Yuri Kuma Arashi Ep. 2: Bad bears

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Caught in an invisible storm.

— Apparently, Sumika is now dead. But is she dead dead or anime dead?

Buncha birds all over the place. The birds are coming from the flowers. I’m thinking doves since peace and love and whatnot. The doves avoid the bears, though. Maybe those are your two options: go from a flower to a dove, or get snipped and become a bear.

— Kureha is not at school, ’cause she’s busy practicing her aim by shooting at bears with fish in their mouths. A bit on the nose there, don’t you think?

— Back at school, Sumika’s portrait is placed in one of these drawers. More imagery involving triangles and the color red. Even Kureha’s home is a red “box” at the end of some corner. What does it all mean?! Well…

*vomits 10-page essay on gnosticism*

Relax, I’m joking. I’ve read some of the developing theories out there on the internet, but I don’t find them very interesting or compelling. Maybe the problem is that the subject matter just isn’t very compelling. More on that later.

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— Anyway, Kureha supposedly lost someone close to her in the past. 99% chance it’s her mom. Does the girl live by herself? Where’s her father? Does the absence of males imply that the father is absentee or does he literally not exist? How does she manage? How does she support herself? Or are these details unimportant in the grand scheme of things? Should we just accept these conspicuous omissions from Yuri Kuma Arashi’s universe?

— Oh cool, it’s the Greek chorus.

— The brown bear sniffs the black bear’s ass as she complements the latter on her “gorgeous wild-animal smell.” ‘Kay. Then there’s this.

— Mitsuko is convinced that Ginko and Lulu are the culprits. Maybe. But if it’s that easy for those two to infiltrate the school, maybe there are other bears lurking about.

— Look at dem pretty eyes. Blah blah blah, if you get close to Kureha, the Invisible Storm will attack you. And if you don’t follow “the mood of the herd,” you get excluded. Okay. I’ll keep that in mind.

— Later, Ginko and Lulu barge their way into Kureha’s home, and insists that they start living there. Kureha doesn’t put up much of a resistance. A bunch of fanservice follows.

— It feels like it’s eternally Valentine’s Day in Kureha’s house.

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— Okay, this is the second time I’ve seen a girl shove another girl to the ground, then shove her knee up to the other girl’s crotch. Is this supposed to be sexy? Provocative? Or just tired pandering? Speaking of which, why is Kureha not resisting? Is she unable to resist? Is she being overpowered? More rapey undertones in yet another yaoi/yuri work? Par for the course, I guess.

— Ginko was just about to make her move with Kureha doing absolutely nothing in return, but Mitsuko just had to show up to the house with her own rifle. I guess they hand that shit out like candy.

— The bears escape out the window, but Mitsuko gives chase. Then another anonymous phone call compels Kureha to head to the school’s rooftop yet again.

— Elsewhere, Rabbit Girl is fuming with jealousy over Mitsuko possibly being in love with Kureha. Sigh. Why do I seem so exasperated? Well, we’re almost there. I’ll explain once we get there.

— It turns out that Rabbit Girl is really another bear. Great.

— And now, Kureha has her rifle with her. As she marches her way to the school, we see flashbacks involving her and Sumika planting lily bulbs. Exciting stuff.

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— I told you we’d see this over and over. But I guess I get the backgrounds now. The normally colorful setting belies the true nature of the world, which is all about creating walls and shit. And of course, the rampant construction suggests that the world is getting boxed in even further. We’ve already seen several instances of people being boxed in.

— She reaches the rooftop and comes face to face with Konomi, but she doesn’t know it’s really her. She just sees a bear. Unfortunately, all that target practice didn’t help. The girl has the aim of a stormtrooper.

— She then gets “knocked off” again… so you know what that means. Yeah, it’s nectar-licking time. Long story short, yuri is approved (as if it wouldn’t be). And yes, we have to watch the full transformation scene again. So if you’re yuri approved, you become some bear-human hybrid and simply lick at a girl’s metaphorical flower. Then I suspect they aren’t responsible for Sumika’s death then, because it seems like she was eaten by someone who stayed a bear. Why do you have to be yuri approved? Because otherwise, you’ll become a sexual predator? I don’t know, man. Lulu seemed pretty rapey earlier…

— When Kureha returns to the real world, she finds herself standing before Mitsuko, who has just shot Konomi-bear right through the head. Is this really the last we’ll see of Konomi?

They frighten easily, but they’ll be back again… in greater numbers.

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— And now, Mitsuko makes her move on Kureha. Then it turns out that she, too, is a bear. In fact, she’s been eating lots of girls, but “invisible” ones weren’t tasty or whatever. Pure girls are boring. You need one that won’t back down on luuuuuuve. You need one that is excluded. Just earlier in the episode, Ginko said that “sad and lonely tears taste like a treat.” Now, Mitsuko compares excluded girls to pomegranate and honey.

— But if she’s the one responsible for Sumika’s death, then who were the two bear eating behind the garden?

— And was she always a bear? Was Konomi always a bear? Or did they become it at some point when they each became possessive of another girl? Do we erect walls to keep love and emotions out? Does corrupted love turn you into a relentless predator? Does true love make you some sort of furry hybrid? Ah well.

— The truth is, I’m just not feeling the anime. It’s not about getting or not getting it. It’s that, unlike Utena and Penguindrum, I simply do not enjoy this show from a narrative standpoint. The characters are fucking terrible. They have no personalities beyond the stock ones that they’ve been given. Yeah, we’ve only seen two episodes, but nevertheless, they’ve barely received any development. With Ikuhara’s previous works, the mystery enhanced a story that was already strong. Even if I didn’t know what the fuck I was watching in Penguindrum, I could at least relate to the characters on an emotional level. Here, there are no emotions to relate to. Kureha is sad and angry a lot, but there isn’t anything truly heart-rending here. There isn’t sadness, there isn’t romance, there isn’t even true, palpable rage. No one does anything that makes me think, “Yeah, I totally get what she’s going through.” There’s just one esoteric moment after another, glossed up by a bunch of girls kissing girls moments. But ironically, I’m missing the love. We’re lacking any sort of true love for anything here to even be considered LGBT. All this talk about love and I don’t feel a single shred of it. There’s a bunch of teasing nibbling and shit, but I don’t see any real, meaningful lesbian love here.

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Like shit, Kureha is terribly worked up about Sumika, but we don’t even know why she loves Sumika. It’s just a fact of the matter, and we’re supposed to just accept it and get behind her as a character. But it doesn’t work that way. The siblings in Penguindrum received a ton of development right from the get-go. In this show, Sumika gets killed instantly, and all we get are these shallow flashbacks. Yeah, symbolism is nice and all, but at the end of the day, I still need something human to relate to. Seriously though, can anyone actually say that they feel for Kureha’s plight? ‘Cause what’s the point of metaphors and symbolism if your storytelling can’t even convey the greatness of her loss to the audience? What are we doing, then? Just playing mind games for the sake of it? I fear that everything is convoluted in order to cover up the fact that the underlying narrative is threadbare and really fucking mundane. The show needs to be gimmicky, because it has no substance beneath all the repeated stock footage and strained symbolism. I really hope that’s not the case, but I’m not seeing anything to the contrary after two episodes.

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8 thoughts on “Yuri Kuma Arashi Ep. 2: Bad bears”

  1. Watching this episode, I kind of get the impression this series might have been intended to be longer before getting its episode count cut down, as things feel a bit rushed. My reaction isn’t as negative as yours, but I do agree that the plot isn’t grabbing me as much as Penguindrum’s did. Although then again I didn’t really start getting into Penguindrum until after the second half, so we’ll see.

    Re: the rape-tinged scenes and the lack of any real “love” present, I really didn’t read that those scenes were meant to come off as titillating. The conversation Kureha has with whats her face in her room is downright creepy in tone, and I think it’s pretty clear the bears are meant to be predatory in more ways than literally eating people. All of the references to horror movies are starting to make more sense, as Kureha is now in a school filled with students who secretly want to rape and/or murder her.

    Now that said, I’m still raising my eyebrows over the heavy inclusion of young girls sexually assaulting each other. I give Ikuhara the strong benefit of the doubt based on past work, but he better be going somewhere with this.

    1. Re: the rape-tinged scenes and the lack of any real “love” present, I really didn’t read that those scenes were meant to come off as titillating.

      My point is that they don’t come across as disturbing enough.

  2. HAhaha! What in the hell does gnosticism have to do with this?
    Anyway, the show feels like a chore to me and it’s exactly for the same reason as you described. Nothing is happening. I mean, things happen, but we can’t connect to any of it. It’s like we’re floating from one scene to another as the show dances from metaphor to metaphor with shallow twirls.

    Your write-up on how hollow it is for a show to be meta for the sake of being meta come to mind. It’s the same thing here, but exchange “meta” with “arty”.

  3. I’m not sure if the die-hard Ikuhara fans have been phased by how much of a ‘hook’ (or any real depth) Yurikuma Arashi lacks thus far, but for someone like me–someone who finds murky symbolism for symbolism’s sake to be absolutely pretentious, pretty art aside–I’m not engaged. This series comes across as having been directed by someone who had absolute confidence that his fans would fill in any storytelling gaps by attempting to mask it as brilliance. It’s like back during Lady Gaga’s heyday, when her Little Monsters would INSIST that this dancey pop number was really, truly, a post-modern artistic statement. They needed it to be, in order to convince themselves that they were enlightened and complex.

    Which isn’t to say that Ikuhara isn’t telling a story here–just not a very good one, so far.

    1. Or maybe some people, unlike you, don’t need the emotional connection YKA lacks? Or maybe they see its absence as a plus point? Look man, I’m not loving this show either, but just because people don’t share your opinion, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re pretentious asshats. Sure, there’s always a bunch of them for every show, particularly Ikuhara-esque ones with plenty of surrealist metaphors/symbolism and shit, but there’s no need to be overly & needlesssly cynical. If anything, you putting down these people comes off as similar behavior to what you’re decrying!

      And nah, it’s not art for art’s sake. There’s clearly a story here about society’s treatment of anti-conformists & how they themselves perceive it and internally react to it, with additional stuff on adolescence, sexuality, identity, etc. though I can understand if you don’t find it interesting. Like I said, I’m not enthralled either.

      1. Not saying the Ikuhara fans are pretentious asshats, only that they seem to be more eager to excuse and gloss over the weaker parts of the story so far. Hell, it’s early enough that this might become something amazing–who’s to say it won’t? Ditto with the symbolism. It’s murky, and while I’m not personally engaged by it, I can clearly see the beginnings of the story being told–the ‘Invisible Storm’s attack on those who defy the norm, the parallels of the bear attacks to the historical event…but this is going to be a series I plan to drop within the next few episodes if nothing much changes.

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