[Three bears are loafing around the courtroom. Their poses are questionable.]
Bear 2: Once upon a time, there were three bears who talked about anime a lot and contributed little else to society.
Bear 1: Hey, this sounds familiar.
Bear 3: I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool I’m cool
[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]
illegenes: I can’t believe Ikuhara made an incest doomed ship in 20 minutes.
vestenet: I can’t believe we got our Lulu-centric Nanami episode.
wendeego: ANYWAY, I was wondering if anything we saw in the episode besides the emotions involved is worth trusting? Like the bear kingdom, the bee, etc. It reminds me of that one episode of Utena where the shadow girls put on a play, and in the end the play isn’t telling the truth 100%, but that doesn’t really matter, does it?
vestenet: No, it doesn’t. In fact, I love that the framing device for Lulu’s story was literally a giant picture in a frame that slowly lowered itself into the screen. Life Sexy talks to the audience like a storybook narrator, it takes place in a fairy tale kingdom, and everything is grouped in threes (three handmaidens, three murder attempts, three princes, etc.) just like popular fables (The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears). The action of the sliding doors also makes me think of puppet theater.
illegenes: Ikuhara is a guy who loves theatrics as a medium for conveying his ideas, so it would make perfect sense for him to use a fable to convey these ideas. I mean, I’m not going to go right ahead and say that it’s definitely a criticism of patriarchy, and how girls are supposed to give up on love for the status quo, but I do think there’s stuff like that in there. The fact that he USED a fable to tell this story, however, is really important.
vestenet: Yeah, the artifice is obvious, and intentionally so. In one respect, this storybook nature lets Ikuhara be more creative with how he presents his stories, playing to his talents and making the show more engaging. But also, as with anything so reliant on symbols and metaphors, it allows for many different readings, which enriches the text. Symbols preclude the existence of a “correct” reading, and reducing it to one just cheapens the experience.
illegenes: And as young children, we’re often compelled to rely on fables to broaden our understanding of the world. I remember reading a lot about princesses when I was girl. But a princess who cannot find love for herself is doomed to be a wit-
vestenet: Also, since Yurikuma is (so far) the most obviously fable-like of Ikuhara’s works, including a fable within that fable is interesting. What is “real” in their world, what is “fake,” and what separates the two, if anything does?
wendeego: So yeah, it doesn’t matter whether it’s real or not. What matters is what it means and what it says about the characters. (On that note, check out Emily’s post, which is pretty helpful in that regard.)
illegenes: The music in this episode was GREAT.
wendeego: Music level up!
vestenet: It kicked some ass this episode, and about time.
wendeego: It’s like we’re in the last arc of Penguindrum already.
illegenes: Speaking of, I don’t want to draw heaaavy comparisons, but honestly a lot of this episode felt like dialogue between Himari and Sanetoshi in episode 20 of Penguindrum. Being kissed and being chased, perishable kisses, and familial/altruistic love vs. selfish/sexual love.
wendeego: I don’t think it’s much of a stretch. Ikuhara loves reusing not just images and themes but whole lines of dialogue too. For instance, in the liner notes for Utena, there’s a line from the black rose arc that reads “to not be chosen is to die,” and Himari says exactly that in episode 20.
illegenes: I think we could apply Penguindrum‘s ideas here, and the three forms of wasted love. There’s being chased, which means that you reject love that is given to you, and as a result you have nothing to offer and become invisible. There’s chasing love, in which you burn yourself up into ashes and become empty before you turn invisible. And then there’s kisses, which are a form of unrequited love.
wendeego: How are kisses unrequited love though?
illegenes: Because they’re perishable. You kiss out of a brief need, but you don’t truly love that person. It’s not everlasting. It’s fading.
wendeego: So it’s something that goes beyond the biological and into the spiritual. Not just loving a person but a Person. The core of someone. A Penguindrum.
illegenes: Sanetoshi believes kissing your love until you “freeze” to death is really the only way you can hope to love or know someone. But we see that this is not really true, and obtaining the fruit means to share love rather than give and take.
wendeego: But then what does Lulu give up at the end of this episode?
vestenet: Exactly. Kisses might be perishable, but they’re still important, and the loss of them is likewise important. Lulu’s ＤＥＳＩＲＥ was to have the kingdom all to herself again, but her heart’s true desire was to let her little brother kiss her. She just didn’t realize it until it was too late. Her kisses died with her brother, and she’s not giving them up so much as she’s recognizing this fact.
illegenes: She gives up on the idea of actually loving a Person, but she does NOT give up on love itself, which is why she chooses to go with Ginko. She wants to see Ginko’s love be realized. I guess you could say she gave half of her fruit to Ginko.
wendeego: It’s funny, because Lulu is seemingly a lot more flirtatious than Ginko, but she’s the one who’s given up on that kind of affection.
vestenet: She chooses to continue to act out the chase, to hide her loss. But maybe there will be a happier ending for her.
wendeego: Yeah, I think it’s a little dangerous to read to far into the Penguindrum comparisons. For example, “invisible” in Yurikuma and “invisible” in Penguindrum mean very different things, but here at least there is some pretty clear commonality.
illegenes: There is the whole bee part, which I think represents selfish love or the invisible walls we hold up in our love for someone. Usually the bee revolved around Lulu alone, but it did revolve around her and Milun, and her and Ginko.
vestenet: I saw the bee as basically an AT Field. The walls around our hearts that we keep up to protect ourselves, but which we selectively lower for people we trust.
wendeego: It reminded me a lot of the circle from Penguindrum too, like the one you see around Kanba in the finale.
vestenet: An AB Field (Angry Bee Field)
wendeego: It makes you wonder, though. Lulu tried to kill her brother but couldn’t do it directly. It was the bee that did it.
vestenet: Steep cliffs, giant antlions, and boiling magma are child’s play compared to shutting someone out of your heart.
illegenes: I wonder about the true nature of the quote said in the beginning of every episode. “We have loved you from the beginning, and we have hated you from the beginning.” I think it’s another callback to selfish and temporary love, or “kisses” in that regard.
vestenet: Well this episode makes it clear that you can read it several ways, and probably more ways that the show has yet to reveal. Lulu hated her brother’s existence, for what it did to her in the context of bear kingdom society, but she still loved him as a brother. Love and Desire are two different things.
wendeego: DESIRE MAX
illegenes: I liked the clever integration of the narrators in this episode.
vestenet: Another thing is that we learned for certain that Ginko crossed the wall to deliver her promised kiss, but she has yet to really reach out to Kureha. There’s DELICIOUSMELL and all that, but they haven’t interacted much, like she isn’t 100% sure Kureha is who she’s looking for, or like she’s afraid to reach out.
wendeego: It was Lulu who was taking care of Kureha in bed too, not Ginko.
vestenet: Lulu gave Kureha her honey, and Kureha rejected it. Because there are no more kisses for Lulu.
illegenes: Just like how Lulu always threw away her brother’s honey. There’s another wall around Kureha’s heart. ;__;
wendeego: So Ginko is okay with eating Kureha during the yuri trials, but not okay with eating her outside.
vestenet: “Eating,” but yeah. Ginko does fix the window she broke, which is nice of her, but it’s a very passive, non-affectionate gesture. Inside the Wall of Severance it’s the complete opposite.
illegenes: I can’t make heads or tails of her, but I still love her the most (even though Lulu is best baer).
vestenet: The Ginko moment that most stood out to me was when she complimented Lulu’s porridge. Even though Lulu isn’t Ginko’s true love, and even though Lulu has no more kisses, Ginko still appreciates and loves Lulu in her own way, and that did a lot for her character. Like, Ginko also has a wall around her that we’re only able to peek through in these brief moments.
wendeego: It’s important that Ginko was the one who decided to go beyond the wall, and that she alone chose to. She wasn’t forced, and she’s not part of a larger initiative. I also liked how Ginko’s badass wanderer cloak had the ribbon on her costume.
illegenes: No, the best part was that it had BEAR EARS covering her real BEAR EARS.
wendeego: Oh! Lulu also lost her crown upon entering the trial.
vestenet: She gave up her kisses, but also gave up on her life of luxury. Sacrificed everything she had for love.
wendeego: The episode glosses over the stars falling from Kumalia too. We’re told it happened, but we don’t see anything like an uprising or
vestenet: The Day of Severance was the same day her brother was born, so it wasn’t just a day of severance for humans and bears, but for individual people and their lives.
wendeego: Definitely an important time for her, since her brother’s death helped set her on her path with Ginko.
vestenet: Everything Lulu ＤＥＳＩＲＥＤ was ultimately empty and everything she threw away was the most important. She can’t keep her brother alive, but she can keep his love for her alive by keeping Ginko’s love alive.
wendeego: I wonder how you spell the sound of bears crying.
wendeego: Yurikuma‘s been getting better and better with each episode, but this is the first one that for me didn’t feel rushed at all, or like a bunch of episodes crammed together. I’d say it was easily as good as the best of Penguindrum, actually. Or at least it felt confident, finally.
vestenet: It probably helped that it was written as a standalone episode with a self-contained story, so even if the rest of the show may have suffered from being condensed into one cours, I doubt this episode changed much during production. But I agree, best episode so far, and up there with Ikuhara’s best.
illegenes: I loved this episode. It was a real Ikuni one for me.
vestenet: I definitely wasn’t expecting to laugh as much or be as choked up.
wendeego: He’s still got it! Makes me even sadder that this could be his last show.
vestenet: IKUNI WILL NEVER BACK DOWN ON ANIME
illegenes: Even if Ikuhara repeats himself, I still love these episodes reincarnated in whatever form, whether it be Nanami or Masako or Lulu.
wendeego: I’d be okay with an ending where Ginko, Lulu, and Kureha walk off into the stars with Shouma, Kanba, and Utena.
vestenet: The Ikuni pantheon of tragic heroes.
wendeego: The Ikuni Universal Theorem.
illegenes: What I’m wondering is, when will yuri NOT be approved?
wendeego: Yeah, it’s gotta happen at some point. I wonder if Ginko will be put on trial for the Sankebetsu Bear Incident (i.e. the death of Kureha’s mother). What happens if someone is pronounced guilty by the Severance Court? Will we finally see something bad happen? Ginko told Lulu that she was a criminal-bear, so maybe that’s what it means?
vestenet: Maybe it’s not eating humans, but just interacting with humans, or rather wanting to interact with humans, that brands a crimibear.
illegenes: Hm, I think to be a crimibear is to not give up on love.
wendeego: Or are crimibears only bears who dare to love humans instead of eating them?
illegenes: Lulu also said she’s a crimibear.
vestenet: Lulu’s trial is the first time we see Life Sexy break the pattern. Instead of calling her resolution sexy, he calls it a sin.
wendeego: What specifically did Lulu do that was sinful? She said that she would give up on kisses, but that she wouldn’t give up on love. That makes her a crimibear?
illegenes: I think that’s it. Society expects you to give up, especially for young girls. If you don’t find someone who loves you back, it’s over. Especially because marriage is so fundamental as a way of right/social privilege. If you’re not loved by someone, you don’t have value.
vestenet: It’s interesting that Life Sexy calls her sin “pride,” when you’d think that giving up on your own happiness would be anything but proud.
illegenes: It’s sinful in the sense that it’s not pure. There’s a sense of egotism or self-actualization involved. It’s a selfish love that will leave you empty. Living your life through others is never healthy.
vestenet: Well, you could construe it as selfless love too. Lulu isn’t getting anything out of it personally, and Ginko will (eventually) find happiness. But at the same time, it’s putting the entirety of both their burdens on Ginko, and that involves the assumption that oneself is worthy enough to saddle your problems and dreams onto another. That reciprocity could be a kind of love, though.
illegenes: I would say that it’s altruistic. A passive love. And that’s sinful, because love should always be reciprocated and active, which also ties back to Penguindrum episode 20.
wendeego: As of this episode, I really don’t trust the judges. Life Sexy’s smirk at the end of this episode was troubling.
vestenet: That’s a good point. What Life Sexy calls a sin might not be an actual sin, but what society would call sinful for refusing to conform to norms or expectations. And Lulu’s actual sins this episode aren’t condemned by anyone.
illegenes: Perhaps being a crimibear is to love someone but reject them at the same time.
wendeego: Is it possible for a bear to commit a crime? Humans are humans and bears are bears, but is a criminal bear a bear? Is a human that eats others a bearman?
illegenes: Bears are human.
vestenet: And more so, the distinction between humans and bears is ultimately artificial.
wendeego: One of the threads running through Penguindrum was the concept of a “survival strategy,” and the biology and behavior of animals. So if humans are bears and bears are human, then humans must be animals.
vestenet: And humans separating themselves from bears means humans are separating themselves from themselves. Exiling a part of what makes them whole, and hence the whole conflict. Two halves trying to reunite, via sweet, sweet yuri.
illegenes: Speaking of sweet, why honey? I mean, aside from the obvious.
vestenet: Bees turn nectar into honey, and nectar comes from flowers, like Kureha’s chestlily, so honey is the refinement of what we hold deep in our hearts.
wendeego: Maybe at the end of the series a flower will come out of Ginko’s chest and Kureha will eat it, and that’ll be the “Himari holding Kanba as thousands of blood petals erupt from his back” moment of Yurikuma.
illegenes: Maybe that’s what being a bear is all about? Nurturing and eating that pure essence.
vestenet: [looking through screencaps] FUCK, I just noticed the bush that looks like a bear.
wendeego: Wait, which bush?
vestenet: On the right.
vestenet: Shit, look at the cloud on the left too.
wendeego: I think he had a lot of fun with this episode.
vestenet: Who wouldn’t have fun coming up with horrific ways to kill the world’s cutest child?
illegenes: Ikuhara, u r terrible.
wendeego: Will the end of this series be honey ursamentality?
vestenet: That sounds gross.
illegenes: Yeah, yeah that does.