In the world of Yuri Kuma Arashi, bears can no longer coexist with humans in peace. The meteor shower that fell onto Earth as a result of the asteroid Kumaria exploding into millions of fragments had a very strange effect on bears all over the world. They became very violent, and hungered for human flesh. Bear ate man and man shot bear, creating an endless cycle of bloodshed. In order to prevent further injury to either side, the Wall of Severance was built, which would separate the two civilizations, keeping peace.
Kureha Tsubaki and Sumika Izumino are lovers attending Arashigaoka Academy. What they do not know is that there are two bears that have sneaked through the Wall of Severance disguised as schoolgirls and enrolled in Arashigaoka Academy in order to eat humans. It seems that they are interested in Kureha, but why? And what are these girls going to do if another war between humans and bears breaks out?
Watching Yuri Kuma Arashi is like trying to memorize the first 100 digits of Pi. Succeeding might technically be considered an accomplishment, but good lord is it meaningless.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is a textbook example of an anime that tries to be too damn smart for its own good. It's a show which attempts to utilize intricate symbolisms and references rather than to present a story which you can take at face value. By hiding content in-between the lines, it tries to provide a plot which is unorthodox, deep and thought-provoking. However this is nothing more than a façade which tries (and fails) to cover up the fact that the plot itself is in reality nowhere near as complicated as it makes itself out to be.
The story takes place in a world that has been struck by an asteroid called Kumaria, and after the following meteor shower ended, for whatever reason all the bears all over the world rose up and started attacking and eating humans. After the dust settled, a giant Severance Barrier was erected in order to separate the world of the bears from the world of the humans, and to try and cause a ceasefire in-between the two warring sides. Or at least that's what the premise states that the story is about, but in reality almost none of that is correct as Yuri Kuma Arashi is all about symbolism.
This is of course because Yuri Kuma Arashi is written by the one and only Ikuhara Kunihiko, famous for other deeply symbolic and successful works such as Shoujo Kakumei Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum among others. Most things in his works look like one thing but in actuality represent something entirely different. It's kind of like solving a riddle in that sense as you have to try and figure out what everything really means on your own. Yuri Kuma Arashi is no different either as it primarily revolves around homophobia and society's view on it, but there's one clear difference here: although the story is unorthodox, complex and filled with references, that still doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of it feels completely uninteresting and intangible. The execution of Yuri Kuma Arashi is one of the most random ones I've seen in a long time, and it doesn't really make the viewer care very much about the actual events occuring throughout the course of the story.
Merely including references and symbolisms to various works of media like The Shining and historical events such as the Sankebetsu Brown Bear Incident does *not* make a good story in and of itself. That's not how scriptwriting works. If all you needed to make an interesting plot was to haphazardly throw in cryptic references and symbolisms wherever you could, then writing a "good" storyline would be easy as pie. However that's sadly not the case, but Yuri Kuma Arashi seemingly fails to understand this. As a result you end up with a story which contains countless plot elements from various sources, but in actuality the vast majority of them don't matter whatsoever in the end. When it all comes down to it, what you're left with is a pretentious and quirky Yuri story, complemented with tons and tons of completely irrelevant references.
Speaking of which, I also have to say that Yuri is one of the absolute rarest genres in anime, and also one of my favorites. However if you're looking to see some cute, romantic, erotic or dramatic girl-on-girl moments you should look somewhere else because this anime has very little of that. The Yuri elements in this show are mostly used as a plot mechanic in order to be able to talk about homophobia. It is not really anything meant to try and be satisfying on its own.
The characters... who were they again? If it wasn't for the fact that their names themselves are pretty easy to remember, I probably wouldn't be able to name them without double checking here and now. That's how forgettable and wholly uninspiring they are. Ikuhara's writing style is heavily integrated into the characters' personalities and as a result they come across as quite intangible and hard to really get a good feel for. Well at least the main characters' goals and intentions are pretty clear since the show never stops repeating them, but other than that they all feel like nothing more than plot devices instead of actual persons.
Also a more subjective issue I have with this anime is how cringeworthy the dialogue is. If you've watched any Ikuhara shows before, then you'll be familiar with some of the more random catchphrases that he tends to use. I mean who can forget about SEIZON SENRYAKUUUU and penguins for example. However those still felt appropriate and humorous somehow, but in Yuri Kuma Arashi it only made me hold my head in agony. "Gao Gao", "Shabadadoo", "Deliciousmell~", "Kuma Shock!", and the list goes on. It's so unbearably awkward to listen to. Am I supposed to be watching a psychological seinen anime, or Teletubbies? Sometimes I'm honestly not sure.
If there's anything good to mention about this show, then I'd still have to give the animation some credit. Yuri Kuma Arashi uses a very artistic and Shaft-like art style which is very reminiscent of the Monogatari Series in how it looks, and also how the show utilizes it. The OP is also very atmospheric (and even has some decently pronounced French lyrics in it), and the ED is very catchy and addictive. Overall the production value is quite solid, but sadly that is not all you need to make a good anime. If pretty artwork and nice music was all that mattered, then you're better off watching something more dedicated on that front like Iblard Jikan or similar.
I don't bother making negative reviews very often, simply because a) I don't actually hate anime, and b) most of the bad shows I come across are just bad because they're predictable, generic and boring. However it's been a very long time since I saw an anime which genuinely annoyed me as much as this one did, because I sincerely believed it had a lot of potential before the season started. I like Ikuhara's writing style. I think it's very unique and interesting, but in this case it just didn't work out at all. The first episode alone left me with a horribly negative impression, however I still had hope that it would get better over time when things would start to be explained and make more sense, but I am left somewhat disappointed on that front as well. Fortunately the eventual ending of the entire show was a lot better than everything before it, but that alone doesn't really make up for all the time where the story is pitifully bad.
If you haven't seen an Ikuhara anime before and you're interested in seeing what they're like, all I have to say is [go watch one of his other works]. There is no need to bother watching this one before that. If you've already done so and you really liked them, then I guess it might be worth at least giving Yuri Kuma Arashi a shot. But just make sure to not get your hopes up too high because odds are that you're going to be left somewhat disappointed if you do.read more
Surrealism: it’s something that you are either into or you aren’t. The plots of these shows are usually far harder to comprehend than your average anime and the actions of the characters won’t always make logical sense, but if you merely change your perspective, you will see what the show is really trying to say. Yuri Kuma Arashi, which translates into “Lesbian Bear Storm”, is no exception to the formula of surrealist art; it is NOT for everyone. While most shows are driven by their plot or by their characters, YKA is a show driven by its themes and the messages that the plot and characters are trying to relay. Brought to us by the artistic genius Kunihiko Ikuhara (Mawaru Penguindrum, Revolutionary Girl Utena), this show is a unique experience that allows you to really feel the passion and dedication that went into creating it; it has incredible attention to detail for the purposes of making a commentary on an important social issue. The best way to do this, of course, is through lesbian bears and lots of boobs. Right?
Synopsis: Long ago, humans and bears lived together in harmony. But then, everything changed when the asteroid Kumaria crashed into the Earth, causing the bears to go berserk and start eating humans alive. To stop the fighting, a “Wall of Severance” was constructed to separate the two beings, thus ushering in an era of pure hatred and exclusion.
In case you aren’t familiar with the works of Ikuhara and therefore don’t understand how such a silly concept can hold such a serious message, immediately stop reading this and go watch one of his shows; the only way to understand it is to experience it. I won’t hide the fact that I absolutely love Ikuhara’s style; the insane amount of symbolism, the repetition of sequences, the abstract environments, the use of color dissonance, etc. I’m an absolute sucker for all of it, so it’s no wonder why I was instantly turned on to this show.
YKA’s plot may be nothing special if you take it at its face value, but when you examine the purpose of it all and how masterfully it is worked into the theme of homosexuality as well as how society perceives homosexuality, it becomes quite clear how well written it truly is. In case the title didn’t tip you off, this is an anime that uses lesbianism to make a commentary on society; not necessarily for fanservice (though you could certainly argue the amount of naked girls is gratuitous). It should go without saying, but this isn’t ACTUALLY a show about lesibians vs. bears; it’s an abstract concept used to display a theme. Some people are simply unable to get on board with that, which is understandable, but for those who do appreciate this sort of thing, YKA’s world building and storyline will be truly appreciated. There is a great deal of depth to it that I still haven’t taken the time to fully digest myself, but I definitely plan on rewatching this show in order to do so. Without doing a full on analysis of this show complete with spoilers, that’s about as much as I’m allowed to say about YKA’s narrative.
While I could gush over everything this show does right all day, let’s talk about why you are never going to hear it mentioned in conversation amongst most anime fans. First and foremost, it gets off to a slow and confusing start. The first 3 episodes of YKA are far more abstract and cryptic than the rest of the show, which was admittedly a poor choice considering how assessable the themes are made later on. Because the characters take so long to be introduced and fleshed out, many people were scared away because of how strange and “out there” the anime appeared. It’s ironic that the symbols become so much easier to understand than Ikuhara’s other works later on, because it’s for precisely the opposite reason that so many people dropped it.
The aspect of YKA that really makes the show work and ties all its themes together without many loose ends is the cast of characters. While they initially feel distant and unrelateable, they eventually emerge as unique and likable, not to mention the fact that they are perfect manifestations of the concepts that the show is working with. Ikuhara is a master of making sure that every character, no matter how minor, serves an important role. Outside of the main trio of Lulu, Ginko, and Kureha, every character has a symbolic purpose, thus painting the picture of a twisted dystopia that excludes all who do not conform to their standards. In addition to being thematically brilliant, the characters are a main source of the show’s fantastic comedy. Did I mention that this show is laugh-out-loud hilarious? I think it says something about the directing of a show that can make you think hard and laugh hard in the same episode. Sure, Kureha is bit bland and serves mostly as vessel for the show’s agenda, but this is overall a great use of characterization.
Perhaps the best thing about an Ikuhara work is the animation itself; he always finds a new and unique way to portray something that could have been mundane, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that. The sheer intricacy of each and every shot makes it clear just how much effort was put into this show in order to make it great. Regardless of whether or not you like his style, it is a commendable effort. The music choice is strange, but somehow fitting. This show contains easily the weirdest use of a choir I’ve ever heard, but I mean that in a good way.
I think I’ll stop there just because even though there is so much to talk about with YKA, so little of it is worthwhile to someone who hasn’t actually seen it yet. I would highly recommend that you go watch it; even if you aren’t into the whole symbolism thing, this show makes it accessible enough that anyone can understand at least the basic gist of it. Sure the fanservice can be distracting despite its occasional relevance, the first few episodes are off-putting, and it isn’t exactly as bulletproof as Ikuhara’s other shows, but it’s a memorable, funny, and worthwhile experience nonetheless. If you’re looking for a show that actually has some depth, check it out. Shaba-da-doo.read more
Yuri relationships and bears. What are you thinking? One could say this is one of anime’s weirdest creations, but I think it’s one of the greatest, this year in fact. It is one of the first few anime that aired this year (and season) and as well as the one which focuses on girl-on-girl relationship.
Yuri Kuma Arashi was probably picked up by many because it was directed by Ikuhara Kunihiko, the director of the well-famed Mawaru Penguindrum. To give some background of the story, there was a planet Kumaria that exploded on space which showered around Earth. This caused the bears to become violent and start attacking and eating humans. So to prevent any more attacks, the humans build up the ‘Wall of Severance’ between the two and things calmed down. One day, two bears, Ginko and Lulu, disguised themselves as humans and transferred in a class where Kureha and her love Sumika is. While Kureha have been eyeing for Sumika, the bears eye towards Kureha. Then, tragedy ensues on that same day. First of all, many regarded the anime as one which has a lot of symbolism. Some have linked this anime to lesbianship in Japan, while others have their own other opinions about the topic in general. But even if there is symbolism, I think that this anime can be watched without caring about it. It is something that one should not delve into if he wants to watch an anime without thinking critically and just enjoy what is there in the story. Nevertheless, feel free to express your own thoughts linking with the story.
The first few episodes can definitely throw everyone off because of the confusion behind the story. I do not know if some have dropped it because of this specific reason, but if you are one of the person, I suggest picking this anime up, because it gets better after episode three. To summarise what has been going on, the progression of the story is so clear and well-done. It is like piecing the puzzles to form a completed timeline, which means that the anime jumps in and out of flashbacks a lot of times. Trust me, it cannot be very annoying since you will be able to understand more about the story as well as the characters. Also, there can be a number of cliffhangers at the end of most episodes which leaves the suspense high for the audience. Overall, the story was written well with good sense of direction. It not only focuses on love, but also bullying and the society that have a general view on these topic. There are some funny moments to brighten up the dramatic mood of the anime and eventually there are also some fan-service moments that tickle the fantasies of many people. I am satisfied by how the story went by, and I really loved the ending so much that brought the story to great closure.
Ah, the characters. The story revolves around these three girls, a human and two bears. Aside from their differences, they are fairly interesting characters to look at and quite likeable. I would say that Kureha is this girl that is affected by many things in the past, hence that was how she was in the beginning of the anime. As you bring the bears to play, she has gotten more active and is at first not willing to be with them. However, these bears are trying to change her for the sake for something, and towards the finale, something major happened for these characters that might move you emotionally. It was a nice character development for these girls as they get to understand more about one another and with a clever idea of flashback, we can see how these girls made it towards the end. I was pleased by how they think and understood by how they feel, so as I mentioned before, they are interesting.
I like some of the side characters too. The anime got a whole lot of people to make Kureha suffer a lot, and it was nice how she kept herself strong, although she really never hung out with them in a long time. In fact, there are very few with an interesting twist, however easily spoilt through their names. With the three alluring court bears, two past-time lovers and many others, the anime holds its charm for having a good cast.
Stunning visuals. At first I thought this was made by SHAFT, but nope, studio Silver Link (what a surprise) decided to direct this original anime, and I am sure only one (or very few) staff member working on the animation has links to involving SHAFT’s anime. The sceneries are great and have finer details in them, making them visually pleasing. Sometimes, there are scenes that usually throw in some symbolism and make it so abstract, so beautiful. I think the anime pushes to be this unique and I think this is perfect. The character designs are fine and quite simple - they look perfect in themselves. In bear form, I swear I could not stop awe-ing by their adorable figures. The fan-service is pretty nice and lewd, but at least it did not bring over towards the ecchi level, meaning that the anime does not throw in naughty fan-service anywhere to make the audience pumped up.
When I first heard the opening song, I was moved by the emotions played in it. It was so calming, so beautiful that it is great. I love the vocals of its rich smooth high-toned singing, and apparently this is the singer’s, Bonjour Suzuki, first anisong. I never heard of her other songs before (if there is any), but I do welcome her to sing more songs to make her shine better. Meanwhile, this ending song sung by the voice actresses of the three main girls has this nice electronic beat that makes you groove. A nice touch for the simple animation behind, with a bear doing a cute dance. The background music is loveable, I hear a nice variety of choice in it. The voice acting is a job well-done indeed. The three voice actresses for the main characters are not-so-well-known yet they are great for putting the emotions into power with the characters, as well as defining what their respective characters are.
Hell, Yuri Kuma Arashi is a bloomed lily flower over many other flowers in a garden. It definitely stands out by its wonderful and creative direction, however it does not really stand out much in terms of popularity. To say that the anime showed up at a wrong season is a possibility, but I would say that the anime is certainly the best among the rest of this season’s anime. I enjoyed the anime so much that I was hoping for a real-life time-skip to start a brand new episode each week, because of the cliffhangers. Now, will this anime be recommended by all? Not all, unfortunately. But it is a worth of try. Yuri fanatics are welcomed to start this show right now, and those who like to ponder over symbolism too. Everyone else, give it a try. You would not feel sorry. read more
"Everything is good in moderation" ..now if you were to say that to Ikuhara he would probably pimp slap you with a proverbial hand and skip off into the schizophrenic sunset of left field allegorical stew, while conjuring new ways to make even Satoshi Kon's nuttiest creations to look like tamed Saturday morning cartoons.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is a dreamfactory chalked full of symbolism and motifs with everything being beyond what's presented at face value. This isn't for casual viewing and if unprepared to really dig deep it can be either taxing or repulsive upon initial impression. I normally don't like to judge works based on the creator behind it but in the anime industry some giants have made a very noticeable signature or trademark style when it comes to their works. May that be the western homage mashups of Shinichiro Watanabe, the "kill em all" approach of Gen "the butcher" Urobuchi or the slow burn conceptual pieces of Yoshitoshi ABe. Many of these industry power players have all made a name for themselves from their style and presentation, and if there was ever a person who's work was instantly recognizable it would be Kunihiko Ikuhara's. The man has a knack for allegorical symbolism in everything he does and Arashi is his latest addition of screwball storytelling.
Yuri Kuma Arashi, when stripped of its symbolism, is mainly about two things: sexual liberation and exposing societal mistreatment through exclusion.
Through our different female characters we take several multifaceted approaches at tackling the 1st conflict brought up, sexual liberation. Since the general theme is only explored through the niche sub category of yuri (love between women), it helps focus on one aspect instead of spreading itself too thin to try to cover a broader picture. The story shows how each character approaches their desire for yuri love. And again since it's all metaphorical, the key to understanding how each character approach that love is hinted at through wordplay and symbols. The quicker you figure out what they represent the quicker it becomes easier to piece together what the hidden messages behind each person's approach is. May that be to embrace that love with open arms or to reject it out of fear of social pressure. Each separate choice mirrors that of the ones commonly seen in today's society. You see it with the people that openly aren't afraid to express themselves and face rejection, and also when you hear stories of people "being in the closet". Being accepted by others is something we all desire in one way or another, but the show asks you at what cost are you willing to pay for that acceptance? Is acceptance worth restraining your true feelings to keep in good standing with societal standards?
This leads us into out next theme, societal mistreatment. This one should be pretty self explanatory since it's an issue that is still debated about today. You've probably heard it on the news or read about it every now and then. Everytime you hear a story of a Bill being rejected to allow same sex marriage in a State to be recognized. Or everytime you hear of a celebrity publicly apologizing for making derogatory remarks against homosexuality. Societal mistreatment and exclusion is something that's been relevant for as long as the conflict existed. Yuri Kuma tackles this by using the "mob" mentality. When the majority forces the minority to either conform or be rejected. Although this conflict could of been handled with more tact in Yuri Kuma, they did get their point across clearly. With such an interesting setup this became a rare case where the antagonist is society itself and not just an individual.
The art and animation left nothing to really be desired. Often inconsistent and greatly lacking in fluidity it feels like it was put together on a shoestring budget. Needless to say you're not watching this show for top tier quality. The highlight lies with the character designs themselves as they are very distinctive from other shows. They carry a personality of their own and it shows when needed. This felt like more of a passion project that the studio knew wasn't going to sell well but something they wanted to do regardless. Despite the lack of consistency, the charm is certainly there. The setting itself was interesting but often muddled, felt like too much saturation of objects was placed in every frame. It certainly captures your attention but is quickly desensitized due to the constant bombardment of color and clunky set pieces. It isn't inherently a bad thing but certainly a hindrance at times.
The opening can best be described as Honey synth pop. With soft vocals and hints of sexualized undertones by the performer. It's a nice addition to the show and a good way to get kick started into every episode. It's certainly one I found myself listening to everytime. It may be typical but that isn't a bad thing when given the content and presentation to the show it corresponds to. Unfortunately the rest of the OST was left concealed in the background and did nothing to stand out. None of the tracks really grip you or enhance the scenes they correspond with, they felt off in the distance and takes no risk in standing out. It's tracks that played it safe which resulted in nothing memorable to take away from it. The voice actors on the other hand were a real treat at times. Standouts being the Judge and court representatives "SHABADABA DOO".
Remember the "Everything is good in moderation" quote, well that's something Ikuhara never seem to comprehend.
You see the problem some metaphorical/conceptual shows face is that they more than often sacrifice proper characterization to stay thematically sound. This results in characters that become an embodiment of a ideology, which in turn make them only necessary when serving or pushing forward the show's themes. The cast of Yuri Kuma suffers greatly from this dilemma, since none of the characters feel human or even fleshed out for that matter. They come across as lifeless mouthpieces and ideological symbols which negates any sort of attachment or concern for their well being. The focus is placed more on solving the hidden allegorical message than the characters that are directly affected by it. This isn't to say their involvement isn't essential, since it truly is, but because of the highly conceptual setting they're reduced to being a part of the symbolic devices instead of being characters independent of it.
In short they're simply lifeless puppets being tugged to the tune of Ikuhara's madness.
Outside of figuring out the hidden messages I can't say this was an experience that brought me great pleasure or entertainment. It was certainly a unique and left field way to approach a topic but didn't do anything to grip me outside of providing something to think about a few minutes after completion.
In order to appreciate the show it should be noted that almost everything is metaphorical, from physical objects in the show to even characters. Nothing is (or should be) taken at face value. Most of the enjoyment for the series come from deciphering it but in terms of viewer engagement it's greatly lacking. If you're seeking something to get your brain running by testing your analytical skills then this is a nice brain workout but if you're seeking anything else you might not find it here.
Mawaru Penguindrum: If by some miracle you've already seen and like Yuri Kuma but haven't watched this title yet I highly suggest it. Another work from Ikuhara that contains all of the same elements present, from the symbolism to the kooky artstyle. If you loved Kuma then this would be right up your alley.
There She Is!: It uses animals like Yuri Kuma to tell a message of social discrimination and ridicule. Although not as explored as Kuma it's a short that also tackles the same subject matter in similar ways to it.
FLCL: Over the top presentation with unique artstyle used to hide allegorical themes. It's far easier to understand than Arashi but still an enjoyable watch for those that like a little thought placed behind the madness.
Girls are said to be the most loving beings in existence, something that is true in real life and in anime. So what about girls who love other girls? Well that, my friends, is the definition of yuri anime. From just friends to more than friends, here are 20 of the best yuri anime of all time.
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