After the overly contrived cliffhanger ending of the last episode, this one has A LOT to prove to make up for that bit of nonsense. We’re getting closer and closer to the end, so does this episode bring us that much closer to the show’s grand crescendo, or do we keep getting half-assed obfuscations like we did at the end of the last episode? Let’s find out!! By the way, I’m gonna tell you all up front that this episode was a NIGHTMARE to recap. The whole episode is about small details being off that has great significance, flashbacks upon flashbacks, and more metaphorical imagery than in any other episode so far. With that said, let’s get started!!
The episode begins with Ginko getting shot by Kureha and falling down the roof. Huh. I actually wasn’t expecting that. It seems somewhat obvious that the secret Lulu told Kureha is that Ginko didn’t stop Sumika’s murder (something we found out in episode six), but even so, I was doubtful that Ginko would end up taking the bullet. Hell, if nothing else Lulu would try to stop Kureha, right? Well, at least SOMEONE is happy about all this.
We then cut to the next morning where all the students are discussing what happened the night before. According to rumor, Kureha killed another bear on the roof, though the bear is supposedly still alive. And what’s THIS!?
I KNEW Mitsuko wasn’t dead! What happens next is a bit confusing. Apparently, the flower bed is actually a door of some sort (“The Door of Friends”) and it leads to a snowy battlefield, though once again that could all be metaphorical. It’s supposed to be that mirror wall thingy that Kumalia erected to keep humans and bears apart (all of this was described in the picture book from episode ), though I always figured that was the wall of severance. Maybe there are TWO walls!? MIND! BLOWN! Anyway, on the other side of the door is Ginko who’s still unconscious after her near-fatal gunshot wound and appears to be being cared for by Mitsuko. WHAT DASTARDLY SCHEMES DO YOU HAVE BREWING MITSUKO!? That will have to wait because we cut back at the school where Principal Yuriika is doing a happy little dance. She’s finally going to eat Kureha and NOTHING stands in her way!
We cut back to the snowy battlefield where Ginko has just woken up finds Mitsuko standing over her. Ginko is confused because Mitsuko supposedly died a while ago and it turns out that she’s right. Um… okay.
So… we’re just going to throw ghosts into this? Not really because I think she’s a manifestation of Ginko’s selfish desires. So I guess that means Mitsuko IS dead, and it’s only a coincidence that Ginko’s lust and desire looks like her. Oh, who am I kidding? THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCES!! Mitsuko pretty much was the embodiment of selfish desires in this show (though Yuriika is giving her a run for her money) so I guess it’s not too surprising that the show chooses to represent Ginko’s internal conflict this way. So what is that internal conflict? Well like I mentioned previously, in episode  it was confirmed that Ginko sat by and did nothing when Sumika was being eaten, so Ginko blames herself for her death. This leads to some flashbacks to before her death where Ginko had apparently approached Sumika before her death and they hung out for a bit. Ginko quickly realized that the love she’s been seeking from Kureha has (in her mind) already been given away to Sumika. Whether this is true or not (Kureha still might have given Ginko a shot!), Ginko became convinced that she didn’t stand a chance with Kureha now that she had someone else. Despite her growing jealousy towards this rival, Ginko still planned to stop Mitsuko from eating Sumika, but at the last moment her selfish desires won out and she sat back and did nothing.
We return from the flashback and I think at this point Ginko starts to try and repress the overwhelming guilt she feels by giving into her darker nature which is represented by Mitsuko stripping down and pawing all over her while talking about how selfish people and bears really are. Mitsuko also informs Ginko that another bear has been pulling the strings the whole time (Yuriika), though I have no idea how she knows this especially if she’s just a manifestation of Ginko’s darker self. The scene ends with Mitsuko and Ginko fusing, and we get the iconic “The Lilly Opens” line, only this time it’s “The Bear Opens”. I’m taking this to mean that Ginko has officially broken bad and it only dawns on me know that “The Lilly Opens” has only been used to refer to humans who have been corrupted or became evil in some way. I’m… sure there’s some significance there.
Back in the real world, there appears to have been another bear attack, though oddly enough they don’t identify the person who has been eaten. Instead, we go to the Exclusion Ceremony where the current sacrificial lamb (I’m sorry, leader of the group) Oki, is giving a presentation. Apparently, Kourou knew that Konomi was a bear because they found pictures of her in Kourou’s locker. Okay… why did she keep that a secret? If she was really at risk of getting eaten, wouldn’t she have made sure every bear in the school would be eliminated? Was her silence about this fact part of some giant elaborate scheme? Well considering that Yuriika’s been pulling the strings, I’m going to assume yes.
Oh, but what’s this? It turns out that Kureha has joined them this time! WHAT!? Okay, let’s try and deconstruct this. Uh… she killed another bear which everyone is aware of… so maybe that buys her points with them and they’re finally willing to accept her. But then again she’s already killed a bear before (Mitsuko) so why were they still trying to exclude her? Speaking of which, this group has already done a lot of rotten stuff to her, not the least of which is kinda sorta causing Sumika’s death, so why the hell is she even bothering to associate with them? Is there some significance to the fact that she shot Ginko? Does shooting her symbolize Kureha’s decision to no longer be unique? Does that also mean she’s no longer a lesbian? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU CAN JUST TURN OFF IN THIS WORLD!?!? GAH!!!!!!! MAKE MORE SENSE IKUHURA!!!! I also gotta take umbrage with the group’s continued assertion that Bears are unable to follow social cues and therefore they should exclude anyone unique. Great plan except MITSUKO WAS RUNNING THIS THING FOR A WHILE!! Wait a minute. Maybe that’s the point? To go back to the homosexuality thing, maybe this is supposed to symbolize that people who are homophobic only THINK they can spot gayness but don’t realize that some of the people they would consider “normal” are gay because someone’s sexual orientation can’t be sussed out simply from stereotypes and preconceived notions? Okay… let’s go with that for now. For some reason, the officials of the Severance Court (Life Sexy, Life Cool, and Life Beauty) are watching from a distance and seem just as confused as I am.
Life Sexy doesn’t seem too interested in finding out an answer because he’s perving on some girls who are grinding onto one another in the infirmary in a scene that just seems gratuitous which is a word I wouldn’t normally use when describing this show. Sure, some of the sexual imagery in the past has been over the top, but they had meaning… I think. Well, at least they were trying to say something with those scenes. This one though doesn’t feel like it means anything and barely has any connection to what is going on in the plot and doesn’t even have characters we know of in the show. Hell, they don’t even show their faces!!
Back at the exclusion ceremony, everyone is casting their vote but Kureha is unable to do so. Despite Ginko’s name showing up on the list and considering what she did, Kureha is still unable to go through with it. This leads to a flashback of the night before where we FINALLY know what Lulu said.
So… it was exactly what we assumed it would be. Great. I’m sure it made things SO MUCH better to not only cut that out of the last episode but wait until fifteen minutes into this one to reveal something they’ve more or less confirmed in the preceding fifteen minutes. I’M STILL BITTER ABOUT THAT, OKAY!? Anyway, by the time the flashback ends, Kureha is back at home so we have no idea what she ended up doing. She’s still conflicted about her feelings towards Ginko and doesn’t know what to do. Her phone rings and it turns out to be the officials of the severance court, only not really! IT’S A TRAP!!
Yuriika puts her “eat Kureha’s entrails” plan into effect, and it seems to be going off without a hitch. Kureha arrives at the flower bed (NOT the roof this time which is significant and PROBABLY should have tipped off Kureha) but doesn’t find Ginko waiting for her there. Instead, a different bear (Yuriika) is waiting for her and is ready to pounce. When Yuriika does, it’s manifested as some pretty disturbing sexual assault imagery where she strips Kureha naked.
Yuriika is about to plant a kiss on Kureha (presumably meaning she’s going to land a killing blow) when all of a sudden she gets shot right through the chest! BEAR SHOCK!! The shot in question came from the members of the exclusion ceremony who I guess are protecting their own from the evils of bears… which means that bigots are protecting our hero?
I’ll TRY to properly analyze what the hell just happened. Alright, so one of the many things that the bears have represented is sexual assault on trauma. Almost every bear so far has used their sexual prowess and mind games to bring others to their knees. Ginko early one was definitely giving off a predator vibe, and I’m still a bit lost if she still wants to “eat” Kureha and if that’s supposed to be taken literally. The scene of Yuriika ripping off Kureha’s clothes and trying to make out with her is no doubt intended to show us that “eating” someone is tantamount to sexual abuse, and they put the imagery right the heck out there. Hell, it doesn’t even have the excuse of being in some sort of metaphysical plane like the Severance Court honey licking scenes from the initial episodes. This is literally just replacing images of a bear trying to hurt someone with a woman trying to rape a girl. It’s very uncomfortable and definitely strong imagery to use. That leads us to how the scene ends with the Exclusion Group taking out the bear and saving Kureha from getting killed, or maybe saving her from rape. This is where things get a bit murky for me. The bears have ALSO been shown to have redeeming qualities that, if nothing else, means they can be better than the members of the Exclusion Group who have had NO redeeming qualities up until this point. So why did they just get a huge boost in credibility by saving Kureha? What is the point of having them take out the biggest threat in the show when the Exclusion Group has been nothing but horrific and incompetent monsters until now? Maybe it’s supposed to be poetic irony because Yuriika is at least partially responsible for their recent actions? Her relationship with Kaorou certainly put her in a position to manipulate them. Maybe that’s it, but I can’t help but feel uncomfortable that the assholes got a moment to be the heroes. Kureha falling in with them is supposed to be a bad thing, but it’s probably the only reason she’s alive right now, so… go hate groups? I don’t know, but I hope SOMEONE out there can come up with a better explanation than I can, and I certainly hope that you put your thoughts in the comments section. Anyway, despite having a load of buckshot rip through her sternum, Yuriika somehow got away and the group goes after her. Kureha notices that the bear in question dropped a pin which she’s seen on Yuriika multiple times so presumably, Kureha has figured out who her mysterious attacker is. Back at the school, Yuriika has somehow managed to get back to her office but is slowly dying of her wounds. As she begins to fade, Reia appears and comforts her as she slowly dies. And so the episode ends with our primary antagonist biting the dust but with Kureha and Ginko’s fate still uncertain.
EXCEPT NOT REALLY!! We get a post-credits scene with yet another cliffhanger! It turns out that Reia wasn’t actually some ghost that was cradling Yuriika in her final moments. It was actually Kureha who placed her… shall we say “flawed” teacher, on the couch with her eyes closed and a bouquet of flowers. Despite realizing what a manipulative monster that Yuriika was, there’s still a lot of history between the two, so Kureha couldn’t just leave her corpse on the floor. It’s a small touch that I think speaks volumes to the inner turmoil that’s only been getting worse inside Kureha since this series began. Kureha also heard Yuriika mention that she had the hidden pages of the picture book and so she decides to find them so she can finally know how the story ended. What Kureha sees shocks her, and that’s how we end this episode!
So this was a really interesting episode, and I’ll give it a hell of a lot of points for being wildly inventive for most of it. It’s probably the best episode in the series in regards to outlandish concepts with mixed metaphors and constant symbolism because so much of it is packed in that the episode flies by in no time. The pacing is in it is frenetic so you never get bored with any one thing before moving onto the next. It’s still confusing at points with a lot of things that seem INTENTIONALLY unexplained (Mitsuko’s presence and Kureha’s acceptance into the Exclusion Group being prime examples), but it still manages to keep the tension and not get too bogged down in its own cleverness. There are some serious problems though that keep this from being as amazing as the last episode was. The Severance Court Officials still doing nothing of import and they’re presence has yet to be explained in any satisfying way. It wouldn’t be too bad, but they get more screen time this episode, and the one scene of Life Sexy peeking on underage girls is definitely the low mark of the episode, so their presence here is certainly not justified. Also, Lulu’s complete absence from this episode is absolutely baffling and feels like a serious oversight. We still have no idea how she’s reacted to GInko’s near-death experience or what her motivation was for telling Kureha the truth when she knows how much danger that would put Ginko in. It’s almost as bad as the ending to the previous episode where they just muted her for no reason, only this time they muted her presence entirely. Overall, it’s probably the best episode for those who love this show when it goes completely nuts and gets really edgy. I did end up liking this one overall, but I’m hoping for something more in the next episode. Only three left to wrap this thing up! Can’t wait to see how it all comes together!!
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