Right. I’m not going to pretend like I know what this show is about. It’s just the first episode, and nobody can really say they knew what Penguindrum was really about from just the first episode alone. So y’know, I’m not going to sit here and come up with all these wild theories about the show’s meaning and/or subtext at such an early juncture in the series. Oh, we’ll have plenty of time for that later. I’m sure the Ikuhara fanatics are already salivating at the thought. For now, however, I just want to focus on what this episode makes me feel — what it evokes from me. But first, we should probably get the surface plot out of the way. I really shouldn’t recap the plot events of the episode like this, but maybe putting it together in my own head will help me… I don’t know, organize my feelings about the show or something.
We at Arashigaoka Academy, an all-girls school. The story also takes place in this alternative universe where a meteor storm had turned bears into bipedal, human-“eating” g…girls? Are there male bears in this universe? The only male characters I see are the Judgmens, and they have bear paws, but at the moment, I would definitively state that they are bears themselves. Anyway, a Severance Barrier was erected to keep the bears out, but two managed to infiltrate the academy and disguise themselves as regular, human girls. Likewise, I’m not sure if there are any human males in this story. If there are any, I haven’t seen one yet. Our two sneaky bears are Ginko and Lulu, and the former is especially interested in Kureha, who appears to be the main human character of the story.
At the beginning of the episode, Kureha and her lover Sumika by the school’s lily garden (one of many?). It appears that their love is not exactly condoned, but Kureha assures Sumika that they’re doing nothing wrong. Plus, she’ll never “give up on love,” a phrase that we’re sure to hear over and over as this series unfold. They are suddenly alerted to the presence to a bear sighting. Kureha promises to protect her girlfriend, but as luck would have it, Sumika ends up disappearing one morning. When Kureha receives a mysterious phone call about whether or not her love for Sumika is “true,” she grabs her rifle, which she has conveniently stashed away in her locker, and quickly rushes to the school’s rooftop. There, she finds herself attacked by two bears.
Immediately afterwards, we see the same two bears undergo a “Yuri Trial,” where three Judgemens decide whether or not the bears should be allowed to proceeding with their feasting of human girls. Apparently, even in the bear world, it’s not exactly kosher to hunt your prey? Shrug. After a short debate, Love Sexy (yeah, really), the head Judgemen (Judgeman?), declares, “Lily, approved!” As a result, the two bears undergo a mahou transformation scene in which they become human girls again, and then they proceed to lick nectar from the white lily growing out of a naked Kureha’s chest. When Kureha finally wakes up, she finds herself in the infirmary. Elsewhere, a girl stumbles upon Sumika being eaten by a pair of bears. Aaaaaaaaaaand… end episode. Phew. Was a that a mouthful or what?
Right, so what do I even think? To be honest, the first thought that came to my head was, “Yuri again?” I liked Penguindrum, though. I felt it was ambitious and large in scope. Hopefully, Yuri Kuma Arashi can be the same way, but I won’t pretend that I don’t have my misgivings about the show’s largely female-looking cast. My second thought was, “Man, this is gimmicky and repetitive.” And honestly, Ikuhara’s storytelling has always been gimmicky and repetitive. He loves to reuse images, motifs, and metaphors in different contexts. It can sometimes be fun to piece together what he’s trying to say (Penguindrum), but other times, it can get tiresome (Revolutionary Girl Utena). After one episode, I’m not going to rule one way or the other with Yuri Kuma Arashi, but it’s a thought that’s going to linger at the back of my mind for the rest of the series.
To sum things up, my initial impression towards this anime is a mixture of… of… curiosity and a whole lot of eye-rolling. I mean, the show’s different, but I’m way past the point of praising something just for being different. And until Yuri Kuma Arashi can prove to me that it can tie its gimmicks together into a compelling, interesting story, then all the metaphors in the world doesn’t mean shit. For now, I remain apprehensive about the show’s direction.
Stray notes & observations:
— The yuri antics do nothing for me. Doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.
— What’s with all the construction in the background? What’s an Invisible Storm? What does it mean to go invisible? Why is eating equated with love? Why does it have to be called a Severance Barrier instead of just a simple wall? What does eating Kureha’s nectar even do? Stay tuned for the next episode of Dragon Ball Z.
— But really, is the Severance Barrier just a hymen? It’s a hymen, isn’t it?
— Speaking of hymens, here’s a white flower. And now, we have a red flower. And midway through the episode, someone had snipped the white flowers from their stems, and the human girls end up dirtying their hands in order to hold one of them. I don’t need to spell it out what flowers represent, right? Right.
— The girls like to eat fishy food, man. Lots of fishy food.
— Technically, the animation is alright, but the characters look mega dumb sometimes, especially Sumika.
— There’s no doubt that I’ve missed some other stuff, but… meh. I’m good for now. Till next week.