Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

With the end of the first half of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero: Sumi Washio Chapter, we now know exactly how the first group of heroes (heroines, really) connects to the second group.

[This article contains MAJOR spoilers for the entire Yuki Yuna Is A Hero anime franchise released so far.  Read with caution.]

The Yuki Yuna Is A Hero franchise started with a story in progress in the Year of the Gods 300. When exactly this is relative to our own timeline is an important question, but not of immediate concern. On the island of Shikoku, there is an independent Japanese theocratic state under the God-Tree, Shinju-sama. How much of Japan this state controls isn’t precisely clear, but it is clear that Shikoku is Japanese, identified as Japanese, is a successor state of a Japan we would recognize, and obeys State Shinto ideology with Shinju-sama acting as God-Emperor. Shinju chooses young girls to act as “heroes” and fight its enemies to protect Shikoku, Japan, and potentially the entire world from invaders called the “Vertex” or “Vertices.” 

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Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

The first part of the series (from our vantage point as viewers) centers around the formation of a “heroes club” at Sanshu Junior High School. The club is started by Inabouzaki Fu and she recruits students who she says she believes want to make a difference in their community. The club eventually consists of the cheerful and bubbly Yuki Yuna, the intelligent and demure Togo Mimori who is paralyzed from the waist down, and Fu’s own younger sister, Inabouzaki Itsuki. Although they claim to essentially be super heroes, truthfully they’re precisely what you’d expect of middle school do-gooders: they rescue cats from trees, walk old ladies across the street, clean up parks, etc. This all changes when Fu reveals they were actually recruited to be magical girls, and the club was a front. She takes orders from a shadowy government agency called “Taisha” that represents the national defense of Shikoku, Japan, and Shinju-sama from the forces of the Vertex. Later the group is joined by another hero, Miyoshi Karin.

While Itsuki and Yuna embrace their destiny as magical girls, and the focus is largely on Yuna as a the typical magical girl protagonist (sloppy and inattentive, yet full of caring and passion), Togo (who prefers to be called Togo, not Mimori) is incredibly upset at the deception. More to the point, Togo isn’t even sure she wants to be a hero. While she doesn’t know why it upsets her so much, and why she is so terrified of joining Yuna, Itsuki, and Fu, something deep inside her warns her that there will be consequences. While she does finally decide to transform, she suffers through momentary flashbacks she doesn’t understand. Moreover, she finds that she has extreme natural ability and she seems to already understand how the fight the forces of the Vertex… But no one really seems to notice how out of place this natural ability is. 

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

The reason that Togo is able to so quickly take control of her abilities is because unlike Yuna and Itsuki (or even Fu, who, despite being the president of the Heroes Club and Taisha’s recruiting agent, is still a beginner), she isn’t new to this. While she no longer has her memories (just as she no longer has the use of her legs), Togo Mimori is actually Washio Sumi. Well, at least, she used to be.

In battles that first cost the team Minowa Gin, and then (we are led to believe) cost Nogi Sonoka her life (oh, yeah, did I mention SONOCHII IS ALIVE!), Sumi lost the use of her legs and then her memories. The person who comes out the other side is told she is Togo Mimori and returned to another (her original?) family instead of being returned to the Washio family.

Undeniably the first hint we have that Sumi and Togo are the same person is simply that they look identical (well, obviously, Togo looks a couple of years older). It’s true that this could be a hint that they are related but not the same person, but there are other hints as well. Sonoka’s hair ribbon is the same ribbon as Togo wears in her hair (but doesn’t remember why, only that it is very important). We finally see Sonoka give this ribbon to Sumi, confirming the hint. Another hint is that Togo and Sumi share one familiar/spirit (a cracked egg). Moreover, in the first part of the series, Togo has three familiars. This makes sense as Sumi used the Mankai two times in her time as a magical girl.

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

Memories are interesting aspects of personal identity. We are who we are in part because of the experiences we have had. Take these experiences away from us, are we the same person? I said early that Togo is Sumi, but that’s only true in some ways. In many ways, the character I’ve come to love the most in the franchise, Sumi, is wholly antithetical to Togo. Togo is kind and quiet, but she doesn’t hold the same connection to national tradition, the same interest in history, or the same religious devotion. Whereas Sumi was the real and natural leader of the first group of heroes (even if Sonoka held the title officially), Togo is definitely a sidekick character. Sumi has lost more than her memories and her legs, she has lost her fundamental identity. In this way, Togo and Sumi are not the same person, and I mourn the loss of Sumi just as I mourned the losses of Gin and Sonochii. For if the person who returns to us has lost all that they were, is that person still alive? Togo Mimori may live, but does Washio Sumi? 

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Yet there is hope that Sumi is not lost to us. The final series of hints is subtle, but it shows that Sumi might return to us. After all, at the end of the first season of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero, the girls start regaining what they’ve lost. It’s surprising that Togo’s ability to walk before her memories as Sumi return, but even though Togo’s personality doesn’t seem to be similar to Sumi’s, somewhere deep inside Sumi’s personality must exist. Every so often, Togo does something very out of character for her but completely in character for Sumi. Examples include the fact Togo likes ultranationalistic march songs (the type Sumi loved to perform in general, and as the children’s power ranger type character, National Defense Mask), she shares udon with the Heroes Club (just as she used to do with Gin and Sonoka), and she sometimes shares the same gestures or wacky ideas (her fixation on alpha waves, as an example) as Sumi did. 

I’m firmly Team Sumi, and I want to believe that we will see Sumi as she was (perhaps with the best aspects of Togo integrated as well) once more. WAAAAAASHIIII! YAY, YAY! LET’S ENJOY as Sonochii would say. 

The original Yuki Yuna Is A Hero can be watched on Crunchyroll and the Sumi Washio Chapter can be seen on Anime Strike

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