Super Recaps: Yuri Kuma Arashi (Episode 1)

So where the hell did THIS come from?  Seriously.  I hadn’t heard ANYTHING about this show until about two weeks ago, and since then it’s just exploded!  Were people really aching for a story about gay bears that had absolutely NO hairy men in it!?  Still though, the show comes from Silver Link who has had some big hits in the past (Watamote) and has even done some stuff I liked (Dusk Maiden of Amnesia), so maybe I’m the only one who’s surprised that people are talking about this.  So is the series worth talking about outside of it’s weird as hell premise?  Well, we’re about to find out!!

The episode begins with the introductions of Kureha Tsubaki and Sumika Izumino who are two students at a nearby high school.  Oh, and they appear to be lesbians.

“Nobody puts Sumika in a corner!”

“Nobody puts Sumika in a corner!”

Their sweet moment is short lived however because people start screaming and alarms start blaring to indicate the presence of bears in the city!!  We cut to some exposition which informs us as to why bears are so scary in this universe.  Some sort of meteor shower caused all the bears on Earth to become intelligent (no other creatures; just bears) and they decide that humans are the tastiest things in the world (as opposed to something that would naturally appear in their ecosystem).

Yeah… except they don’t.

Yeah… except they don’t.

In response to the bears suddenly getting a taste for human flesh, the world decided to make little isolated domes so that they can live in peace from the bears who still attempt to get into the human cities and eat the citizens there.  I get the feeling that trying to make sense out of any of this is going to be a constantly losing battle, but I really have to ask.    Who the hell thought that the best option was seal isolated communities off from the wild?  Where do they get their food!?  These domes don’t seem all that big, and there’s no explanation as to what the rest of the world is doing.  I honestly doubt that every fucking city on the planet had enough resources to build giant enclosures for their citizens, so what the hell happened to everyone else?  Furthermore, there’s no fucking way that we wouldn’t have been able to end this fucking species in a matter of years.  Hell, we can’t even keep animals we WANT to keep alive from going instinct!   You’re telling me that we couldn’t have solved this problem with a shit ton of buckshot!?  Of course, I can already tell that the peanut gallery is yelling at me that I’m missing the damn point of this series, so let’s move on and we’ll save these questions for later.  The exposition dump ends there and we cut to the high school where two new transfer students are being introduced to the class.  Naturally, they’re both bears in disguise because bears can do that now.  Am I the only one reminded of that hot chick transformer from Transformers 2?

“Uh, teacher?  Isn’t it weird that bears were sighted on the same day that two ‘transfer’ students arrived at our school?”     “Hey!  No one likes a McCarthy!  Are you a McCarthy!?”     “No Mam.”

“Uh, teacher?  Isn’t it weird that bears were sighted on the same day that two ‘transfer’ students arrived at our school?”     “Hey!  No one likes a McCarthy!  Are you a McCarthy!?”     “No Mam.”

So not only can bears transform into humans, but they can forge enough documents to pass as transfer students?  Where the hell did they transfer from anyway?  Are people allowed to move between giant fucking bear blocking domes?  The two bears (Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki) make no bones about the fact that they are there to eviscerate some under aged school girls which gives us at least some interesting characters to follow.   I have no idea if these two are supposed to be the protagonists, but if they are then this show can get REALLY dark really fast.  I’m usually not a fan of dark anime, but the setup is interesting enough that it doesn’t immediately turn me away.

“We’re gonna free up a lot of desks in this bitch!”

“We’re gonna free up a lot of desks in this bitch!”

Ginko starts to survey the class for the tastiest looking girl, and it turns out to be Kureha, so at least now we have a plot for this episode.  The bears are gonna try to get to Kureha and eat her without anyone noticing.  We cut to lunch and Kureha realizes that Sumika is nowhere to be seen.  She begins searching the entire school, her panic slowly rising as she runs out of places to look.  It’s a decent scene in the episode which helps to show what this show is REALLY about which seems to be young love being cut short during times of war or great fear.  That said it’s way too early to pull the trigger on Sumika’s death because the show hasn’t given us a change to give a shit about her or her relationship to Kureha.  Also, I can’t help but think (there’s that word again) that Kureha shouldn’t be the only one panicking right now.  WHY THE HELL DOESN’T ANYONE ELSE CARE THAT A STUDENT JUST WENT MISSING!?  Either no one else cares, or Kureha isn’t smart enough to let anyone know.  Kureha eventually finds Sumika who’s on the school roof and they end up having an adorable lunch together.  Sumika still doesn’t seem to have any emotions other than saintly goodness which makes it hard to give a shit about their relationship on anything other than a shallow “GIRL GIRL SUPER CUTSY!!!”  level.

“Can we talk about something else?  Like how you disappeared for half an hour!?”

“Can we talk about something else?  Like how you disappeared for half an hour!?”

Their happy reunion is not all sunshine and roses however because Ginko and Lulu are in their bear forms and are watching them eat their lunch.  So I guess Sumika IS an idiot because roofs are apparently a good place for bears to stalk their pray.  Oh, and can we talk about the bears?

SO HOT!!!   Right?

SO HOT!!!   Right?

In the exposition at the beginning, the bears were also ultra-tiny and cute but I didn’t actually expect them to look like this in the real world.  Maybe this isn’t even what they really look like and is just a result of then cutting the budget, I mean “taking artistic liberties.”  Other than the eyes which have a nice deranged look to them, the bears are completely non-threatening and it’s hard to take seriously the fact that all of humanity has cowered in fear and closed themselves off from the world to escape these monstrous threats.

“We’re SUPER scary!!”

“We’re SUPER scary!!”

Maybe I’m being a bit unfair.  Who says cute things can’t be scary!?  They DO show their evil chops by intentionally sabotaging Sumika’s lily garden.  Kureha seems to be shaken up by this blatant threat against them, but Sumika seems to not let it get her down.  Seriously!?   I’m calling it right now.  Sumika is either a well hidden bear, or a robot.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t find saintly characters endearing.  If you don’t have a shred of humanity and just act pleasant all the time, it means your BORING!!  It’s not even like she’s a character who stays strong in the face of adversity and strife.  She just doesn’t seem to give a shit!!

“Any thoughts on this?  No?  You’re just gonna keep staring at me, aren’t you?     …     STOP IT!!!”

“Any thoughts on this?  No?  You’re just gonna keep staring at me, aren’t you?     …     STOP IT!!!”

The threat against Sumiko doesn’t go unnoticed by the Class Representative, Mitsuko Yurizono, who pledges to help the two of them fend off this threat against them by the bears (which they refer to as an Invisible Storm).  The three girls share a moment of relief as they plan to replant the garden tomorrow when it ends up getting ruined by a brick being thrown at them.  I’m actually starting to get REALLY interested in the bears here as villains.  They still look stupid (whether it’s intentional or not) but their psychological tactics are just horrible.  I don’t know WHY they want to stress these girls out as much as possible before striking (presumably putting them on the defensive which will make it harder to catch them off guard), but their plan seems to be working.  We cut to later that night at Kureha’s house where we find out a bit of backstory for her.  It seems that long ago her mother was eaten by a bear, and so she’s vowed to never let a loved one die at their paws again.  She even goes so far as to learn how to shoot a rifle so she can be ready when a bear attacks.  Well, I guess she’d only be prepared if the bear strikes while she had a gun.  They haven’t indicated that there’s a citizen’s militia to fight off the bears, or if there’s an army who goes out into the wild to try and eradicate the enemy.  Anyway, at least we’re getting some pathos here for Kureha.

“FUCK YOU BEARS!!  GO BACK TO EATING FISH!!!”

“FUCK YOU BEARS!!  GO BACK TO EATING FISH!!!”

Unfortunately for Kureha, it appears that the bears got to Sumika the next morning.  She arrived at the flower bed before Mitsuko and Kureha did and seems to have disappeared.  A body has not been found yet, so it’s possible she’s alive, but then again that could be just another way of fucking with Kureha who you may recall is the Ginko and Lulu’s main pray.  At this point, the show seems to go off the rails.  I know.  It was so realistic up until now!  Kureha gets a phone call (the voice doesn’t belong to any of the characters we’ve seen yet) informing her that  the bears are on the roof.  The voice is vague about it, but Kureha is convinced that Sumika is still alive and proceeds to run to the roof with her rifle in hand.  When she gets there, two bears are waiting for her whom I THINK are supposed to be Lulu and GInko, but they aren’t wearing their clothes this time, and the designs of the bears are hardly unique enough to distinguish without some sort of obvious identifier.

Help me out here!  Are they Lulu and Ginko!?

Help me out here!  Are they Lulu and Ginko!?

The bears charge and… do something.  At this point, the creators just threw up their hands and said “FUCK YOU!!  WE’RE ARTISTS!!!”  We see a bear swipe it’s claw which causes Kureha to fall backwards and start tumbling in the air above a flight of stairs that’s decorated with paw prints.

Yeah?  Well I want to understand what’s going on!

Yeah?  Well I want to understand what’s going on!

Oh it gets even worse.  We cut from there to some sort of bear trial.  I’ve lost all sense of what the fuck is going on.

‘Enlightenment’ isn’t the word I’d be using right now.

‘Enlightenment’ isn’t the word I’d be using right now.

I doubt we’re supposed to take this as something that is literally happening, but then what ARE we supposed to take away from this?  We’ve got a judge (Sexy Life), a representative for the humans (Cool Life) and a representative for the bears (Beauty Life).   The judge I guess is trying to determine whether or not it’s okay to eat Kureha.  The Cool Life says that Lulu and Ginko crossed the line by infiltrating the human world and are just being gluttonous at this point, while Beauty Life counters by arguing that the human’s defense can’t say for certain how many humans is too many for a bear to become a glutton.   Yeah, this is a TOTALLY necessary distraction from what  was going on earlier.

Is that Japanese for Go Fuck Yourself?

Is that Japanese for Go Fuck Yourself?

The only thing of any relevance in this scene is that Lulu and Ginko reiterate that they want nothing more than to eat humans and have no compassion for their pray whatsoever.

“Fuck those meat bags!  We’ve gotta EAT!!”     “Aren’t bears omnivores?”     “SHUT UP!!”

“Fuck those meat bags!  We’ve gotta EAT!!”     “Aren’t bears omnivores?”     “SHUT UP!!”

Life Sexy gives them approval to eat Kureha which then leads to a pointless transformation sequence where the two bears transform into their human counterparts.  They then cut to Kureha who’s floating naked in some sort of white void while Lulu and Ginko lick honey off of a lily which I think is growing out of Kureha.

WHAT!?

THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!?!?

THE FUCK DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!?!?

It would be one thing if they wanted to have some overly complex metaphor for death (I can definitely see the scene above as a cleaned up version of disembowelment), but it doesn’t even mean THAT much because we cut from there to Kureha waking up in the nurse’s office.  Apparently she was found passed out on the roof.  So we went through that whole bullshit trial thing and the bears decide to NOT kill her yet?  WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THE LAST FIVE MINUTES!?!?  We cut from there to sometime later where Mitsuko is passing by the flower garden which is COVERED in police tape, yet not a single officer is there.  Moreover, it turns out that Lulu and Ginko are currently eating someone behind it (they don’t show who it is, but the assumption is that it’s Sumika).  Not only does Mitsuko see this horrifying sight, but she also figures out that the two exchange students are the bears!!  NO!!!!  YOU THINK!?!?  The two students who came from who-knows where arriving at the same time as an increase in bear sightings MIGHT just be connected!?  And so the episode ends with Mitsuko now knowing who the killer bears are, and the bears in question seeming losing their cover almost immediately!

“And then they’re gonna eat me!!  OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDD!!!!!”

“And then they’re gonna eat me!!  OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDD!!!!!”

This show is really frustrating for me.  It has A LOT going for it, but then it decides it’s too good for even the most basic of conventions or logic.  I interpret this show as being about paranoia and fear during times of war when you worried for your safety not just from outside threats, but from internal threats who might be working for the bad guys.  It’s the anime version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers which was tapping into the paranoia created by the Red Scare.  I like that!  There are moments where they really get across the sense of unease from being stalked by an unseen foe.  I also like Yuri stories, and while there’s hardly anything SUBSTANTIVE yet, I’m interested to see if that aspect of the show goes anywhere.  The show ultimately falters when it tries to replace narrative with art.  Whether it’s the fact that we only have a couple admittedly well-made sets to work with (making the world feels way too small), or the fact that we cut to random excursion like the trial for some sort of tortured metaphor, it’s hard to actually care what’s going to happen to anyone.  The show would have been much better if they spent as much time building up Sumika’s and Kureha’s relationship as they did on that stupid god damn trial and the subsequent transformation sequence which as far as I can tell has contributed diddly squat to the story.  I’m interested to see where this goes and if it will actually tell a compelling story which can definitely happen.  All the pieces are there to make this extremely compelling, but it’s not gonna happen if they keep cutting characterization in favor of pointless excursions to the land of bear court.

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If you like this recap and plan on buying the show, then use the Amazon link below!  I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite!  In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed!  Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage!  You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

Yurikuma Arashi: The Complete Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

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4 thoughts on “Super Recaps: Yuri Kuma Arashi (Episode 1)

  1. drcakey

    I was going to not comment because people who leave comments are the worst, but then I remembered I’m the worst so all’s right with the world.

    I hmmm’d a bit when you mentioned the production studio, Silver Link, but not the name of the director…but then the post is tagged with his name so I’m not sure if you know who he is or not. So either for you, other people who read this, or both, Yuri Kuma Arashi is directed by a magic pink-haired space man named Kunihiko Ikuhara. He is kind of a big deal. He directed Mawaru Penguindrum in 2010 and Revolutionary Girl Utena in 1997, and if you know anything about either of those then Yuri Kuma Arashi is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of him. Yuri Kuma is probably his weirdest show, but it’s also his least complex and easiest to decipher, since it’s just 12 episodes.

    The trick is getting into Ikuhara’s head-space, which most people do automatically but, well, internet reviewers sometimes need a little hand-holding. Personally I don’t see how your response to “magic bear planet breaks into fragments which rain down on Earth and make all bears bipedal, sentient man-eaters, causing humans to hide behind giant walls” with “but how did they build the walls?” but everybody’s different so I guess I’ll leave well enough alone.

    Oh, and if you didn’t like the Court of Severance sequence, I’ve got some bad news for you…you’re going to be seeing a lot of it. Every Ikuhara show has at least sequence which recurs almost every episode.

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    1. superdude1999 Post author

      I’m only aware of Kunihiko Ikuhara from Penguindrum, and I only saw a couple episodes of that. I didn’t know enough about the guy to talk about his work, but I used his name as a tag because plenty of other people know who he is. While I didn’t stick with Penguindrum past 3 or 4 episodes, I think that it’s worth pointing out that THAT show had a lot of things going for it that this one is lacking. The biggest thing is that Penguindrum had audience avatars (the two brothers) who were just as confused as we are and could ask the questions that we wanted answered. When fantastical elements are introduced, they were there to ground the mythology so that we didn’t feel like we were missing anything.

      Because this show goes for a fantastical concept that changes so much about the world before we’re introduced to it, it makes it hard for us (or maybe just me) to understand how we got here and to be invested in what’s going on. Another thing that Penguindrum did better was the recurring sequence (which I absolutely LOVED in that show). The crazy out of nowhere sequence in that was grounded by the two brothers who were just as confused as we were and it had real world consequences because the brothers were given new information to work with after each one of the sequences. The court room scenes in this show don’t have anyone to explain what’s going on (everyone in the scene knows exactly what’s happening) and it doesn’t seem to serve a purpose. If they need approval from the court to kill someone, why didn’t we see it when they killed the student (probably Sumika)? Why did we see the court room decide on a character’s death when that character ultimately did not get killed?

      Anyway, thanks for the comment! Always like it when people give their thoughts on what I write!

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      1. drcakey

        Yuri Kuma definitely does have some weaknesses compared to what Ikuhara’s done previously, mostly due to its length. Penguindrum is 24 episodes long, but he still had too many things and ideas he wanted to cram in, so concepts and plot points were still being introduced almost up until the finale. Utena was 39 episodes long so he had enough room to do what he wanted to do. It seems to me like he learned a bit from Penguindrum because Yuri Kuma seems to be introducing things at a decent rate, but it means a lot of the character parts have been sacrificed.

        As for dropping fantastical concepts right from the get-go, I guess you either need to be grounded or you don’t. For me – at least for a show like Yuri Kuma Arashi – I don’t need or want to know that the Wall of Severance was built by the International Anti-Bear Coalition, or that a billion lives were lost in the Kuma Wars thirty years ago. That would destroy the show for me. Instead I can focus on the important stuff. Like, I think the reading of the show that currently has the most traction among fans is that it’s about how loving relationships are turned destructive and abusive through pressure and rejection by society, or something along those lines (I’m not nearly as clever as I pretend to be), though episode four might’ve poked some holes in that theory. For the first couple weeks people were spending way too much time discovering that half the shots and backgrounds in the show were apparently homages to various horror movies.

        As for the Court of Severance, I don’t think anyone has more than idle speculation about what it’s intended to mean. Ginko and Lulu licking Kurehas’s…lily…is obviously framed to look like cunnilingus, but the significance of THAT is uncertain. As for the court itself, Life Sexy, Life Cool, and Life Beauty (that was so much fun to type) are the only men in the entire show, so they seem kind of patriarchal but there’s not really anything to go on other than that.

        (And you can thank Linkara for these comments. I guess RTs do something after all.)

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  2. Pingback: Super Recaps: Yuri Kuma Arashi (Episode 11) | The Reviewers Unite!

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