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Review: Yurikuma Arashi

In our future, a minor planet has exploded and its forgotten fragments rained down on Earth as an iridescent meteor shower. Of all the unprecedented outcomes that could have been, the disaster made the world’s bears stand up as one to wage war against humans. We built the Wall of Severance to keep the bears away, but their hatred and love for us, (there from the very beginning, as the show is so fond of reminding us), made them determined to cross the wall and be our friends. And so, Ginko and Lulu take on human guises and transfer to a human school, in part for curiosity, but also to sate their hunger for human girls.

At her first sight of Kureha, who despises bears since they ate her mother, Ginko becomes ravenous for her, though their complicated history stretches back for years. The hunger and fantasies of gobbling up girls gets heavy with erotic suggestion, and the series is drenched in feminine sexual imagery to match; stemming white roses, licking the dew from a petal or seeing a new bloom open. Even within the bizarre setting, bold block colours and shadows and the pastel goth, chibi-fanged aesthetic, there’s an attraction to the coy romance of classical literature, with “love” pursued and spoken of throughout, and often open to meaning with the Sapphic sex so heavily implied.

Classic romance and modern lust compete for dominance just like the bears over the humans, coming across in the conflicting styles of storytelling. Laid over the fairytale of destined love overcoming hateful boundaries, the narrative seems over-sparse and experimental. What with all the repetition of key scenes, it’s like a short series has been stretched to occupy the runtime of a full-length. Tiny shards with pretentions of epiphany are scattered around the sequences that make up the story’s framework, some running for minutes at a time. The first three episodes all end the same way, discounting subtle differences.

Taken together with some terrible CG, this has the effect of making even the purest loves feel unnatural. Like a fairytale, they’re spoken in platitudes and expressed with kisses that look forced, there but for the sake of a happy ending. It’s a real disappointment coming from Kunihiko Ikuhara, director of Revolutionary Girl Utena and the original Yurikuma Arashi manga’s creator. And yet, in its most tender moments it feels almost like an epitaph, full of loss and yearning, but its heroines powerless to change what’s happened. It plays with time and tropes like Punch Line, but the vastly different story of the manga is far less constricted in what it can accomplish with its bizarre world.


Extras:

English dub; episode 1 & 12 commentary; textless opening and closing; promo videos; trailers.

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