Who doesn’t love a good girl? That, it seems, is the angle that Yuno Hayase, valued member of game developer Judgement 7 alongside her sister Asano, is going for.
Throughout the early hours of visual novel Our World is Ended, Yuno represents a source of relentless positivity and optimism. She’s always there to encourage protagonist Reiji and her comrades in Judgement 7, whether the situation is simply enduring a hot day or fleeing for their lives from mysterious men in black.
But, unsurprisingly, there’s a bit more going on beneath the surface than her airheaded first impressions might suggest. Make that a lot more.
Spoilers and heavy mental health stuff ahead.
Both Yuno and Asano have led something of a complicated and difficult life, as we’ve already seen to a certain degree. Back when we explored Asano’s character in detail, we learned that the pair were orphaned when their parents were in a car accident.
The person who took them in was a sexual abuser, and particularly had his sights set on Yuno who, Reiji frequently reminds us, was a bit of an early bloomer in terms of developing a womanly figure. Thankfully, Asano was able to get both herself and her sister out of that situation before anything truly irreversible happened, and they began their new life in a pokey, dirty little apartment; Asano working to support the pair of them while Yuno finished her high school education.
All seems to be as well as can be expected with this setup throughout much of the early chapters of Our World is Ended, but the first hint we get that something is amiss comes at the conclusion of a scene where Reiji carries an extremely drunk Asano back to her apartment, accompanied by Yuno. After putting Asano to bed, Reiji and Yuno spend some time in conversation, during which Reiji notices the memorial tablets for the Hayase girls’ parents, but doesn’t wish to pry.
Yuno, being a pretty open, honest sort of person — or so we’re led to believe at this point, anyway — immediately notices this and unashamedly explains their living situation, along with a number of secrets about exactly how good a sister Asano really is to her. Reiji, fascinated by this opportunity to get to know these people who have become important to him, stays up talking with Yuno until the small hours, until his plans to head home are scuppered by him falling asleep on the girls’ floor.
The last thing Yuno says as Reiji loses consciousness is “just so you know… I’m not the good girl you think I am. I wonder if you’d hate me if you knew the real me.”
This enigmatic comment is left hanging for a long time; we, as the reader, are aware of it, but it seems that Reiji was already asleep by the time she uttered those words. Consequently, it’s quite some time before we get the opportunity to discover exactly what she meant by them, but hoo boy, when we do, it’s a significant event for everyone.
As we’ve explored over the course of the main feature on the game, the core concept of Our World is Ended is the existence of Akashic, a virtual world created through the digitisation of memory data. Rather than functioning as today’s virtual reality does, diving into Akashic is such a convincing experience that it is indistinguishable from reality, unless you run into one of its particular quirks. The reason for this is that it works by directly manipulating the signals that are being sent to the “user’s” brain, leading them to believe that what they are perceiving is reality, not an image on a screen.
Turns out this is a bit of a two-way process, however, because it gradually becomes apparent over the course of the complete narrative that the thoughts, memories and emotional states of Akashic’s occupants can affect the virtual world in a much more significant manner than they would be able to in reality. This phenomenon initially manifests itself through the appearance of some of Judgement 7’s past game characters and particular events surrounding them, but as the story progresses we start to see more obvious, direct impacts.
This comes to a head following a heated argument over the direction of Judgement 7’s new game — that which they were supposed to be working on when they accidentally discovered the way to access Akashic. Yuno becomes uncharacteristically angry towards an emotionally fragile Natsumi, and the pair eventually come to blows. Or, more accurately, Yuno storms out after slapping Natsumi.
Following the incident, Reiji sets out to find them both and discovers Yuno outside the guest house where they are staying; he talks with her for a while but, assuming her to be back to “normal” after letting the stress out, leaves her behind to seek out Natsumi, who is in a pretty terrible mental state at the time. Yuno surreptitiously follows the pair and witnesses their interaction, however, and sees Reiji’s words both bringing Natsumi comfort and allowing her to let out her bottled-up emotions for the first time in what appears to be a very long while indeed.
The impact of this becomes apparent the next day when the group find themselves quite by accident back in Akashic. Yuno immediately disappears after their arrival, leading the group on a rather chaotic chase through what appears to be a jumbled world — one affected by the raging, boiling emotions that are bubbling inside Yuno’s mind right now. When they eventually catch up with her, things have gotten so bad that she has allowed an alternate personality named Hiruno to take the lead.
“I wanna cry, too, you know,” Hiruno explains. “Why did you ignore me? Why do you leave me alone? Why did you choose Natsumi?”
“Yuno-san… no, Hiruno-san,” Reiji says, “you’re strong, so I thought you’d be all right…”
“Why did you think that!?” bellows back Hiruno. “Why did you think I was strong? Why did you decide that I’d be fine!? Did you think I’d be fine no matter what happened because I always smile? Did you think I wasn’t sad even after having a fight like that? Don’t just decide that by yourself! Don’t push your expectations on me!”
All is clearly not well, but at this point, the group feels unable to talk Hiruno down. It’s Asano who explains how and why this has likely happened after the group decides to gather their thoughts and contemplate how best to handle the situation. It transpires that, to cut a long story short, Yuno’s good nature caused her to inadvertently lead hormonal boys on, then accidentally “dump” them without even realising. On one occasion where she “dumped” someone that the Queen Bitch of the school liked, it resulted in rapidly escalating bullying and physical violence, culminating in her returning home one day with torn, dirty clothes and the hair that she was so proud of — still visible on Hiruno’s Akashic form — shredded and beyond help.
The incident left such significant mental scars on Yuno that she was unable to even contemplate the thought of returning to school without passing out or vomiting, but rather than allowing herself to process what had happened to her, she was wracked with guilt at letting her sister down, and ultimately decided to commit suicide.
“But you know how good she is,” explains Asano. “She couldn’t find any good place because she figured that she would bother the people around her. In the end, she realised that she’d be a bother no matter where she died.”
This incident is symptomatic of the core problem with Yuno’s mental health: she doesn’t allow herself time to process her own emotions, believing that doing so will be “a bother” to others. Instead, she spends her time being kind to everyone — in itself seemingly an admirable trait, but Hiruno, as a manifestation of Yuno’s frustrations in this regard, explains it best:
“Am I not Yuno if I don’t smile all the time?” she asks. “Do I stop being Yuno if I get mad, jealous, angry or selfish?” Despite Hiruno being more than happy to express all of those things, it’s clear that this is what Yuno believes — and the people around her, believing her to have always been this happy, positive, uplifting sort of person, haven’t been in any hurry to correct her.
Everyone was at fault here to one degree or another; Yuno for not being honest with either herself or the people closest to her, and the rest of Judgement 7 for allowing these negative emotions to fester unchecked for so long.
“I really hate myself,” explains a tearful Hiruno. “So I thought everyone else would hate me too. I’m a crybaby, a coward, I get mad easily and I’m really selfish… and I really hate that. But it’s really hard to live while lying… it’s unbearable and sad. Not to mention that lying just made me hate myself even more.”
Thankfully, you’ll be relieved to hear that we do finally get some resolution to that which Yuno has been bottling up for the whole narrative (and beyond) — but I’ll leave the exact details of how that happens for you to discover for yourself.
For now, though, take the time to get to know the “nice” people in your life and don’t take them for granted; you never know quite how much they might be hurting on the inside, even if they never show any outward indication of their suffering. Be good to one another!
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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