We’re at the halfway point of everyone’s favorite gay horror romance with bears! There were a lot of revelations in the last episode that set up some huge expectations for this one. Will we get a satisfying conclusion to this story arc, or will it all just fizzle out in a hodgepodge of mixed metaphors and obtuse symbolism? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins where the last one left off. Wait, how did that one end?
No wait, we have to do a flashback first. GAH!!! Fine, but this better be worth it! What’s it about?
Alright, I’m SURE we’ll get back to the dying girl in due time, and who knows; maybe this flashback will give me a reason to like Sumika! So within the flashback of Sumika writing the birthday letter, she begins flashing back to when she first met Kureha which doesn’t seem to have been that long before she got killed. They met on the first day of high school, and if Sumika died about a month before Kureha’s seventeenth birthday then that would mean they knew each other for about a year. I always figured they’d have known each other longer, but it actually says something good about Kureha’s character that she didn’t immediately block others out once her mother died and that she was willing to give love and friendship a chance after that loss. Anyway, Sumika then remembers the night they saved the garden and the subsequent naked cuddling they did afterward to dry off.
We get to see more of that night where Kureha shares her mother’s last (and unpublished) book that she wrote before she died. Apparently Kureha’s mother was a children’s author. Oh, and she had to have been a seer considering that the story JUST SO HAPPENS to be a note for note parallel of Kureha and Ginko’s story. Oh, and it’s an unfinished story because Kureha’s mother JUST SO HAPPENED to have died right before getting to the part we HAVEN’T seen yet. A bit on the nose there don’t you think? Oh well, let’s take a look at this story.
So the Moon Girl (Kureha) drops her mother’s pendant from the moon onto the forest below. The Forest Girl (Ginko) finds it and starts to imagine the world beyond the sky. The moon girl meanwhile is uber sad that she lost the damn pendant. The both of them (I think their aware of each other but don’t actually know anything about the other) appeal to the Goddess of the Sky (Kumalia) to allow them to cross to the other’s world. Kumalia denies them at first but eventually capitulates and gives them each a pathway to the sky that divides the two worlds. Once they get to the divide, there’s a giant mirror that keeps them separated and they have to destroy their own reflections in order to get to the other side and give their friend a promise kiss. The catch is that destroying the mirror might cost them their lives. Will they risk their lives to prove their love? The story ends before we find out what the two of them decide to do.
Alright, so let’s parse this out a bit. The two worlds are obviously the human world and the bear world (nature in general I guess?) that were brought closer together (sort of) when the Kumalia planet did its thing and gave the bear sentience (and presumably the power to shape-shift). Anyway, the two kids (Kureha and Ginko) were brought together by Kureha’s mother (the pendent) but have always been separate due to either the literal wall of severance or the fact that they are from two different worlds. The mirror I guess is supposed to be them betraying their true nature (Kureha hating bears and Ginko… I don’t know, eating invisible girls?) which they have to do in order for this friendship and or romance to work out. The story itself is decent enough, but what really sells this scene is the fantastic artwork. The animation may be limited, but the art style here is just a delight to look at. What muddies this part of the episode though is that I still don’t know if this is even close to what Ginko wants. Does she want to be friends or just eat her? She’s said numerous times that she wants to eat Kureha, so is this a fairy tale of friends from different worlds coming together, or is it a dark retelling of the Red Riding Hood story? Is GInko a friend that Kureha needs right now, or the one to lead her to her ultimate downfall? Maybe the ambiguity here is the point, but it’s still bothering me that we’re halfway through the damn series and this pretty simple plot point is being stretched out longer than it needs to be. After reading the story, Kureha tells Sumika that she would gladly smash the mirror because she’s willing to do anything in the name of love which inspires Sumika to never back down on love either. We get to see her prove this in the next exclusion ceremony where… I’m sorry, IS SUMIKA PARTICIPATING IN THE EXCLUSION CEREMONY!?!?
So Sumika is no different than the other scumbags who are sentencing people to death for terrible reasons? That’s just great. Thanks, show! Oh? She’s different now that she knows Kureha and decides to not condemn her new friend to death? Well whoop-de-FREAKING-doo!! I’m sure ALL those other girls who have already been excluded due to Sumika voting for them are gonna feel MUCH better now because Sumika changed her tune when it was someone she knew instead of some lonely kid! So Sumika decides to NOT vote for Kureha like everyone else does and is immediately singled out as the traitor and has to be the one to die next. Wait, what!? This isn’t even a VOTE; it’s some sort of loyalty pledge!? Pledge allegiance to our group or getting MURDERED!? Didn’t Saddam Hussein do crap like this!?
So yeah, Sumika willingly martyrs herself by… being excluded I guess. She writes the letter to Kureha and plans to give it to her some point soon before she gets killed by bears which apparently has to happen now. She also gets visited by Kaoru (the leader of the exclusion ceremony in the present and the one who set the trap for Ginko) who can definitely piss off. I guess the Exclusion Ceremony decided that because Sumika messed with their predetermined vote, that they’ll have to wait until Kureha’s birthday to exclude her because of reasons and are already planning her birthday party. Sumika is cool with this because Kaoru promises to protect Kureha by being her friend after Sumika is murdered. I don’t get how that works, but considering what Kaoru is planning on doing to Kureha in the present, it’s probably just a flat out lie that Sumika was dumb enough to believe.
We finally cut back to the present where Kaour, seemingly post-coitus, is in a mystery bed chamber in the school and is expositing to her friend with benefits who appears to be the mastermind behind everything. Wait what?
Well that was a bit unexpected. Anyway, it turns out that the bears were able to escape because Lulu had a flash grenade nearby. Kaoru isn’t too pleased about this, but the rest of her plans are going off without a hitch so she can’t be too upset, especially with a naked lady standing in front of her.
So was I right or was I RIGHT that the principal was evil? COME ON!! Who the hell else could the mystery lady be? How many characters do we even KNOW OF in this series? It’s either the principal or Mitsuko, and unless MItsuko got her hair cut after getting shot, then the safe bet is her. Also, while it’s hard to tell with Kaoru sitting down, the mystery lady seems pretty tall and there’s only one adult in the show at this point. Now there is something about this scene that I want to bring up, but I would like to reiterate that I am most likely a chowder head and that anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. As far as I can tell, this is the ONLY time in the series that we’ve had two characters quite explicitly sleeping together. Kureha and Sumika had a somewhat intimate night, but it seems pretty clear there was no sex involved. Lulu and Ginko as well never have sex, unless of course the scene is a complete fantasy like at the end of the Severance Trials where they transform and do… whatever the hell it is that they do. Hell, let’s take this a step further. Mitsuko was CLEARLY touchy-feely with a lot of people with the intent of getting them aroused, who is ALSO a bad guy. The ONLY time sex and arousal is used in this show is to manipulate others into doing their bidding. Is this something to be concerned about? Is the show equating sex with evil, like it’s a slasher film? So far, we’ve only seen sex as a tool for manipulation (Mitsuko with the girls and the principal here with her clearly impressionable student) while the supposed true love between Kureha and Sumika never went beyond sharing lunches and learning on each other shoulders. I definitely want to see this play out but for now, it’s something I’m going to keep my eye on. We cut to the next morning where Kureha is looking for the transfer students but it appears they didn’t come home last night. She seems pretty sad about it which is odd considering how she’s treated them the last few days. Maybe this is a turning point for her where she’ll realize she doesn’t actually want to be alone. While this is happening, the bears are in the park, and GInko is fighting for her life after the dreadful attack from the night prior.
It’s Kureha’s birthday tonight and it seems that everyone is getting ready for the big day. Whatever the class has planned will culminate tonight, and Kureha plans to finally read the letter to that Sumika gave her. Before the party at the garden, Kaoru and Kureha have a talk where Kaoru asks her why she chose to stand out and not be invisible. Obviously, the answer is love (because of course it is) and Kaoru is still as despicable as ever.
I still don’t get this whole “Invisible Storm” thing, especially now that they’re becoming so proactive about it instead of just… excluding people? Well okay, there SEEMS to be something to this whole exclusion thing because the bears can only eat invisible girls. Wait, does that mean they are working with the bears then? Maybe someone can become invisible through different means, but so far the exclusion ceremony seems to be the only way for someone to be deemed invisible. How did they even find this out? Why are they doing it if they know it will bring doom to their classmates? Oh right, people are paranoid and evil and try to rationalize their own cowardice by judging those they use as shields to protect themselves. I seem to keep forgetting that! Whatever the actual plan is, it isn’t long until it goes into effect at Kureha’s birthday and Ginko wakes to her horror realizing that the hour is soon approaching. Lulu immediately starts hugging her which is obviously opening the stitches that were just put in place.
Before Lulu’s bear hug can fully squeeze the remaining blood out of Ginko, they get a call from a private number. Ginko picks it up and lo and behold it’s the officials of the Severance Court telling her to go to the flowerbed to prove her love. During this, we get a line from Ginko that just confuses me. I know. Big surprise!
So many questions!! How does Ginko know about the Moon Girl? Did she read the story too? Was Ginko searching for the moon girl this whole time? If she was and DIDN’T know it was Kureha, then why was she focusing on her so much instead of looking for the Moon Girl? WHAT SIGNIFICANCE DOES THE MOON GIRL HAVE IN THIS SITUATION!?!? The severance officials hang up the phone before answering her question and we go from there to the flowerbed where Kureha’s birthday party is just beginning.
The classmates all start to cheer for Kureha and encourage her to read the letter that Sumika wrote. She opens it up and it letter simply reads “Kureha, the girl standing in front of you is your new friend.” Naturally, Kureha is confused by this and Kaoru takes the opportunity to shatter Kureha’s hopes and dreams.
Okay, so maybe my grand theory that Sumika is still alive and controlling things behind the scenes was a bit far-fetched. Turns out she was just another victim of the intolerance of others. Kaoru begins to monologue about how manipulative she is and how evil Kureha is. Once again, the god damn flowerbed is destroyed. This time, it’s caused by the students throwing their candles and lighting the flowers on fire. Kureha is absolutely distraught by all of this and collapses to the ground in anguish. Kaoru makes one final dick move and throws Sumika’s letter into the fire which only upsets Kureha further. All seems lost for Kureha when out of nowhere a savior comes forth to make things right!
Now that shit has gotten too real (a girl is slowly burning to death trying to save a letter), the class buggers off like the bunch of sniveling cowards they really are. Honestly, after their quote-unquote MASTERSTROKE here, they’ve lost all power and should rightfully GTFO. You’re best chance to break Kureha is about to be ruined and you have nothing else up your sleeves. Good luck avoiding Ginko and Lulu’s wrath by the way. Ginko struggles mightily in the flames but eventually gets the letter and escapes before suffering too much damage. Lulu comes by just in time to catch Ginko and explains to Kureha that Ginko did that out of love. She hands Kureha back the letter and she reads it again. “Kureha, the girl standing in front of you is your new friend.”
And so the episode ends with the hope that Kureha can finally learn to trust others again and make some new friends. EXCEPT IT DOESN’T END THERE! BEAR SHOCK!! For the first time in the series, we have a bit more story after the ending credits. We flashback to the day the Sumika died where, once and for all, we get confirmation that she was killed by Mitsuko. Not only that, but we learn that Ginko was there and observed the whole thing without intervening. It’s implied that THIS is the big crime that Ginko committed, but I doubt this is the case because it’s AFTER she became a criminal bear and it has nothing to do with Kureha’s mother. Still, I’d count this as a definite bear shock!
So here we are at the halfway point of the series! I’ve got to say that despite my confusion about a couple of things, the first half really does give us a strong story arc and great expectations for the other half. Individually, the episodes can be pretty muddled with its focus on characters as metaphors instead of being strongly written people. This was a bigger problem in the first three episodes than in the last three, but it still holds the series back somewhat because of how hard it is to get invested in anyone other than Kureha. That said, the emotional gut punches we get at the end of this episode kind of makes up for those shortcomings from earlier, and I hope this series is going to be a bit more direct in the following episodes. We have enough set up at this point to focus on what these characters will do now rather than relying on thematic asides like the Severance Court. Are we going to have to sit through Ginko’s court sessions asking for permission to eat Kureha, or are we going to focus on their building relationship now that they are (most likely) friends? I’m hoping for that later, but you never know with this series where they’re gonna go episode to episode. Here’s hoping for the best!
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!?