[Two bears sit in a courtroom. The third bear is nowhere to be seen. In the meantime, they watch some anime on a projector screen hanging from the ceiling.]
Bear 1: We can’t begin the Yuri Trial until the judge arrives.
Bear 3: While we wait, let’s recite poetry. Bears love poetry.
I AM THE BONE OF MY BULLET
YURI IS MY BODY AND NECTAR IS MY BLOOD
I HAVE SHOT OVER A THOUSAND RIFLES
UNKNOWN TO HETEROSEXUALITY
YET KNOWN TO BEARS
HAVE WITHSTOOD EATING TO FIRE MANY BULLETS
BUT I WILL NEVER BACK DOWN ON LOVE
SO AS I PRAY, UNLIMITED BULLET WORKS
[Bear 2 descends from the ceiling as YURIKUMAAAAAAAAAA blares from the soundtrack]
Bear 2: Hey guys, did I miss anything?
Bear 1: Never again.
[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]
wendeego: So I’ve been thinking of two things in particular. First, did you hear that someone on Tumblr translated some of the Starter Guide for the show? [a link you may find here, dear reader]
illegenes: Yeah! I thought it was pretty interesting. Like how he surrounded himself with moms and women throughout the project.
wendeego: The section where he considers that as a guy there’s a limit to what he can contribute to a story about girls and their relationships (which is why he picked Morishima as a collaborator) stood out to me. You don’t hear that often from anime directors.
vestenet: It’s probably the best course of action a dude like Ikuhara can take if he wants to tell a story about girls loving girls, when he is neither a girl nor a girl who loves girls. I mean, it’s an interview in a piece of propaganda, so who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. But it at least shows it’s something he’s concerned with, and that’s reassuring in and of itself.
wendeego: Definitely complicates the narrative I’ve seen floating around the net, which is that Yurikuma is Ikuhara jacking off on the screens of late-night Japanese TV and indulging in his fetishes.
illegenes: I genuinely really enjoyed this episode! Much more solid than the first or the second. I think it offered a lot of nice characterization for Kureha and the others, especially in regards to why Kureha feels so BITTER towards these bears.
illegenes: I also like the introduction of Yuri-ka the principal/teacher and her relationship with Kureha’s mom, which kind of mirrored Kureha and Sumika’s relationship.
vestenet: It’s pretty obvious that Yuri-ka was in that kind of relationship with Kureha’s mom (i.e. the little pause before she said “tomodachi”). And this wouldn’t be the first time Ikuhara’s explored surrogate relationships.
wendeego: I think there’s a hint of Momoka in Kureha’s mom too. The girl who was taken away too soon.
vestenet: Following that thread, I’m pretty sure Kureha’s room is actually her mother’s. It would fit in with it looking almost exactly like the Norma Bates’ room in Psycho.
wendeego: This theory’s kinda nuts, but if Yurikuma is a story of “reunions”… did Ginko meet with Kureha’s mother? Who taught her how to love? Which Ginko taught to Lulu in turn? We learned from Lulu this episode that Ginko “found” her after all.
illegenes: What I find interesting is: the court ALWAYS revolves around the two bears? But none of the others. Why are they in court when it’s other bears taking action? Shouldn’t those bears be in court instead, since they are choosing to devour Kureha and need some kind of license?
vestenet: Yeah the humans Lulu and Ginko want to devour are those who are harming Kureha, it seems? Except those humans are also bears?
illegenes: Well, except for DARK YURI girl.
wendeego: Student council president? Oh wait, the girl with the ponytail, Invisible Storm club leader.
vestenet: Fucking black lilies, I swear to god.
illegenes: HANA GA
vestenet: SAITA YOOOOOOOO
wendeego: Another thing! So I’m thinking the sound effects like KUMA SHOOOCKK or YURI AMOUR are Ikuhara’s chorus in this show. Just sound instead of through visuals like usual.
illegenes: Oh you think so? I thought it was just FABULOUS MAX-style soundbites along with SHABADABADOO. But you could be right!
vestenet: I mean, it’s a faceless third party communicating something to the audience and audience alone. So it fits the bill!
illegenes: Speaking of which, the INVISIBLE STORM. What’s your interpretation, you guys.
wendeego: Galax by way of Yikyak.
vestenet: The Child Broiler crossed with Tinder.
wendeego: It’s a lot of Ikuhara’s favorite things all mixed up together. The Child Broiler’s “recycling” of abandoned children, the cult of child terrorists in his manga Nokemono to Hanayome. Even the revolutionary kids in Shuji Terayama’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup.
illegenes: The use of phones to decide who to cut out. It’s interesting – I’ve noticed that a lot of these systems are being run by fear in Yurikuma. As previously said, there’s the fear of being cut loose, the fear of individuality, the fear of love, the fear of pretense….and a cult has risen against this fear, because of this fear, and using this fear as a weapon.
vestenet: Well i think it’s true to life that reactionary measures against a perceived threat tend to backfire more so than help. Or rather they’re designed as a means of control foremost, rather than a means of protection.
illegenes: Oh for sure! If we go back and look at the first episode, Kureha and Sumika’s fear of the Invisible Storm is kind of sad because it’s not an inevitable event that happens to all teenage girls, it’s created by them in order to exclude others. So they weren’t afraid of the bears, what they were really afraid of were their classmates. Which to me, speaks more about the ‘hidden’ threat that we perceive as the Invisible Storm.
vestenet: Favoring the longevity of the group over the liberty of the individual, which incidentally is more animal-like than human-like. But it ties in with the bird symbolism. They’re the invisible ones, able to fly up and over walls as if the walls did not exist, stirring up the storm with the beating of their wings, making sure every member sticks with the flock, flying straight. Or something like that.
wendeego: So the humans are acting like animals in this case while the bears are acting like humans.
vestenet: On that note: when Mitsuko the student council president is on the roof, she talks about how life is all about forgetting and backing down, right? Bears and other animals live for the present moment, the pleasure of eating, etc. But the very next scene is Lulu talking about how Ginko found her love, and how she’ll never back down on love. So there’s a deliberate contradiction between what Mitsuko says and how Ginko and Lulu go about things.
wendeego: It’s important not to be too literal though. Since there was also an important physical storm in this episode.
illegenes: Right! I feel the Invisible Storm alludes partly to the cult but there’s also a more metaphysical thing going on? Maybe it has something to do with that flower garden….I wonder if there’s some kind of meaning to Yuri-ka telling Kureha that the flower garden was her mother’s, and that now it’s hers, so she should shape it and grow it her own way through her own love.
wendeego: Gardening is very important. Sumika’s almost too good/”pure” to be real but when it comes to protecting the yuri garden she’s willing to dirty her hands if it means keeping the flowers alive.
vestenet: I think it’s a really nice image, the willingness to sacrifice a part of yourself for something greater, like love. Also relates to the nature vs. artificiality dichotomy that’s being set up. But that’s just one small part of the larger picture, and even that is likely to become more nuanced as the show progresses.
wendeego: The bears are really complicated so far. Much more than I originally reckoned!
vestenet: Bears are so complicated. I had no idea they could be so complicated.
wendeego: Beary complex.
wendeego: Otherwise…I think it’s clear from this episode that judging from other Ikuhara shows, Yurikuma is pretty much on track. If you say each episode is roughly two episodes of Penguindrum crammed together, we’re already around the 5-6th episode mark? That’s where Penguindrum broke ritual with Ringo grabbing the Penguin Hat and Yurikuma follows suit with Kureha finally committing and shooting the bear.
illegenes: She has to “prove” her love by shooting what she loves the most. Seeing her finally stand up and take things into her own hands was a fantastic moment. But it could also have repercussions next episode? While Kureha has taken a “stand” it’s one she’s not comfortable with. It’s broken her illusions of what a bear is, and her steadfast faith in thinking that bears could be so close to her in terms of social circles. How can she trust anyone at this point?
vestenet: The next episode should start developing what it means that Kureha has finally pulled the trigger. That or it’ll be a Nanami episode. Win/win either way.
illegenes: I can’t imagine what a Yurikuma Nanami episode would even look like. But if it’s Ikuhara, he can do it.
wendeego: Okay, any final remarks?
vestenet: I hope popped-collar girl makes an appearance next. Also that Akemi Hayashi becomes involved somewhere down the line.
wendeego: Or a Yamauchi episode? Like there was in Penguindrum?
illegenes: Don’t you dare! I would die. Dig my own tombstone and lie there. Shabadabadoo style.