Yuri Kuma Arashi – 11

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With only one episode after it (that I know of), not a lot of big mysteries or unturned stones remain, but we never really got any details from Ginko about what happened in between Kureha finding her on the battlefield, and Reia sending her back to the bear world.

This episode corrects that, and while we don’t gain a ton of new insight on Ginko’s motivations, the details help paint Ginko in a more sympathetic light, and we also learn that she regrets giving into desire.

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Kureha may have found Ginko on that battlefield, but it ends up being Ginko dragging an exhausted Kureha back to the human world (not known: what Kureha was doing there in the first place, and whether Reia knew). Kureha’s words saved Ginko, Ginko’s actions saved Kureha, and a fast friendship was formed.

Life was so fun and happy living with Kureha and Reia, Ginko wrongly assumed the human world had accepted her, when in reality only two humans had. The others are quick to pounce on Kureha and exclude her based on mere rumors she’s friends with a bear. There’s no grey area to these vicious young girls, and that makes their fanatical, tribal exclusion of Kureha that much more chilling.

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Realizing she won’t be able to live with Kureha as long as she’s a bear, Ginko goes to Severance Court to ask to become a human girl, and we know the rest from Lulu: they grant her wish in return for the utmost secrecy and the loss of Kureha’s love for her.

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As a result, we see that once Kureha wakes up, she has indeed forgotten she and Ginko are friends, and without the memory of them saving each other, reverts to the same instincts as the girls who beat her: with fear and revulsion.

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It surely wasn’t easy for Ginko, but she effectively blew up her beautiful life with Kureha and Reia to protect Reia from the other girls, and by extension, from the wrath of the world she lived in which, contrary to Reia’s storybook, wasn’t ready for bears.

Of course, whatever selfless effects her actions had, they were still in service of herself: so that one day, after waiting for years on the other side of the wall, she could come back, in human form, and re-spark what she’d had with Kureha; totally irrespective of Kureha’s life in the interim, which included falling for Sumika.

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Back then, Ginko was also so focused on Kureha that she failed to see that someone who loved her there and then was right there in front of her in Lulu. She merely accepted Lulu’s offer of support and treated her like a sidekick. Lulu never complained, because Lulu was and is awesome; giving Ginko all her love without asking for anything in return or even ever bringing up the inequity of their relationship.

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In the present, though she’s more overcome by desire than ever before, Ginko still admits in her narration thatshe took Lulu for granted. At the same time we know that Lulu wanted Ginko and Kureha to exchange promise kisses. To fail in that would make all of Lulu’s support and devotion be for nothing.

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Ginko’s desire fuels a rampage that claims several Yuri hunters, and Ginko seems poised to fulfill her desire’s wish to monopolize and devour Kureha. It’s the same destination that led Yuriika to her doom, just a slightly different route.

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On the roof of the school (where all the big stuff seems to happen on this show!) Chouko Oki tears Reia’s book to shreds. Oki considers the book, which reflects Reia’s philosophy of coexistence, is what got her killed…a la Grizzly Man

She also insists that There Is No God (like the Lady Kumaria the bears worship), only the “invisible atmosphere” that rules them. (For what it’s worth, Life Sexy does say Lady Kumaria was “lost” when she broke up in orbit in the form of a meteor.)

In this regard, the Yuri civilization is ironically painted in the cold, unforgiving light of untamed nature, driven only by the natural processes and instincts its participants possess, rather than any higher power.

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As Ginko nurses her anti-bear beam wound, she puts up a fight against her primal desire to possess and eat Kureha, because that isn’t true love. True love was demonstrated to her by the selfless Lulu, who gave up on love so she could make it happen for Ginko.

Kureha did something similar when she found Ginko, only to collapse from exhaustion and the cold. Both Lulu and Kureha put their lives on the line for Ginko’s sake. Ginko decides she’ll do the same thing, and break through her mirror, because that mirror only shows her herself, and her desire. Kureha’s on the other side.

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As she did with Lulu, Kureha uses harsh words to try to keep Ginko away, but like with Lulu, she’s lying when she says they’re not friends, because she doesn’t want to lose them. If she truly hated Ginko and won’t forgive her, she’d let Chouko take her shot without a fuss.

But just when Ginko has finally decided she must follow Lulu’s example of putting everything she has on the line for the sake of another, not oneself, Lulu performs one last selfless act by literally taking a bullet for Ginko—A LOVE BULLET.

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As Lulu dies a happy bear in Ginko’s arms, her final words are of gratitude for being able to help her, and her belief that Kureha has forgiven Ginko, and they can now be friends, not merely a quarry being sought by a hunter. It’s sad to see the purest soul in the show go, especially when we thought she’d be safe back in the bear world last week. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

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The question that remains is, can they really be friends, or more? We close in the same place we did last week: with Kureha in Severance Court, about to have her crimes read. Do all of Lulu’s efforts end up going to waste? Can Kureha truly never forgive bears? Why is she alone in court; where’s Ginko? 

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Meanwhile, on Ronja…

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25 episodes of Sanzoku no Musume Ronja have rolled by and the show’s great arc has finally come to a close: Ronja and Birk are together as adopted siblings and, after a massive bear-fight style show down, so are their Fathers Mattis and Borka. The robber tribes are now one.

So… how was it?

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Ronja’s full CG style grew on me and, while I don’t particularly like the way it looks, the style was very effective at portraying a wide range of emotions and actions. Wider than most animes, actually. More importantly, the models allowed the shows lengthy mid season to stay fresh and avoid the ‘budget’ trap faced by most shows that save up for a big finale.

Speaking of the finale, Mattis and Borka’s show down was remarkably entertaining. It had all of the believable, down to earth trappings that have excited me so much with this season’s Junketsu no Maria — but it also had a great comedic range. Each landing blow brought about a wonderfully silly facial expression, yet stayed believably weighty.

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Over all, Ronja delivers an emotional tale that pushes the limits of children friendly programming. Sure, there are life lessons and I support exposing kids to a more realistic, nuanced reality, but Ronja’s multiple near deaths and seriously messed up family situation definitely gave my child nightmares.

If I didn’t have to wake up at 3 in the morning, maybe I’d call that a win win?

In any event, if you ever want a comfortable, youthful and optimistic show — with occasionally nightmare inducing moments where very young children must contemplate their own mortality — give Ronja a look.

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