This rich, immersive episode took many a skip back and forth through time, and was a little disorienting at times, but it slowly, steadily built something revelatory from all the myriad pieces scattered about the past five weeks, all centering around the letter Sumiko wrote to Kureha, to have her open on her birthday. We learn why she wrote it, what its contents mean for the future of the characters who are still alive, and just how wide Koaru’s web of deception extends.
Sumiko never forgot a single detail of the day she met Kureha at the opening ceremony, or the night they protected the flowerbed from a literal storm, and the night they spent together afterwards, reading Kureha’s mother’s unfinished story of the moon girl and forest girl, which is a dead ringer for the Kureha/Ginko arc.
Sumiko treasures those memories. They’re good memories, happy and loving, and to her, it was enough. With the invisible storm imminent, Sumiko does what she feels she has to and sacrifices herself to it, placing her faith in Harishima Kaoru that Kureha will be spared. It’s the ultimate expression of the love Sumiko is so fond of saying she’ll never back down on.
Sumiko won’t let the storm destroy Kureha, even if it means she’ll be the one destroyed. Nor does she let Kureha in on her plan, because she knows Kureha will try to stop her. Her only accomplice in this plan is Kaoru, who assures Sumiko she will be Kureha’s new friend…and seems to be in quite the hurry to get that letter.
But since we know Harishima Kaoru to be one who cannot be trusted from the start of this episode, it really comes down to how exactly she’s going to screw Sumiko and Kureha over, not if. I also appreciate the fact that Kaoru doesn’t play by her own rules of abiding by social norms, as it’s revealed she’s sleeping with a woman (probably Yuriika) which opens a whole other can of worms with regard to whether Kaoru herself is being used or deceived. It’s a dangerous game.
Ginko certainly learned that when she got caught in the trap. Oh yeah, about that cliffhanger: Lulu has a “Bear Flash” bomb that allows her them to escape, and then she treats Ginko’s wounds through the night. This is Lulu at her loving best: playing the only role she feels she deserves in keeping supporting Ginko and keeping Ginko’s dream alive.
When the Yuri Court Judges show up in town and call a ‘bearly’-healed Ginko, telling her to go the flowerbed “if her love is the real thing”, I got the feeling that they might just be more invested in Ginko’s quest than their aloof attitudes in court suggested.
The flowerbed is the site of a creepy nighttime birthday celebration just teeming with dread, even though Kureha doesn’t sense it until it’s too late and Kaoru shows her true colors. Sumiko trusted her to be Kureha’s friend, but Kaoru has no intention of befriending the “Evil” Kureha. Kaoru explains Sumiko’s letter as a break-up letter, which she hopes will destroy the love Kureha is clinging to that’s keeping her visible.
With that, Kaoru and her minions set the flowerbed ablaze, just to facilitate Kureha’s psychological ruin. Kaoru is pretty damn villainous here, but what’s even scarier is that she has the look and tone of a true believer, who believes “love” is nothing but a weakness, with the outwitted and defeated Sumiko and Kureha as proof.
At the same time, knowing Kaoru herself is a lesbian lends a certain degree of self-preservation to the sadism on display; by feeding these two lovers to the storm, she detracts attention from herself.
But Kaoru’s triumph is short-lived and incomplete, as Ginko arrives in time to save Sumiko’s letter from the flames. By diving in, she is demonstrating the same potentially fatal gesture as the Forest and Moon Girls in Kureha’s mom’s book having to break through the mirror, break through themselves to get to the one they love.
After reading the story, Kureha told Sumiko she’d break the mirror. Sumiko did break it, by sacrificing herself. And now Ginko has proven her love by risking incineration to protect the letter Kureha’s beloved Sumiko wrote to her. It was a “false start” of sorts when Kureha read it in front of Kaoru, suggesting Kaoru would be her new friend. Now she reads it before a bruised and singed Ginko, and it’s almost as if fate and Sumiko won out over Kaoru…at least for now.
But of course, that’s not the only layer to this Lady Baltimore Cake. We also learn what Ginko’s grave crime was, that even Lulu doesn’t know about. Sumiko outright dying wasn’t part of Kaoru’s original plan, you see; she and her unknown accomplice (again, probably Yuriika) merely used that occurrence to their advantage.
Yurizono was the one who killed and ate Sumiko…but it was Ginko who arranged for it to happen, so she could have Kureha all to herself. She killed for the sake of her love, but then risked her own life for that same love. The latter will certainly ingratiate her with Kureha (who was going to apologize for being so mean before anyway), but the former will haunt her. The full truth may be the best option; no point in proceeding if she’s convinced Kureha would never forgive her.
This was another brisk, gorgeous, rewarding Yurikuma that was at turns both glowing with warmth and crackling with menace. That the story has gotten more straightforward hasn’t taken away at all from the show’s inherent appeal. On the contrary, it’s only becoming stronger as symbols and specifics converge and complement each other.
Zane and I only diverge on two points this week. First, I took Kureha’s mother’s unfinished story as an autobiographical tale of how she met Yuriika and second, that Ginko’s crime was witnessing-but-not-stopping Sumika’s murder, rather than outright planning it.
In the picture book’s case, I’d placed more emphasis on the Sky Goddess’ warning that to ‘break the glass for love risks death’ and less on the fact that the star pendant is said to belong to the moon-girl’s mother. In hindsight, Zane probably has the truth of it but I wouldn’t be surprised of Reia’s story blends her own experiences with what she witnessed or gleaned from her daughter’s own adventure.
In the case of Ginko’s crime, I don’t feel like we have enough context to assume either way. Sure, I agree she’s guilty of not stopping the murder/eating for her own selfish love but Ginko wasn’t around long enough or connected enough with Yurizono or Sumika to be able to put them in the same spot at the same time and seal the deed.
I’m not even sure Ginko knew Yurizono was a bear at that point, which would make the death-scenario impossible to have plotted.
Ultimately our differences are unimportant and I appreciate that Yuri Kuma can generate different reads in the first place. Water cooler arguments about twists and turns are part of what make a mystery show fun to follow. A big part, really.
Still, my favorite parts of this week were how much it made me suspicious of Yuriika without actually showing her. We see her office and a tall seductress who is probably her, but no face and she isn’t involved in any scene. (except to talk vaguely while looking at Reia’s photo) Maybe that conspicuous lack of presence was the hook?
Who knows and really I don’t even care what the answers are. The trip — and it is trippy — is the best part. YURI APPROVED!