Let me preface this article by saying that there will be spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the show in question, watch it before reading this. That being said…
About a month or two ago, I went to Twitter for an anime to watch, where someone suggested a show called “Yuki Yuna Is A Hero”. It’s similar to “Madoka Magica” in that it deals not just with the magical girls–or “heroes” as they’re called in this series–fighting whatever evil comes their way, but also the consequences of taking on such a responsibility. The main difference, however, is the explanation of the hero’s role.
In “Madoka Magica”, girls gain their powers by making a “contract” with Kyubey through a wish. Their souls are then transferred into a “Soul Gem” which helps the body absorb more pain than the average person, as well as boost endurance. As magical girls, their job is to fight Witches, which are the cause of, essentially, all negativity in the world. OnceÂ a girl’sÂ Soul Gem becomes completely black, theyÂ turn into Witches themselves.
On the other hand, Heroes in “Yuki Yuna” are chosen to fight being called Vertexes. Part of a hero’s power is a form called “Mankai”, which enhances whatever abilities they have. The price for using Mankai is losing a bodily function or one’s memories–and I’ll go through each character’s loss later. And just when they think the Vertexes are destroyed, they come back. That means they’ll eventually have to use Mankai again and lose another part of them. This cycle continues until they lose everything. And because becoming a hero means they become immortal, they have to suffer for eternity, all the while being worshipped as gods.
So who loses what? Our main protagonist, Yuki, loses her sense of taste. Togo–who is a paraplegic at the beginning of the series–goes deaf in one ear. FuÂ goes blind in her left eye, while her sister, Itsuki, loses her voice (just after she develops an interest in singing). Finally, Karin uses Mankai four times and loses an arm, a leg, her hearing, and her sight.Â All of this would be tragic–even more so than in “Madoka”–if it weren’t for the ending. The final episode has the girls sacrifice everything to wipe out the Vertexes for good, and when they do, they end up completely healed. Togo even gets her legs back. Granted, it takes Yuki longer because she’s in a vegetative state for a few scenes, but she gets better.
This is where the issue lies. Having the characters lose something as important as, say, their vision or hearing, only to give it back a few episodes isn’t that tragic. There’s a saying I heard some time ago: “Heal the wound, but leave the scar.” There has to be something to remind your characters of what they went through, be it physical or emotional. For someone like Homura (“Madoka Magica”), it makes sense for her “scars” to be mental, since she spent most of the series trying to protect Madoka, only for Madoka to sacrifice her existence to save the world. ImagineÂ your best friend totally erasing herself from history, and you being the only one to remember her.
Now some of you may be thinking, “What about something like ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’? Didn’t the Elric brothers get better in the end?” And that’s a good point. Except while Alphonse got his body back, Edward had to sacrifice something. He got his arm back, but he kept his automail leg and gave up his ability to perform alchemy. And even then, it didn’t bring Maes Hughes back. It didn’tÂ restore Mustang’s vision (although I could be wrong on that). Not to mention Hoenheim died shortly after.
Call me sick, but I wouldn’t have minded if Yuki and her friends had to live with some kind of injury. Have Fu get part of her vision back but become nearsighted and need glasses or contacts. Have Itsuki be able to speak but not sing. Have Togo get her legs back but go completely deaf. Have Karin lose an arm. And have Yuki get her taste back but lose her legs in the process. That would’ve been tragic, and it wouldn’t seem like the characters were going back to square one. If they would’ve gone this route or a similar one, it would probably be better than “Madoka”. But at the end of the day, aside from Togo being able to walk, nothing was different from the first few episodes. No one really learns anything other than “friendship conquers all” or something like that. Does this mean that it’s a bad show? Absolutely not. Far from it, in fact. But for a show that tried to be tragic, there should’ve been a few scars to show for it.