Yuri Kuma Arashi – 05

yuri41

When Lulu decided to join Ginko on her grand journey to the other side of the wall, it seemed like the most noble thing in the world. And indeed, the episode opens with Ginko waking Kureha up with a gentle lick to the face…and Kureha shockingly licks back.

But we’re only seeing what Ginko wants to see. In reality, progress is slower than frozen honey: far from thinking of them as anything resembling friends or lovers, Kureha sees them as nothing but intruders and pests.

yuri42

Of course, this isn’t just because GInko and Lulu are bears. Kureha doesn’t want any friends anymore, ever. Sumiko was The One, The Only, friend she ever needed or will need. To befriend anyone else is to dishonor her memory and “give up on love”; not to mention it would be super-scary.

So when her teacher tells her to face reality—that Sumiko is gone, and must be replaced by new friends in order for Kureha to fit in—Kureha outright refuses, and in doing so may well be sealing her fate. But Kureha doesn’t seem to care anymore.

yuri43a

This week we delve a little deeper into Ginko’s past with Kureha and her mom; the photo already shows us that a young Ginko in bear form was adopted by the two at some point. We learn how that happened, in one of the series’ most striking images—a flashback eleven years to  snow-covered battlefield littered with dead bear soldiers, and Ginko close to joining them.

yuri43

Suddenly, the warm hands of a five-year-old Kureha are upon her, telling her they’re friends and she loves her—and that’s pretty much it. From that point on, Ginko has loved her back with everything she’s got, and no matter what happened between that day and the present one, it wasn’t enough to destroy that love, or Ginko’s determination.

However, through the loss of her mom and Sumiko, Kureha has forgotten that fateful encounter. It’s up to Ginko to try to get her to remember, but she can’t just out and say it, or she and Lulu will lose their human forms.

yuri44

And all Kureha wants to remember is Sumiko. Making friends will only create memories that will cause her memories of Sumiko to fade with time. When her classmate Harishima Kaoru tearfully apologizes on behalf of the rest of the class for excluding her, and begs her forgiveness, she has none to give. Kureha’s a stick-to-it kind of gal; if the class is going to start something, they’d sure as hell finish it.

yuri45

Back home, Ginko and Lulu continue to flail about Kureha’s house against her desire for them to be there. Revealing aprons and a smorgasbord don’t interest her in the least.

yuri46

Yet Ginko continues to see and hear what she wants to, at least until the fantasy fades away and she sees and hears what really is: Kureha wants nothing to do with her, and if an approach exists that will make her remember, Ginko and Lulu haven’t cracked it yet.

yuri47

While the bears pull out all the stops for Kureha in vain, Kaoru and the class does the same in helping her replant the garden in preparation for her birthday. And where the bears fail, Kureha’s class get her to lower her defenses a little by killing her with kindness.

yuri48

Then the pretty, laid-back flutes and harps are replaced by a harsher electronic theme as Kaoru and the class reveals it’s all an act. Of course it is. And Kureha’s instincts were correct. They’re still fully committed to making her invisible by naming her the Number One Evil. Kureha’s teacher may have been willing to exercise some patience with her, but her peers aren’t so understanding.

yuri49

Ginko and Lulu catch on to all of this, and go to Yuri Court to argue their case. The defense attorney is all for them protecting the girl they love, but the prosecutor believes they’re only using Kureha as an excuse to eat girl after invisible girl. When Life Sexy asks Ginko what her true goal is, she confesses: she wants Kureha, all to herself.

It’s something Lulu must have suspected, but that doesn’t make it hurt less to hear it out loud. Ginko also brings up a “serious crime” (killing Kureha’s mother, perhaps, which is why she has that star pendant?”) from which there’s no going back. Life Sexy approves their Yuri, and off they go.

yuri410

Ginko and Lulu confront and threaten Kaoru late at night at the garden, believing they’re in control. But that, too, proves a fantasy, as at the end of the day, the surge of passion that overcomes a charging bear at its seemingly terrified prey will make that bear blind to the trap set before it. Ginko gets snapped up in that trap, and Kaoru bears a predatory grin of her own.

In obviously immense pain (and immense trouble), Ginko calls out, not for Lulu, who’s right there, but for Kureha, who last time we checked wanted nothing to do with her. With that brutal SNAP of the trap, her grand mission is in tatters. Sure, it’s a cliffhanger, but one I’m fully invested in.

9_ses

Advertisements

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 04

yka4_7

Framed as a day in which Yuri Court is not in session and narrated by Shaba-da-doo chief Judge Life Sexy (bear) himself, Yurikuma Arashi 04 is a past-tense heavy, backstory building, infodump.

In spite of that, it’s a wonderful episode full of tight storytelling and some fall on the floor giggling moments that I urge everyone who likes feeling happy to check out.

yka4_1

Summing it up: Lulu was once a princess, who got all the attention from her bear kingdom. One day, on the day of shooting stars, an adorable little brother was born and her world came apart. No longer the heir, no longer doted on by her maids, Lulu became deeply jealous.

Unfortunately, her little brother loved her very much and, for the promise of a kiss, would go on ‘adventures’ to find her a falling star. I air-quote adventures here because Lulu convinces him to get into a box marked ‘love’ and kicks him off a cliff at the beginning of each.

yka4_2

The little prince always returns, beaten up a bit, but holding a wonderful pot of honey in exchange for a Lulu kiss — and every time Lulu freaks out and throws his pot of honey out the window and kicks him off the cliff again.

Until one day, the prince dies and Lulu gets what she wants. Years later, surrounded by wonderful things and chased by endless suitors, she is empty inside and, only after meeting Ginko (who’s retrieved one of the lost honey pots) does Lulu find purpose again. Her kisses are gone, her happiness too, but she will be a criminal bear and help Ginko find happiness and cross the wall into Human lands.

The episode closes with Lulu and Ginko under their mushroom-hat tree. Lulu holds her dead brother’s honey pot and Ginko a golden star on a ribbon… which matches the one worn by Kureha’s late mother!

yka4_4

What earned it a 9: the card-style storybook flashbacks were charming, the backgrounds beautiful, and the added context for the male court-bears in Lulu’s past and the reasons for Lulu being devoted to Ginko were all deftly handled and well integrated.

And Judge Life Sexy’s “Shaba-do-doo’ing along with the background music almost earned it a ten on it’s own.

yka4_5

Why it didn’t a 10: it’s an infodump episode. Pure and simple. All the elements were integrated very well but the info dumping wasn’t integrated with the current events in any way.

Most importantly, this means nothing really happened in ‘current events’ part of the narrative.

yka4_6

I’m on the fence over the castle, the bear-infused decorations and architectural elements being a good break from the hard edge, pattern heavy ‘current events’ style or if its general lack of action and ‘otherness’ was distracting.

The art style was beautiful regardless and I especially liked the bonnet-wearing bear maids in waiting.

9_ogk

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 03

yka3_5

10_ogk

Verdict: Action, drama, sharp brightly colored art with a strong sense of personal style, and a rocking trancey-pop sound track catapulted Yurikuma to the top of its game, and all anime’s game this week and I don’t see any sign of it slowing down any time soon.

If you haven’t started watching it, stop what you are doing and go watch it. Then watch it again because, I promise you, the lovely details are layered on thick here and something new will hop out of you each chance you give it!

yka3_8

What didn’t work: is entirely dependent on your sense of taste. If the absurd, pure love of yuri-love message this show presents doesn’t mesh with your personal view, I can see why you may want to run for the hills.

Otherwise, this is a technical masterpiece and an emotionally touching piece of psycho-storytelling.

yka3_2

What pushed it up to a 10: was the superior integration of visuals and sound track. Also, the pattern making, which has been strong in weeks past, finally hit its groove. The Escher bird-to-mountain design appears everywhere, fading in when the emotional need to achieve conformity is brought up by the story, and fading away when the personal view is the center.

I don’t even know what all the symbolism stands for, but it is very strong and it feels legitimate, regardless of what I can bring to the table.

yka3_1

Summing up the story: Yurizono really did eat Sumika, and she quickly positions Kureha to follow. Using easily manipulated girls of the classes, she makes Kureha the next target of the invisible and sends the storm, which appears to be some sort of cyber-bullying over the phone, or text or something.

However, Ginko has decided she wants to save Kureha (or just wants her to eat herself) and, with Lulu’s loving help, gets the yuri-court to approve her love, her love for Kureha, and thus bolstered, Kureha is able to shoot Yurizono in their final show down.

Then Ginko and Lulu eat another girl, this time the one who organized Kureha’s invisible… storming.

yka3_7

Lesbearian Storm bashed my skull in this week and it was awesome. I can hardly make sense of what it all meant but, between the crazy, trippy visuals and the throbbing, Emiliani Torini style sound track, man was I hooked.

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 02 (Second Impressions)

lesbear20

Lesbearian Storm continues its march towards pure crazy with two giggle inducing bear-reveals, another I-can’t-even-describe-it court session, and a double homicide for its second outing.

It’s packed with content, wild twists, and over the top yuri action. I will do my best to avoid spoilers but, if you haven’t seen it yet, turn away now and come back later!

lesbear21

To sum up: it turns out Yurizono really did witness the bears eating Sumika, and not some random girl as I expected. So Sumika is dead and Kureha is in emotional shambles.

Yurizono is also devastated, though possibly because she’s infatuated with Kureha or possibly because she knows Ginko and Lulu are bears. Regardless of which, Yurizono admits to her jealous lover that Kureha is most likely the next to be eaten…

lesbear24

Then Lulu and Ginko invade Kureha’s house under the pretext of needing a bath. Then Lulu takes a bath and Ginko licks Kureha’s face and then Yurizono shows up with a rifle and saves the day…

lesbear200

Later, the bears face another trial before Judge Sexy and are Yuri-approved, which is followed by Kureha’s emotional showdown with a bear, Yurizono killing a bear, and a bear eating another, apparently less tasty student.

lesbear29

The good: killing off Sumika, the girl who stands at the center of Yuri Kuma’s promotional art, was a fantastically bold move. That said, this show is so many layers of crazy and populated by unreliable narrators that I don’t even know if she really is dead, or may re-materialize later in some form.

I’m not even sure if that would be a bad thing? This show is so wacky, and pokes so much fun at it’s own twists, that I may just accept such a return.

lesbear23

This week also managed to stuff in plot developments, important reveals, secret identities, action and maintain a strong connection with Kureha, who is essentially the most human and emotional center to the show.

Quality of the animation aside, this was Yuri Kuma’s greatest victory: I felt bad for Kureha and empathized with her confusion at the nonsense whirlwind of crazy unfolding around her.

lesbear25

However: if extreme sexualization of young characters creeps you out, this week we got grinding, licking, wet kisses, (bear) butt holes, ass-sniffing and a whole lot of skin. If tasteful can be used in that context, I think Yuri Kuma did a decent job integrating it (to the point that nothing needed a censor-shape over it) but the raw lust can not be overstated.

Also, on a production note, it was strange to see some of the animation recycled from last week. Sure, that honey-lapping scene with the three girls is dripping with wet appeal but…I hope it isn’t a sign that we’re in for serious budgetary issues later on?

lesbear27

Second Impression: my biggest issue with Yuri Kuma is not how silly it is or how casually provocative its yuri yuri yuri all the time wants to be… it’s that I have a really hard time telling Kureha and Yurizono apart!

No seriously! The hair color and shape and the fact they both carry rifles makes it hard to tell who is on screen at each scene swap! Goodness, it’s almost as if one of them is doomed to join poor dead Sumika soon!

Growl! Growl! Yum! Yum!

9_ogk

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 01 (First Impressions)

yuri1

Lesbian Bear Storm, as it shall be henceforth translated, is best described as a stylish, soft-touch yuri-infused stylistic mashup of Dangan Ronpa and Bakemonogatari… with a little Evangelion and retro-ness anachronistically sprinkled in to spice things up.

The first episode makes a sort of insane self-contained logic that I found equal parts baffling and exciting. At once we know everything about the world and about it’s characters and their motives, yet the world is so completely insane, we understand nothing. I can’t even tell if the show is serious or an absurdist comedy!

yuri2

To sum up: One day the bear star exploded over earth and rained shooting stars upon us and made the bears stand up and attack man all at once. The survivors built an ‘extinction wall’ and hide safely behind it. Except two bear-chans transform to look like human girls, tanuki-style and infiltrate human all girls high school and maybe eat someone.

That some one possibly wears glasses and is the love interest of a gun-toting blonde girl who’s got a bear-based tragedy in her past and did I mention everyone is female and a yuri? Even the bears!

yuri4

You will like this if: you like either of the shows I mentioned. The art is fantastically bizarre sharing the odd-spaces of the ‘Gatari series and the weird black/red/white CGI design and camera work of Ronpa. Likewise, it has ‘Gatari-style philosophical monologues and one-on-one character meandering character interactions and Ronpa-style violence and weirdness. (like the bears’ teeth-grinding animation and audio that sounds like jackhammers) It even has a court session that I won’t even begin to try and explain!

And if deeply weird psycho-dramedy isn’t your cup of tea, Yuri Kuma is beautiful to look at. Dare I say, to the point of being creepy, given the subject is dominated by the love of little girls for one another and plausible social commentary of society trying to keep them apart.

yuri3

You may not like this show: if you want simple escapist anime entertainment. To be clear, this is a challenging show to make sense of and, girl-love aside, there’s nothing easy to latch onto here. I don’t even know what the show is about — is it a wacky love story? Social commentary? Sci-fi?

It may not be as frantic as Kill La Kill or Sensei-despair, but it also isn’t as clear-cut about its goals as those shows were from the beginning.

yuri5

First Impression: Yuri Kuma is right up my alley. It’s quirky, fantastical and stylish. It’s also mysterious without seeming overly serious. However, and most importantly, it’s unique and the dialogue and events were not so densely packed or frantic that I couldn’t keep up.

Yuri Kuma will certainly give me a ton to say each week!

9_ogk