Anyone familiar with director Kunihiko Ikuhara knows his work comes with a lot of metaphors and hidden meanings and Yuri Kuma Arashi is no exception. A series featuring girls, bears, and a group known as the Invisible Storm brings the two elements together. Does it have more to offer than cute girls and less than threatening looking bears?
From Kunihiko Ikuhara, the director of Sailor Moon and Revolutionary Girl Utena, comes a beautifully animated, allegorical tale of love, loss, and bear attacks. In a world divided between humans and hyper-intelligent, man-eating bears, Kureha attends an all-girls school and holds onto a simple wish—to spend the rest of her life with her classmate and soul mate, Sumika. But after a secret rendezvous ends in tragedy, Kureha vows to never back down on her love and put a bullet in any bear she meets. As she plots her revenge, the bear-attack body count begins to rise and two strange girls transfer into Kureha’s class. She doesn’t know it yet, but the girls who call themselves Ginko and Lulu are actually criminal bears in disguise! As they try to win Kureha’s heart, an army of high school girls gears up to go to war with all of bear-kind and anyone else who stands up for love. At this rate, getting the yuri seal of approval from an interdimensional tribunal of cool, beautiful, sexy judges is going to be the least of their troubles.
Compared to previous works of director Ikuhara like Revolutionary Girl Utena, which have caused fans to write thesis papers about all the symbolism present in the show, Yuri Kuma Arashi is less philosophical, a trait the director is known for bringing to his series. Here, the anime uses fewer metaphors to showcase the intended themes of the anime. The bears represent individuals struggling with their sexuality and the invisible storm is a stand-in for the faceless oppression of online culture such a group would face. Even though there isn’t as much rampant symbolism doesn’t mean the show isn’t without depth and nuance.
The main focus of the story is the relationship of Kureha and Ginko. Kureha is coming from a place of tragedy with the loss of her friend/crush and Ginko must find a way to help her without revealing she is a bear. Their relationship helps to showcase how finding someone doesn’t mean they won’t have some emotional baggage but instead showcasing loving another means helping to face their troubles head on. It’s a very touching sentiment.
The series offers crisp and details animation which doesn’t have a drop in its quality. The brighter moments help to showcase the magic which exists in the world and the darker ones help to show the malice ever present. The bears being shown as more cute in their overall design instead of menacing is an interesting choice but is more to the appeal of the series. There is a bit too much fanservice at times, but it doesn’t detract from the overall flow of the series.
Though light on the extras it does provide some episode commentaries. In a series like Yuri Kuma Arashi which is filled with metaphors, symbolism, and a bit of existentialism, a bit of commentary can help to clear things up. Especially when the insight comes from individuals who had a hand in the creation of the show.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is a great series with a lot of emotional moments. It’s worth watching even if Yuri (girl’s love) isn’t your preferred genre. There is still enough mystery, comedy, and emotion to satisfy anyone who is just looking for a story only anime can tell.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is available from Funimation.