Kunihiko Ikuhara. From Revolutionary Girl Utena to Mawaru Penguindrum comes a story about young girls falling in love. His stories as I’ve mentioned previously contain a narrative pattern– repetition, sexual symbolism and of course the addition of fanciful elements. In this case its bears and what these creatures represent both for women and the important of the absence of males in Yuri Kuma. I believe the reason for this is to enhance the dynamic between true love and lust.
Kureha Tsubaki lost her mother to a bear, fell in love with a bear and is coming to grips with Sumika being eaten by a bear. She’s trying to find her own place in a world [the school] caught up in the Invisible Storm. These Kumalia bears are depicted as the aggressors both out of survival instinct and sexual desires. An incredible look at same-sex relationships by using a court system [which interestingly enough is led by males] to judge human compassion, the validity of friendships and how far people will go in order uphold these ideals. As strange as the beginning may have been for a lot of viewers its typical Ikuhara fashion. A style I find engrossing. The final three episodes were probably the best this show has to offer as it ties any sort of confusion together quite nicely. The weird elements of bears ‘eating’ girls’, the imagery of lilies being deflowered/clipped and Lulu’s seductive behavior towards Ginko act as symbolic pieces to a fairly straightforward narrative about maintaining friendships and understanding yourself from a girls perspective. Perhaps this is why Ikuhara decided on shifting the focus away from manly tropes– Yurika’s father is represented as a male with female features in masculine clothing. The judges aren’t even human which is why they are oddly designed to be a patriarchy with moe designs. Really stick out with Yuri Kuma because underneath all of Ikuahra’s intentional softcore visuals, naughty dialogue and whimsically-driven storytelling lies a simple story about friendships and love overcoming societal structure!
One of the most incredible character study series I’ve ever seen apart from Simoun. The focus isn’t just on Kureha but for most of episode 4 towards the beginning there is a look at Lulu’s life at the kingdom, eventually we get to see Yurika’s backstory and the motif behind bride-in-the-box. What’s even more prevalent throughout is how dead characters are just as important as the main cast! Sumika represents Kureha’s courage, Reira is the reminder to her that you should never give up on your dreams and accept things with your heart fully. The picture book [and it’s incredible watercolor drawn art] amplifies innocence from Kureha’s perspective wonderfully. Mirun, Lulu’s brother is the same as well!
The animation in this show is done amazingly solid. This and Rolling Girls have some of the best background art of the Winter 2015 season! Especially the storybook sequences!
The soundtrack is top notch. Paint animator on Patema Inverted and composer/arranger Yukari Hashimoto wrote songs for this that are filled entirely with chromatic piano melodies, chorus and techno sections! It fits Yuri Kuma perfectly with its transitions from downright weird to passionately engaging and heartfelt.
I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of Ikuhara’s other works.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: [94/100]