Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Show So Far: Yuri Kuma Arashi episodes 1 and 2

I ship it.

Anyone who knows my anime and manga tastes well knows that I adore Utena and Morishima Akiko, so no surprise that I've been extremely excited about a show with Morishima and Utena's creator Ikuhara Kuniko's names attached to it. With "Yuri" right in its title, no less.

Out of Ikuhara's animated work so far, YKA has the most out-there premise, which is saying quite a bit. Once upon a time, the planet Kumalia exploded, raining meteors upon the Earth. That caused Earth's bears to start eating people en masse, so the remaining people put up the Wall of Extinction to keep them out. (Cue a million Attack on Titan jokes.)

Our protagonist Kureha hates bears because they killed her parents, to the point of spending a goodly amount of time shooting bear statues in her house. She gets more reason to hate them when her bland girlfriend Sumika is eaten, apparently by Ginko and Lulu, two bears disguised as humans who transfer into Kureha's class and seem to be into the ladies also. Lulu wants to eat all the girls pretty equally (although I guess she finds Ginko especially attractive) while Ginko thinks Kureha smells especially delicious. Cue a load of obvious metaphors for "tipping the velvet", and more story weirdness that seems to be coming together into an allegory about sexuality and how people react to it? (Edit: Should be "love and sexuality.") That's what I'm getting so far, but I know that as with Utena and Penguindrum, the picture will get ever clearer. Still not really sure what's going on, but yeah, I know how Ikuhara rolls and that you're not really supposed to by this point in his stuff, and if you keep watching, you'll get some rewarding brain candy. Throw in a lot of funky, inventive visuals, a hearty dose of camp, and enough gayness to power a fleet of Olivia cruise ships, and I am being entertained.

Other observations:

  • As noted elsewhere, the photo in Kureha's room is a hoax photo associated with the Sankebetsu brown bear incident. Incidentally, Kureha sounds an awful lot like Ookawa Haruyoshi, someone who survived the Sankebetsu incident as a child and vowed to kill at least ten bears for every person who died because of it. Utena took a ton of inspiration from old shoujo, but as far as I know, didn't incorporate any actual history. Penguindrum pretty obviously incorporated a domestic terrorist attack based on the Sarin gas attack into its plot. It's interesting that Ikuhara has moved towards incorporating real historical incidents into his most recent shows.
  • What exactly does being eaten entail? Deep questions.
  • Ginko has Kureha's mother's necklace. I'm curious what happened with Kureha's parents. "Bears ate them" is the obvious answer, but Penguindrum gave its leads' parents a storyline I did not expect.
  • Not mourning Sumika being written out, since she is Blandie McBlanderson. Ginko is morally dubious right now, but easily more interesting. The opening theme ships her a lot more with Kureha, also.
  • Shaba-da-doo.

Here's to seeing where the hell this goes!


N☆WAKI said...

Oh I had waited for this first impressions from you!
I just don't know whether I should watch YKA or not. Actually, I was really happy seeing a new yuri-anime coming up, but as I read the description, I was pretty shocked. Bears attacking humans? What do I have to think of that?
Maybe I give it a try 'cause you say it's entertaining.
But I'm still so suspicious about this..

Katherine Hanson said...

@N☆WAKI- I am definitely enjoying it, just gotta warn you that you really don't want to try to make it make sense this early in the story. Some people have been frustrating themselves trying to do that, but that's not how Ikuhara's stories tend to work. Re the bear attacks, for what it's worth, this isn't the bear version of The Walking Dead- people aren't shown being eaten graphically, and even the bears' eating noises sound cartoony- like people saying sound effects- instead of realistic.