Yuki Yuna is Empowering (Or Is It…?) [Oct. ’19 OWLS Blog Tour]

Did you know the prompt was entirely different when I pitched it to Lyn?

Hey all! For those who aren’t familiar with me already, I’m Aria of this here Animanga Spellbook and OWLS is the group known as the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, who promote acceptance, regardless of sexuality, disability, religion or race.

Let me start this post off with some fun facts. Consider it a “recap episode” in the narrative of OWLS:

  • Fun fact 1: I pitched two prompts to Lyn in June. The first was “technology” (it’s not much of a secret I was trying to challenge Irina to write something non-Natsume that month), the second – this one – was a lot less certain in how it would be realised.
  • Fun fact 2: This prompt was originally “trip” (interpreted in its various ways), but it was completely invalidated by the “journey” prompt that had been done before I was part of OWLS.

In honour of the prompt I originally had in mind and the prompt we have for this month, let’s look at Yuki Yuna.

In the month of October, we will be exploring the world of fantasy in pop culture. The genre of fantasy focuses on telling stories about our external and internal environments. There are many ways we can interpret the word fantasy. For example, we can talk about how a fantastical place could glorify what reality should be or the dangers of ideal expectations. Fantasy could also be seen as taking a “wild journey” or a “hallucination” and how that can affect our psyche and well-being. Fantasy can also focus on our personal dreams and expectations and how those expectations do not align with our reality. Overall, our posts will reflect on how we view the fantasy genre and what we can learn about these pop culture mediums.

Fantastical shenanigans are to be had in the magical world of Yuki Yuna is a Hero, indeed. (IMage source: Yuki Yuna ep. 1)

Well, I guess I should start with the obvious – it’s a magical girl show, so the groundwork for fantastical shenanigans is there, plus the world in which Yuki Yuna and the Hero Club have their magical girl powers is pretty darned fantastic, for lack of another word. (Just take a look at the featured image! Rainbow auroras like that are definitely part of a fantasy world!) However, it’s arguable as to whether it’s empowering for the viewer through vicariously learning what it’s like to have magic/superpowers and its upsides and downsides…it could even be interpreted as escapism from being an ordinary person doing ordinary things, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on the framing. Heck, magic/powers could even be a metaphor for responsibility (oh, shock horror!). I’d drop the appropriate Spiderman quote here, but because that seems like the obvious thing to do, I won’t.

When I said “escapism”, this is not what I meant… (Image edited from the 1st iteration of Shinchou Yuusha‘s Today’s Seiya, which is in turn from that anime’s ep. 1)

For magical girls in a post-Madoka Magica world, this “empowerment” thing I’m going on about gets even more muddied – should “responsibility” in those cases be interpreted as “I’m cursed to suffer forever”, on top of a duty to save the world (which eventually comes to an end anyway when the show comes to an end)?

Sidebar: Since I watched both Madoka and Yuki Yuna years after they’d aired, I find it interesting this post calls Yuki Yuna a Madoka clone (although thinking about the timeline of things, the accusation kind of makes sense). This post I linked here also happened to be my main inspiration for the above paragraph.

The specifics of that suffering in Yuki Yuna‘s case are that as the girls of the Hero Club get stronger due to the use of the Mankai form, they grow weaker in their human forms. This, I think, is an interesting parallel that could be brought to the entirety of fantasy in general, but particularly urban fantasy narratives such as the typical magical girl ones – it’s like the yin and yang of the “normal”, or what we know to be real, and the “abnormal”, or what we don’t. “Equivalent exchange” and all that business.

The reason why the Hero Club grow weaker after the use of Mankai is because it disables the use of a certain sense or similar function afterwards. (Hence how it’s connected to both the “trip” concept and the “fantasy” prompt.) Itsuki, having lost her voice after activating Mankai, is the hardest hit after succeeding in a singing test and deciding that her aspiration is to become a singer. To me, this shows that she shouldn’t have picked something she was only proven to be good at in one period of time – call me “cautious”, but aspirations should be align with what you’re (consistently) good at and what you enjoy, if not 100% then as much as possible. Or maybe that’s just how it ended up in my case and it made me disillusioned because I actually wasn’t good at it…


I got pretty stuck on how to write this post until I realised all the reading I’d done on empowerment in the past few weeks could be the fix I needed. It was…kind of…

For more OWLS content, see Flow’s post from the 21st or Zel’s from the 23rd (that is, it hasn’t happened yet but it should be up soon).

So, is Yuki Yuna empowering to people or does it undermine itself through sitting in the shadow of Madoka Magica?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Yuki Yuna is Empowering (Or Is It…?) [Oct. ’19 OWLS Blog Tour]

Add yours

  1. Hello,

    You have posted a nice and informative article named “7 thoughts on “Yuki Yuna is Empowering”, I learn a lot from your post. Go ahead, keep up the good work.

    Regards

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  2. …welp, that’s what I get for leaving my post to be written right up before the deadline.

    I did say I was reading about empowerment a lot, so within what I was reading it generally meant it gives people the motivation to fight for their rights and take on responsibilities (in this case, responsibility is specifically “adult responsibilities” such as getting a job). Using this definition, you could say that Yuna herself is probably the most empowered at the start but then loses it

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  3. “I find it interesting this post calls Yuki Yuna a Madoka clone”

    Though many people do, that post actually doesn’t. It calls it “very similar”, which has (IMO) rather different connotations than “clone”.

    I kinda reviewed YuYuYu in anticipation of the prequel/sequel, and addressed the differences that many miss – https://apprenticemages.com/2016/12/22/yuki-yuna-a-heros-tale-looking-back-looking-forward/

    Someday I do need to go back and look at the difference in the motivations between the Incubators, and the Taisha…

    “So, is Yuki Yuna empowering to people or does it undermine itself through sitting in the shadow of Madoka Magica?”

    No offense, but you never really tell us what you mean by empowerment, so we lack the common ground needed to answer that question.

    I will say that YuYuYu doesn’t undermine itself, the critics and commentators undermine it. They’re two very different shows with different thematic and narrative structures – yet folks keep trying to force one into the mold of the other.
    That is, they compare (often with the assumption that the progenitor is automagically superior, as implied by “clone”), and almost always fail to contrast. When they do contrast, because of that assumption, they fail to follow through the implications of the differences.

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