You know, Pablo Picasso, painter. Mostly famous for his Cubist paintings, but he was a prolific artist and evolved throughout his life, so while his work is undoubtedly his, it changed as time went on, as he changed, aged, evolved.
He’s on my mind a lot as I read and watch Yuri Kuma Arashi. And we’ll get to the “why” in a bit, but first, let’s just talk about the manga.
In Volume 1 of the Yuri Kuma Arashi manga (ユリ熊嵐), we meet Tsubaki Kureha, a shy, retiring student, who has recurring dreams of being rescued by a bear princess who, coincidentally, looks just like her popular and outgoing classmate Yurishiro Ginko. Ginko takes a liking to Kureha and starts to cultivate her friendship and develop her personality.
Kureha admits that she knows Ginko is a bear and all about the tragic backstory of her planet, but Ginko’s reaction is to fall apart in laughter a such a preposterous story!
Ginko lives with her late father’s sister as her mother is forever overseas (and unbeknownst to her, maybe, is her aunt’s lover). When a new girl transfers in claiming to be in love with Ginko, it throws a wrench in Kureha’s emotional gears; she was just deciding she “liked” Ginko, you know. If it weren’t enough that Lulu is a love rival, there are persistent rumors that Ginko and the Student Council President (male) are going out. Kureha doesn’t know what to believe, honestly.
When Lulu, Ginko and Kureha accidentally burn down their dorm cooking, Ginko has both of them come live with her. And, at last, we learn that Kureha may have been right about Ginko all along. Kureha swears to protect Ginko as the volume comes to an end, with many questions and few answers.
As you know, if you have been watching the Yuri Kuma Arashi anime and/or are familiar with Ikuhara Kunihiko’s style, these questions may not have any answers.
The manga is very much Morishima Akiko-sensei’s brand of cute/sexy art, with slightly more typical fanservice than usual. Unlike the anime, which has so much fanservice it’s actively crowding out the plot (if there is one) at the moment. And, if you are familiar with Ikuhara’s work, it’s important to remember that the repetitive scenes may never have any meaning per se, just visual impact, that we will later layer with meaning. The best way to approach his work is to not try to guess what it all means, but simply go along for the ride and see where it takes you.
Which brings me back to Picasso.
One of the things Picasso was seeking to do in his Cubist portraits was show two or more angles of a person simultaneously. His masterwork Guernica takes this to another level, in which he is simultaneously showing us all three dimensions at once, among other things. And this is why he has been much on my mind. If you treat the simultaneously released versions of Yuri Kuma Arashi as two unique perspectives on the same story, there is still no guarantee that it will make sense, but it gives you a completely different understanding of the whole.
It’s unlikely that Yuri Kuma Arashi is Ikuhara’s Guernica, but heck it might yet be, we won’t know until it’s over and we can see all the angles. And the relics of other series that echo back at us like blood red buildings by day, have started to be integrated into – maybe – a new stylist tic, as they turn blue at night. Indicating what? Who knows…yet. Or ever.
I’ve only seen two episodes of the anime as of yet, but I do want to say that of all the random repeated elements, the one I actually like is “Kuma Shock”, which @twiitar has turned into a nifty ringtone. Thanks Phil! ^_^
The service in the anime is off-putting for me, as it’s not nearly at the level of creeping horror subtlety we’ve become used to. It feels a bit slap in the face-ish. The one element that I truly do not care for is the use of the word “Yuri” and the image of the lily as a bludgeon, for no apparent reason. Yes, yes the girls are all named Yuri something, got it. Yuri and honey imagery. Yuckers.
I hold no hope that the “trial” scenes will ever make sense.
The one thing about the anime that I genuinely find appealing is that the character designs are very much Morishima-sensei’s art, animated. ^_^
Ratings for the manga only:
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 8 They appear more coherently formed than in the anime
Yuri – 9
Service – 6
Overall – 8
By the time Volume 2 comes out, if indeed it does, the anime will likely be over and I’m sure we’ll have concocted meanings for all the things that don’t mean anything at all. ^_^