- Titles: Love Bullet: Yuri Kuma Arashi
- Genre: Surreal, psychological, yuri, school, drama, romance
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: SILVER LINK.
Kureha Tsubaki will never give up on love. No matter what. And she will never forgive the Bears. Humans have been in conflict with the Bears for generations. Wild, vicious creatures that will not hesitate to gobble an innocent girl down as soon as they get the chance. That’s why the Wall of Extinct was created, to keep those bears out. But sometimes, they still sneak in and it’s up to the girls to make sure they keep each other safe. They have to find and exclude any evil in their midst before it’s too late. And Kureha Tsubaki understands this After all, she has lost so much to the Bears already. But she’s also a girl who simply can’t give up on love, even if it means she’ll find herself excluded.
For those of you who are new here, I am a pretty big fan of Kunihiko Ikuhara. And Yurikuma Arashi was the only series that he had directed and created, that I had not seen yet. I noticed that it was also his lowest-rated series but scores are just a number. As such, I went in both with extremely high expectations and expecting the worse. It’s a weird mindset.
Ikuhara has a distinctive style and you can usually recognize any project that he helms. To me, Yurikuma Arashi looked a lot like Penguindrum. And Penguindrum is a masterpiece. This said you can see a lot of the familiar visual styles he employs. High contrast backgrounds, impactful set pieces in minimalist environments, an extremely cozy and welcoming home setting for the main characters, angled super low shots and lots of signposts. Also spiral staircases. Actually, Utena was the only other series to use that as a motif. Penguindrum had a lot of elevators, scaffolding and high-rises so the concept of levels and layers was still there but no actual spiral staircase as a recurring theme. Does Ikuhara see some connection between spirals and lesbians? I would really like to know that.
Aside from the usual elements, Yurikuma Arashi does some very interesting things with symmetry. The settings are often almost unnervingly symmetrical. It creates a slight uncanny feel. Like when you see a picture of someone and their left side is a perfect reflection of the right. It’s subtle but your brain still picks up that something is visually off. However, he offsets that by framing characters to the side or off-kilter. The visuals are pretty great in fact.
The voice acting is peculiar. It’s even more insistent than in any of his other series. All the characters really enunciate as if they are theatre majors. This is obviously in line with the themes the series explores and it fits. What I’m saying is that the entire production is geared towards creating a sense of otherness even in more mundane moments (although the story is particularly weird) and it succeeds beautifully. There is also tons of visual and non-textual storytelling going on which is great…kinda…
Story & Characters
Ikuhara really likes surreal stories. He crams a lot of themes in his series and keeps a lot of it open-ended. It allows the audience to interpret and connect with the stories in a myriad of ways and I think that’s fantastic. On the downside, however, if the audience does not connect with those themes then his series will most likely range from mildly boring to borderline unwatchable. So strong and consistent themes are a must.
And this is where I think Yurikuma Arashi really fails in comparison to other titles. It does tackle a lot of themes and, interesting ones at that, but it often confuses the allegories and had me wondering just what it was trying to tell me a bit too often.
For instance, there is a strong theme of acceptance throughout the series. Girls vote to exclude someone if they are different if they refuse to conform to societal norms because they perceive that as evil. OK, so then the Bears who are their sworn enemies represent the chaos and freedom of a society without constraints. Well no they don’t. They also exclude their own and have “unwanted” bears.
Also, Kureha who is the girl being excluded doesn’t look, act or speak any differently than anyone else. There is no clear way in which she is not adapting to the norm. A first I thought it was a more specific type of difference in that Kureha is open about romantic feelings towards another girl but no, everyone in the series is more or less openly gay so no.
Then I thought that could be the point, that what we perceive as scary and different simply isn’t and that the people alienated by society are in fact the same as everyone else. Strong theme, I like. But then, why add Bears into the story. They ARE different. Way different. And with the exception of the two main Bears, they are all harmful. They have all been responsible for the death of characters we are supposed to love. So different is bad?
The entire series is a bit like that. It’s very odd and interesting in the way weird things are interesting. You stumble onto a theme and there really are a lot of nice ideas in it, but when you think a bit about the bigger notion behind the events it sort of falls apart. The allegories don’t stick together. And that’s what I think was the downfall of this series.
That’s not to say that Yurikuma Arashi doesn’t have anything going for it. I noticed that a lot of people who don’t usually like Ikuhara did like this particular series. It is a lot more direct about the sexual themes which I liked. And there’s something almost feminine in how the material is approached. The camera gaze and contextual framing seemed that way to me, at least. However, it does that annoying this of calling girls in romantic relationships “friends”. Gal Pals!!!
It’s visually stunning and the characters are concepts rather than people which can be very interesting when it works. It’s definitely one of the more unique Yuri titles I have seen and I still think it’s worth a watch. Despite the fact that Yurikuma Arashi is a clearly flawed anime, I found a lot to like in it and I am happy to have watched it.
You might like this anime if:
You’re a huge fan of Ikuhara or a huge fan of Yuri. If you think it’s funny that a show about lesbians uses bears, which is a popular gay slang, as metaphors.
My favourite character:
Honey Bear cocktail
- Every time Kureha has her gun – take a sip
- Every time anyone mentions the “invisible storm” – breath in
- Every time a bear growls – gasp!
- Every time Tsumika tucks her hair behind her ear – take a sip
- Every time anyone eats too much – do some sit-ups
- Every time we see lilies – rwar
- Every time someone refuses to give up on love – take a sip
- Every time Kureha gets eaten – take a sip
- Every time there’s a “Kuma Shock” – careful not to spill
- Every time we see the spiral staircase – take a sip
- Every time anything is sexy – be confused
- Every time a girl gets killed – pour some out
- Every time a bear cooks – get some snacks
- Every time there’s an exclusion ceremony – take a sip
- Every time someone tells a story – pay attention
- Every time we see Sumika – awwww
- Every time a filing cabinet closes – take a sip
- Every time Lulu is clever – agree
- we see Kuhera’s house – get cozy
I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.
2 thoughts on “Yurikuma Arashi – Muddled Metaphors”
Of the three Ikuhara shows I’ve seen (this, Sarazanmai, and Penguindrum), it’s actually my favourite (though Sarazanmai comes pretty close to the point that I’m sure I don’t actually like it better). I wish I remembered it a little better, but it’s been a while.
I’ve never really clicked with the ritualistic side of Ikuhara (lots of repetitions; I haven’t seen much of Utena, but I’ll bet you’ll see that winding staircase a lot; one day I’ll confirm). With Yuri Kuma Arashi, though, that didn’t bother me for some reason. Probably because “Kuma Shock!” is mercifully brief, and the trials don’t go into too lengthy repetitive sequences either. Or maybe it’s that stagelike quality of the show that makes it stand out less than in other shows? I’m unsure. (It’s not only the voice acting that reminded me of a stage play. A lot of the show felt like pushing figures around an expanding board).
I forgot too much. I thought the bear/human division made some sort of sense. Bears it people. Unpopular people are deemed a danger and are then welcome bear fodder. Oh, bears east people? They’re dangerous. We don’t like dangerous thing. We don’t like you. You must be dangerous. You can go missing… Oh, no! Bears eat people. They’re dangerous…
It’s basically scapegoating. I don’t remember the bear side too well, though. It made sense to me at the time, though not necessiraly how I remember it now.
That’s also what I thought but it’s unconsistent. There are unpopular people who are never bears. Some fall prey some just are. There are popular peope who turn out to be bears and are only othered for the bear part. I might have attached too much importance to that part.