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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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 08

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Is it just me, or are we getting our money’s worth? I can’t remember the last time Yuri Kuma Arashi wasted a spare moment; probably because it essentially hasn’t. Eight episodes in, and while things are hardly ideal for Ginko, Kureha, and Lulu, most of the big mysteries have been revealed. That’s the efficiency of a one-cour, 12-episode run: pleasantly brisk storytelling that engages and excites without feeling rushed.

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One mystery that wasn’t was whether Yuriika was a bear baddie; what remained to be known was just how bad of a baddie, and why; the latter of which would determine her quality as a baddie. In her flashback, it’s revealed she was an abandoned orphan bear cub picked up by a man in high heels he likes to click (like Dorothy), who regards the school as his “box.”

Box, hive, whatever you want to call it, it’s where Yuriika had instilled in her the idea that only unsullied things kept in boxes had value. Somewhere down the road, her father lost interest in her and tried to leave, so Yuriika killed him.

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Abandoned a second time in her life, a very beautiful Yuriika fell in love with Reia, who didn’t care whether Yuriika was a bear and urged her not to keep everything locked inside, for that’s pretty much the same as not having those things at all. But whereas Yuriika’s love for Reia went beyond friendship, even past their school years, Reia grew up and had a baby. To Yuriika, Kureha becomes a squirming, cooing symbol of Reia’s betrayal.

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That’s the third time Yuriika is abandoned, and it’s the last straw, as she decides to give up on love, and return to being a box. It is Yuriika who eats Reia, trying to fill the box that is her by force. She ate her just moments after Reia gave a departing Ginko her pendant, in hopes she and Kureha will one day reunite. And getting back to the idea that putting something in a box forever is the same as not having that thing, eating Reia only left Yuriika empty, still starving and yearning.

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Enter Kureha, herself a box containing Reia’s love. Yuriika considers that love rightfully hers, stolen by Kureha, and proceeds to formulate an intricate and devastating life-long con on her; a scheme that makes Kaoru’s bullying seem like child’s play, which it was. Kureha is her titular “bride in a box;” hers to do with what she pleases at her own pace.

Only Ginko and Lulu can interrupt those plans, but she has Kureha believing Ginko is her mother’s killer, restoring the blind rage with which Kureha dispatched Yurizono. Lulu takes this opportunity to suggest she and Ginko run back to the other side of the wall; that Kureha is a lost cause; that Ginko at least has Lulu, and she her. Ginko isn’t ready to throw in the towel. She’s so determined to win Kureha back, she abandons Lulu in an important moment, ignoring her pleas not to leave her.

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The court orchestrates a confrontation on the school rooftop, and it’s interesting how they’re perceived as ageless, having delivered a very similar verdict to Yuriika years ago that they delivered to Ginko and Lulu, only with different stipulations. Yuriika gave up on love, Lulu on kisses, but Ginko gave up on neither.

Things don’t go as smoothly as Yuriika hopes, as even though Kureha is in Full Bear-Ruining Mode thanks to the incorrect information on her mother’s killer, Kureha hesitates to shoot Ginko, because Ginko isn’t backing down. It’s dawned on Ginko that perhaps the only way to get a kiss from Kureha is through a bullet…a LOVE Bullet…which explains that part of the title.

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Ginko awaits that bullet as the only way Kureha’s love for her, lost when they parted ways, will reawaken, which is obviously the absolute last thing Yuriika wants in her moment of triumph over the one who stole Reia’s love from her. It’s as if someone is opening all the boxes and dumping the contents on the dirty ground, sullying them all. But there’s also a distinct pathos to Yuriika on that roof, egging Kureha on; whether those boxes are full or not, she’s empty, and this is all she has left, and no matter the outcome, it won’t fulfill her either. She’s as tragic a figure as everyone else on that roof.

But then, suddenly, Yuriika gets a surprise assist—from Lulu. Obviously hurt from Ginko flat-out abandoning her, she hurts her right back by relaying to Kureha the what she learned from the anonymous note (which was written by Yuriika, making Lulu her trump card), which is the particulars of Ginko’s “grave crime”, which we had thought to this point was doing nothing as Yurizono ate Sumika.

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The sound of the rain drowns out everyone’s voices (a little heavy-handed, but effective), but we do hear Lulu say that Ginko “is Sumika’s…” and it’s clear from Kureha’s reaction (re-training her gun on Ginko, her rage renewed, and firing) that Lulu’s next word was something like “killer.” That could be another of Yuriika’s lies, but like so many of she’s told Kureha, this lie got her the desired effect.

At the same time, Ginko wanted Kureha to shoot her, and she did. But I doubt Kureha killed her. She may have even missed. But whatever happened when that shot was fired, Kureha, Ginko, and Lulu have never been further apart, through a combination of their own choices and Yuriika’s conniving. With three quarters of the show complete, it’s tempting to believe these girls have reached their nadir, but one shouldn’t underestimate Ikuni’s capacity for plumbing new depths.

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