggled with connecting to others, including her teammates, classmates, and even her adopted family. She’s awkward in ways I didn’t expect, and adorable in her attempts at befriending others.
This is where Gin and Sonoko come in. We first saw Sonoko Nogi as a paraplegic in Yuki Yuna. Here, she’s perfectly healthy. Then there’s Gin, who reminds me so much of Yuna. Gin acts carefree in her cheerfulness, but reveals her strength and maturity in battle and at home as the oldest of her siblings. She and Sonoko quickly work their magic on Wasshi, helping her open up and enjoy everyday life. So much time of each episode is spent on the friendship between these girls, in the dependency they come to have on one another. They learn from their failures and get stronger. Understandably, they believe they will always stay together and protect their family and friends.
But this is an established tale, and the knowledge of the pain to come hangs over the viewer’s head like a guillotine. There’s no ignoring it. Every glance and hug looks like a death flag. It’s hard to fully enjoy the lighthearted moments where the girls act just like regular school girls, and in turn I have a difficult time opening my heart to Gin or Sonoko. By the time the Fairy System is implemented, we’re already in a downward spiral. Just like with Yuki Yuna, every time a girl powers up with a Mankai, she causes irrevocable damage to her physical body. With or without the fairies, our heroes are sacrifices, bandages to a mortal wound.
Shows of this nature usually work best when they take little breaks with our characters and forget about conflict. In the original, much of that time was spent in the school’s Hero Club. In Washio Sumi Chapter, regular activities like school trips, weekends, and walks home after school allow us to see the girls as more than just the chosen ones. They’re elementary school kids who have no idea yet what they want to do other than undertake the sad task that has been laid before them.
If there was one suggestion I could have made to the improvement of this prequel, it would have been to lessen the drama leading up to Gin’s death. Too much attention was paid to her goodness, and to the invincibility these girls felt when they were together. Even if I didn’t already know the outcome of their fight, Gin’s future would have been clear.
Rating: 0 dango
0 dango – average and forgettable.
1 dango – very good in its category.
2 dango – excellent show that is worth a try.
3 dango – exceptional show one must watch.