Yuri Kuma Arashi : A Lecture by Kunihiko Ikuhara on Stigma
Kunihiko Ikuhara is a very well respected, well decorated Director and screenwriter in the anime industry. He has been around for close to 25 years now. His most notable works are Revolutionary Girl Utena, The second half of the second season of Sailor Moon and most recently Mawaru Penguindrum. Its no secret at this point that I really did not enjoy the latter half of Mawaru Penguindrum (most of it actually) and Utena didn’t really capture my attention, but there is something about Ikuhara’s works that just brings me back hoping that there is something there that I just didn’t understand or ‘get’ and I believe I have found it in his latest offering Yuri Kuma Arashi.
Anime News Network describes the plot of YuriKuma as “Far off in space, the asteroid Kumaria blew up, sending bits and pieces to rain down on Earth. For reasons unknown, this causes all the bears (“kuma” in Japanese) to simultaneously rise up and begin attacking humans. Finally, a giant “Wall of Severance” was built to divide them from each other and end their ceaseless war and hatred. In the human world, at Wuthering Heights Academy, Kureha and Sumika are friends who’ve fallen in love. When they find a lily blooming in their favorite flower bed, their eyes meet…and all at once the Bear Alarm starts ringing, signalling that the human world is under attack.”
As of writing, the show is currently on its 8th episode and there have been numerous theories on its message and themes. I certainly don’t claim to have the correct one but for once I feel like I have a good grasp on what Ikuhara is trying to put across. I should point out there will be some spoilers from this point on so for anyone who hasn’t seen the show I implore you to do so, it is worth it
The most noticeable thing about this show is that it has an all female cast who are for the most part lesbian. Its a yuri show afterall, but not in a pandering sort of way like most yuri anime. The relationships of these characters are what kickstart the plot of the show, the moment that one of the girls actively shows her affection for another the “Bear alarm” goes off and all hell breaks loose. The bears in question are almost always in disguise, they change their appearance to look human so they can fit in and lure unsuspecting girls. One of the main hooks of the show is how it keeps the identities of some of the bears a secret, its always a “kuma shock” whenever you discover that one of the girls is actually a bear.
The show makes it a point to note that the bears only ever eat girls that have become ‘invisible.’ Invisible girls are (from what ive gathered) girls who have either shown public affection for other girls and are then outcast by everyone in the school, or girls who are picked by a voting system which seems rather rigged to decide who shall be excluded.
There is obviously still a lot to uncover in this show but for now Id like to assume that some of these. features are pretty analogous to how society treats the LGBTQ community today.
The Wall of Severance that separates the evil bears from the unsuspecting innocent girls is most likely referring to the mindset that homosexuality must be separated from the straight community. This also explains why the bears must disguise themselves as human in order to fit into normal society. The reason why bears eat people? its not given, they just do. The notion that homosexuality will ‘eat you up’ if you aren’t paying attention, the evil bears cant be helped its in their nature.
The fact that ‘normal girls’ become invisible once they show public affection is also an analogy for the stigmatisation that begets coming out of the closet. It seems rather odd in the show when a girl who was quite literally part of the gang a few episodes ago suddenly is not because of the love she chooses. Its very interesting to compare that turn of events to the reactions that people have when someone they know finally does come out of the closet.
There’s also a very interesting recurring event that happens in almost every episode in the show. The two main bears are often taken to court where they stand trial for their love, there they are asked if they will be invisible or continue eat humans and their response thus far has always been to stay true to themselves and continue to eat humans
I would like to say Ikuhara is being subtle with his message here but the imagery and terms used beg to differ or maybe that’s because this is the first Ikuhara show I can actually understand or relate to. Or maybe Im completely delusional and all this is completely wrong, either way its a pretty fun show and its very interesting to try and dissect and discuss with the community.
I’m interested to hear what you guys think about YuriKuma thus far, do you like it, what are your impressions?