Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

The most interesting aspect of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is that we’ve honestly been given a bait and switch. Yuna may be the title character, and by all accounts, she fits most of the magical girl template aspects. However, when taken as a whole, the story isn’t really Yuna’s at all. We’ve been had, and in the best way. The proper title of this series should be: Washio Sumi Is A Hero. Here’s why.

Yuki Yuna Is A Hero Begs The Question: What Does God Need With A Magical Girl?

[This article contains major spoilers for both seasons of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero.]

Yuki Yuna Is A Hero is a magical girl story and it initially presents a very standard magical girl template. Yuna, like many of her magical girl predecessors, is earnest but far from the best at anything. She’s pretty average and mediocre. This, of course, is fairly typical of magical girl titular characters. Part of a magical girl team with special powers, weapons, costumes, and cute mascot characters, we appear to have it all. The girls exist in some version of the Japanese Island of Shikoku which is an independent state, although still recognizably and officially “Japan.” Shikoku is ruled over by the God-Emperor-Tree deity Shinju-sama, and the magical girls defend Shinju-sama and Shikoku (including all who live there) from attacks by Shinju-sama’s enemies, the Vertex or Vertices. Over time we learn things are not so clear-cut as they seem, and the girls are asked to make sacrifices in order to defend their god, their friends and families, and their nation.

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

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

Apparently in order to maximize the mystery around the various secrets and truths of being a hero and of the nature of Shinju-sama and the government organization Taisha, the series is told outside of the actual chronology of events. At first there is no evidence that we’ve entered into a story already in progress, but in truth we have. Yuki Yuna Is A Hero’s first season isn’t actually the beginning of the story. Indeed, it is the middle of the story. This isn’t actually the story of Yuna at all. Yuna isn’t the central character. It is only the title and the perspective to which we are subjected that suggests that she is. All to draw attention away from our actual central character: Washio Sumi/Togo Minori.

The Two Magical Girl Leaders of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero Couldn’t Be More Different in Fighting for the Same World

This character is the actual tie that holds all of the so-far released material in the Yuki Yuna Is A Hero anime adaption together. (While there are other canonical sources in the novels, I’m strictly limiting myself to what is in the anime adaption.) Washio Sumi and Togo Minori are, of course, the same in physical body. In her final battle against the first Vertex incursion, she sacrificed her legs and her memory to stop it.

Whether or not Sumi and Togo are actually the same person is the realm of philosophy of mind, but I typically consider this character more Sumi than Togo. Arguments can, and indeed have, been made about which is the “real” person. Richard Eisenbeis, Managing Editor of AnimeNow! argued in a conversation with me on this topic the the most realistic option may be that we get a hybrid-Sumi/Togo character once memories are recovered. I’m not so sure, having argued elsewhere that I believe that Sumi is repressed under the trauma and Togo isn’t as deep as Eisenbeis believes. We await the end of Season 2 to see if we get an answer.

Examining the Hints Leading Up to Yuki Yuna Is A Hero: Sumi Washio Chapter’s Big Reveal

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

Ultimately, Yuki Yuna being the title character is something of a fake out. When the series is actually watched chronologically (that is according to the timeline and not), what we see is not a story that centers around Yuna’s beginning, conflict, and resolution. Yuna is, in fact, part of Sumi/Togo’s middle. The first arc is the Washio Sumi Chapter. Although only six episodes long, this could reasonably be considered the “first season,” but calling it an “arc” works just as well. We have the introduction of Sumi as a character and her rise to become a magical girl and de facto leader of her Hero team. The cliffhanger ending for the arc is where we learn of her injuries, both mental and physical. We wonder what will happen to her. 

The aired first season of Yuki Yuna Is A Hero becomes the second arc or season of Washio Sumi Is A Hero. Let’s call it Washio Sumi Is A Hero: Togo Minori Chapter, or if we really want to be nice to Yuna, I suppose we could still call it the Yuki Yuna Chapter. In viewing this episode order from the perspective of Sumi/Togo as the main character, we then see that the second season deals with the character’s recovery.

There is strong evidence in my view that even when Togo seems like the person in control, there are elements of Sumi that bleed through. The first is Togo’s initial abhorrence of agreeing to become a magical girl. This makes her seem somewhat cowardly or weak, and she even states so, being unaware (like viewers of the aired episode order) that her reaction is probably a response to the trauma she was subjected to as Sumi. Other examples of Sumi come out, too, although many less important than this one. Eventually Sumi learns to walk again (even when Yuna herself loses this ability).

Image source: 結城友奈は勇者である on Twitter

This argument, of course, rests on what will happen as the resolution to Sumi/Togo’s story. Now that we’ve moved into Yuki Yuna Is A Hero: Hero’s Chapter, and we have seen the return of Sumi’s old teammate (herself in a long process of recovery, both physical and otherwise), it’s time to see if we will receive answers about just how mentally recovered Sumi/Togo becomes. Being firmly Team Sumi and not being a particular fan of the reconstituted personality of Togo, I’m hoping we see something of the Sumi we knew before. While Eisenbeis is likely right there will be an integration of personalities, I’m thinking that the resulting integration will be less Togo and more Sumi. No matter how it plays out, we have a clear beginning, middle, and end across the entire series for one character. That character is not Yuki Yuna.

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

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