The final episode of Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter is straight-up titled “The Final Episode”, so I’m going to hold it to that. No more spin-offs, prequels, or follow-ups of any kind—it’s honestly already impressive enough that they managed to crowbar in a whole third season’s worth of content around the back half of the second season here. And to its credit, this finale seems to understand that, feeling not just like an ending for The Great Mankai Chapter, but for Yuki Yuna as a whole. I’d hope that’s somewhat necessary, given that it technically follows from the similarly-felt finality of what was originally the Hero Chapter finale. But it genuinely comes off like the last word on the franchise and its ideas this time, so if they’re comfortable calling it here, then so am I.
Coming after that aforementioned big finish, it means that this pointedly isn’t the most explosive finale in the world. Instead, it’s basically a coda; all denouement, all the time, showing where the pieces landed in the aftermath of Yuna’s last massive Hero Punch and what the characters have to actually do to pick them up again. Basically, if you were left curious in the wake of Hero Chapter‘s quick “Humanity will have to learn to take care of itself, but I’m sure we’ll be okay!” ending narration, this ought to satisfy you more. And there’s a lot of appreciable nuances just in the framework here, making clear how information about the Shinju’s destruction wouldn’t immediately be made clear to the public, and that the framework of the religion based on it would persist nearly out of necessity. It’s hard for people to let go of what structure they had in their lives even after a cataclysmic event upends pretty much all the reasons for that structure in the first place.
The point is, getting to a ‘happily ever after’ takes actual time and work. The story acknowledges here (without devolving into too much of a downer) that resource issues will be abundant in this kind of aftermath, and that any displaced trust in the Taisha and devotion to the Shinju will contribute to further social unrest. The specific question in this case is what the role of the Heroes could be—and should be—with them and the world in the current state. Nogi initially makes the bold suggestion that the team should depose the Taisha in a coup, which is a very funny moment in-context, but also kind of fair given all that organization put them through. But then the narrative, and the other Heroes, steer her in the constructive direction that’s being espoused here: Heroes weren’t meant only to serve in battle, and if it can be helped, there should be no more fighting.
So it goes that we must see the Heroes settle into new approaches to their kinds of volunteering efforts that are befitting of the necessary societal change. The main story arbiter of this shift turns out to be Nogi again, who follows up her cheeky coup suggestion with an internal revelation that she was actually planning on resigning from the Hero Club altogether to take on the Taisha in a rogue capacity. It’s intriguingly understandable, given their effects on her life even compared to the rest of the Heroes, and a reminder that regardless of her goofy affects, Nogi has been around the block so many times that she can still deign to be pretty terrifying when she needs to. Of course, she doesn’t go through with it, resolving to assert more diplomatic leadership of the Taisha and steer their role from within. I do appreciate the overall closure this segment gives to Nogi, a character I quite like, but I also feel that it reveals some shortchanging of her here at the end. For all of Nogi’s silly surface antics, and the mind that was paid to her historically-reaching ambitions, I’d say they could have spotlighted that crux more before we came to this point. This is supposed to be the capstone to her character arc, but it instead left me wanting some extra Nogi-focused episodes to flesh out her complex feelings about her attempts at a martyr role, and how she worked through her responses to being used like that by both the Taisha and the narrative itself. Though that does at least provide fodder to keep an eye on subtleties for during a rewatch, or a read-through of the light novels.
That’s a reinforcement of the series-wide themes Yuki Yuna has always espoused, stated as directly as ever at the end here. This episode’s pacing allows plenty of opportunities for quiet, reflective moments, most exemplary being the one where Yuna directly points out the uncompromising win at the end of the battle: “No one was sacrificed, no one is suffering. We all have to live happily ever after, or else none of us will.” Living well for the sake of others is a nobler pursuit than merely suffering at the expense of some broader narrative demands. And that does encompass everyone. We find out that the Sentinels did survive, to my delight, with some conflicted feelings about being on standby now, in service to a god they know no longer exists. At least here, the story takes a strong stance on the subject of faith: “People can still believe in the gods even if they aren’t around”. Belief is and should always be more about being a good person than pleasing a specific institution.
That’s what I like most about this finale for Yuki Yuna Is a Hero: its commitment to fully circling back on displays of voluntary good we saw the Hero Club make from the very beginning. Sacrifice, dramatic and important as it can feel in the moment, is ultimately secondary to persisting in a way that allows you to continuously contribute to your fellow man. Yuna and Togo can do far more good for the people of the world as a pair of nomadic mapmaking motorcycle lesbians than they ever would have had they given their lives up using superpowers to punch CGI monsters. And in that context, Yuki Yuna asserts that as superior storytelling as well. Seeing these characters continue to fight on in their own way to keep making the world a better place, little by little, is more satisfying than all the pathos-laden, shock-value character deaths in a hundred other ‘Dark Magical Girl’ shows. And I believe that’s what makes this work with such finality as an ending. It’s not over because the characters are done, it’s over because we can so precisely see how they’ll keep going, ever after.
Yuki Yuna is a Hero: The Great Mankai Chapter is currently streaming on
Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.