Tag Archives: yuri

Love Bullet – Yurikuma Arashi REVIEW


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.

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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?

yurikuma_2The 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.

yurikuma_4If 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.].

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n 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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[Winter 2014] Sakura Trick


Being a teenager isn’t easy. That tumultuous time where nobody understands you, school is dragging you down, everyone seems to be obsessed with getting laid and you feel that you’re ugly and horrible. It’s also a time for experimentation and emotive discovery as you approach adulthood and realise what it is you might be partial to. Despite its initial impression of being a purely fanservice-orientated show, Sakura Trick is actually a lot better than I thought in exploring the confusion when it comes to that barrier that separates platonic and romantic relationships.

Sakura_Trick2I was initially sceptical when I heard about this show. This is, undoubtedly, a yuri title. Yuri is the opposite of yaoi [romantic stories involving purely men] in that it invests in women having emotional, romantic and in most cases sexual explorations and deviances with the same gender. Some stories can be tender, some can be sexually explicit; Sakura Trick fortunately falls in the former category. Sure it does have fanservice elements strewn throughout the narrative but it could’ve been a lot worse given the initial brief. The story is about two friends named Haruka and Yuu; they are about to start their first year at high school together and leave the comfort of middle school behind them. What Haruka worries about most though is Yuu drifting away from her and leaving her all alone like she was before the two of them met. Yuu holds emotional importance in Haruka’s life and naturally she wants to cement that bond in an unforgettable way. That way is through a kiss; at first Yuu is shocked but she slowly warms up to the idea and they both embrace the chances in which to…well embrace. This is a prime example of two teenagers [of whatever gender] taking their friendship to the next level and solidifying the bond that they have. It’s quite charming. Shame that the ploys for male viewership have to get in the way.

Sakura_Trick5Yes, for most anime of this ilk to become an anime, it has to have its sexual [ecchi] content amped up more than the original. A prime example of this modification is the series A Certain Magical Index. The manga and anime differ wildly in terms of style and content with the the former being far more elegant and tasteful and the latter being a lot more moe [rounder, softer and more cutesy style]. It pleased some, confused others and mostly degraded the source material in terms of artistic impression. Sakura Trick suffers from this but not to nearly as much of a degree. However, groping and extra skimpy costumes and situational positioning do up the ante when it comes to pleasing the male audience watching. It’s sad but at least the panty shot hasn’t made an appearance…yet. In a way, you can count yourself lucky. The lack of more steamy content actually enhances the romantic bond that Haruka and Yuu share and makes it feel more wholesome.

Sakura_Trick3Once you get past the yuri element, you actually find a cute slice-of-life story of six friends in high school sharing their three years together and making the most of their time there. The school they’re in is closing as part of a merger with another school and so their intake will be the last and as such all the events that the school puts on have an extra amount of sentimentality behind them. Yuu is particularly driven to enjoy herself and build strong memories and not to miss out on a single moment. The other four girl characters [Yuzu – the plucky tomboy, Kaede – the cynical sidekick, Kotone – the buxom flirt and Shizuku – the nervous stoic one] have their part to play in the series and it’s also clear that they’re paired off with one another too but it’s a lot more drawn out and subtle than the main pair. I liked Sakura Trick mostly for its narrative quirks and off-beat visuals for chronicling scene changes, character movements as well as emotions. For example, Yuu wears two flowers in her hair and to denote her running over somewhere, one of her flowers bounces across the scene synced with chirpy musical beats. Yuzu and Haruka have hair antennae and those twitch when they are emotionally attuned. These small comedic touches add to the charm that this show has. One problem I have is that I do think Haruka is a little perverted; more perverted than a normal girl would be of that age. It seems like she is a vehicle for what MEN might think and dream of when in a steamy, sexual encounter with their classmate. It’s not always present but it does sometimes become an issue.

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So what do I think of Sakura Trick? I like it! Not because of its female-orientated plot [seriously there are NO guys in this show] and sexual undertones, that doesn’t do it for me. I like it for its charm and character. It’s not a cookie-cutter anime with generic characters and bland storytelling. The show has funny and original visual cues which are coupled with a cute main couple. Of course if you’re not a fan of yuri you will be put off by the premise of the series but that part of the narrative is actually quite small when you think about it. Quite a lot of the story revolves around the six main characters having fun and enjoying their time together. I want to watch a show which feels like you won’t forget about it a couple days after watching it and Sakura Trick succeeds in doing that.

Sakura Trick is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CONTINUE [if you don’t mind yuri-driven content]

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