I give 2014's newest magical girl anime...a 83/100!
Ever since Madoka Magica's popularity skyrocketed, many people have tried to emulate it and imitate it's success. Some have succeeded whereas others failed, Daybreak Illusion being one such failure. It focused too much on shock value and being dark without properly developing its characters and giving us reasons to care about them. The most important thing in making a form of media is making it stand out from the rest. If it's too much like another work, people won't be interested in it. A form of media needs to stand on its own two feet and give us something other forms of media haven't Thankfully, Yuuki Yuuna Is A Hero isn't yet another Madoka Magica rip-off, and succeeded where Daybreak Illusion failed. It even did some things better than Madoka!
The story is about four girls, soon to be five, who form a club at school called the Hero Club (why they don't call it the Magical Girl Club since it's about magical girls is beyond me) who go around doing good things for people, such as putting on puppet shows for kids, giving abandoned pets permanent homes, and just doing community service for their town. Every day, they pray to a divine tree that protects them. But one day, out of the blue, they're forced into another world, fighting monsters called Vertexes that threaten the peace of the world. They become magical girls to protect their precious world because it's the right thing to do. But...there are many secrets about the Vertexes and the concept of Heroes, and what happens when they find out the truth?
The animation has a bright, soft color palette during the slice-of-life scenes, but the battle scenes are bombastic, epic, and extremely colorful, going from light to dark in a matter of seconds depending on the situation, complete with flashy lights, fiery punches, and explosions. The character designs are relatively decent, and the transformation scenes are very well animated...though I'd prefer it if they didn't close in so much on Togo's chest and sexualize the girls so much. But for the most part, there's pretty much no ecchiness at all, even though it's a magical girl anime aimed at adults, so for the most part, it's okay. The soundtrack isn't really anything special, and some of the battle tracks with vocals sound too much like bad imitations of Madoka Magica's soundtrack. But I do love the opening and ending themes. They're soft, well sung, and know when to be subtle and when to hit hard.
The characters are a bit hard to talk about. They're all amalgamations of typical magical girl cliches at first glance: the cheerful pink girl, the smart and reliable older girl, the polite blue girl, the shy cutie, and the arrogant snob. I do admit they're a bit bland and could have used more development and fleshing out, but for the most part they're relatively decent, and do have their fair shares of hobbies and interests, so they're not entirely bland. I think a few more filler episodes dedicated to them just having fun and doing what they like could have benefitted the show a lot. But they do have a decent amount of character and personality, so we have more reasons to care about them. My favorite out of all of them is Itsuki. She's the most well developed out of all of them. She wants to be strong, has a dream she wants to fulfill, is trying to overcome her flaws in whatever ways possible, and loves her friends dearly, and she isn't the cute pure girl who doesn't know anything about the situation either, no matter how much her sister tries to hide it from her. She wants to throw herself into danger, be brave, and help her friends. To me, that's a character worth respecting.
Unfortunately, there is one character I seriously cannot stand: Karin. God, I can't stand her! She's a typical tsundere, she's arrogant and has a superiority complex, acts like she's better than everyone else because she's supposedly an artificial human, her annoying voice makes my ears bleed, and she does nothing throughout the entire show until too late in the series. Really, you could cut her out of the show entirely and nothing would be lost! Plus, she claims she's an artificial human, but we see absolutely no evidence of this. She could easily pass for a normal human with the way she acts. Worst of all, the characters actually approve of her bad attitude and don't make a big deal out of it. I'm seeing this a LOT in most anime, and it's bugging me. I know it's probably shoehorning in the moral "Be nice to someone in the hopes that they'll reciprocate, see the errors of their ways, and change for the better," but wouldn't it be more believable if SOMEBODY got angry at her or called her out for being such an annoying, whiny little brat?
But this isn't the only flaw the show has. Since the series is only 12 episodes long, there isn't time to really develop the characters and explain some very crucial plot related issues. There's also the ending. I won't give anything away, but I feel it's just too happy and convenient for it's own good, and with some things not being permanent raises a lot of unfortunate implications. But I won't let those kill my enjoyment of the show. It has its problems, some minor some major, but I really enjoyed it for what it was, and it's very inspiring. I also praise it for managing to keep a good balance of both lightheartedness and seriousness without going overboard with both, complete with subtle hints and a general sense of unease throughout the series, keeping us on our toes. Daybreak Illusion tried too hard to be grimdark, and it failed in its presentation with its bland characters and no usage of basic characterization and storytelling techniques to make itself better. Yuuki Yuuna knows what it wants, but knows it has to make us care about the characters and restrain itself in getting there in order to be effective, and for the most part, it did very well.
It's not the best magical girl show out there, but I found it enjoyable. Feel free to check it out if you have the chance.