Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

When it comes to magical girls, it’s easy to make comparisons across series, but with the Yuki Yuna Is A Hero franchise, we have a chance to actually compare two leading heroines with essentially the same positions, in the same universe, under nearly identical conditions. Yuki Yuna and Washio Sumi both essentially end up as the leader of a group of magical girls with the same task. They are roughly the same age, but they are very different types of leaders.

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

The Yuki Yuna Is A Hero universe is one I find particularly compelling given my background. It’s the story of two groups of magical girls (set two years apart in the timeline, at least at the beginning of the Sumi Chapter) who live in a nation-state Island of Shikoku in a seemingly parallel Japan (or is it?). These two sets of girls are chosen by a sacred tree god (or kami) known as Shinju-sama. Given powers by their god, they defend Shikoku from attacks by strange enemies, known as Vertex or Vertices. It’s obvious from the very first episode of each series who our leaders are. In the first series, it’s Yuna (although she’s not the oldest), and in the second series it’s Sumi (although she isn’t formally the leader at the beginning). 

I’m certainly not the anime world’s biggest fan of magical girl anime, although, of course, I have certain favorites amongst classic entries into the genre. I’m a huge fan of Sailor Moon (which was instrumental in my choice to move to Japan), Card Captor Sakura, and Magic Knights Rayearth, but I’ve not been as interested in many of the most recent series. I have been pleased to find that Yuki Yuna Is A Hero has been able to keep my interest for two very significant reasons. The first is the State Shinto symbology, which I have covered previously. The second, however, is the significant differences between Yuna and Sumi (and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m firmly on Team Sumi).

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

Yuna is definitely the more “traditional” of our two magical girl leaders. And by traditional here, I mean by the standards of the magical girl genre and not cultural values (that would actually be Sumi, but we’ll discuss that later). Yuna is earnest but fun-loving. She loves the idea of being a heroine (which is why she joined the Hero’s Club), but doesn’t really seem the best choice to defend the world against extra-dimensional space invaders. Yet like so many magical girls before her, when it matters, she suddenly find her heroism and leads from the front. Her position is cemented by her heart. She definitely stands up well when compared to other famous magical girls like Tsukino Usagi, Kinomoto Sakura, or Shidou Hikaru. 

The Real World History Behind the Architecture and Symbology of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero

Sumi, on the other hand, is a far more traditional in the sense of cultural values character. This isn’t surprising when you consider her devotion to the cultural values of her world. More about that, because it’s really important. What I enjoy about Sumi is that she is a product of her world and her nation-state far more than Yuna is. Yuna would be at home, much like the other magical girls I have mentioned above, in our own world and our own time. Sumi, on the other hand, is a clearly from a State Shinto cultural nation-state, and represents “Nadeshiko” values (or the ideal Japanese girl/woman). Sumi herself represents State Shinto and strives to serve the values of her nation-state as best she can. 

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

And that makes Sumi an interesting choice as a magical girl, and specifically, as a magical girl leader, by the standards of the genre. Why is she an interesting choice? Well, it’s precisely because of her seriousness, her formality, and her devotion to duty even before formally chosen as a magical girl or a leader by Shinju-sama. She is precisely the type of person we would expect should be a trusted heroine. Sumi has her own hang-ups that need to be worked through, she doesn’t need to discover her inner power or “grow a spine.” She’s already dedicated to the mission. She is not a cry-baby, a wide-eyed idealist, or an overly aggressive macho-type. From the very first second we meet her, we get the sense that she is a professional, despite the fact, that yes, she’s only a sixth grader.

I enjoy both of the main characters in Yuki Yuna is a Hero, but because of Sumi’s connection to her world, her nation-state, and her cultural values, I find her more interesting as a character than I find Yuna, but this doesn’t mean I don’t think Yuna is a great magical girl leader, too.

The original Yūki Yūna wa Yūsha de Aru can be watched on Crunchyroll and Washio Sumi no Sho can be seen on Anime Strike

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