In Defense of Yura Yamato

I am charged with guarding the lady 

Summer Season is about to end and all around there are debates about which is the best show that aired. For now, I’ve decided to take that discussion aside and talk about something else. Specifically a character I feel have been misread as something she’s not. In the anime-series Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 (from here on out referred to as C3bu) there was a gigantic backlash against the characterization of the main character Yura Yamato. A backlash I never really could understand.

Whether you like the show or not, you can’t deny that C3bu certainly had a slight schizophrenic issue in that it seemed to not be too sure of what it wanted to be. Did it want to be a school life club show? Did it want to be a airsoft sports show? Did it want to be a character study of the rise and fall of the main character? Hell, did it want to be a supernatural ancient ghost show?

C3bu wanted to be a lot of things, and as such it failed to click with a lot of people. We see this happen all the time in fiction trying to cater to too many people at once. However, the biggest victim of this was not the show’s presentation, it was Yura herself.

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From here on out we’ll be knee-deep in spoilers, so if you’ve yet to watch C3bu and hold any interest in doing so, I would suggest checking it out first, because I’ll be going through episode by episode for the first twelve episodes and detailing just why I think the way C3bu handled Yura was the most well-executed part of the show, which ended up being completely overlooked because of the mess that had to be cut through to see it.

In the first episode of C3bu, “Any Volunteers to Enlist!?”, we’re introduce to Yura as she arrives at Stella Women’s Academy. She doesn’t know anyone there, and her roommate hasn’t arrived yet so we get to know her and how she behaves in solitude. She feels out of place and left out, this is shown by presenting her reaction to everyone else around her, mostly groups of friends of which she’s not a part of. Even when she’s approached by strangers, she can’t seemingly bring herself to even speak a word.

We also see her imagination pop out, despite pointing out that guns isn’t really something for girls, she is happily running around playing wargames while First Blood is playing on the TV. Yura is trying to be a nice “girly” girl despite wanting something more exciting and fun, which she refuses to admit at this point.

In the same episode we are introduced to the titular C3 Club, and the members of the club trying to find new members. They set their sights on Yura and start doing whatever they can to get her to join the club. She is reluctant and she’s certainly not open to the idea of joining the club, feeling somewhat forced into it all when she finally agrees to try out the idea of a airsoft survival game.

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The first episode is fairly simple with everything, but it sets up some very important factors into Yura as a character. We learn that she’s uncertain of herself and who she wants to be. She will do anything to adapt into what others want her to be, which is why she’s terrified of the idea of being branded a “Weirdo” by Relto, despite Relto meaning it as a term of endearment.

This is not a complex character, she’s a young high school girl experiencing the life of any other high school student who arrive at a place far from home where she doesn’t know anyone. It’s simple and it’s easy to relate to. The fact that Yura is so easy to relate to in the first episode is probably one of the reasons so many have a problem with that will later happen to her as a character, even though it all adds up when looking at a big picture. But we’ll get back to that later.

In the second episode, “I Am Charged with Guarding the Lady”, we’re introduced to the most important influence of Yura as a character. Sonora, the president of the C3 Club who have just arrived back from America. Yura has declined joining the C3 Club, once again feeling somewhat uneasy about being a “weirdo” and just being dragged into something that doesn’t align with the personality she has painted up for herself.

vlc 2013-09-20 04-45-47-93But Sonora is different from the rest of the C3 Club. Sonora doesn’t try to drag Yura into the club at all despite noticing early on that Yura has great talent for it. The rest of the club is running around, trying every single thing they can imagine to just get her to join even though she said no. Sonora puts up a VIP Rescue game where if she and Yura wins, Yura will be left alone, and if they lose, she will join the club.

It’s pretty clear early on that Sonora is certain that she and Yura will win the game and Yura will be left alone, and as the game starts it’s essentially Sonora that’s taking the others out solo, while Yura follows her. But it all changes at the end when Yura and Sonora takes hold of the gun together for the final shot. Yura got her first victory, together with Sonora, someone who fought for her just to let her do what she wants.

This is where Yura realizes that she has made friends with the club, that she actually might have found somewhere where she belongs, and so she decides to join despite winning her freedom. She finally finds somewhere where she might be able to belong and be herself. In many ways, this is where a main character arc for a cute and simple show would end, but with Yura, this was just the beginning, as the show from here on out more and more becomes a character study.

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The third episode, “Does Enemy Fire Pierce Even the Soul?”, is perhaps the most important episode in the entire series when it comes to the early development of Yura. The C3 Club enters a high school survival game tournament where they end up facing Sonora’s old airsoft team from Meisei Academy, led by Rin.

During the fight against Meisei, Yura is left as the last one standing and when approached by Rin she loses grip of her gun and surrenders the battle to Meisei. Yura valued her options and came to the conclusion that she could not win, so there was no point in trying. This ends up setting off Sonora who scolds her for her decision.

“Rin is right.” Sonora proclaims, “You let your friends’ sacrifices go to waste, and ran away. Someone who can’t fight by herself can’t fight with everyone else, either. Keep smiling until you go down. You don’t have to be afraid of losing. Never again do what you did today.”

Sonora turns and leaves, the same night at the hot-springs she has fallen apathetic and begins to ponder the decisions she has made up until this point and what went wrong. She is told by the rest of the team that if she’s told to “not do it again” that means that she have another chance. She fades into her own thoughts and gets stuck on the fact that she ran away, this is where Yura starts to change for real.

vlc 2013-09-20 04-52-12-49We established in the first episode that all Yura really wants is to be someone that can fit in and be part of a group. She wants friendship and the ability to be depended upon. In the second episode we establish that the person that started opening the path for her to do this while being who she wants to be was Sonora, in many ways her spiritual guide to finding herself.

When Sonora scolds her, Yura acknowledges that she did something wrong, but rather than just trying again and doing right be people she goes one step further. If she’s not supposed to run away, she won’t run away. She will fight to win at all costs and she will do all she can to follow the footsteps of Sonora, the person the entire club looks up to and loves, including her.

“I thought, if I came to this new school, I could change.” Yura thinks to herself, “I was sure I could change if I joined C3, but that’s just putting all the responsibility on others. How could I misunderstand so badly?

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During those words we see Yura sink metaphorically deeper and deeper into a bottomless pit, holding herself in a fetal position, keeping herself safe as she sinks lower and lower. Right at the end of her thoughts we also hear her groan, sounding not unlike a newborn baby or a young child being upset. At this point Yura has regressed completely into someone who wishes so much to fit in that she is once again willing to not be herself, she will change into the person that is meant to fit in with the C3 Club. The person that can take responsibility and initiative.

“I want to stay as I am…” Yura continues in her thoughts, “With them… That means… I… Have to change now!”

Yura lets’ out a smile, thinking she has solved the problem. She arrives the next day and proudly proclaims that she will take survival games seriously from now on. She has cut her hair to the point where she looks a lot like Sonora barring the hair-colour. She also asks the club to stop giving her weird nicknames, and just call her Yura. While Yura wanted the club to stop giving her weird nicknames from the start, it’s not until now she has dared speak up about it. Because while she has forcibly changed herself, it’s not a change that’s causing anything bad. Not yet.

From here on out the show plays a bit with the mind of the viewer. Someone who is watching the show blindly will assume the happy and yet strong Yura presented at the end of episode three is meant to be the end of her development as a character. Especially since at this point it’s all presented as a positive development, not as a misunderstanding of what Yura needs to do to make her and others happy. It’s all setting up for what will be Yura’s actual character arc that spans the entire series from here on out, Yura’s rise, fall and final realization of what she did.

vlc 2013-09-20 04-54-18-37A lot of people were confused when episode four, “Learn to Hit the Target Without Firing”, kicked off with a brand new opening sequence for “Shape my Story” by Anna Yano. The new opening sequence shows a confident Yura playing around in similar fashion to the way the club-members played around with her in the original opening sequence. We also see her getting ready for battle and being overall far more serious in her depiction with the airsoft gun, in her case a Skorpion vz. 61 submachine gun.

This is all to further suggest the idea that this is the true side of Yura, that she has finally come into her own. It’s all a charade for what’s to come. The episode itself may not seem highly influential on Yura as a character at first, but just like every episode prior, there is something of high importance seen in this episode. Yura mentioned in episode three that she had to be taking responsibility in the group and her first action regarding this is scene in episode four.

Specifically when Yura arrives at the Shinto shrine where she tries to learn how to handle her gun properly together with Sonora. While here she meets with Choujirou. Choujirou is a young warrior of the Heike Clan who died many years ago. Yura connects with his spirit here at the shrine and learns about his tale. Learning how he tragically was killed, watching as the scene unfolds before her, Yura decides to take the matter into her own hands and save him.

The supernatural elements of C3bu are not touched much upon. Though some people have a problem with this, like I mentioned earlier about the lack of a focused genre in the show, it’s only really introduced and used when it matters for the story. I described Sorata in episode two as Yura’s initial spirtual guide to find who she was, Choujirou takes her place from here on out. It’s not made clear until a few episodes later, but as she names her Skorpion after Choujirou and starts carrying it around believing that she had finally found her “airsoft”, she starts ascending the steps to her rise with Choujirou at her side at all times.

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Rento also sees this transformation of Yura in the spiritual world she connected with and is therefore the first one to notice any change in Yura. She sees Yura score a perfect hit on the coin right in front of her eyes. As the series progresses, it’s Rento who is constantly worried about Yura and will go out of her way to help her or get any contact with her, because she is the only one who truly saw everything unfold right in front of her. She knows Yura changed.

When we get to episode five, “A Remote Island Game Burns Hot”, Yura has completely adapted to her new persona. She has taken into account the words everyone have said to her over the course of the four prior episodes, and it’s finally time for a new survival game. Yura knows that she may not surrender, she have to stay responsible and work for the team’s best interest. That is what she was told, that is what she will do.

Yura does all of this, but she pushes it too far because she’s afraid she won’t be enough. As such she is constantly giving orders and pointing out quick mistakes that her teammates are making, because she finds it in her responsibility to make sure that no one messes up, in her mind she is working for the team the way she’s intended to. And for better or worse, she ends up helping the C3 Club win the survival game, taking amazing joy out of the fact that she won. Because if she won, that means she did good.

It might sound a tad silly, but it’s how the human mind works. If we cause something bad and get told off because of what we did, when we manage to actually come through with the opposite positive outcome, we will have a greater sense of accomplishment. It’s why videogames want to present a challenge, so overcoming it will be more satisfactory. The problem is that out of satisfaction and accomplishment, comes a easy way of getting a big hubris that will end up making things worse in the end.

vlc 2013-09-20 04-58-26-95Sonora, being a fairly wise and understanding character, realizes this as early as this episode. She notices how Yura reacts to winning and is suspicious about it. But as was the case with her behavior in the second episode, she will not intervene, knowing that everyone must find their own path. She speaks a lot about this and finding your own “airsoft” throughout the series, specifically in the episode prior to this.

For the most part, episode six, “”Operation: Soak” is Underway”, presents itself as a quick and fairly standard school festival episode, it is not without importance to Yura as a character. During the club’s attempt to gather money for the big 24 hour airsoft tournament, they end up doing bathing suit duels with water guns.

“Come to think of it, this is the first time I’m facing off against Sono-chan-senpai.” Yura thinks while getting ready for the duel, “There’s no way I can win, but… Maybe…”

The final duel between Yura and Sonora has Yura winning despite the odds being stacked in Sonora’s favor. All because of Sonora being distracted by a kid running into Rento right as they were about to draw. Sonora notices the fact that Yura took the opportunity to win when she was looking away right before she’s hit, and Yura seemingly doesn’t realize it herself until the announcer yells out that she has won.

Sonora walks off the stage and when Yura approaches her, once again thrilled about the fact that she won, she brushes her off to make sure the kid is alright. It’s obvious that all Yura wants to do is impress Sonora, she wants her to acknowledge that she in fact did something good. Yura doesn’t realize the opportunity she took to win was unfair and that Sonora knows this, she just wants to hear that she did good from the person she looks up to.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-00-01-52The episode moves forward and things are back to being alright as the group start joking about on the roof of the school. But even as Yura announces that she’s glad to have joined the C3 Club, she looks up to Sonora once more for confirmation that she has done good, to which Sonora finally gives off a smile, And thus nothing is changed and Yura still believes that she is doing right by everyone.

At this point we reach a big turning point for Yura as we enter episode seven, “An Assassin’s Bullet Cannot Kill a Kindred Spirit”. In episode seven Sonora is sent to the hospital after a sniper with a illegal modified BB gun manages to hit her while she was out shopping with Yura. It’s interesting to note that at this point Yura can’t even imagine a airsoft enthusiast doing something this horrible, something that could be seen as inconsistent with her view on airsoft contestants morality later on. But it’s important to note that since there’s no actual “winning” that comes out of this, Yura can’t find a reason why anyone would do it. It’s still true to her made-up character that she changed into for the club.

With Sonora out of the game the C3 Club decides to not partake in the 24 hour tournament after all, which doesn’t sit right with Yura. So she takes it upon herself to do Sonora’s job and start figuring out strategies and tactics for how the club can still take on the tournament without Sonora. She registers the club for the tournament and presents the new practice schedule and tactics for the club. They half-willingly agree to do it and Yura starts training the team far beyond what they’re used to.

This is where people want to point at Yura and call her out as an asshole. While there is a certain right to be had with that, this is all Yura acting based on what Sonora told her back during episode three. She was told to never again give up and to never let her friends’ sacrifices go to waste. To Yura, pulling out of the tournament is letting everything go to waste, it’s something she promised to never do to the club ever again. She can not give up, she have to fight to win with the club as a whole, that is what she has forced herself to become.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-02-36-48After practice she overhears the club talking about how they’re not liking what she’s doing. This is the first time since Sonora denied her any praise for winning the duel that she feels she might have done something wrong. Yura realizes that she’s doing something wrong, but all she can think of is upholding her promise made during episode three, it’s the most important thing to her at this point, because she doesn’t want to let Sonora down, especially when she can’t be here to guide the club.

But at this point Yura isn’t only doing it because of what she was told, but also because she wants revenge against Meisei, suspecting that Rin was the sniper that took out Sonora. This becomes Yura’s excuse to do anything to win against Meisei, which have been her unspoken goal ever since she surrendered the fight at the high school tournament and got yelled out for it.

This causes Yura to come off as more selfish than she intends. She let’s the thirst for revenge and becoming the shining star that everyone loves lose sight of what people really wanted from her, and thus thinking she works for the team, ends up becoming ruthless and harsh where she doesn’t need to. While she knows she’s doing something wrong, she can’t put her finger to just what that thing is.

At the end of the episode, the C3 Club arrive at the 24 hour tournament. For a second as they arrive Yura actually shows her true self again when she ends up the environment she enjoys. The club makes note of this, hoping that her focus have changed. But when the club meets up with Rin at the tournament, Yura once again takes sight on revenge.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-02-44-83In the eight episode, “Should a Commander be Hard of Heart?”, The C3 Club is partaking in the 24 hour tournament all according to the strategies Yura have laid out. Yura even shows how detailed and skilled she have gotten at recognizing her own team when Aila pretends to be Karila to fool them. Yura has trained so hard for this that she seemingly knows everything, she has in many ways become the perfect captain based on the values she taught herself.

Everything goes well and C3 keeps taking out teams one by one, until Rento ends up injuring herself during the game, She claims to just having bumped the leg, despite having a very clear wound on it. Rento, who knows how skilled and focused Yura is more than anyone, decides to not tell her as she’s afraid it would upset her. She knows that Yura actually means well with what she’s doing, but still won’t dare to speak up.

After this we establish that a team has been disqualified for not calling out a hit when they were hit. Yura, who previously couldn’t even imagine a airsoft contestant doing something harmful, calls it out as terrible, but understandable. This is once again because the concept of winning is something that must always be striven for to Yura, as long as it’s for the team, a team-member should do anything to win. Anything else is spoiling someones effort.

“It is terrible, but that’s just how determined everyone is.” she proclaims, “Besides, Rin-san’s team is here, too… Let’s stay alert and do our best.”

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While waiting for the last flag-drop, the team mentions how if Sonora was here, they’d be sure to win against Meisei in the final battle. Karila notes once again that Rin must have shot Sonora because of this. It should be noted that this is a accusation that is proven false later in the show, yet it’s not just in the revenge focused mind of Yura this is assumed to be true. Where as Yura’s feeling are bred from revenge, hubris and wanting to fit in while maintaining Sonora’s role as a leader, Karila’s very similar feelings are all bred from jealousy at Meisei for being ranked number one.

Comparing the “changed” Yura to Karila is important in many ways. Karila is a loud-mouth that act on instinct, but she also holds a similar view to Yura to how serious the team needs to be. When Yura proclaims that they’ll beat Meisei, Karila agrees instantly and falls to her side, despite criticizing her moments prior. Bot the “changed” Yura and Karila holds a strong personality that can come out and cause conflict, everything they does, they do for the good of the team.

The important difference is that Karila is acting natural, she can be called out when she’s out of line because she’s not forcing a persona that is alien to the group and herself. She can calm down and just enjoy a good time. Yura on the other hand, is not acting natural, because she plays up her strong self because, in her mind, that’s what she was told she had to do. This means she can’t be calmed down, because to her that would mean changing back to what ended up causing them to lose the fight in episode three.

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Yura doesn’t understand that they would have probably lost the fight in episode three even if she hadn’t given up. She has settled on the idea that failure is not an option, she has to win, and that was the big mistake she made. That’s why she changed. Karila understands that losing will happen, but you just have to try your best and do what you can for the team while still being yourself. Similar yet different, they are together a great example of why you can’t pretend to not be someone else without something going wrong.

Going back to the events of the episode, When Yachio asks Karila if she really thinks Rin would “go that far” just to win, Yura remembers that Yachio had asked the same about her when she overheard the group last episode. She begins putting herself in perspective to Rin, making sure that she’s different. To Yura, Rin is a bad person and not someone she should strive to be. She’s the opposite of what she stands for, because the image Yura has of Rin is painted up of false accusations and misunderstandings.

“She said the same thing about me… No, that’s not true. I’m not like her. I’m not. But…” Yura thinks to herself in doubt.

But Yura is not completely lost to her focus, deep down there’s still something that takes the comparison between her behavior and the “assumed” behavior of Rin seriously, which is why she falls in doubt in her thoughts right before the show cuts to black. Instead of going deeper into her thoughts, the show decides to show us Yura taking yet another step towards her inevitable fall.

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Yura goes to meet Rin in secret before the last flag drops, She needs to know that she’s right about Rin, because if she’s not right, then her mindset is off. She begins talking about what Sonora taught her, the foundation for why Yura is acting the way she is. Rin offers up her own view, confirming that they are indeed different. However, the difference is between Sonora’s mindset and Rin’s mindset, not with her own mindset compared to Rin’s mindset like she thinks.

“Sonora-senpai taught me all about survival games.” she begins, “She taught me that they’re very deep, and that they make you think about the way you live.”

“Pretty words. Sounds like Sonora.” Rin reponds, “No matter how you whitewash it, a survival game is still war. A simulation of killing. If you lose in a real war, that’s the end. Survival games are the same. If there’s anything to learn from them, it’s that there’s no point if yo don’t win.

That’s not what you wanted to ask me. You want to know if I’m the one who shot Sonora, right? What if it was me? I’ve asked you before what it is you’re fighting for, didn’t I? Did you enter this tournament to avenge Sonora? (…) Sonora would forget about something like that. She’d probably say what really matters is to have fun. If you’re grateful to her for teaching you something silly like that, you can never beat me.”

It is made clear here that Rin, while being cold, knows very well what Yura is going through. She may not agree with Sonora’s teachings, but she understands them. Unlike Yura who have twisted them on the assumption that she wouldn’t be enough as herself.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-27-42-78Back at the group Rento once again proclaims that the group should be happy how far they’ve gotten, being the only one that really has any trust in Yura left, despite being the one that is injured. She ensures them that Yura feels the same as she does and that is why she tried so hard to get them where they are now. They recognize that they’re all doing this for Sonora in the end, and that they’ll hang on a little longer because of it. Even Yachio proclaims at this point that they have to win.

The final battle for the last flag begins and Yura is just as focused on winning as she has been throughout the rest of the tournament, but now she feels that the vengeance against Rin is even more important. Rin taunted Yura and called out the rules she think that she’s following as silly. In many ways this is where Yura starts taking things personally, something that becomes a problem during the end of the battle.

The final confrontation comes down to Karila being held at gunpoint by Rin in the large garage. Rin fuels her hubris further by telling Yura that she has become “far better than Sonora” right before they leap out against each other. Yura and Rin are playing their game identical at this point, they’re on equal ground in terms of speed and skill, no one seemingly being able to take out the other. That’s when Rin’s clip goes empty. Yura makes note of this, but before she’s able to pull the trigger herself, she’s hit from behind by a Meisei contestant.

Yura realizes she’s hit, but rather than calling it out she pulls the trigger anyway. She has broken the rules just to be able to take the winning shot herself. This is the first time where she actually does anything that’s not for the good of the team, this is the first time she is outright selfish. She wanted revenge and she got it. Even if she had called the hit, Rento or Honoka could have taken out the two remaining Meisei contestant thanks to Rin being out of bullets.

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So this is where Yura stops working for the good of the team and this is also where the metaphorical ground that she’s barely been keeping her feet on finally breaks apart, and she starts falling.

“You are no different from me. You’ll do anything to win.” Rin says and leaves the battlefield.

While Rin noticed that Yura did indeed cheat, neither the judges nor the C3 Club made note of this. To the group, Yura did what they all wanted, she led them to victory, all for Sonora. Yura, confused by her own action is finding even the thought that she won strange. Episode eight simply ends on her thinking to herself “I… Won?” as it cuts from the confused Yura to a black screen.

When episode nine, “Thus, The Party Ends”, starts off, the team is delighted to inform the now discharged Sonora about the fact that they won against Meisei. But Yura breaks the mood early on as her discomfort with what she did causes her to confess to having cheated during the tournament. She tells the C3 Club that she tried informing the judges about it, but when asked, Meisei insists that there was no foul-play involved.

The group is shocked at this reveal and when Yura selfishly proclaims that she wants a rematch with Meisei they rightfully object and call her out on her behavior as a whole. The group had agreed on letting things be because they all thought Yura was doing it for the best of the team, but this directly suggests that she’s just doing it for herself. While it’s true Yura was doing everything for the team up until the very end, her actions was still out of line and the wish to go another round with Meisei ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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Yura, who has now left every bit of who she really is far away, decides that she really only has any interest in taking part in survival games. She leaves and find out that the sniper have been apprehended,and that Rin ended up helping the police in finding out who it was. In a TV-interview, Rin says the same thing Sonora told Yura back in episode four, about how a shooter should be prepared enough to hit their mark without aiming.

This means that Yura’s biggest reason for finding Rin a truly bad person is lost. Because of this, she asks to talk with Sonora at the Shinto shrine, just the two of them alone. She asks Sonora to tell her about what Rin is like and what relationship she has to her. Sonora tells her that Rin was her friend, she helped Rin out of her antisocial behaviour as they began training for survival games together under the same master.

Their master, who as in the army, died in battle. This caused Rin to view the world in a new way, being certain that it was weakness that caused the master to die. Rin, being just a child, let a event like this change everything that matters to her. Winning became the most important priority to her, not just in survival games, but in everything. Yura relates to Rin at this point, finding more and more in common with her.

“Until I joined C3, I couldn’t talk to people, either.” Yura says to Sonora, “But I’m different now. I was able to change, thanks to you. (…) I’ve grown stronger! I’m more confident! So I want to master my own path even more, in my own way!”

“Even if he doesn’t aim, as long as the shooter is fully prepared the bullet will hit it’s mark.” she continues, “But if I can’t be more fulfilled than this… There’s no point in staying in C3.”

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Yura has reached the point where, according to what she’s been taught through the C3 Club, she’s basically perfect. But she knows something is missing, she knows something is wrong. Rather than realizing that she’s gone too far, she assumes what’s missing is acceptance. She was missing acceptance and the feeling of belonging to something when the show started, and she is now back to square one.

Yura has taken this dishonest and fake “changed” version of herself to the degree where she can no longer realize that it’s not actually the real her any more. She’s following a structure of rules that she set up for herself when she decided to change, and the only way to find acceptance from a group at this point is by being with people living by the same rules. Something that the C3 Club doesn’t do, as much as she thought they did. Instead of trying to be herself and stop the charade, she leaves the club and Choujirou and seeks out a new place where she can belong.

We arrive at episode ten, “All Comrades in Arms Will One Day Disappear”. This episode shows how Yura has joined the Meisei survival game group. While she still attends Stella Women’s Academy, she is now training with Rin and her team. She quickly becomes the ace of the team, but she will not find what she is looking for here either.

Rin puts Yura into the role of a medic, meaning she’s not allowed to enter battle until the end and will instead have to focus on helping team-members who are hit. This infuriates her since she knows that she is more useful as a soldier, she’s the ace of the team, she shouldn’t be held back like this. This, of course, is intentional of Rin who understands what Yura is doing more than Yura does.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-39-47-99When comparing the now fallen “changed”Yura to Rin there’s one thing that’s important to keep in mind. Just like when comparing the pre-fallen “changed” Yura to Karila, there’s the difference of a natural and understanding personality and a made-up forced personality. Yes, Rin and Yura both find winning as the most important aspect of the games, but unlike what Yura has become, she views it on a team-level.

In many ways, the way Rin behaves and acts is identical to how Yura acted when training the C3 Club, she is harsh and will give orders not unfit for a military squad, but she does it with a understanding of what her team is capable of and how they can actually improve in different ways. This is why she forces Yura to be a medic, because she needs to see that Yura will actually work for the team and not herself. Rin’s team does not suffer from her orders, it doesn’t end up in a bad way because of her strict orders and rules, because she knows her team well enough to keep it in order.

Yura on the other hand is not willing to accept this. Because since she’s not acting as herself, things won’t come to her naturally. She believes that the only thing she can do from now on is become stronger and win more, because then she’ll be accepted. But she won’t be accepted, she will never be accepted until she can start accepting herself first.

Throughout this entire series Rento have cared for Yura possible more than anyone else. The only one that could rival how much she cares about her is Sonora, but even Sonora doesn’t really understand what is going on. Rento ends up visiting Yura at the firing range at Meisei. The Yura she meets there is a upset and angry person who is so obsessed with becoming stronger that she has physically begun damaging herself.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-39-52-93Her grip on her weapon is so tight it has managed to open up wounds on her hands, it’s a pretty dark scene for a show that starts out on a pretty lighthearted premise, but it’s not done for shock value. It all fits in with what Yura has become after what she has gone through, all because of her own mistakes.

During the last survival game of the episode, one of the Meisei girls falls down a hill and injures herself, not unlike how Rento injured herself when Yura began acting out of line. Yura, despite being a part of the team, never approaches her to check on her despite being the closest to her, instead she moves on as soon as she notices other Meisei students that can take care of it. Rin realizes that Yura will never come out of what she’s doing to herself by being a part of Meisei, and so she asks her to leave the group.

“You’re trying to find your own ideals in me and Sonora.” Rin tells Yura, “And you’re trying to make your presence known by being praised for winning. (…) You’re only forcing your presence onto others. (…) It’s the same as sacrificing yourself. You do everything for the sake of your ego.

(…) I’m not wrong. You constantly seek praise through actions that only appear to be for the sake of others. (…) In the end, you’re only thinking of yourself. There’s no place on this team for you.”

This is the point where Yura realizes one of the most important things of what she has done. Because Rin is right, while she did a whole lot for her team, in the end it was just so that she could fit in and be appreciated. Everyone strives to be appreciated in some way, but when you do it on false values and by pretending to be someone you’re not, nothing good will come out of it.

vlc 2013-09-20 05-45-59-35When she’s on the train home she starts thinking about everything that she has done. She realizes finally that the people around her are not actually bound by a set of rules, but are actually living freely as themselves. This is what causes them to be recognized, this is what causes them to be appreciated. And it’s all done without ego or hubris. She admits finally that she was only trying to change to be like others. She finally understands she’s been dishonest with herself. But she’s now afraid to go back and be herself, because she knows that she hurt the people that were close to her.

“I don’t get it anymore.” Yura thinks to herself, “Why did it turn out this way? All around me are people living freely, doing as they please, and being recognized by others for it. I was only trying to change, because I wanted to be like them…”, she thinks back to what Rin told her, “Even if you tell me that, after all this time…”

“I can’t go back now.” she mumbles to herself as she starts crying, all alone.

The episode ends with a big reveal as Sonora receives a phone-call from her mother. She’ll be going back to America sooner than expected. Sonora looks down from the roof and sees Yura walking all alone before the credits roll. In many ways the Yura we see here is the same Yura we saw at the very start of the first episode. She’s alone, has noone to turn to and she doesn’t know what to do.

We enter episode eleven, “I Have Already Lost the Ability to Continue Fighting”. This episode deals with two major things for the club, Sonora leaving and them wanting Yura to come back. The group starts thinking of ways they can get Yura to come back through, soon realizing that last time they tried to push themselves onto her, it had a negatie effect. She needs to come back on her own will.

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Rento actually reaches out to Yura at local arcade where Yura has begun hanging out on her free time. Basically spending her days playing lightgun games to be able to do some sort of survival game even when she’s alone. Yura is essentially a addict at this point, she desperately wants to go back to the place she felt she belonged to, but she can’t do it because she can’t forgive herself for what she has done.

Rento spends a good while talking to Yura, hoping that she will come back. All while we slowly see Yura’s now unattended character in the videogame going on behind her slowly dying. As Rento eventually decides to leave, we’re greeted with a close-up of Yura with the screen just saying Game Over. This is beyond symbolic, this is basically the show yelling at the viewer about what is happening to Yura through means of clever direction.

Meanwhile the C3 Club is setting up a final survival game for Sonora to take part in before she leaves. Rento invited Yura, but as expected she doesn’t show up. We follow Yura through the city as she’s walking down the streets, thinking about everything that have happened. The world starts to mentally cave in on her to the point where she starts running in tears until she arrives back at Shinto shrine.

When she arrives there she once again meets with Choujirou in spirit form. Choujirou tells her to accept herself, telling her that until she accepts herself, no one will accept her. He tells her that she can go back to the C3 Club after everything that has happened Choujirou basically gives her a second try as he once again readies his bow to let history have its course without Yura interfering like last time. His last words to her being the entire message of C3bu as a show.

“Acknowledge yourself and acknowledge others.” Choujirou says as he aims his bow one last time,

vlc 2013-09-20 05-52-34-04

Yura then finds Choujirou, her Skorpion that is, in the shrine and goes to meet up with the others who have just stopped their game. Sonora won without breaking a sweat and is overall disappointed. Yura steps onto the battlefield out of nowhere and the episode ends with the big question. Have she actually learned from all of this?

We find that answer in episode twelve, “Go Out with Guns Blazing”, which I will not dwell to long on for various reasons. This is the last episode of Yura’s story, but the second to last episode of C3bu as a series. It’ll be the last episode we talk about for that reason.

The episode starts off where the last episode ended. Yura has arrived to the battlefield and is challenged by Sonora to a one-on-one fight. The battle kicks off and immediately there’s a distinct difference in direction and presentation once more, but we’ll talk about why that is in a little bit.

The first hint that Yura has actually learned and fully grown into her own is when, even though she’s clearly matched with Sonora on a skill level and tries her best to take her out, she still takes great joy in seeing Sonora dodging her attacks. Throughout the first part of the fight Sonora and Yura is basically taking turns in who has the upper hand in battle until they both realize just how much fun they’re having.

vlc 2013-09-20 02-31-20-00Yura proclaims, in her thoughts, that she’s back and Sonora thinks the same to herself. Yura is most definitly back, and it’s not the “changed” Yura she tried to be, but a Yura who’s change has come from growth, understanding and learning. A positive change versus a forced change. She’s doing all of this to have fun with her friends, and it shows.

In fact, it shows so well that the direction and presentation of this very episode is done in direct opposition to the last few episodes. In episode twelve everything is overly cheery and there’s a constant stream of jokes and silly stuff on display throughout. It’s all done to truly show that Yura is herself and that she, and the ones around her, are having a great and fun time.

The episode continues with the others joining in, the first one being Rento who jumps in as Yura’s backup. This is the payoff for her character arc as well, having been the first one to take interest in Yura and being the only one who never gave up on her, even once. The others join in and as the episode is seemingly about to come to a close, Yura does one more thing for everyone.

vlc 2013-09-20 02-38-20-01It can be argued that the supernatural elements are exaggerated fantastical presentations of real events and how they play out for Yura, whatever interpretation you prefer there’s no denying that Yura’s way of tapping into this world is meant to represent various things. Be it her spiritual guide in Choujiro, the feeling of a outlaw partaking in a wild west style duel when she took her unfair shot at Sonora in episode six or what happens here in episode twelve.

Yura and the others end up fighting a survival game against all 1800 students of Stella Women’s Academy as Yura proclaims that there’s no such thing as a final battle for the C3 Club, they fight until they can’t fight no more. Eventually they all find themselves exhausted, on the battlefield, unable to continue. Everyone is happy and Sonora tells the group that they have to come visit her sometime.

Right at the end of episode twelve we follow Yura as she’s making her way to the clubroom. She walks past two new girls who are talking about wanting to change, maybe by joining a club. She turns around and run up to them, happily asking them to join the C3 Club and play airsoft with them. Yura have at this point gone full circle, her development as a character, for now, is complete and have reached a happy ending. It’s a complete story, which she shaped herself.

And that is the story of C3bu, it’s more about Yura and her story as she tries to find a place to feel at home. Yes, it is a airsoft sports show. It is a school life club show and all those other genres it have woven in. But first and foremost it’s a character piece and in many ways a cautionary tale about what can happen if you try to go too far with changing yourself just for the sake of trying to please others.

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If you want to realize something about yourself you need to be honest with yourself. That is something that is truly hard to realize when you’re seeking acceptance. It’s human behavior at its rawest in a lot of ways. Instead of focusing on the problem at hand, we focus on the cause of the problem and reach conclusions that doesn’t always work out. Yura never needed to forcibly change herself, she needed to learn from a mistake and change naturally, but what she took from one single mistake was the she was a mistake, and thus she projected what she perceived as other’s ideals onto herself, only to not find them compatible with the made-up self she had created for herself.

I can speak to the fact that this is something I’ve gone through myself in the past, and I think it falls on many others as well. It’s easy to blame yourself without realizing just why you’re doing it, you’re not a bad person for doing so. That is also why Yura is not a bad person, but she is half of that, she is a person. And because Yura is a person, a human being, she has flaws. Flaws are important when writing a character, it’s even more important when you want to focus a story on this single character.

So why is it that Yura is outright hated and disliked by people despite really only being a person? It comes down to the first episodes of the show again. Yura is written as a very simple girl, yet she’s easy to relate to. When you get a character like that, the viewer will start projecting themselves onto the character to a certain extent. It’s why people can cry to fiction, because when we relate to something, we can feel it as well.

vlc 2013-09-20 02-45-30-00

So when we take a character that’s easy to project ourselves onto, like Yura, and then have her make mistakes and go through a full development into a deeper and more fleshed out character, we will feel, to some extent, that we are doing the same thing. The show is all about self-reflection and realizing who you are, this is something the viewer knows, but Yura doesn’t, so we get the sense that Yura is acting in a way we wouldn’t. She’s acting like a “bad person”.

If Yura had the same outset as us, if she could view it all from the seat as a viewer she wouldn’t make the same mistakes, but this is the crux of writing. You need to write a realistic depiction of a character for a world that the writer knows more about than the character. Yura is the perfect example of how to do this, because she is a product of events and reactions, she is a complete character. She is not a empty shell of a person that we can place ourselves in, she’s not a Visual Novel protagonist that is meant to be “vague” and “open to interpretation”, she is a fiction character written as a complete character. And that’s not what we expected.

Depiction of hubris in a anime is nothing new, but most often it’s something that will be dealt with within one to two episodes. When it comes to C3bu this, and more specifically Yura’s development as a character, is the entire story. It’s a far more realistic depiction of how human beings act and behave. And if you do project yourself onto her like you would some other characters and place a great deal of your own emotion into fiction like this, then it can hurt to watch things like this happen to a character, but that’s all part of the brilliance in the character.

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By having a character actually be a character and not just a cardboard cutout, show her reacting, building and changing herself based on what she’s told and shown is how character focused storytelling is meant to be. Yura is not a bad person who does all of this out of her own will, she’s a confused and lonely misfit that ends up unknowingly behaving like an asshole while trying to just be the person people want her to be.

I am not saying that you need to like Yura and I’m not saying you need to like C3bu either. Like I pointed out earlier, there’s a lot of things you can have a problem with regarding the show. But all I’m asking of you, before you start ranting against Yura as a character, is to look past C3bu’s schizophrenic lack of a set genre and notice the one consistent red thread that runs through the entire show. Because for once we got a main character that had some actual development and storytelling applied to herself, and I think we need to show at least a little appreciation for that. Because we get far too little of it.

In the end, it’s because of all this, the fact that she actually is written as a human being, that I think Yura is not only a great character. I think Yura is, by far, the best character of the summer 2013 season of anime. It’s possible upon reflection at the end of the year that I might even give her a bigger title than that.

“Welcome back, Yura-chan.” Sonora thought to herself with a smile on her face.

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7 thoughts on “In Defense of Yura Yamato

  1. I probably agree with ~90% of your analysis here. Or to be more honest, I agree with everything up until the end of episode 11.

    The show has a few flaws. The supernatural element is forced and unnecessary, it doesn’t add anything useful to Yura’s story and just takes up unnecessary time and amounts to nothing worthwhile. Rento is highly underdeveloped for how important she ended up being. We never get a good grasp on why she would go so far out of her way to try and help Yura, the only explanation is that “she’s really just that incredibly nice”. Which is rather shallow and unsatisfying.

    Finally, it blew the conclusion. I really find it hard to buy just how eager the rest of C3bu (not counting veritable saint Rento) was to have Yura back. Rento should have had to fight to get them to give Yura another chance. Yura needed to demonstrate that she understood what she’d done wrong. But the last time Rento had seen Yura, Yura all but told her to go fuck off.

    If the series had ended there, with Yura slapping away the last hand extended to her, it would have been amazing. Tragic and sad, but amazing. As it is, we ended up stumbling through an overly forced ‘redemption’ that just felt clunky and implausible.

    And I have no idea why there is still another episode to go.

    • I agree that Rento is, unfortunately, underdeveloped. I’ve not read the manga, prequel or the one this is based on, so I can’t say for sure if this was something that ended up being a problem due to time constraints or from staying true to the source. But it is definitely a problem to the series as a whole.

      The Supernatural elements are largely unimportant, and many other things could have happened in its’ place that could have had the same impact upon Yura in the end. Once again, I’m not sure if this is a flaw that also exists in the source-material. But that’s also why I don’t mind it being pushed largely to the side for the most part, while it hurts the show as “a show” it wasn’t really a issue I felt was important enough to bring up here since this isn’t a review of the show, that’s next week after all.

      As to why there’s a 13th episode, I can only guess they’re hoping to somehow toss in the idea of sequel bait. After all, the manga is still ongoing so there’s more to adapt, can’t say I’m too sure that will end up being something that happens in the end though, because I can’t see it selling too well. Either that or they just want one episode that isn’t constrained by the contents of the arc they planned to adapt, similar to how Oregairu had a 13th episode that ended up being a fun addition without actually contributing anything. We’ll know in a week.

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