The Bear Necessities: Yurikuma Arashi Episode 2 Roundtable

[Three Bears sit a table. Their porridge is taking a while to heat up]

Bear 2: I don’t even know what porridge tastes like.
Bear 1: Is it better or worse than curds and whey?
Bear 3: gorigorigorigorigorigorigorigorigori

[Bear 1 takes off his costume to reveal VESTENET, Bear of Beauty]
[Bear 2 takes off her costume to reveal ILLEGENES, Bear of Sexy]
[Bear 3 takes off his costume to reveal WENDEEGO, Bear of Cool]

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vestenet: So how about them bears?

illegenes: This Ikuhara guy. All these horror references.

wendeego: It occurs to me, as I’m rewatching this episode, that could you say the Invisible Storm is kinda like a stalker? Or some mysterious serial killer haunting the girls’ academy? Remember that 8thsin’s post said that “arashi” could also be read as a “vandalizer.”

vestenet: It’s at least a metaphorical one. But it does hit all the horror tropes. Girls whispering to themselves about rumors and noises while students disappear one by one. Suspiria covers similar territory, although the villains there are witches, and that’s another Ikuhara show entirely. Also there’s definitely something in Kureha’s attic, literally or figuratively.

wendeego: Also watching the episode after you know the student council girl becomes a bear is amusing. I think the mistake I made last episode was assuming all the bears were on the same team, but ARE THEY?

illegenes: Everyone is a fucking bear.

vestenet: Or does everyone simply have the capacity to become a bear?

wendeego: Yeah, the bears are more of a metaphorical state than an actual creature.

vestenet: Definitely. Bear as a state of being, but how does one become a bear? And is being a bear a good or bad thing to be?

illegenes: I still think I’m a slightly right, in that being a bear is more a phase of a relationship, and that they only APPEAR to be human because other people assume that they are pure. It’s a metaphysical state, represented by the consciousness but also how others perceive you.

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wendeego: And why are bears calling out FOR the Invisible Storm?

illegenes: Wait, do the bears have anything against the storm?

wendeego: Well, if bears are all about eating, and the storm persecutes those who love, and eating is love…unless eating isn’t love…

illegenes: It does seem to be getting at love as a carnal pleasure.

vestenet: Yurizono was pretty excited about the Invisible Storm at the end of this episode, so at least SOME bears want the storm. Lulu and Ginko have been pretty quiet about it, and we’ve already established that the bears each have their own agenda. But whatever it is, the Storm is approaching.

wendeego: Speaking of bears having their own agenda: Konomi.

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vestenet: Her whole thing was the wind picking up behind her, and wind is what heralds a storm.

wendeego: Do you think each bear will have a different leaf, or something like the Black Rose Arc in Utena, where each character had their own object symbol present for their duel?

vestenet: That’s what came to mind.

illegenes: First flowers, now leaves…

wendeego: The city after dark was very zettai unmei mokushiroku-y. Like a different world.

vestenet: Dark and cloudy, which also resembles a city before a storm arrives.

illegenes: The whole lily vs. bird thing is also interesting.

vestenet: Yeah, the birds seem to be Ikuhara’s current method of identifying the faceless third party characters this time around. You had the cookie cutter students in Utena, the featureless man and woman symbols in Penguindrum, and now birds.

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illegenes: Do birds represent invisibility? And lilies represent yuri?

vestenet: At least on the basic level.

wendeego: It’s interesting, because if you remember the Demian references he loves to include in everything, Ikuhara’s all about birds breaking out of shells and revolutionizing the world and shit. So if he chose birds that has to be deliberate.

vestenet: Walls mean nothing to birds. They can just fly over, so the Wall of Severance is pretty irrelevant to students who are already birds.

wendeego: But then why would birds be invisible?

vestenet: Well, invisible in the sense of being “normal.” In fitting in with the crowd.

illegenes: Birds can just fly away right? To be a bird is to be free. But to be a bird means that you also don’t have to face obstacles. They’re very fragile animals. We could also consider that these characters are ‘caged’ birds – Kureha and the rest are indeed, locked within a bordered area, bound by fear of many things.

vestenet: Exactly.

wendeego: Kureha is special though, isn’t she? And every bear seems to be out to eat her and Sumika.

illegenes: There’s something different about her, although we don’t know why.

wendeego: She has a “deliciousmell,” and nobody else does, I guess? I think her and Sumika have some kind of past thing that explains why they’ve been marked out. There has to be a reason why Sumika was the first to go, and why everyone thinks Kureha is next.

vestenet: Here’s one interesting thing I noticed about Kureha: so far the episode titles have been things Kureha has said (“I’ll never back down on love,” “I’ll never forgive you”), but they’re also statements the bears have made. So if we wanna get really psychoanalytic, the bears could be manifestations of her inner turmoil, perhaps over losing Sumika or her mother.

wendeego: Since it’s Ikuhara, it’s all abstraction to a degree. Honestly, I think of all the things he’s done, Yurikuma Arashi feels like the most self-consciously theatrical, at least in presentation.

vestenet: Obvious example, but I loved the spotlight coming out of the sky during Konomi’s unmasking, which you could then see from afar in the next scene. A simple but great sight gag.

illegenes: I actually feel like it’s rather not self-conscious. Or at least, Yurikuma is the most distant of his works in terms of relatable, personal themes. This episode was better than the first, but I’ve yet to find anything memorable about it. It isn’t bad, but it’s so abstract, and it’s tough to make heads or tails of what’s going on and where he plans to go, and that makes it difficult to be invested.

wendeego: Well, what I mean by “theatrical” is the difference between a live action movie and a play. In a movie, when there’s special effects, you expect them to look real, and if they look fake it takes you out of the moment. But in a play, you have to take a big leap of faith and assume that what you see works even if it’s more obviously fake. In medieval plays you’d have characters embodying whole virtues and the like. Avant-garde theater like the kind Ikuhara grew up on was similar.

illegenes: But you don’t take that leap of faith just instantly. You have to have some scrap of solid material.

vestenet: Well it’s not so much a leap of faith as just recognizing the different conventions of a particular medium. Different shorthands. Communicating the same ideas but with different language.

wendeego: I agree that the shorthand in Yurikuma feels much more present, mainly because in comparison to Ikuhara’s other shows it has fewer resources and less time. He’s scrapping together whatever he can. This is gonnna sound awful, but it reminds me a bit of Pupa right now.

vestenet: It does have the eating people thing going for it.

illegenes: But even Pupa at least had an actual manga that an audience could refer back to. This feels like Ikuhara doesn’t know how to flesh out his own ideas in full, or he’s gonna be unable to due to time.

wendeego: Nah, I think Ikuhara is fleshing out his ideas. But you’re right, he doesn’t have much time to do so, so it’s coming across as very condensed, and all the space that might be taken up with character interaction is sucked out and replaced with metaphysics.

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vestenet: To be fair, though, we’re never gonna know how much Ikuhara is flailing around until all 12 episodes are up, and until then I think we’re gonna be able to repeat these kind of arguments ad nauseam.

wendeego: Yep.

illegenes: It’s a loop. We’re stuck.

vestenet: mawaru mawaru

wendeego: So anyway, since Ginko and Lulu are doing their own thing, do you think there is a secret student council of bears?

vestenet: With a secret bear elevator.

wendeego: Every time it goes down a floor: “kuma…kuma…kuma…”

vestenet: “SMASH THE WORLD’S HONEYPOT”

illegenes: PFFT

vestenet: So there was that shot of broken glass that was totally Ikuhara winking towards Penguindrum, but it also got me thinking about the shots of falling bullet shells. They’re similar, so they might also serve a similar purpose. The Child Broiler turned people into shards of glass, and in turn those shards harmed other people trying to escape its influence. Here, the bullet shells are a manifestation of Kureha’s frustrations, of her inability to protect her loved ones.

wendeego: I wonder if Kureha will ever actually shoot anything, or whether each fight will be her trying to shoot, going “OH NO I FAILED” and then getting knocked down the bear stairs.

vestenet: Perhaps she can shoot them, but only with a LOVE BULLET.

wendeego: What are love bullets?

illegenes: What are birds?

vestenet: What are bears?

wendeego: We just don’t know.

vestenet: I think my favorite shot of the episode is the one with Lulu and Ginko at night that’s right out of a horror movie. Or if not that one, Kureha’s living room as seen from the inside of her fireplace. It’s such an odd positioning for the camera, that I wonder if the fireplace is gonna show up again at some point.

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wendeego: Maybe! Also, remember, that scene when Kureha is listening to her music box? When else have we heard characters in Ikuhara shows listening to recordings? First one that comes to mind is Touga post-Student Council arc, listening to that record over and over again.

vestenet: Conversations with the dead are another pretty frequent occurrence in Ikuhara’s shows.

wendeego: Another note: the bears say they can only eat Kureha at the school, and they don’t attack her at her house. Maybe this is part of the Wall of Severance’s rules? Kureha’s house is at the corner of a crossroads between bears (the warning sign) and humans (the crosswalk), so maybe if she’s sitting in the middle she’s stuck and can’t move beyond.

vestenet: It is important that she refuses to go to school until she gets that call from Life Sexy, and that’s when she triggers the court sequence again. So there’s something to the act of going to school, or at least that act of leaving her house. I mean, that house is pretty immaculate for a teenager living by herself. It’s almost like a totem to her dead mother, which is creepy (not to mention its resemblance to the house of a certain Norman Bates).

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wendeego: And this week the bears broke into it.

vestenet: And out of it. In the greatest scene of the season.

wendeego: Now that we know the student council president is a “bear” (whatever that means), was that brick thrown in the first episode meant to separate lovers, or was it thrown as a warning to stay away from Yurizono?

vestenet: It’s tricky editing with that scene, because it’s pieced together to make you think that Ginko and Lulu threw it, but you never actually see the action, nor do you see the reasons for it. You gotta be careful whenever Ikuhara tries to play to your presumptions. Lest we be trolled into infinity.

wendeego: Yeah, like, is Konomi really dead, or only mostly dead? Because it’s weird they’d dispose of a seemingly major character so early, but then again, the show simply could be that condensed.

vestenet: Speaking of the dead, how about that Nemuro Memorial Hall version 2.0?

wendeego: Do the colors mean anything? Have those students already been eaten? Maybe all the students are dead, and everyone is in purgatory.

vestenet: Beargatory.

illegenes: Fuck.

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