ANIME REVIEW: YURI KUMA ARASHI
Kuma Arashi is not a show that I would show my parents.
In fact, I’d be very hesitant to show it to anyone who hadn’t already expressed
an interest in it themselves, or who didn’t know me very well. The first few
episodes are so blatantly filled with fanservice that it’d be more than easy to
dismiss it as an ecchi show without much to offer beyond titillation. I
wouldn’t expect a yuri show with a 90% female cast to have a scene suggesting
fellatio in its first few episodes, but there you have it.
Despite first impressions, however, Yuri
Kuma Arashi has much more in store for its viewers than simple fanservice.
Another wonderful demonstration of director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s devotion to and
talent for visual metaphor and unusual storytelling, those who stick with the
show past its initial episodes will find a love story worthy of being told.
Kuma Arashi is a story set in a world where bears have gained sentience,
and an enormous wall has been erected between the human and bear civilizations
to separate the two, known as the Wall of Severance. Two bears named Ginko and
Lulu are transformed into humans and infiltrate Arashigaoka Academy, posing as
transfer students, and try to get close to a young girl named Kureha Tsubaki.
Kureha is in love with her classmate, Sumika Izumino.
Without spoiling too much, things change drastically for our protagonist
Kureha, leaving her with a massive grudge against bears—more of whom have
infiltrated the academy and who have begun to eat students one by one.
To start with, Yuri
Kuma Arashi is visually a treat to look at. The backgrounds and
environments, particularly the girls’ school, are presented in a wonderfully
surreal way, with the school featuring impossibly straight and perfectly spaced
lines and bright but minimalistic colors. The wall of severance is a
fantastically impossible structure that feels almost as much like a physical
representation of the separation between the two societies as it does as a
physical wall between them. The character designs are all unique from each
other and interesting to look at despite the majority of them wearing the same
uniform for most of the show. Plenty of stock footage is used in true Ikuhara
fashion, but it never feels like it’s trying to take up time and save budget.
Similar to Ikuhara’s previous work, Mawaru
Penguindrum (a personal favorite anime of mine), Yuri Kuma Arashi uses repetition in well; it uses a catchphrase to
note a certain character’s entrance or remind the viewer of their motivations.
It uses certain surreal stock footage sections–featuring three seemingly
half-bear half-human judges name Life Sexy, Life Cool, and Life Beauty–to
break down the character’s conflicts of the particular situation they’re in and
open them up for discussion. This allows the show to sort of analyze itself and
ask questions about the choices it’s characters are making. The scenes do not
flow in a traditional way, as in most shows they would be a logical
impossibility, but Yuri Kuma Arashi
isn’t as concerned with the realism of the story it’s telling if it would get
in the way of telling the story itself. To me, the repetition never felt
annoying or boring, but helped me to better understand the story and focus on
what was being said.
While I’m tempted to gush about the show for this entire
article, there were a few things I found lacking compared to its predecessor, Penguindrum. While it may not be fair,
I’d find it difficult to talk about this show without thinking of that one
and—to a lesser extent—Revolutionary Girl
Utena, Ikuhara’s most famous work. Perhaps a symptom of the show’s shorter
length, the story is overall much straight forward and I found no more mystery
in it past a certain point. The pacing for the show was fine, but didn’t grip
me in the same way that Penguindrum’s
did, where I was dying to see the next episode every time.
The questions Yuri Kuma asks are
mostly questions about its own story, and I didn’t find it to have anything in
particular to say other than the common message that love can come from many
places. While this isn’t exactly a negative thing, I was expecting something a
little more from it and felt slightly let down.
complaints are mostly nitpicks, however. The show is still a wonderful story
that’s fun to watch, and provides both masterful humor and drama in equal
measure. I would recommend Yuri Kuma
Arashi to anyone who has liked Ikuhara’s previous works, or who wants to
see a show with a unique method of storytelling. Don’t be put off by the start
of the show and you’re in for a great ride.
-Edward (Left Knee of A7)
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