In this post apocalyptic world, bears have risen up and eaten the populace. It’s a lot different to the types of near-extinction shows we’ve seen in the last few years. Usually it involves something huge or scary or simply unseen. Here though the threat is adorable…adorably deadly. Yurikuma Arashi is the antidote to Attack on Titan oversaturation.
Our story takes place in a world where bears have evolved into hyper intelligent killing machines. However, these bears aren’t the hulking grizzlies we would first imagine; these bears are a foot tall and so utterly cute it hurts. Thanks to some kind of super powered asteroids which hit Earth when the distant planet Kumaria exploded, bears stood on their hind legs and started eating humans. As such, mankind built huge walls in the sky to keep the bears out…until one day, two bears broke through and started wreaking havoc [sound familiar?]. Some bears can also take human form and infiltrate the population; which is what bears Ginko and Lulu have done. They have enrolled in a school to find fresh meat to feast on. Enter Kureha, our leading lady. She and her best friend [and what is portrayed as lover] Sumika tend to the school garden until one day, when Sumika is killed and eaten by what is seen to be Ginko and Lulu although as we progress through the plot, it becomes a lot more confusing. We then get scenes which involve a courtroom where the two bears are judged whether they can do something [I wasn’t quite sure at first] which involves saving Kureha [which is illustrated as licking her lily…eww.]. It’s all rather poetic and symbolic, but is it any good?
The show’s director is Kunihiko Ikuhara, the genius behind Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum, two shows which broke boundaries in style and flair as well as yuri undertones. As soon as you say Ikuhara you can understand where the story will go, this show will contain a lot of girl love and a lot of crazy shenanigans! This series feels a little different though; it’s a lot more assured in pace than the two other Ikuhara works I mentioned. Like the plot is keener to get going and throw some really surreal stuff at the audience’s face. One thing’s for sure, you’re not watching your typical moe-fest here. Everything feels carefully crafted and patiently choreographed to ensure the message which the auteur wishes to convey is not lost. Sadly though to the average viewer, it could come off as pretentious and baffling and I must admit that I found myself thinking this all too often. For example, the whole courtroom scene with Ginko and Lulu; it’s at first hard to say what their allegiance is. They clearly want to eat humans but they seem to be protecting Kureha from enemies or keeping her alive so they can be the one that eat her. Also, the lily. I get it, it’s pretty phallic and it sums up what this show is about – it’s high-art soft-core ecchi. Sophisticated titillation.
If you come at this show with a more adult orientated perspective, you could consider Yurikuma Arashi an example of social commentary with Japan’s attitude towards homosexuality. In Japan, homosexuality is frowned upon in the extreme; BUT why are yaoi and yuri so prevalent in its primary visual export? Ah, that’s where this show illustrates that notion perfectly. Most yaoi and yuri projects aren’t as sexually driven as you might think; it’s all in the romantic atmosphere. The love shared between two people who are very close and have a bond which is pure and beautiful which explains the more rose-tinted colour palette most series and books employ. That’s what we have with Kureha and Sumika’s relationship – a pure and romantic friendship of two young adults. It’s OK they’ll grow out of it, their parents tell themselves. It’s all harmless adoration. Then we get the bears, a potential example of how homosexual women are portrayed in Japanese society. Rabid, lustful and corrupting; unable to restrain themselves and “eat” the innocent lovers or taint them. Ginko and Lulu behave in a far more carnal nature than Kureha and Sumika did. That’s just one example of how deep this show is; it’s a show which is here to comment on the state of homosexuality in Japan and how it’s considered to be black and white; either it’s harmless experimentation or it’s no-holds-barred lust which needs to be governed by the authority [which in this case is the courtroom, I think.].
In the end, Yurikuma Arashi is a show intended to entice and provoke. If you’re tired of the vapid and the facile anime show that is all too common these days, let Ikuhara take you on a colourful journey through sexual discovery and the media’s portrayal of sex and love. Kureha is our conduit and the bears Ginko and Lulu our handlers; together they lead us through a highly intricate story which is guaranteed to shock and intrigue. I recommend you give this a go and remember, this IS a yuri series, expect a certain level of fanservice but it’s all done tastefully and with due care and attention. Just like the show as a whole.
Yurikuma Arashi is available to stream on Funimation.
RATING: CONTINUE [A clever show with a vibrant symbolic plot]
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