Yuri Manga: Yuri Kuma Arashi, Volume 1 (ユリ熊嵐)

January 25th, 2015

yurikuma1Today I wanted to talk about something that has been much on my mind…

Picasso.

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.

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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. ^_^

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26 Responses

  1. Mara says:

    Yay. Thank you very much for the link to the shock mp3.

  2. Serge says:

    My first reaction to the anime was to shake my head and mutter “F-in’ Ikuhara!”

    • Hee. P was complaining that he’s a one-trick pony, but I don’t think so. I think he’s got a style. It changes slightly every time, so it’s not just that he’s stuck in a trench. I’m not saying he’s a genius, just not a hack, either.

      I am 100% positive he’s used “Silver Bullet” before, as part of the title for what ultimately was a failed project. So maybe he is a hack after all. ^_^

      Found it! Schell Bullet. It ended up as a 2-volume novel, but originally he was planning it to be a multi-media thing with a stage show.

  3. Serge says:

    I agree, he’s got a distinct style that’s quickly recognizable, but maybe he’s more savant than genius or hack. That seems closer to his obsessive use of similar symbols and motifs.

  4. Andrew says:

    Accepting the impact of Ikuhara’s repetetive visual motifs without necessarily needing to figure out meaning right away is Sexy!

    Shaba-da-doo.

  5. dm00 says:

    I have to wonder how much influence Akiko Morishima has on the process. That is to say: I think she deserves a little of the credit, too, especially for the manga. Her art sets a tone that seems is a little different from Ikuhara’s other animated works. So far the animated series seems more playful than [i]Penguindrum[/i] or [i]Utena[/i].

    I’d love to see an interview with the two of them in which they discuss the creative process for this/these works.

    I’m only two chapters into the manga, but my first impression is how different the story in the manga and “its adaptation” are.

    Though I’m also a little chary of making any predictions at this point.

    • If the work is done similarly to Utena, Morishima is co-creating the manga with Ikuhara. Her sensibility is apparent throughout. The anime is fully him, the only apparent influence by her is in the character designs.

      • Serge says:

        There is a interview with both of them as part of the Starting Guide for the show that got summarized that basically confirms this. Let me see if I can find the link. Ah, here we go: http://softkakumei.tumblr.com/post/108899102728/im-skimming-through-the-starting-guide-the

        • Thanks for that link. Very interesting. Also kind of facile, but I expect that from his projects. ^_^

        • “A show for girls”. Huh Weird blow-jobby lily-licking scenes are for girls? I am never ever going to understand girls, apparently.

          • dm00 says:

            But isn’t that the character designer/animation director talking about her desired direction? It may not be Ikuhara’s — or it may be, as Ikuhara says, “getting things wrong”.

            But as you said earlier, they could ease up on the heavy-handed lily/Yuri imagery (note, also, the occasional fleur-de-lis lilies).

            As Cryssoberyl says, the third episode seems both very Ikuhara, and very promising.

          • I’m looking forward to seeing it later this week.

          • Zefiris says:

            Same here, same here. It’s one of the elements of this show that just makes my skin crawl.

            If he really wanted to do something that hasn’t been done before, how about cutting blowjobby nonsense, the constant predatory molesting and, instead…

            …Make a show about (interesting plot) that lacks major fanservice and is about adult women among which the main two happen to be a couple that only do actually consentual stuff? That’d be groundbreaking!

            Oh, no, that’d be too bizarre and out there. What was I even thinking.

          • It would bomb as an anime. That kind of stuff becomes live dramas.

        • Cryssoberyl says:

          Whoa, that is a goldmine of information, thank you!!

          Ikuhara notes that by working in the Yuri genre, there are lots of things that he can only pretend to understand. To a point he considers that unavoidable with this subject matter, but he thought early on that the project needed someone with credentials people could have undying faith in: “Someone that would make people say, ‘With such a godlike person working on this, I have no choice but to follow along with it!’” He thinks some things may inevitably be a “little off” with him handling it, but believes Morishima’s involvement should keep the soul of the work intact.

          Exactly what I wanted and needed to hear! This could end up amazing…

          • Jye Nicolson says:

            The expression of being an outsider that needed to trust in Morishima-sensei, and the feeling that heterosexual romance was played out made me want to brofist Ikuhara through the monitor.

            Not that I’m a brofist kind of guy! But I know those feels, as they say.

          • Hahaha! I know exactly what you mean, except the way of the fist in face is not unknown to me.

  6. Cryssoberyl says:

    The third episode really helped. It makes clear the direction of the show, what it’s doing and where it’s going. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil. I’ll just say that the hopes I expressed some time ago on this blog appear to have a good chance of being realized.

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