YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World is one of the craziest anime series I've ever seen.
Wait, you've seen Devil Is a Part-Timer, Angel Beats!, Abenobashi, Mawaru Penguindrum, End of Evangelion, Nichijou, Death Parade, No Game No Life, Punch Line, FLCL, Kemonozume, Violence Voyager, and Higurashi, right?
Yup, and what goes on in YU-NO pretty much dwarfs the relative insanity in all those other productions. I'll get into it below after I throw up the SPOILERS warning, but if you want to experience the full madness of this show for yourself, I advise you to go in blind, knowing that I give it a solid "B". YU-NO is far from perfect, but my god is it one helluva ride!
What makes it so crazy?
That will have to wait till we cover some general points first. That part is a major spoiler.
Ooookay then. What's YU-NO's plot?
The general plot of YU-NO is something we've already seen plenty of times before in multiple anime shows over the years. Let me back up though by pointing out that even though the YU-NO anime only just finished its run, it actually started some of the tropes that you've seen in countless series over the past 23 years. You see, YU-NO originally began as a PC visual-novel game — sort of a choose-your-own adventure-style game with hentai elements, first released in 1996. I did NOT know this going into this show though, but it made things a lot more clear (and impressive) once I did read up about it.
YU-NO was apparently so popular in Japan that it's been re-released as a game (with updated graphics and soundtrack) multiple times, the most recent upgrade being for the PS4 a few years back. Like I said, YU-NO actually created a lot of the overused anime/video game plotlines and twists that have flooded the mediums over the past two decades, but even after seeing them multiple times before watching this series, I was still able to enjoy everything that this show was selling.
Kind of like how everyone copies Star Wars and Star Trek, but the originals are still enjoyable?
Exactly. There is something magical about YU-NO that time and imitation can't destroy. But I digress.
So, YU-NO is all about the adventures of Takuya Arima, a smartass slacker in high school who is (get this) NOT a total pussy. That's unusual and crazy in and of itself, no? The son of a prominent historian/archaeologist who recently died, Takuya inherits a strange hand-held, primitive-looking, stone device from his dad, affixed with multiple blue jewels.
After bumping into his gun-toting school principal, his step-mom, and the mysterious new transfer student one night on the beach (near his step-mom's company's troubled construction project), Takuya activates the jewel-buttons on the device and finds that things have changed. Like, literally, the world around him has changed, and only he seems to remember how it used to be.
Takuya, confused as to why he is alone after just being confronted by his testy principal (who wanted the hand-held device for himself) and the others (as well as having seen a golden-glowing, naked, elf-girl appear and disappear in a display that would make a firefly orgy jealous), wanders home with a throbbing headache.
I totally understand. I've had nights like that before.
Takuya soon discovers that the bejeweled stone relic his dad left him can reset time. Well, when he presses a smaller jewel to set a moment to return to, he can then press the larger "reboot gem" and jump back in time, leaving the old timeline as a new alternative dimension. Thus he can try to save a person's life, or attempt to score a 100% on an exam over and over until he achieves his goal.
So, this thing was based on an old visual novel, yes? Does that mean that he uses this power in order to get laid regularly?
He doesn't really have to. Takuya is a fucking ladies' man, it seems. He's been bedding his principal's secretary for a while now, and has multiple women fawning all over him. But that's not important right now. What is important is what happens next. Have you ever seen Stein's;Gate?
Okay... How about Quantum Leap?
Oh yeah! Loved that show!
Well, Takuya tries to "right what once went wrong" with this cool new power of his. You see, he gets caught up in this deadly mystery featuring a strange landform on that beach where the conflict of this story began. It involves his step-mom's company, some glowing crystals, mysterious and lethal lightning blasts, a hot TV reporter, his even hotter homeroom teacher/school nurse, his dad's research, the new transfer girl who likes to go to love hotels with older men, hypnosis, abandoned mines below the town, corporate espionage, lots of suicide and murders, and even a bathing suit beach episode (which was pertinent to the plot, believe you me). And Takuya often messes up and fails in trying to save someone, or to keep a situation from escalating, so he has to reset, as it were, and then try again.
It's kind of like a mix of Higurashi and Stein's;Gate, where every time Takuya clears some flags and is able to get past the last save point things get a bit clearer for him and the audience. But there is so much story crammed into this show that new revelations keep appearing that change everything we thought we new every three to four episodes. And then came episode 18.
What's with episode 18?
This is where I declare SPOILERS, and urge everyone who found what I previously said about YU-NO to be interesting to just go ahead and watch this series already. If you don't care that I ruin the rest of this story, proceed.
So for 17 episodes we followed Takuya as he learned more and more about his town, his dad's research, the comings and goings of mysterious beings who seem to be from another time, and the curse of another dimension merging with our own every 400 years. Typical anime/visual novel stuff. But then in the 18th episode things get trippy.
Did you ever see From Dusk Till Dawn? Now imagine going into that movie not knowing that after about 45-50 minutes it turns from a gritty crime movie into a straight-up vampire/horror flick. That is what happens with YU-NO.
It turns into a vampire show? That is twisty!
No, it doesn't change into a vampire story, but instead it turns from a contemporary mystery with some supernatural elements into a "high school boy trapped in a fantasy world" series, filled with elves, swords, monsters, prophecies, and an evil emperor.
Yeah. I thought I accidentally started streaming the wrong series when the brand new opening to episode 18 kicked in. It was quite the shock. The plot continues in a linear fashion with Takuya jumping into this new world (known as Dela Granto) in order to save a friend of his from dying (with him needing to find a specific magical element that is not found in our world, but that is hypothetically found in abundance in Dela Granto).
The second twist is that since going to this new world, Takuya can no longer use the magical relic to reset anything, for if he creates a new save point he will never be able to go back to his dying friend in our world! Gasp! What a twist!
So for the final nine episodes we follow our protag as he learns how to survive in this new realm of dungeons, dragons, and hawt elf girls, all the while trying to figure out how to get that magical element that will save his friend's life in his original timeline/dimension. During this time he marries a sexy blonde mute girl, they have a daughter, that daughter grows up, and the wife dies. Takuya and his daughter (named Yu-No) then travel out and across the impassable desert that separates them from the rest of civilization in order to avenge the dead wife and find out just what the hell the Supreme Emperor is doing with all his power, what with the great convergence of every 400 years fast approaching.
Yeah. Things really got nuts in this final 1/3rd of the story. Throw in some revolutionaries (one of which Takuya gets frisky with and knocks up), priestesses being forced to lose a sense (like sight or speech) in order to become the world's savior, and the fact that the main residents of Dela Granto apparently eat the meat of beautiful dragon/human hybrids and nobody bats an eye, and you have one of the weirdest and craziest genre-switches in entertainment history!
Wait, they eat women?
Yes. These dragon-ladies look just like gorgeous human women, except they have wings and a tail. The regular elf-people of Dela Granto eat them. This injustice is never brought up in the show as something the people of this land learn is wrong and stop doing. It's just like "Yeah, we eat them... What of it!?" And then it's not brought up again.
Speaking of which, something else that's not brought up again is the part where a dragon-lady that Takuya befriends rescues him and a one-eyed bodacious babe from a forced-labor camp. The dragon-lady flies them for miles and miles away, and then crash lands in the desert sand due to pure exhaustion. She didn't break her neck or a wing or anything, she just lays on the ground panting from the effort, and the babe that's with Takuya looks at this panting creature and tells him, "You need to put her out of her misery," while producing a knife for him to end her life with. AND TAKUYA JUST GOES AHEAD AND DOES IT!
After giving us like 23 or so episodes where we saw just how good and caring towards everyone and everything Takuya is, he just straight up MURDERS this dragon-lady (who was like a pet to him) without even protesting! The dragon-lady shows no indication that she's anything but tired too! What the fuck, Takuya?! At least they don't eat her, I guess?
Anyway, after the dragon-lady butchering, Takuya and his lady friend infiltrate the capital city in their plan to murder the Emperor and free the dimension-traveller's daughter (who was previously captured by the royal guard). A bunch of old characters unsurprisingly reappear, and the final fight for the future of the fantasyland goes down!
Then we get a really trippy ending that I'm not even sure I fully understand.
So yeah, YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World is one of the craziest anime series I've ever seen. It's not like FLCL where it's bizarre for the sake of being bizarre, it just takes some really strange turns that I never would have expected from that first episode. Hell, even in the episode where the genre switches on us I didn't see all this coming.
So the first third of this show I really liked the characters and found their dilemmas intriguing and something that I wanted to follow. The second third I found things got a little more strange, but still followable. The final third made me wonder if somebody slipped me something in my drink, along with a possible overdose of some potent edibles. At that point I just gave up trying to see where things would go. Once Takuya had that kid, and then she grew up, and then he spent a full year at that prison quarry, all bets were off in trying to guess how this story would wrap up. Which is a good thing, I suppose.
So, what else do you want to know about this series?
You said this was a series that was originally made in 1996. Does modern technology seem to give the characters too much assistance in the anime, seeing as we now all have cell phones and the Internet available everywhere we go?
Oh, YU-NO actually still takes place in 1996 so that (I'm assuming) the characters wouldn't have access to the World Wide Web, or any easy contact with everyone at any given time, which might have helped with certain points of the narrative. It's cool that they kept all TVs tube-TVs, regularly use those glorious green public phones, and force the characters to do hard research in actual books in order to gain any information that they can't get from other characters.
So, if you were playing the original PC visual novel hentai game, which girl would you go after?
Totally the hawt secretary. Or Eriko-sensei, the slutty nurse. Or Kanna, the hot new girl who is probably related to Takuya. Or Ayumi, Takuya's step-mom who's only 8 years older than him. Or Mio, the tsundere chick who (of course) warms to our hero pretty quickly. Or Yu-No, because I'm sure she's an option in the game too.
So the Rossman and I was watchin' this wackadoodle anime about murder and mystery in some small town in Japan, G, and we's got all the way up to like episode 17, and then we stopped to do shots and so I could take some magic mushies I'd been saving, yo. Then the Rossman put on what he said was the next episode, but like there were giant monkey demons, chicks with swords, teleporting priestesses, and hawt, fuckable dragon-ladies on the screen instead of high school kids and construction sites.
I didn't question it, man, I just savored it. It was like tasting that light-fantastic! It was beautiful!
It turns out that it wasn't just my imagination, like that time I thought Tammi with an "i" ate my dog whole... It was for realz! And it made me come up with my own blend of shrooms, LSD, and Mary Jane that I ended up calling "Last Dance With Yu-No and Reality." It has gone on to be my top seller! The only problem is that everyone who uses it ends up either dead or in the ER from trying to fly with fuckable dragon-ladies by jumping off of their rooftops. I gotta start chargin' more for it before all my clients expire.
Alternate dimensions exist, hu-mans. I have ended the lives of all humanity in 17 separate timelines before becoming stuck in this one. This timeline is the worst.
There was this one timeline where I was able to trick some gullible hu-man into stepping into a machine created by Adolf Hitler IV, originally made for destroying all the people in the universe who shared the same ethnic genealogy. Hitler IV originally meant to eliminate all Caucasians (he was in fact genetically African and Middle Eastern [it is a long story]), but I changed the code and made it massacre everything with an X or Y chromosome. The only remaining hu-mans left were those with the Downs and, surprisingly, those who liked movies made by Bong Joon-ho... But those are actually the same beings, so make of that what you will. Good times.