Tag Archives: Shojo

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 4

vlcsnap-2015-01-31-19h46m50s67 vlcsnap-2015-01-31-19h47m05s197 vlcsnap-2015-01-31-19h47m33s249 vlcsnap-2015-01-31-19h49m38s200

Ikuhara loves repetition–  his comedy lies in how often these parts of the episode remain quite similar but have different meanings each time they are executed.  It’s about time though we get to see things have shifted around as we jump into Lulu’s past and how she meets Ginko.  We start off with the revealing that the courtroom men are in-fact bears themselves.  Their forms are much like their human counterparts and I really like how Love Sexy is used as the narrator for Ginko’s story.  Especially with his bear appearances.  These were really hilarious to watch!

The amount of symbolism during this was ridiculously awesome–  the maids with the bear hats, Lulu’s little brother searching for the Promised Kiss, the shooting stars being the Promised Kiss acting as a sign of hope that they can regain some sort of bond through all this.  More importantly though the biggest metaphor was the honeypot that Lulu is seen with and the Promised Kiss that is throughout this story.  This strongly illustrates the sexual side of this series really well–  Prince Murin wants a kiss from her big sister because he’s tempted from the honeypot.  I love all the situations that Lulu puts Murin through to attain the Promised Kiss–  the delivery was so simple!  Throw him in a box and knock him off various cliffs and sand dunes.  Years later however, the kicker is when Lulu finds the honeypot and tries to return it Lulu.  Being fascinated by the woman standing before her she’s once again caught in the honeypot metaphor but this time its reversed.

Without Prince Murin around due to the accidental death by a bee from an attempt to get more honey for Lulu, it’s the mysterious Ginko that not only returns what she’s lost but reminds her of what she’s lost too.  Really interesting to see this show finally chooses now to get across to the viewer what the two worlds represent.  The bear kingdom, the school and what separates them is a sexual allegory.  The kingdom where heterosexuality is a norm and the other side [the academy]  being the very place that establishes yuri as the leading point of the series.  A rather sexually suggestive way to establish this idea of bear vs. man that is discussed in the first episode.  It’s also the phrase in every episode so far that establishes this even more between Prince Murin and Princess Lulu.  We hated you from the beginning and loved you from the beginning, too.

So the Severance barrier separates man’s relationship with women and what ultimately evolves from this.  Lulu trying to kill her brother Prince Mirun because he’s to succeed the throne leaving her out of the picture completely emphasizes this.  As prevalent as the yuri has been in this–  its this episode that pushes its doors wide open here.  Tossed aside by the family that loved her as the favorite because Mirun a man is born into the family will receive all the duties as heir to the kingdom.

What an impact this has on her character!  She’s always been so abrasive.  Out of jealousy of Prince Murin, she neglects him only to lose him in the process to the very honeypot that lured him in the first place!  The promised kiss from a man so to speak that took away her desires is the same man that gives her this monumental push to go over the Severance barrier and become a human with Ginko.  Whoa!

I really like how this resonates with her feelings of keeping her promise to help Ginko–  following through with her love for Kureha.  Lulu gives up her kisses for a promise that’s not even hers and wants to somehow fill the void of losing her brother.  Ginko ultimately saves her and what a great scene by the end where Lulu is being Lily approved.

Seeing as how this trio’s [Kureha, Lulu, Ginko] relationship is left with pure love and obsession at the forefront one has to wonder how this will end up.  Keeping in mind that the very star that Ginko is starting at by the end of this episode is similar to the necklace Kureha’s mother is seen with in the picture.  This strongly suggests multiple paths for this story to take.  I personally can think of two ideas that can stem from this.  Is Ginko in fact Kureha’s sister and if so was Lulu’s story foreshadow towards this?  On the other hand it could also mean that Ginko ate Kureha’s mother as well.  What would Kureha do with this knowledge if this were the case?

I also want to point out that Life Sexy’s shabada–shabadadada lightning strike scene had me laughing so hard.  What a fantastic scene!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 3

vlcsnap-2015-01-21-17h22m13s84 vlcsnap-2015-01-21-17h22m41s94 vlcsnap-2015-01-21-17h23m40s185 vlcsnap-2015-01-21-17h24m53s144

Heavy symbolism.  Kunihiko Ikuhara is well known in the industry for this style.  I absolutely love it especially since he’s combined one of the best series of the 90’s and one the wildest of the last decade into a story about bears.  It’s a bear eat bear world out there and I find that the yuri in this show has a strong tie into who is a bear or not.  Mistuko Yurizono the role model of all the girls at the academy is a bear and her aggressive behavior wasn’t understated here one bit!  She has this lust over Kureha and this plays out nicely for Ginko and Lulu’s shift away from villains into saviors.  Even the teacher has an understanding of the situation:  she’s compiled a picture of the missing girls into that library cabinet we’ve seen a few times throughout.  I can definitely foresee her being a bear as well considering how every girl in this series that turns out to be a bear has “yuri” in their name.  The class decides to partake in the invisible storm–  band together as one and eradicate evil.  As unexplained as this motif was I wasn’t really sure how this term was being thrown around but with this episode I can see this playing out numerous ways.

The invisible storm represents both sides–  the girls at the academy want to be cleansed away from evil with their love in full bloom.  We see that here with Eriko Oniyama.  She’s manipulated by Mitsuko’s slight charm into temptation.  I like how this eventually led up to singling out Kureha as evil towards the other girls so that Mitsuko can have her all to herself.  On the other hand, the bears in this case want to make these girls invisible by indulging in the here and now with their literal hunger and figuratively speaking sexual hunger to feast on the lilies of these girls.

I can see a lot of Utena‘s influence here with the girls creating this dynamic around the school and what it says about the classmates.  Good to see we’ve had these girls’ introductions via tag lines.  I like how this older school setting is much more modernized here–  how much social media plays a part of this.  Fantastic visuals during that scene!

I’m glad that Sumika wasn’t tossed aside after the first episode–  even though she’s dead or missing she still plays a vital role in Kureha’s own invisible storm.  The flashback where Kureha arrives during an actual storm [this was really funny to me for some reason] to save the flowerbed her mother cherished and sees Sumika establishes a ton of information.  Kureha is gradually understanding her own desires and it’s that very scene with Sumika that establishes this never back down on love theme that’s been playing throughout.  Mistuko’s frightening act of Sumika depicts this as well–  which results in Kureha shooting her.  To think that this would be the third time we would see the Court of Severance in the exact same manner that we did previously however I like how Ginko and Lulu’s resolves have changed–  they will eat humans for the sake of saving Kureha.  I like how these two bear girls didn’t end up saving Kureha literally but gave her the Lily Approved strength that she needed to deliver a shot on Mitsuko.  Finally the realization of a bear in human form comes to fruition here and it turns out beautifully here!

The techno beat version of Ave Maria was a nice touch at the end.  Yukari Hashimoto is impressing me more and more with this amazing soundtrack!  Including the sound effects are top notch: the walking, the gun firing, even the down to the clock by the school ticking. It’s so strong in Yuri Kuma!  I like this style though,  heavy on the metaphors with its sound and it’s no big surprise since its done by Tomokazu Mitsui of Mawaru Penguindrum‘s sound editing as well!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 2

vlcsnap-2015-01-14-16h44m46s151 vlcsnap-2015-01-14-16h45m02s62 vlcsnap-2015-01-14-16h45m08s112 vlcsnap-2015-01-14-16h46m28s133

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

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 1

vlcsnap-2015-01-06-12h30m54s145 vlcsnap-2015-01-06-12h31m09s70 vlcsnap-2015-01-06-12h31m34s78 vlcsnap-2015-01-06-12h32m08s97

Where do I even begin?  Don’t be fooled by the bright animation here–  this is NOT a series for young kids one bit and the opening sequence was a strong indication of that.  For one thing there had to be more sexual innuendos in this single episode than any other series that I had watched from 2014!  This promotes Yuri Kuma as an anime that isn’t entertaining but very intellectual and to an extent that not a single line of dialogue should be missed by the viewer.

Going into this I was expecting a dark tone by the end considering how this is coming from director Kunihiko Ikuhara, the same guy whom created Revolutionary Girl Utena and 2011’s Mawaru Penguindrum and that is exactly what we got here.  While the earlier series Utena was a deep philosophical view of beauty about an all-girls school introducing women in love with each other by using a defender of justice to uphold peace within the academy.  Penguindrum was an oddball-dramedy that focused heavily as a mahou shojo tragedy series with psychological breaks at every twist and turn– especially with Ringo Oginome.  Ikuhara took what he did really well with those series and mashed them together to develop this very obscurely sexualized yuri themed mahou shojo anime featuring bears at the forefront.  Which interestingly enough, bears and penguins have always been a trademark of sorts for Ikuhara.  In Penguindrum‘s case it was in order to help the Takakura brothers find and save their sister while Utena used them as a background device.

Yuri Kuma uses them as a terrifying and alluring evil–  amazing divergence of what we see visually with these creatures–  fluffy and soft.  At first I was worried about the production studio that was going to be doing the animation here, but after what I saw here, I was pleasantly surprised.  SILVER LINK did fine work at producing this first episode–  it wasn’t over the top nor was it a high-standard in animation but a rather sublimely attractive series with some backgrounds that look right out of a painting.  The story also followed this style as well.  Really like the character designs!

There are no males in this except the court’s Life Sexy and Life Beauty–  have to say this episode didn’t sideline any ridiculous aspects as these names are wildly different.  The Wall of Extinction I feel depicts so many elements that this series is going to charge forth with–  man vs. bear, women vs. man and the relationships that blossom between them.  The Severance Barrier was s solid indication–  a challenge against love.

The flower representing a calamity from the humans and bears break of a nonaggression pact wasn’t the only idea that presents itself here as it also focuses on Kureha and Sumika’s romantic discovery of each other in a bizarrely beautiful way.  Even in the beginning where Sumika describes the flower garden as beautiful right where Kureha stands symbolizes the heart of this show both visually and in terms of story–  an amorously dreamy young love between two girls.  This isn’t the first time Ikuhara has made an object like the flower in Yuri Kuma to illustrate young passion.  Ikuhara’s earlier 90’s work Utena used rose petals as a way to distinguish the romanticism between Utena and Anthy.

What impresses me the most about this episode was how well it was deceiving the viewer with its characters–  the bears in disguise as humans Ginko and Lulu and the attraction that they have is a double entendre of mistaken identity.  A ‘bear shock’ so to speak that metaphors on tons of levels!  Ginko and Lulu are new transfer students hidden with a guise of wanting to feast on a young girl in a voluptuous yuri tendering way which we see with the flower blossoming from the naked Kureha after the courtroom’s decision.  And two being the monstrous yet mysterious ‘grinding’ that these two bears HAVE to do in order to survive and eat.  Which Mitsuko discovers at the end here–  Ginko and Lulu in their bear forms eating Sumika!

Mystical, widely ambitious, attractively peculiar and intellectually inviting, I cannot wait to see what Ikuhara’s going to do with this series.  Especially since he wrote the manga since it finished its first chapter had been a complete derailment from what this first episode did in transitioning from a light-hearted mahou shojo anime into a mischievously naughty and playful anime that uses fantasy themes around a school setting about lesbians battling otherworldly bears that were brought to life on Earth by a meteor shower.

Also want to point out that Space Dandy’s main seiyuu Junichi Sawabe portrays Life Sexy in this.


 

OP: Ano Mori de Matteru (あの森で待ってる)” by Bonjour Suzuki

This was a fantastic opening as it provides a attractive abstract view of girls in love while bears are invading Earth.  The band emerged on the scene just in the past year and uses a mix of styles that include electro, hip-hop, and j-pop.  Lyrics are a diverse collection of English, Japanese, and French.  The vocalist for this song uses a faint-sounding voice to capture the whimsical perverse aspects of this series really well in this opening.  Absolutely fantastic!

ED: “TERRITORY” by Ginko Yurishiro (Miho Arakawa), Lulu Yurigasaki (Yoshiko Ikuta), Kureha Tsubaki (Nozomi Yamane)

A techno-sound mixed with traditional j-pop sounding vocals, not much to say here but that the visuals utilize a pastel theme;  definitely an ending that deludes the viewer into thinking that this show is going to be a light-hearted romance.


 

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 5

vlcsnap-2014-10-22-22h16m14s209 vlcsnap-2014-10-22-22h16m23s44 vlcsnap-2014-10-22-22h16m29s163 vlcsnap-2014-10-22-22h17m24s126

I want to point this out before I forget but the new Sailor girl introduced here is voiced by Ami Koshimizu–  might know her roles which include Kill La Kill‘s Ryuuko Matoi.  Continuing with what the first three episodes did we are introduced to another Sailor Guardian–  Kino Makoto.  Sailor Jupiter as she is known by the three girls that are in search of the legendary silver crystal are brought together here by fate.  This may not have been as good as the last but we did get another look at how Usagi is able to establish friendships.

Thought of by her peers as a tough and scary young girl, Matoko is considered a kept-to-herself person, and the event where she is rescuing Usagi from the oncoming car towards the beginning here played a large part in Usagi developing an interest in her.  This is probably one of the best parts  of the show in how silly it can be at times–  the lunchbox scene between the two of them and the arcade scenes reflect Usagi’s innate ability to bring some of the most unlikely of people–  a shrine maiden, a book-worm, a fighter and a clumsy girl together.  As great as the characters are throughout this, I wish the plot could have been more solid– too many likely parallels happen here.

However keeping in mind that this is a long running shojo series we’re talking about, Sailor Moon Crystal does well at developing a formula to follow as it knows exactly what its intentions are when the plot brings in another character.  Depict them in a beginning segment that is integral to the main character Usagi and put them into a situation that causes danger to the other Sailor Guardians.

We’ve got tons of tropes that are tossed around here–  the breaking speech moment where Makoto is snapped into fighting back by Sailor Moon’s counter argument about love.  The biggest issue though that I have found with this episode is the large contrived coincidence played in the second half here.  So Furu is attacked by Nephrite’s minion bride into to being hypnotized into sucking the energy out of Makoto– and this was being seen by Tuxedo Mask?  Too convenient for him to be there and put things in motion for the Sailor Guardians to act against Nephrite and save Makoto.

Nonetheless, this was an entertaining episode for fans of the series that have wanted a revival for quite some time–  the artwork is nicely drawn with fluid animation,  a faithful soundtrack reminiscent of the 90’s anime series and a relatively good start to a wonderful mahou shojo series.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 5/10