Growl has got to be my favorite line in this series so far. Also, the grind scrape grind is fantastic as well. Leave it to the director to come up with these obscurely ambitious catchphrases and distracting recycled scenes from the first episode to establish meaning for the story.
This was really good if not better than the premiere! I might have some bias here because I am a huge fan of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s creative indistinct stories but oh well, this series is already fantastic in my book. It’s inventive, beautifully animated, has one of the best soundtracks of the winter season and compelling characters. This director’s works isn’t for everyone considering its tones of highly sexualized yuri themes and its beautifully disguised trickery of being a mahou shojo anime. A confusing symbolic story that is heavy psychologically, romantically and with an etherial side to it. Thanks to Yukari Hashimoto’s misbehaving musical score. This would have been very cool if it had some musical numbers in it like Red Garden did!
Ikuhara reminds me of the same creative and obscure nook that Masaaki Yuasa has in terms of animating his productions– closeup shots of characters and background props that contain well-hidden denotations which in Yuri Kuma‘s case is the yuri-isms that are brought up here especially with this episode. The statues at Kureha’s house and the 17-century pink rooms set in modern day pull this into effect here. Speaking of trademarks, this show strikingly points out to the viewer really well who is a bear: the fangs and the dominating nature these bear girls have on other girls. Its these multiple romances between the girls that provides more than enough symbolism between bears and humans. Come to think of it, all the rose [thinking of Revolutionary Girl Utena here] designs on Kureha’s bed, the pictures of her mother and numerous flower vases that are abundant in her bedroom might indicate Kureha’s innocence and could be why the bears are after her lily or in the sexual sense that this show is gathering up her virginity.
So if I have this right so far: Kureha loves Sumika, Ginko loves Kureha, the class-representative Mitsuko loves Kureha, Lulu loves Ginko and Yurikawa loves Mitsuko. There is a lot said here that greatly illustrates this theme especially where Ginko and Lulu arrive at Kureha’s home both for their own endeavors. Ginko wants Kureha all to herself and we see that with where she pushes her down and the leg between the thighs. A trademark of this show since the very beginning. Lulu wants to get a shot at Kureha because of her very love for Ginko and the fact that she’s enamored with Kureha pours jealousy in Lulu’s heart. The bath scene provides the two bears distinct desires extremely well here– Lulu cleansing herself of her selfish soon-to become realistic desires and Ginko’s deeper love for Kureha. Interesting how there is this rather awkward scene between Ginko and Kureha– she’s staring at Kureha intently and pushes her down in order to display her affections towards her. Kureha has some attraction to these bears and to what exactly that is could be anyone’s guess at this point.
I have to say my favorite part of this is how strongly death influences Kureha’s personal connections as a girl– her deceased mother illustrates a fine point with this episode. We see Ginko with the very pendant her mother had and what’s not to say that she might’ve killed Kureha’s mother for any number of reasons. Could it also be that these two might be related by blood and Kureha herself is an actual pure bear that doesn’t eat humans?
Kureha after having lost two people she’s cherished is becoming quite aware of Ginko’s bear identity to the point that she finds her growl phrases odd and when she licks her tears is somewhat disturbed. The transition here is with Mitsuko’s arrival and her revealing of Ginko and Lulu admitting she knows of their true identities. I like how she doesn’t outright say they are bears and after having seen this episode twice now I can see why. It is like this plays out with a reverse foreshadow that portrays Mitsuko’s motives and identity.
Mitsuko is a bear and Ikuhara did wonderfully at hiding this twist to the viewer! There are a few details even in the first episode now that I think about it that points to her transformation into a bear– the block being thrown between Kureha creates this symbolic division between bear and man, and her delicate behavior throughout the premiere was foreshadow of this as well.
This time around she’s less girly-like and much more aggressive in her sexual attempts towards Yurikawa, when she shows up with a rifle to kill Ginko and Lulu and her hugging with Kureha. This was another part I didn’t notice the first time, but after she shoots Yurikawa’s bear form and tells Kureha that Sumika wasn’t her fault and that she should be allowed to cry illustrates her own real self and the bear sensations she has. It is that very scene that initiates her move away from girl to bear as the ending definitely shows Mitsuko eating Sumika and how she tasted wonderfully. That growl at the end is hauntingly humorous. Wow, this defines how selfish she is about eliminating obstacles [Sumika and Yurikawa] that come between the lily she desires, Kureha! I feel like Mitsuko is embracing her identity as a bear while Ginko is stuck with what she represents and has to eat in order to be a part of bear society. I cannot wait to see this unravel further!
Also want to point out that the girl at the end of the first episode was the same girl that is mentioned right after Sumika’s funeral towards the beginning of this episode! This just goes to show how re-watchable Ikuhara’s series are.
Taking these first two episodes into considering with the director’s habits of over symbolizing the plot, I’d like to point out a few things. Ikuhara, is known with using tons of imagery and the birds have been prevalent since the premiere. Obviously the birds flying away when the horns signal a bear sighting illustrates the idea of escaping freedom. We also see the birds during Sumika’s funeral, the teacher’s clothing: does this represent what these girls are to be reincarnated as? A lot of these girls seem to be the same: it seems with their prestigious school, the overtones of yuri, they are all alike but Kureha is somehow different in that she wants to escape from her mother and her lover’s tragic loss. I also noticed the bird designs along the outside of the spiral staircase that Ginko and Lulu travel down from in the first episode. Is this to signify that Ginko is reluctantly accepting her fate as a bear while Lulu revels in it? Somehow the top of that staircase which we’ve seen twice now in Kureha’s encounters with bears will represent something much later on I feel.
The hexagon symbols on the Severance Barrier looks strangely similar to the ones seen on the carpet of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Might this illustrate the disfigurement of the two worlds– the yuri schoolgirl one and the one just beyond the Severance. There has got to be a reason why this show neglects males in Kureha’s side of the world.
It’s amazing how many sexual elements there are in anime these days: while Yuri Kuma Arashi stuffs it in with such guise, Kill la Kill last year illustrated its sexual themes with large amounts of fan service at the heart of its story by using battle clothing at the forefront. Two entirely different series envisioned by really different directors and animation studios but at the end of it all arrives at the same idea: overly sexualized elements regarding women that leave a strong impact on the stories they tell. Interesting correlation here.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10