We're sampling all the new pilots this Winter. Check out our thoughts on...
- JOJO'S - BATTLE IN EGYPT ** ASSASSINATION CLASSROOM ** DEATH PARADE
- MARIA THE VIRGIN WITCH ** YATTERMAN NIGHT ** THE ROLLING GIRLS
- THE TESTAMENT OF SISTER NEW DEVIL ** THE IDOLM@STER ** KANTAI COLLECTION
- ABSOLUTE DUO
The first time I battled against famed anime director Kunihiko Ikuhara was when I attempted to watch a series he created called “Mawaru Penguin Drum.” I say I did battle because I was forced to fight with every ounce of my strength concentration and will power to try and make it through a series which many of my friends felt was filled brilliant visual symbolism and deep artistic metaphor, but which to me just seemed like a pretentious confusing acid-trip. The story didn’t seem to make logical sense. The characters and the way they behaved didn’t seem to make logical sense. And even the visuals and the way physical people, places and things interacted with each other…didn’t seem to make logical sense.
If you believe (as I do) that animation is an art form, then Kunihiko Ikuhara’s work could best be described as “Abstract Art.” And I, personally, have never been very good with Abstract Art. (That’s not to dismiss Abstract Art as a valid form of expression, mind you. I’m just saying, the way my particular brain works…I just think Abstract Art and I are on two different wavelengths. I’ve never really been able to understand…exactly what it is I’m looking at when I try to look at Abstract Art, and I have therefore never really been able to appreciate it the way some other people have.) Because of this, I must confess that I lost my last battle against Ikuhara. I was not strong enough to make it all the way through Mawaru Penguin Drum. His show broke me.
But that was many years ago. So when my friends told me that Ikuhara had created a new anime this season called “Yuri Kuma Arashi” (a title which, in English, roughly translates to “Lesbian Bear Storm,”) I thought to myself, “Okay, just from hearing the name, that sounds on the surface like something I would probably…hate. But y’know what? I’m a stronger Otaku now than I was back then. My brain might not have been able to process the kind of abstract stories, characters, and visuals that Ikuhara had in his last show, but I’m a better man now. I’m ready for a rematch! And this time, I’m gonna win! You think you’re gonna break me this time? You think your story and your characters and your visuals are gonna be so weird and out-there that I’m not gonna be able to make it through? Bring it on! Let’s see what you got!”
So, your story begins when a meteor explodes in outer space, and (for some reason) this causes every bear on Earth to begin walking on two legs, and to become intelligent. …? Okay.…that’s not the weirdest premise I’ve ever heard. That’s not even one of the top ten weirdest premises I’ve ever heard. I can wrap my head around that. Easy!
Human-beings build a giant wall to protect ourselves from this new and dangerous race of super-bears. But two bears sneak past the wall and infiltrate human society by transforming into high-school girls (because the meteor that inexplicably caused the bears to become intelligent also gave them shape-shifting powers…?) Okay.
The bears-disguised-as-humans enroll in an all-girl school, gleefully survey their attractive classmates, and make plans to eat every last one of them. (Surprisingly, this part of the story actually makes sense to me. I can’t believe I’m typing this sentence but: “Seems like the logical thing for shape-shifting hyper-intelligent super-bears to do.”)
The way they talk about eating the other girls, plus the visuals that are shown as the schemers talk (flowers, dripping with honey, being licked off by the bear tongues) makes it unclear whether the bear-girls are planning to literally eat the girls (in the way a predator kills and devours prey) or figuratively eat the girls (in a way that would…y’know… explain why the show is called “Lesbian Bear Storm.”)
Maybe they’re planning to do one first, and then the other? The visuals are presented in an abstract way that keeps things vague and open-to-interpretation throughout the episode. It’s confusing as all heck but…y’know what? You still haven’t broken me, Ikuhara. What else ya got?
The bears capture and eat a schoolgirl named Sumika? (She disappears and it’s left unclear whether they killed and devoured her or…did the other thing to her.) Okay.
The bears call Sumika’s lesbian lover, Kureha, on the phone to taunt Kureha with what they did, and then challenge Kureha to come and fight them on the school rooftop if she wants to get revenge for the way they ate her girlfriend? (Okay? Doesn’t really seem like a super smart strategy but…okay.)
Kureha accepts the bears’ challenge and runs up to face them on the roof with the…sniper rifle Kureha keeps in her school locker!? (What the…since when do students…!? That thing can’t be legal…! Do the teachers know she has that…!? Where are the teachers anyway? Should they be getting involved with this? Maybe offering some backup? Or calling animal control or…? Y’know what? No. Stop thinking about this logically. Ikuhara’s stories don’t have to make logical sense. They’re symbolism.)
Kureha challenges the bears on the school roof. They push her off the school roof. At which point……the laws of physics cease to exist and Kureha……somehow falls into some kind of……void in the time-space continuum…..? And the surroundings transform into some kind of weird outer-space courtroom? (I swear I’m not being facetious. This is really what happens in the show.)
And a bear judge and some bear lawyers appear from out of nowhere and ask the girls to bear witness and testify as to whether or not the two bear-girl infiltrators have broken any bear-society rules by attacking a human community. And the bear-girls’ defense lawyer says they’re innocent because…if the judge rules against them that means the judge is a human-loving turd-juggler…and the judge is…….persuaded by this argument!? And so he dismisses the case, gives the bear girls permission to eat Kureha…..and then they eat her (in a visually symbolic manner which, whether it represents the first or the second kind of eating, is probably not suitable for children). And then…..the universe returns to normal and Kureha wakes up safe and sound in a hospital bed!?
And then….but….didn’t she just fall off the roof!?! What about the space trial thing!?! What was that!? Where did the bear judge and bear lawyers come from!? Where did they go!? Didn’t she get eaten!? I don’t…how could…I’m not….GOD D%$^&* IKUHARA!!!!!! YOU BROKE ME!!!! I CAN’T BEAR ANYMORE!!! I thought I might be able to make it through this series. But in the end, I was barely able to make it through one episode.
I think I’m probably the wrong person to review a show like Yuri Kuma Arashi because…I didn’t understand it. I mean, I was sort of following it until Kureha fell off the roof. But then once she went to space court…I just literally didn’t know what I was looking at anymore.
In the end, all I can honestly say is that if you saw and enjoyed Mawaru Penguin Drum, and if you enjoy anime that has an abstract and surrealist feel to it, then you will probably enjoy Yuri Kuma Arashi. I generally don’t enjoy those kinds of shows, so I didn’t enjoy this. If anyone out there can explain to me what in blue blazes happened in the last ten minutes of this episode, I’ll be all ears to listen. But until then, I think I need to wash Yuri Kuma Arashi out of my brain by sitting down and watching something a little less confusing, a little more grounded, and a little easier to follow.
Now where did I leave my “End of Evangelion” DVD?
Watch this pilot and decide for yourself.
Kaita Mpambara works every day to try and create shows, stories, and characters that are as exciting, energizing, and entertaining as the very best works that have been given to the world by both the western and eastern animation industries. Keep up with his musings on life, the universe and everything by following him on Facebook.