May 23, 2017
It's a curious thing, being the 2nd in a trilogy. Too often they get overshadowed as the "middle" chapter, sandwiched between a grand opening and a grand finale with only exposition as its purpose (Lord of the Rings), but sometimes the journey, the character shaping movements and setup for the finale are the strongest elements (Empire Strikes Back). Washio Sumi's 2nd chapter, Spirit, is already leaning toward the latter.
Following the friendship cemented at the end of the first movie, the second movie delves deeper into those bonds. Amusingly, it uses an omake-styled skit setting for the opening half's slice-of-life, giving us a fast-paced omnibus of
character development, world-building and most importantly, juxtaposition, as the girls have a cutesy Vertex-free Summer to figure out who they are.
The universe of Yuki Yuna means that, at any point, the characters can be expected to be thrust into battle at the drop of a hat, indicated by the world's motion halting except for the main characters. This small ingredient makes the entire series' slice-of-life sequences incredibly tense, forcing you to watch the backgrounds for pauses. Watching the skits sections of this movie is incredibly stomach lurching, as you know at any point their world can be flipped upside down.
The movie isn't exactly subtle about what's to come, with very in-face foreshadowing. In fact, almost every skit can be considered as foreshadowing, either for later in the movie or the next one. But, despite all that preparation, it's hard to be ready for the finale.
The original series always put the girls on the backfoot, and while Washio Sumi's chapter is no different, it's more like they are on their last toe before they even start. The odds are even more stacked than ever before, and the brutality is even greater. It gets real dark, real quick.
Barring one or two of the skits flopping in the first half, Spirit is the finest moment of the Yuki Yuna franchise thus far, usurping the first movie with stronger characterisation and capturing the unique sorrow of Sailor Moon meets Hurt Locker only this universe can bring. Can the third movie do better still?
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