Mar 30, 2015
Link_of_Hyrule (All reviews)

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.