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