Yuri Kuma Arashi – 12 (Fin)

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Chouko and her bear extermination squad arrange an elaborate ceremony for a bound Kureha to exclude the evil by killing her friend Ginko. Ginko does the only thing she can do in her present situation to try to protect Kureha: try to reject her as a friend, saying she’s only there to eat her.

But Kureha knows that’s a lie; they are friends. And this week we find out how far their love really goes.

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When Kureha wakes up after being beaten for consorting with a bear, she decides the only thing to do in a world of severance between humans and bears is to make the bear she loves a human; that way it will be easier for everyone. So just as Ginko went to Severance Court to offer to give up Kureha’s love for her to make her human, we see Kureha also went to Court, offering to give up Ginko’s love for her.

Now, with Ginko’s death by the Invisible Storm imminent, and her own not far beyond, Kureha finally remembers how things went down, and what she needs to do to be with Ginko forever.

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She places the star pendant around Ginko’s neck, then tells Lady Kumaria she has a wish. The Judgemens fly off and join her growing light, their work apparently done.

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Kumaria comes down…and it’s Sumika. To borrow the vernacular of Kureha’s classmates, that’s way weird, but also way apropos. Could it be that while Ginko was out of Kureha’s life, Lady Kumaria herself took human form to befriend Kureha and teach her about the true love that awaited her across the wall? Is this an Ursus Desu Ex Machina?

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Whatever the case, Kureha asks Kumaria to make her a bear, and she does…and an adorable bear she is! Ginko became a human for Kureha, and now Kureha becoming a bear for Ginko; it’s the very symmetry symbolized by the girls in the story facing their reflections in the mirror—and destroying themselves to make a new being; that of tow joined hearts.

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Chouko still orders the other invisible girls to open fire, and then we cut to the world and the school back to normal, with no active bear alerts and Chouko giving a speech congratulating the exclusion of one evil, and opening the voting on who will be their next target.

But one girl, the one who operated the Konomi cannon, remembers that day on the rooftop, when she saw GInko and Kureha hand in hand, about to ascend a ladder into the heavens. Whether she was witnessing their death, or something more miraculous, I’m going to have to think on that for longer than I have!

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What’s clear to me, though, is that this girl was moved by that scene; so much so that she’s turned a deaf ear to Chouko’s bile, and seeks out the discarded “defective” Konomi. When she finds her, takes her paw in her hand, joyfully announcing she’s found her.

Even if Kureha and Ginko are no longer of this world, they inspired someone else to find their true love and not give up on it, and a new cycle begins, resisting the invisible storm in which they live.

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In an interesting framing device, the storybook tale of Kureha and Ginko is being read by Lulu to her brother Prince Milne, who may or may not be in some kind of afterlife. Milne’s take on the whole story is that considering Lulu ended back together with him )(because she’s dead?) he could have given her his promise kiss all along. Lulu says they’ll be together forever; Milne says he loves her, and oh no, that hornet thing comes back, circling both of them!

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The closing message of Yuri Kuma Arashi is: Change and awaken the world with your own love. It’s a lesson each of our characters learned through the course of the show, after much time and hardship.

It’s also a lesson absorbed by the girl who found Konomi, and even if she and Konomi face are threatened by ostracization or exclusion, if they don’t give up on love, someone will learn from them as well. Perhaps in that way, brick by brick, one day the Wall of Severance will come down.

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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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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 10

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An opening flashback depicts Reia sending Ginko across the wall through the Door of Friendship to save the bear from exclusion (i.e. death), giving her her pendant as a love charm and telling her the day will come when bears and people can be bears forever.

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Eleven years later, that day Reia dreamt of has never felt more far off. After the Yuriika Incident, the girls have fully militarized, forming the “KMTG” and procuring a truck armed with an anti-bear beam cannon powered by a cyborgified Yurikawa Konomi of all things.

Even though Yuriika is dead, the insidious threat she represented is having far-reaching consequences. Intolerance, paranoia, and vigilance are at all-time highs. Thankfully, even their leader Chouko Oki doesn’t suspect Lulu, or at least lets on that she doesn’t suspect her, simply warning her to watch out.

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Meanwhile, Kureha joins her mother’s incomplete story with the ending she found in one of Yuriika’s boxes, and so she and we find out what happened to the moon and forest girls, hoping to find some insight as to her and Ginko’s future. Staring at their reflections and warned that breaking through could cost their lives, they both decide break through anyway with barely a moment’s hesitation.

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The shattered mirror of their reflections give way to…each other, and they also waste no time embracing and exchanging promise kisses (i.e. confessions of love), and Live Happily Ever After. It’s a hopeful ending consistent with Reia’s words to Ginko about “one day” people and bears being able to coexist and love one another. But it’s also a bit…naive, not to mention contrary to the real-life story of Reia herself and Yuriika.

Kureha’s reaction to this is rightfully muted. She feels a bit of a fool for hoping she’d get all the answers from what amounts to a fairy tale. After all, there’s nothing in it about an anti-bear SWAT team on the hunt, nor the moon girl’s love for another moon girl (Sumika) whom her forest girl (Ginko) insists she killed, or the fact she simply doesn’t remember her love for Ginko.

There’s simply a lot more complication in Kureha’s world that her mother’s optimistic story doesn’t even bother touching on, so it loses a lot of its power.

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When Lulu arrives on Kureha’s doorstep, it’s with amends in mind. She knows what she did (sell out Ginko) was selfish and wrong and not much better than what Ginko herself did, not to mention it was done for the same reason (jealousy). She offers Kureha Ginko’s (formerly Reia’s) pendant, which she uses to unlock the picture frame, revealing Ginko in the folded photo, proving they were friends as Ginko claimed.

When Kureha offers her bath to Lulu (who is filthy from searching for the pendant in the dirt), Lulu tells her why Ginko said, and believes, she killed Sumika. Like Lulu’s transgression, she did it out of an unwillingness to back down on love. But when Lulu asks if Kureha will forgive Ginko, she says she can’t. This isn’t a fairy tale, and there’s no denying the fact she lives in a world of severance.

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That fact is made abundantly and rudely clear when, after a phone call in which Chouko ascertains a bear is at Kureha’s house, she has the KMTG storm it. Rather than give up Lulu, Kureha runs to the door of friendship, they make a run for it.

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As they run, Lulu figures out why Kureha forgot about her love for Ginko, but nothing else form that time: Kureha’s love is what Ginko gave up in order to become a girl. But Lulu thinks she can get that love back, because she didn’t give up on love, her memories were taken as a consequence of the Judgemens’ Yuri Approval.

Telling Kureha all this has immediate consequences for Lulu: her Yuri Approval is revoked and she reverts to her bear form. In that moment, Chouko targets her with a scope, but that turns out to be another bear on the run.

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Kureha won’t let Lulu, a friend, get excluded, so she takes her to the same place her mother took Ginko: the Door of Friendship at the flowerbed. But unlike Reia, Kureha doesn’t express her desire or hope of bears and people ever being able to coexist. Instead, she tells Lulu to leave “this stupid world,” and warns her that she’ll be shot if she ever returns. The optimism of the flashback is replaced by the despair of the present.

I hope this isn’t the last we see of Lulu, because of the three girls at the center of this show, she’s been the most flexible and caring of the others, and is the one most likely to reconcile the other two. Maybe she’ll get RE-approved?

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Kureha is conflicted between refusing to call bears her friends and knowing in her mind that they were and are. Sending Lulu off saves the bear’s life, but it could have also been a crucial step to Kureha fitting back in with her peers. Could have, that is, if Chouko didn’t catch her in the act, which she does.

With a spotlight on Kureha, Chouko creates her narrative of Kureha’s crimes on the spot: accusing her of consorting with bears and killing their friends. Kureha denies these charges, but she’s at gunpoint and in no position to defend herself against a group that has already made their judgement. All that remains is the sentencing.

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To make matters worse, Ginko is lurking in the bushes, her eyes red with the desire not merely to love Kureha, but to eat her. She’s in a very similar position Yuriika was in; a possessive, conquering love devoid of regard for the object of that love. In other words, right now Kureha is no safer by Ginko’s side than she is in KMPG custody.

Interestingly, after the credits roll, Kureha finds herself not in front of the barrels of their guns, but before the three Judgemens. Did they intervene? Is this happening in Kureha’s head? Either way, Yuriika and Ginko and Lulu have been through their Yuri Trials, and now it’s time for Kureha’s, which means no more standing on the fence.

Even if she wants to reject all bears forever, the yuri world is rejecting her as we speak.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 09

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The cutting-out of the dialogue (not to mention taking a week off!) was certainly irritating in a “Goddamn It I Wanna Know What Happens!” kind of way. But I was confident when Yurikuma  returned, much would be revealed, including the contents of the conversation that led to Kureha shooting Ginko off the roof, to the delight of Yuriika, who’d manipulated both Kureha and Lulu against Ginko.

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What is revealed is not entirely surprising, which is to say it makes sense based on everything that’s come before…which is good! Kureha shoots Ginko, but doesn’t kill her. Ginko ends up in “the center of the sky that divides the worlds of the moon and forest,” in other words, limbo.

Her wounds are tended to by someone that appears to be the late Yurizono Mitsuko, but is really(/also) the manifestation of Desire, the surrender to which has governed the actions of many a girl and bear alike on this show.

With Desire’s help, we explore the particulars of grave crime Ginko committed, which as suspected was not the direct killing or eating of Sumika, but the act of doing nothing to stop it despite having the power to do so.

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Ironically, Ginko had the perfect opportunity to stop Sumika’s demise when she found her hairpin on the ground. The last time Sumika lost that pin, it was Kureha who found it, which led to their friendship and eventually far more. For Ginko to have come so far to reunite with Kureha, only to find she had given her love to another while she was away, created a crack in Ginko’s heart, more than large enough for Desire to slip in. Her desire for Kureha at any cost kept her from warning Sumika, and led to her murder.

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Getting shot was punishment not just for letting Sumika get eaten, but abandoning Lulu, whom Ginko knew loved her but abandoned her anyway, at a crucial moment. That allowed Yuriika to create a wedge between them. Lulu’s revelation that Ginko was an accomplice in Sumika’s death, along with a very guilty Ginko’s admission that she killed Sumika, period, caused Kureha to fire.

As Ginko heals, Desire isn’t quite done with her, nor she with Desire, who disrobes and “becomes one” with her. The red spark in Ginko’s eye suggests Kureha’s bullet (whether it’s a love bullet or not more on that later), has only heightened Ginko’s desire for her. Being deprived of that which one desires can twist a person, as we clearly see with “Bride-in-a-Box” Yuriika.

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As Kureha’s class, now led by Chouko Oki, prepares to vote on whom they believe to be the bear residing among them, flouting social cues and eating them, we find that Kureha’s exclusion seems to have been commuted for the time being.

As Life Sexy creepily spies on two girls going at it in the nurse’s office, he states that the girls’ exclusion of what they deem to be “evils”—be they bears or girls—is a ritual that bands them together and gives them a sense of connection. Desire is not merely an individual vice, nor a collective vice; but also a potentially destructive yet effective means of forming communities and societies.

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Recognized as a victim of the bears they believe she’s already been too friendly with, Kureha’s peers offer Kureha a chance to re-enter the fold, by voting Ginko the bear among them, which will undoubtedly lead to a concerted hunt. But now that she’s had time to cool off, Kureha isn’t so sure Ginko deserves to be “ruined.”

Despite Yuriika’s warning about the wearer of the pendant and Lulu’s snitching, Kureha knows it was Yurizono, not Ginko, who killed Sumika. Far from being ready to deliver a guilty verdict, she’s desperate to learn the whole truth. Up on that roof, flanked by Yuriika and Lulu, there was neither physical nor emotional room for elucidation. Heck, even Ginko didn’t give Kureha the chance to forgive her, preferring to take the bullet as punishment for her sins.

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But Desire isn’t wrong when she says everyone in the world sins at some point in their life to achieve or gain something they desire. Everything is up for grabs; it takes desire to identify what you want and take it, which means others will go without. It’s what Reia did when she gave her love to Kureha instead of Yuriika. It’s what Kureha did when she gave her love to Sumika instead of Ginko. And it’s what Ginko did when she gave her love to Kureha instead of Lulu, and let Yurizono eat Sumika. (Whew…Still with us?)

Interestingly, the Judgemens, perched dramatically upon girders overlooking the city, observe everyone below them with a distinct neutrality and their own desire to see how things shake out. They approved Ginko and Lulu’s plans of action, but before them they also approved Yuriika’s. All, as they say, shall be as Kumaria wills it.

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When Kureha rushes to the lily bed, lured by a call from Yuriika posing as Life Sexy (a nice inclusion of specific modern technology in an otherwise very elemental story), she can’t find Ginko, I got the distinct feeling that anything could happen, not knowing Kumaria’s particular will any more than the Judgemens.

Yuriika comes so very close to putting Kureha “in the box that is her,” but it would seem her own Desire betrayed her. Eating Reia didn’t fill the emptiness inside her, because at that point Reia had already given her love to Kureha.

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So for years, Yuriika kept her true nature secret from everyone and waited as Kureha, the box that contained Reia’s love grew up. But in her hour of victory, Yuriika suddenly becomes incredibly reckess, and falls victim to her own food source: Kureha’s classmates, on Full Bear Alert ever since Kureha shot Ginko.

I have to say, to have so much go right for Yuriika by the end of previous episode, only to snatch it all away due to what amounts to overzealousness, actually ends up making Yuriika a tragic figure; as much an unfortunate victim of Desire as Ginko risks becoming.

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That tragedy is driven home in Yuriika’s final moments, as she apologizes to her beloved Reia, and confesses that she stole and locked away the ending to her book, which contains the rightful future for Kureha and Ginko. As Yuriika passes away, Reia assures her they’ll be friends forever…even if that friendship only goes so far.

Interestingly, while Reia is portrayed as an almost angelic if not Virgin Mary-esque figure throughout Yuriika’s end; the very Kumaria who determines the future of others, one could also interpret Reia as a mere hallucination, as it’s actually Kureha she’s talking to. Thus, Kureha is able to find the rest of her mother’s story, but like last week, Yurikuma only reveals so much in one episode.

The “impossible future” Kureha has uncovered, and the consequences of Ginko absorbing Desire, will have to wait until at least next week.

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Kyoukai no Kanata – 07

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Inami Sakura remains in town, and transfers to Mirai’s class. Of evenings she defeats low-level youmu, charging her scythe in preparation to fight Mirai, but grows exhausted from its power and is rescued by Akihito, who takes her to his apartment. Mirai shows up and catches a glimpse of Sakura before she flees. Later the two duel in a sewer pipe. Sakura is no match for Mirai, and is nearly devoured by her own weapon, but Mirai saves her and talks her down. Fujima Miroku, the one who originally gave Sakura the scythe, retrieves its from the sewers. Izumi and Mitsuki observe the start of “the calm.”

You can be the most badass spirit hunter around, but what’s that compared to being a great cook? We kid; we truly enjoyed this episode—enough to award it a 9—but it was very different from last week’s 9. Whether it’s a playful loopy standalone romp or a serious character drama culminating in an earned catharsis, Kyoukai no Kanata it is capable of making any story a compelling one. This week was the dramatic kind, in which welcome resolution comes to the impasse between Mirai and her would-be nemesis Sakura, sister of the friend Mirai “murdered,” climaxing in a cool close-quarters sewer pipe fight. And the episode doesn’t forget how Mirai’s outlook evolved after defeating the hollow shadow.

Not letting guilt and regret consume and define her anymore, Mirai recognizes a similar misapplication of energies in Sakura’s. She knows from experience that Sakura is walking down a one-way road with no solace at its end. As much or more than she thirsts for vengeance, Sakura hates being so unsuited for the work at which Yui—and Mirai—so excelled, and of being unable to carry her sister’s mantle, something she never should have felt she had to do (but was encouraged by Fujima, lending her that scythe). Mirai is able to pull Sakura from falling into the shadowy abyss, for which she’s thankful, and onto a new path of peace, forgiveness, and self-acceptance. We like the change, and it will be interesting to see what the show does with Sakura going forward.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Even in a very straight-laced episode, there was still room for the ol’ “Girl #1 visits when Girl #2 is already there” scenario at Akihito’s place…not to mention that aside with Hiromi’s idol CDs being replaced by Yaoi
  • There, Sakura criticizes Akihitos cooking (likely because she’s a better cook)…though she still scarfs down every bit of her omelette.
  • Were we the only ones who thought the scythe’s vicious tangle of “feelers” resembled Mirai’s beloved udon?
  • Fujima Miroku has been a shifty one since his abrupt intro, so we’re not surprised he was the one who gave Sakura that scythe. Was he just performing an experiment, or did he want Mirai taken out? 
  • That “calm” looks pretty dicey, if beautiful.