This review has a lot of huge spoilers, DO NOT read it if you have not seen the show and intend to.
The Five Tenets of YuYuYu
Tenet 1 : Give people a good start and well developed drama to hook them.
Tenet 2 : Try not to give up, but if you do don’t worry there’s a deus ex machina waiting to fix it.
Tenet 3 : Sleep well, eat well, ignore literal hell – which is about 30 feet out to sea and surrounding the entirety of what is left of mankind but isn’t your problem anymore.
Tenet 4 : If you’re troubled, talk to someone, especially if that someone is your comatose friend because crying is known to have healing powers.
Tenet 5 : You’re likely to succeed if you try and are extremely selfish, just don’t try for anything that would actually help anyone but yourself and your immediate group of friends.
This show was going to be my AOTY of 2014, but the final episode didn’t deliver what would have made an already amazingly good series with lots of unexpected and unique events into something incredible. Instead, they have a character who since the beginning – no, since 2 years before the show even starts – is built up so realistically and believably all for what happens in the final few episodes. Instead, in those final few episodes they throw that all away in about 45 seconds and turn her from what she should be into a whimpering little girl fighting against everything she was just working so hard to do. The thing that changed her mind was a very bland and anti-climactic extremely-short “battle” if you can call it that and a girl saying “You’re wrong!” a few times to her.
Yet from the very first episode to the very last YuYuYu is a series that will no doubt hook you in and keep you excitedly dangling on the line. There are a lot of twists and turns you won’t see coming, a huge amount of speculation to be had each and every episode, and very well crafted yet seemingly archetypical characters (with one exception, who is the total opposite of what you’d expect). The show overall really benefits from being honest with the viewer about what it is, which helps maintain great pacing and believable developments as you progress in it rather than simply providing a ‘shock’ as an ‘unexpected twist’. You have a really good smooth flowing story that evolves from a mostly fun series to one that ultimately ends up killing all of humanity out over the next probably 50 years or so max, yet none of it feels forced or pandery aside the massive disappointment that is the conclusionless conclusion.
The OST is pretty good though sadly one of the weaker parts of the show with most of it being very well used within the show, yet suffering without the context of the series playing along with it. Most tracks are great for their purpose but in an overall sense aren’t worth getting the OST for, though some of the tracks sound like direct attempts at mimicking the singing and style of Akiko Shikata tracks (and one unrelated to that which sounded like it was from the OST for Nier) – those were actually pretty damn good. The OP and ED are nice, but nothing special – I found myself always watching the opening but usually skipping the rather lackluster ending.
YuYuYu is a great looking series with some fantastic animation at times and pretty good consistency throughout – even at longer distances where characters in plenty of shows tend to have deformed faces. One thing worth noting is the very well handled use of modern CG ‘dolls’ that shows lately are throwing in to cut costs and also maintain somewhat fluid animation. Now, if you’ve seen Love Live, KanColle, or a lot of others, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Hell, almost the entirety of Love Live is done with them and it is FUCKING TERRIBLE to look at. Even within the same scene you’ll have constant switches back and forth between the actual art and a creepy poorly done 3D render of the character, then back again. Most shows AVOID ever using this for shots you can really notice it or, like in baby steps, only does it for non-characters in the background of a scene where you shouldn’t even be looking. Love Live and several other recent shows straight up use it constantly and it looks hilarious, creepy, and plain fucking awful but they don’t care because otaku eat this shit up anyway and it costs them a penny to animate. However, YuYuYu has managed to use them very lightly and only during certain parts of battles that for most people they won’t even notice.
The one big complaint about the art is that there’s an animation error during an episode that heavily impacted the story. A character, an ex-hero, is shown to be missing both her legs and an arm. However, some episodes later (before the ending though), she’s shown with all her limbs and it’s not brought up. This isn’t because she was magically fixed, it’s because apparently someone on the staff took “Shinju-sama took her legs and arm” a little too literally. It’s not as relevant to that scene as it is the ending though, which many hadn’t noticed her legs and arm were back in that earlier episode, so it seemed as if she was literally given back her entire body which is not the case.
Aside that, it always looked pretty good and fluid. Action was pretty well done during the fights and the effect of the souls bursting into colorful lights was pretty.
Character wise, the main girls are all pretty good with the exception of Karin who is just yet-another-Azusa-clone with absolutely nothing positive to say about her. Even within the canon she’s the most useless, the least helpful, and yet still the bitchiest. Her character design is uninspired, the personality slapped on has been done for that same design at least a hundred times by now, and she added nothing positive to the show aside when Fu tried to seriously fucking murder her.
Speaking of Fu, she was great and definitely took the spotlight for much of the show. Her looks were a little too girly for me, but once she became Big Boss I didn’t mind as much. Being the leader of the club, and responsible for the girls (and for forcing them to be heroes), she has a lot of importance in both the overall story and the development of the cast. She was always interesting to watch because she was usually the seemingly most mature of the group and also would figure things out quickly. Once she tried to go destroy the Taisha was when I really realized how much I liked her though, mostly because she was even willing to outright kill her friends in order to accomplish her goal. She’s straightforward and doesn’t dick around – putting what’s best for everyone ahead of what’s best for herself, well, until the ending because “muh sister” somehow changes her entire personality into someone unwilling to do what needs to be done. Pretty similar to Tougo in that regard, actually.
Yuki Yuna, the titular character, I don’t have much to say about. She’s fine, but just fine. She’s pretty cute and I do like her, but she was probably the weakest of the cast aside Karin. Not physically, in terms of combat she’s very strong and apparently her pinky, even when not transformed, can destroy a flaming mini-sun just by being relatively close to it. As a character though she doesn’t really ADD much to the show, and I feel like at least some of that is on purpose as she’s meant to be more like our view into the story rather than the leader of it as well as a catalyst for some things. She serves THAT purpose very well being heavily involved (directly or indirectly) in much of the story. She also is the main reason the ending blows ass. Her voice is super cute though.
Fu’s little sister Itsuki I didn’t feel much about either, aside that she’s pretty cute (not nearly as much as her sister though) and a sweet girl. Her story was one of the saddest during the middle portion of the show, and her recovery was the one I was most happy to see as well. However, I don’t appreciate how she turns Fu into a worthless turd during the last two episodes.
The best character though, without really any question, is Mimori “fast wheels” Tougo. She originally looks like she’s the mature, quiet, to-herself, and a bit of an ojou-sama type. Instead she’s hilarious, quirky as all hell, and has an odd obsession with Japanese politics and history. Hell, she even makes sure when she’s going to literally commit seppuku (which, according to firefox, should be autocorrected to Giuseppe) to do it in proper garb, with a proper blade stored and subsequently wielded in proper fashion, all in an accurate way to how it would be done prior to the inclusion of a helper to cut your head off. Dark shit aside, I really loved her random jokes – even after you get to know what type of person she is so many of the things she does or says just come out of nowhere and are made all the more funny or irresistibly cute by the fact she doesn’t look like the type to be doing/saying them. She also has enormous titties and a very jiggly ass (they have it essentially in your face a few times when she fires her rifle, and it’s not shy).
On top of that, she was by far the most interesting character and most fun to try and figure out. You get hints early on that she’s done this before – her legs obviously a key point as well as the fact she’s so skilled in combat and has more than one little monster thing. Yet we could never be sure about anything, and this lead to some really great discussions and trying to figure things out.
Back to the serious shit though, I never expected the amount of development she had and especially not in the ways she had it. She is without a doubt the true main character of this series (which I found to be pretty cool, given the show is literally named after another one and she seems to be not as important early on), and also happens to be the character I was referring to in the first paragraph. The natural progression of her character – starting 2 years prior to the show and within the show – is phenomenal and portrays a character in this type of situation far more realistically than you’d find in much else. Her descent into depression, accepting the true situation of everything, and remembering what she had been through before lead her to constant attempts at suicide (which admittedly were a fun thing to joke about, just imagining her in a cute chibi form trying various methods to die), an incredibly powerful fear of losing everyone she loves again or them suffering more both like the last time she went through this, and one last thing.
Tougo is one of the only anime characters to react to something so in-line with how the (not-retarded) viewer is likely to. When she learns the truth she wastes no time in trying to destroy whats left of humanity because they’ve lost. They can’t win. Multiple Gods with an infinite amount of awful monster things that have already turned the universe into nothing but very literal hell vs one small island of Japan and a shitty God who turned himself into a tree who don’t even have anywhere to escape to or fight the monsters back to regain as it’s all been literally destroyed.
Well, she chooses to let what tiny bit is left of the world suffer for a little while longer until an inevitable death rather than making it so people can at least die at peace and that their group is the last who have to go through the things they did as well keep others from having to know what was really out there.
Regardless of all the bad the end managed to do to the show, it’s still a fantastic series that I’m glad I watched. This isn’t a case where I’d say the ending is enough to ruin the show, but it definitely was enough to make it go from an unforgettable masterpiece to just ‘very good’ and an 8 instead of a 10. It’s also something I have to really question if I’d ever recommend to someone, because I’m not really sure that it’s worth the small time and emotional investment when the end retcons the entire story. Yuuki Yuuna could have been something very special, it even developed in such a direction that it was so clearly going to be that, but then it all went out the window suddenly at the end with no logic or reasoning behind it.
The entire build up the whole show was clearly leading to Tougo destroying everything, it always had and even a fucking official big whole side project purely of backstory about even more details of WHY she’d want to do that is in the works right now. EVERYTHING was showing that was where it was going, then its like they had to quickly change their minds for some reason. With everything else in the show so well thought out and SO MUCH foreshadowing about how things were going to end, it’s a bit strange that out of nowhere everything turned around in under the first 60 seconds of the final episode due to nothing but a light punch and some crying. Even the character’s stories were concluded in a really awkward ‘we need an ending’ rushed feeling to it. The only explanations I can think of are either that the writer made a rookie mistake (he’s never written directly for an anime series) of writing too grand of a story to fit within the episode length he’s allowed, or otherwise (and I hope this isn’t it) an executive noticed the sales and forced them to make the ending open-ended instead of having Tougo do what she needed to do.
The end of the show is abysmal, not just disappointing, and goes against everything from basic logic to morals. It literally just has the girls being so incredibly selfish that they are willing to subject humanity – and a different group of girls from themselves – to the suffering they had to go through and a slow, torturous demise. Think about Tougo’s past, that’s what these groups USUALLY go through and that group was incapable of defeating a single Vertex while going Mankai near constantly to the point that one girl is missing and likely just dead, one had her entire past erased and her legs destroyed, and one lost like 90% of her body and innards. On top of that the universe is fucking eaten away and there is nothing left of Earth or human life aside a tiny Japanese island. They are forcing more people to suffer simply based on the logic that, as they say themselves, “I want to spend more time with my friends! :)”. I’m sure you do, but so does the next group of girls who has to take your place and slowly lose their bodies and minds. This is realistic in the worst way at the worst time, having the only person NOT being selfish be drawn over to the side of thinking only of your own future rather than the bigger picture. Yuuki Yuuna and her friends were the ones who were no longer sane, Tougo was the only one thinking clearly and yet she ends up taking the selfish route.
The ending is a false happy ending. It expects you to just forget absolutely everything that has happened and everything the cast has gone through. Hell, it even has the gall to have the girls PRAISING SHINJU AND HIS METHODS and HOPING HE CONTINUES TO USE THEM AS IS so that THEY can live happily ever after at the expense of someone else giving up their everything to do this in their stead. They get what they want, everyone else gets fucked. On top of praising Shinju, they apparently forgot the entire show’s events, given they stare out at the ‘pretty’ ocean and they don’t seem to remember HELL is there and the ocean is fucking fake, because fuck if that’s their problem anymore. The worst part is, I see people claiming this was a great ending. Yes, praise shinju for the PTSD, the attempted suicides, and the torturous offerings he forced upon you and will do to others while having absolutely no conclusion or change to anything at all whatsoever. I totally see the ‘happy’ part in that, let alone the ‘great’…
Now I’m not saying I need some edgy ending – I just need a believable ending and one that ACTUALLY CLOSES THE STORY. The universe is still fucked, humanity is still fucked, 5 more little girls are still going to be forced to suffer and – given Yuuki Yuuna is the first to magically ‘win’ for awhile – the new group will likely lose and stay as girls with no legs, arms, of half their brains and organs missing, and of course humanity itself will die out within probably 50 to 100 years because most ‘heroes’ (as shown by Togo’s past AND the fact that 99% of the Earth was already beaten) are not capable at all (Togo’s group never defeated a single vertex).
I don’t mind the “happy” ending, but I do mind absolutely none of the overlying plot being concluded on any level whatsoever. There is no change TO ANYTHING by the end of the show – it’s like the story just got reset and turned into a slice of life with nobody in a wheelchair and no worries to be had. The offering system wasn’t changed, the fate of mankind wasn’t changed, absolutely nothing changed. If anything, the ending actually makes the girls look like horrible pieces of shit.
How did Yuna end up comatose while everyone else was healed? I mean she did the VERY LEAST in the final arc of the show’s battles, yet from doing practically nothing she was put in the worst state possible. Not that it matters GIVEN SHE’S MAGICALLY CURED TOO.
There was a lot of foreshadowing that some of the girls would die, this is most true for Fu who has a literal angel’s halo over her head at one point and even has a beam of light and sparkles down onto her in another, not to mention the death cards her sister draws for her multiple times. Yet nothing happens to her, or anyone really. It’s not just her though, all the foreshadowing in the show and actual development of characters and the overall plot all is null except for ONE thing – something they bring up I believe every episode at least once: the school culture fest and the play they want to put on during it. And that is literally the only thing that has payoff and is literally the ending of the show, their stupid fucking play.
The final fight itself was also pure shit. They punch a mini-sun a bunch and it magically stops, then Yuuki Yuuna who isn’t even transformed anymore destroys the soul by having her pinky next to it – which makes no sense given we’ve seen these things take a massive beating.
Also, what the fuck happened to the hero from Tougo’s past? Yes, she’s healed in the ending, but she had made it entirely clear that she wanted Tougo to end everything and that she would support her in this effort…yet during all of the shit going down we don’t see her or her little spirit things at all – as if they just forgot, which make me think this was also one of those things he intended on putting in the story yet had to toss at the last minute.
This is a show about incredibly selfish girls fighting for humanity to suffer in order for themselves to more fully enjoy living, and one girl who puts her friends lower than humanity and gets punished for it before being turned to their side in a matter of seconds. Not to mention the deus ex machina that completely fixes/cures them all entirely with absolutely no draw back that only appears in the last few minutes of the series. Fuck the ending of this show.
While earlier on I said the show is still worth watching, it also brings me to a question I have for a lot of fiction with endings like this where nothing progresses, changes, or has no worth at all: what the fuck was the point of telling this story? At this point, why not just make them bicker at each other in class or have Tougo be bullied for being a cripple to create the drama and show the point about trying and not giving up making you succeed? Why bring in literal gods destroying the universe and killing off all of humanity but one tiny island if you have no intention of ever doing anything about that? You can’t introduce that stuff and DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WITH IT by the ending, or at least you fucking shouldn’t. Using it to make an overall bland and uninspired story about friendship and never giving up is fine, as long as you actually go somewhere with all of it and don’t just say “eh, whatever” at the end.
It was nice to see a well done darker mahou shoujo, as we’ve had a drought of them for awhile with the recent attempts being total failures or being pandering blunders just relying on the ignorance of viewers and complete unoriginality (i.e., people who think Madoka did something unique, original, or even ‘deconstructed’ anything simply because they aren’t aware dark/heavy mahou shoujo have been around since the 90s and Madoka directly plagiarized almost the entire story, characters, and events from prior titles verbatim). I just wish it was something more rewarding in the end and something I could wholeheartedly recommend to watch. Instead it’s just a pretty good show that handled a lot of things very well for the most part, yet won’t be something I remember even existing in a few months and if it happens to come up will be accompanied by a strong bitterness.