From Kunihiko Ikuhara, the director of Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, comes a beautifully animated, allegorical tale of love, loss, and bear attacks.
In a world divided between humans and hyper-intelligent, man-eating bears, Kureha attends an all-girls school and holds onto a simple wish—to spend the rest of her life with her classmate and soul mate, Sumika. But after a secret rendezvous ends in tragedy, Kureha vows to never back down on her love and put a bullet in any bear she meets.
As she plots her revenge, the bear-attack body count begins to rise and two strange girls transfer into Kureha’s class. She doesn’t know it yet, but the girls who call themselves Ginko and Lulu are actually criminal bears in disguise! As they try to win Kureha’s heart , an army of high school girls gears up to go to war with all of bear-kind and anyone else who stands up for love. At this rate, getting the yuri seal of approval from an interdimensional tribunal of cool, beautiful, sexy judges is going to be the least of their troubles.
Box Set Review:
Well. For nearly $50 dollars I can find better things to purchase. What is included in the Yurikuma Arashi box set is pretty standard and its bonus features should, at the very least, be expected in every purchased blur ray set: blu ray and dvd version of Yurikuma Arashi, textless opening and closing, promotions videos and trailers. Fortunately, this set also includes episode commentaries, which helps boost my rating for not only the box set but the series. I will be frank, Yurikuma is confusing as hell—the commentaries helps shed a little light on the show, it’s direction, and what was the through process behind all of it. As a viewer, I was better able to understand the series….sadly, you shouldn’t have to rely on commentaries to understand the anime youre watching. The commentaries are a good bonus to help very baffled viewers figure out what the hell they just watched.
The cover does a really good job of attracting an audience though–the color choice and anime design is crisp and appealing. It box cover art isnt cluttered; its focused on your main characters and you can even catch glimpses of each girl’s personality.
….Sigh. I just….How do I even start this? I have a very strong opinion about Yurikuma and if it isn’t clear: my disappointment is palpable. When you read the back of the box set, the bar is automatically set very high: From Kunihiko Ikuhara, the director of Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Sailor Moon is a foundation anime to the shoujo fan base; Revolutionary Girl Utena was a master piece that help a generation question gender and relationship norms. Both amazing shows that Ikuhara had a direct hand in–so when you read the street cred for Yurikuma, you instantly think that this show is going to be great. Pair it with the gorgeous animation and you think, possibly, that this show has the potential to be one of your favorites.
CHOO-CHOO. Scarlette got on the self hype train.
….and then the self hype train proceeded to run her over in a unmerciful fashion.
There’s so many things that could have been done RIGHT for Yurikuma, its frustrating knowing that they let a potentially great show, just set itself on fire.
Where do I even begin?
The first episode of Yurikuma Arashi sets the bar of the rest of the show: pretty to look at, but lacks depth in character development, plagued with sloppy and disjointed story telling. After watching the first episode I literally walked to the fridge and made myself a drink. I wasnt entirely sure what I watched; I mean, I got the very basics of the plot. Humans and bears are in war with each other, they are kill on sight enemies. Our main characters attend and all girl school, prime grounds for a yuri driven cast and story, where the show hammers into your head that your main character are young teenage girls VERY MUCH into other girls. (we’ll get into this flaw a little later) Our MC, an out spoken, capable, likable young woman (cue all mary sue stereotypes) proclaims her very yuri love for her girlfriend….who so happens to be the opposite of the MC in every fashion, quiet, smart, and shy (cue basic arc types and typical anime couple qualities). The very shy and timid girlfriend who is attacked by bears. Yes, bears. Bears that dont even look like bears.
If the story can get any more basic, I’m afraid I would have stopped watching Yurikuma after the very first episode (and I was pretty darn close.) Its frustrating to watch a show where the story is mess–sometimes its done on purpose (thinking of Steins Gate) but Yurikuma doesn’t tell it’s story in a confusing matter on purpose….Its just confusing because whoever wrote the series failed to understand how to explain things, or at least making it easy for the audience to understand and piece the puzzle together themselves. Its just poorly written, where nothing is explained, and if it is explained you have NO clarification of what was told to you. Instead, as I found, the audience is left in an even MORE perplexing state. Things contradict themselves, there’s massive holes in the plot, and characters simply just do things because its what needed to make the plot move.
Story execution and direction? Yurikuma Arashi fails. Miserably.
But Yurikuma continues to fail in so many other departments. The characters are not even two dimensional, they’re amazingly flat with no progression. The characters are pretty much are the same person they were at the start of the show, at the end of the series. Its like they hardly budged, the story–for the disaster that it is–does the most moving, but the characters are stagnant making it hard for me to care about any of them. The little bit of potential character growth that was shown was standard, it was the kind of character designing that seemed like it should have been in the first stages of drafting…not a final product.
But my biggest grievance with Yurikuma Arashi is that its a yuri genre anime that failed to capture the light and feminine flavor that is yuri. Instead, this is the kind of yuri that was frivolous in the lesbian scenes because: Sex and lesbians sell– fan service sells. This is the kind of yuri that a male wrote, thinking it would appeal to the yuri audience–and not really understanding what makes the yuri genre. Yurikuma is dressed up to appeal to shoujo and yuri audience alike, in pastel colors, with adorable mascots, and innocent, whimsical female leads but below those pretty trappings is show that highlights lesbian sexuality according to a straight male. Kinda like lesbian porn; and YuriKuma is pretty borderline on the fan serivce porn in some instances
The sexually heightened lesbian scenes killed it for me. Not because I disapprove of yuri relationships, they don’t bother me at all, but because it was like this is what DEFINED Yurikuma as a series. Instead of the sprinkles of sexual tension, or even well placed sexual scenes, Yurikuma throws naked characters at the audience at any given chance. “Did we confuse you with the story!? I think we’re losing the audience. QUICK, GIVE THEM SPICY YURI SCENES.” I didn’t pick up Yurikuma because I wanted smut, I picked it up because I was hoping to find a show with a strong female cast. Instead, Yurikuma lets their character’s sexual preference define their cast—which is awful. No show, or character, should ever be defined by their sexuality alone. The main selling point shouldn’t be “Oh hey, they like girls!” It should be “this is a layered and complex character who is going through a path of self discovery.”
This is the most awful thing about the show because Yurikuma has some essence of how great it could have been. The show touches on themes of sexuality, self discovery, navigating relationships, and coming of age—all things that Utena and Sailor Moon covered, and help define a generation of viewers. Yurikuma could have gone in great detail about these themes, but instead very loosely mentioned them but kept screaming at the viewers “hey, by the way they’re lesbians! Look at this sexual tension!” If the show focused on developing the characters, it could have been great. Instead, it was too busy trying to sell fanservice… And at that point, you should have just delivered a smutty anime and not try and give the series the frame work of something more intricate.
So, what does Yurikuma do right?
For how miserable the story is, and how one dimensional the character are, the animation to Yurikuma Arashi is spectacular. The colors are gorgeous, the animation is soft and whimsical, and all around very appealing to look at. The animation tells more about the character then the story does itself–which speaks volumes about how amazing the animation studio is. They brought more character depth to the cast in facial expression, body movements, and color choices then the script could. In any scene you could tell how someone was feeling, get a gauge for their personality, or get the tone of situation. Yurikuma Arashi is a prime example of where the animation does a much better job of expressing the series and characters than words or a script can. So, mad props to their production team for high quality animation, and excelling where everywhere else in the show fails.
I watched Yurikuma Arashi so you dont have to. Keep your time and your money and find yourself copies of Revolutionary Girl Utena and Sailor Moon.