Making these rankings has been a pretty long journey for me mentally. I’ve gotten to go back and look at some of my favorite anime of all time and remember why it is that I love all these series. I’ve had series come out of the woodwork and surprise me with how highly I rank them and I’ve had some crazy upsets compared to what I originally thought would happen, yesterday serving as a perfect example. Putting Love Live at #2 was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make and part of me still wonders if it was the right decision to make. However, there is one show that has had the same level of impact, if not even more than Love Live. It is a series that introduced me and got me involved with an entire community, a series that Love Live can partially attribute its influence on my life to, and a series that my life unquestionably would not be the same without today. And that series is…
#1: Yuki Yuna is a Hero
(Spoilers ahead, you have been warned)
The Personal Side
Where to begin with YuYuYu…I guess the most logical place would be a little backstory on my history with the franchise. The first time I watched Yuki Yuna was a little over two years ago on Valentine’s Day of 2015. I had nothing to do that day and I wanted to spend my time doing something, given my best friend was busy with her boyfriend that day. I had heard a ton of recommendations for Yuki Yuna based on my adoration of Madoka (at the time, still my #1 anime) and decided I would check it out. With a break in the middle, I would end up binging all 12 episodes of Yuki Yuna that day and I had immediately found a new favorite anime. I was instantly gripped by the characters and I fell in love with the entire show, personally preferring its “cost of magic” mechanic through the Mankai and Sange to that of Madoka with the soul gems/witches and death playing a prominent part of the show. I quickly fell in love with the series and my love for it would eventually lead to a place that would change my life forever, Reddit.
In June of 2015, the night of my father’s funeral in fact, pittman66 from the /r/anime sub-reddit posted the first ever “Warm Talk” thread (then on a Saturday, now on Wednesdays) and as I had promised him before, I did a long write-up talking about various things I loved about Yuki Yuna. Before I knew it, the write-ups would become a weekly thing and my constant shilling of YuYuYu would become a regular thing around the anime subreddit to the point of even earning myself a user flair given to me by one of the mods. I was extremely flattered at being recognized by the community as the “YuYuYu guy” and the recognition led to other things, like being invited to a Skype chat with other regulars from the subreddit where I would meet people who would become close friends to this day and eventually joining an unofficial Discord where I would meet even more. My shilling of YuYuYu went past just wanting people to watch the show and led to forming close friendships and bonding with people I now consider my best friends over a 12-episode anime. There aren’t enough words to express how much I appreciate the impact YuYuYu has had on my life, but I haven’t talked about the show yet and I plan to now.
The Hero Club
There is so much I could talk about for the show, but let’s start simple with the plot and characters. The story of Yuki Yuna follows a world similar and yet much different to our own. In the world of Yuki Yuna, humankind is overseen by a divine god known as the Shinju-sama, a giant tree who protects humanity from evil entities known as the Vertexes. These Vertexes seek to reach the Shinju-sama and destroy the last remaining protectorate of humanity, for the world would be destroyed if the Vertex were to reach the Shinju-sama. For this purpose, the Shinju-sama recruits Heroes and bestows them with some of its power in order to fight against the Vertexes. With this idea, we meet our main cast: The “Hero Club”, a public service organization at Sanshu Middle School devoted to helping people.
The titular main character, Yuuna Yuuki, is a second-year student at Sanshu Middle School. She is the bright, energetic genki character who always keeps the Hero Club pushing forward. Her bright energetic nature comes to play especially in becoming a Hero as she jumps at the opportunity to help people by defending the Shinju-sama. Her best friend, Mimori Tougou, plays the more cool, level-headed foil to Yuuna’s energy. She acts in a motherly role to the rest of the Hero Club and she serves as second-in-command when the Hero Club is in action. The club’s president, Fuu Inubouzaki, acts as the headstrong leader for the group while Itsuki serves as the shy kouhai. Then, we get to my favorite character…Karin.
Karin is one of my favorite characters of all-time, right up there with Nico, Uzuki, and now Yukiko from Persona 4 (I’ll be talking about this one down the road a bit, stay tuned). She acts as the confident, cocky veteran of the group, coming into the show in Episode 3 and telling the rest of the club “their work is done” and that she will be taking over the fight. Hesitant to interact with the Hero Club at first and indignant about her involvement with the Hero Club, she slowly grows closer to the rest of the club, Yuuna in particular, as they welcome her into the team with open arms and throw her right into the group. Karin’s growth over the course of the series, highlighted especially in Episode 6 and 11, is one of my favorite parts about the progression and development of the show. Speaking of Episode 11…
Favorite Episode: Episode 11, “Passion”
I don’t think there is another episode from this series I could have realistically picked. This episode competes with Love Live Season 2 Episode 11 as my single favorite episode of anime of all-time and for good reason. Karin’s Mankai blitz, going Mankai four different times and losing another one of her limbs/senses in the process, is a scene that is both bad-ass and heartbreaking at the same time and Karin trying to talk to Yuuna afterwards without her senses brings me to tears every time I see it. The entire episode is executed so well and serves as an absolutely perfect resolution to Karin’s character arc and growth throughout the series. I would call the Mankai blitz and subsequent scene my personal favorite scene in anime and I can’t sing my praises for it enough.
Starting with visuals, Yuki Yuna is a Hero is an absolutely gorgeous show. The animation is done by Studio Gokumi, a relatively small studio compared to some of the bigger names in the industry. However, the show produces some absolutely fantastic animation at several points in the series. The backgrounds in the show are absolutely exquisite and gorgeous to look at during the Jukai sequences. The battles feature incredibly crisp animation. The transformation sequences are absolutely gorgeous to look at and are a spectacle for the eye every time. I can’t say enough about how beautiful the animation is and it’s amazing to see in action, especially during the beautifully animated fight sequences.
The music is easily one of my favorite soundtracks of all-time. The music features a wide range of tracks, from the relaxing and calming effect of a more slice-of-life track like Hinagiku to a more fast-paced battle track such as ☆☆☆☆＊＊＊＊. An interesting side note about the OST is that it features twelve tracks with only stars and flowers in their titles, going up to 12 stars and 5 flowers in the titles. These are symbolic to the twelve stars representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac that the Vertex embody and the five flowers representing the five Heroes of the Hero Club. Back on topic, the OST has no shortage of spectacular standout tracks, as well as featuring one of my favorite OPs of all time in Hoshi to Hana and one of my favorite EDs in Aurora Days. The entire soundtrack is just fantastic and really deserves a full listen if you haven’t already.
It’s been a long road counting down my Top 15 anime. We’ve gotten to go through a lot of fantastic anime and I’ve gotten to re-live a lot of memories. Yuki Yuna is a Hero is a franchise that has truly completely impacted my life as a whole. If not for YuYuYu, the Taku of today might never have existed. I might never have gotten involved in Reddit or Discord and met any of the wonderful people I’ve come to know through there today. I’m truly grateful for the life-changing impact the Hero Club has had on me and it stands as my favorite franchise of all time for good reason. Now, as we move into the future, I anticipate the release of the third Washio Sumi movie and the coming season with much excitement and anticipation. Through the anime, the two years of waiting for a new anime announcement, various Light Novel announcements, becoming a mod on /r/YuYuYu, and even meeting Tougou’s English voice actor, I’ve been a steadfast member of the Hero Club.
After-note: Happy birthday to me, I suppose! Thanks to everyone who stuck around for each part of the list, it was a ton of fun getting to go back and re-assess my anime and how much I love them and why I love them so much. The list was a ton of fun to do and I hope everyone enjoyed the countdown as much as I did. Stay tuned, because we’ve got a lot more content coming real soon, with First Reactions to Spring season just around the corner and a very special write-up on my new favorite game of all time coming soon!