Yuri Kuma Arashi – Episode 1

Hey guys! So, this isn’t exactly a classic time stamp writeup, but I took a whole damn lot of pictures during the first episode of Bear Storm, and plenty of notes besides, and so I figured I might as well assemble what I do have. What writeups I eventually settle on is still an open question – I might actually be covering this show for ANN (you can check out my more structured thoughts on this episode over there), I might do my own writeups, or I might collapse in a heap if I try to do any more work than I’m currently doing. We live in a world of uncertainty.

I will say I loved this first episode, and that there’s plenty of rich stuff to dig into already, and that it’s clear that Ikuhara hasn’t given up on any of the stuff that makes his work so compelling. Watching an Ikuhara show feels like some kind of thematic symphony – different repeating refrains and meaning-infused symbols all flow past each other and reflect on one another, the variant ideas charging all of his points with the depth of interconnectedness that only narrative can achieve. It’s a hell of a ride. Let’s run this first episode down!

Episode One

Opens with “Yuri” and the bears. The first shot is of a speakerphone with birds on top of it – obvious symbols of control and freedom

Yuri Kuma Arashi

Ikuhara’s shows always let the imagery do so much of the talking. They assume you’re keeping up, that you’re learning the language as quickly as he establishes it

This first shot of the girls as tiny in the face of the building. Again, immediately purposeful visual storytelling – the human players are dwarfed by the systems that surround them

Everyone’s being announced with “Yuri”

Musical trills. It’s always a stage play

“I think we can be together here without anyone seeing us.” Alright, so they’re already held down by some system

“I’ll never back down on my love.” I’m going to love this show

Yuri Kuma Arashi


And those bear-paw hexagons. Hm

So the sirens are there to “protect them from the bears.”

“We hated you from the beginning… and loved you from the beginning, too. And so we wanted to cross the wall, and become true friends.”

“Never Back Down On Love.” And the ornate title cards, and everything. Why doesn’t Ikuhara direct every show

The planet “Kumalia” exploded and made bears start attacking!

The “Wall of Severance”. Severance, huh?

Yuri Kuma Arashi

“Guess what, human rules don’t work on bears! Gao!” The show is basically making fun of its own sense of unreality. “Bears do what bears do” is the extent of the explanation for any of the real-world physics of its storytelling – the real-world physics could not be less important. The signifier “bear” has some emotional import, and Ikuhara isn’t above making it clear that you shouldn’t give a damn about the physical “bear-ness” of that signifier instead of seeking its emotional truth.

That background is also gorgeous. Love this world under construction. People always building walls.

They disguised themselves as humans… somehow…

Alright, so the short-haired bear is Ginko

All the backgrounds look like they’re painted in three coats of lighting. Wavy lines through everything, gorgeous background designs

Yuri Kuma Arashi

And all the dialogue is just oral sex jokes. Of course it is

That background construction is such a wonderfully inescapable part of the show architecture

Seems like the narrative will have them stealing each others’ lovers. Maybe those are what the walls are reflective of?

The flowers of their garden being snipped

“The Invisible Storm will destroy everything, until we’re worn away into nothing.”

Their classmate, Yurizono – class representative. She volunteers to help fight the Invisible Storm

Yuri Kuma Arashi

“It’s just cruel to cut down flowers in full bloom.”

The jackhammer of their teeth is great

Lovely shot. The colors are wonderful

Lulu’s having fun. Ginko’s on a mission

More lovely design/colors

Kureha’s mother was stolen by bears. Efficient storytelling!

And what’s that on her bedroom wall? Oh, you don’t say. Alert alert alert

Oh no, Sumika was eaten by bears!

“That’s why we need friends.” “It’s her fault for not being invisible. To the bears, we’re just weak prey. We have to stay in the herd.” Peg that stands up gets hammered down, etc. This early in the show, our protagonists aren’t strong enough to counter the idea of invisibility being a virtue.

Ikuhara shows make me hungry. Hungry for THEMES

Yuri Kuma Arashi

“This is a challenge from the Wall of Severance. If your love is real, go to the roof.”

The music’s great


Bears judging bears at bear court

These are the first men we’ve seen in the entire show, and somehow they get to decide what is sexy. Playing both prosecution and defense. Dunno if the show’s even going in that direction, but it’s there.

“Will you be invisible? Or will you eat humans?” ‘Invisible’ cropping up again. As in the classroom and at the beginning of the episode. From Nanami’s “I need to be a star” to the child broiler to here, Ikuhara is always obsessed with who society sees and who society looks away from.

Yuri Kuma Arashi

Yuri approved!

One last beautiful, ominous shot. Can’t escape the walls. Might as well be the student council tower

And Done

Yeah, plenty to unpack in that first episode, but there’s already a few prominent threads. Classic Ikuhara themes are coming up once again – adolescence and identity, invisibility and society’s eye, sexuality and self-love. It’s dense and fast and ridiculous, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here!

12 thoughts on “Yuri Kuma Arashi – Episode 1

  1. I really hope you will continue to do if not time stamp writeups, at least something like this. Bear Storm is my first Ikuhara show and I think I need some sort of direction or help with the themes which you usually provide quite well.

  2. The “three coats of lighting” thing reminds me of Gatchaman Crowd’s coloring.

    Let’s be honest, on top of the oral sex jokes dialogue, that sequence of Kureha running through the backgrounds was mostly “she’s getting wet” visual gags, weren’t they.

    There’s probably diction connotations we’re missing out on for Wall of Severance and Extinction Court. My first thought for “Severance” was of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and the severance of the bond between people and their daemons. Applied to this show, it would indicate that the bears represent the raw desires that humans have attempted to sever themselves from in their development of civilization/invisibility, and in doing so, have become less than human. They eat Sumika and challenge Kureha because they try to have their cake and eat it too, attempting invisible love, which is a travesty to the bears.

    As others have pointed out Ginko appears to be wearing the same necklace as Kureha’s mother. This indicates that the mother may have embraced her inner desires, rejecting the invisibility on this side of the Wall of Severance, and joined the bears willingly. It is only because humans have demonized bearmanity, that Kureha believes the narrative that her mother had to have been stolen by them. So she trains in the fighting discipline that requires absolute inner control: sniping.

    On the quality side of things, though, that other than the Extinction court, this felt more like a Shaft show. With Utena and Penguindrum, the opening episodes started off in something like the real world, before the protagonists are plunged into metaphor-theater-land by the plot. Here, we begin in a world already defined by the allegories, in an anime industry where Shaft has monopolized the symbolic architecture scene for the past few years. Utena’s strength stemmed from how it could continually reinforce its formula for the audience, before revealing the implications of each element, turning the repetition into devastating commentary on how ingrained the system was. This is one coeur, and Ikuhara is dumping as many puzzle pieces on us as he can, all at once, so I fear that we may lose emotional impact to the sheer spectacle of condensed time, the way I already connected with Penguindrum’s characters a lot less.

  3. Bears = insatiable sexual desire, lilies = innocence, purity or class S yuri
    The invisible storm = bullying, social pressure to conform. Cutting of lilies make sense if lilies represent “pure yuri”.
    Judgmens = judgment and criticism of girls who express sexual desire

    Tessalation = conformity, Circles = defiance
    The characters are constantly running in the opposite direction to the birds. The birds are on the outside of the railings, emphasizing their freedom. Teacher wears a bird badge.

    Teacher + Mitsuko pouring honey in the OP. Attracting bears?
    I’m thinking that being eaten by a bear is kind of like graduating from Ohtori, and just means that one moves beyond the walls.

    Sumiko was being affected by the invisible storm, so she ran off on her own so as not to get Kureha involved. It was only after Kureha was also affected that she said, “I won’t give up on love”. I’m not sure why she went to fix the lilies without the others, though. Or maybe it was Kureha and Mitsuko who deserted her?

    The bears punished Sumiko for holding Mitsuko’s hand? They threw a brick after that happened. Or maybe they punished Sumiko for standing between their and Kureha’s love. (“Give your body up to the bears, and your love will be approved” – I think this refers to ‘love’ between the bears and Kureha, not between Kureha/Sumiko).
    Or maybe it’s just the operation of the invisible storm on Kureha – it will take away everything she cares for.

  4. With an episode title like “Never Back Down on Love”, and recurring instances of being invisible vs embracing one’s desires, this show gives me the impression that it’s actually literally about lesbians. More specifically, about the experience of coming out. I’m certainly not at all qualified to make presumptions about that specific circumstance, but it’s a pretty familiar subject area for Ikuhara. I dunno, it would be an interesting place for the show to go, but it could also go basically anywhere at this point!

  5. I dunno, I just can’t get into Ikuhara stuff. It feels kind of like it’s trying to do the same thing as Monogatari*–the half-metaphorical supernatural reality–but without any pretense of subtlety and no real attention paid to the non-metaphor half of things… And this new anime seems to add “cranks up the weird sex stuff several notches” to that, which is not a comparison you want to lose when the other end of the scale is Monogatari.

    (* And yes I know he predates Monogatari significantly, it’s the closest analogy I can think of)

    He’s one of those artistic darlings I just don’t get, honestly. I’ll have to try to power through the rest of Utena sometime, but… I’m probably just going to have to accept this is one of the things where I’m out of step with general Art Anime Opinions.

  6. You know, I think I’m going to want to keep my own set of notes for this too (and then compare them against yours). I got to the court scene, and I just… couldn’t not pause and write down the stuff that occurred to me. It’ll be fun to keep this up over the coming weeks and see if the show builds on the stuff I hope it does. Granted, this pilot felt somewhat disjointed and I’m really not sure where the plot is actually going to go, but I’ll most certainly be along for the ride.

    I seriously could’ve written an essay on the two-minute-long court scene alone, which I thought was far and away the most interesting part of the episode – I was spurred to start taking notes by the realisation that the court was almost certainly a metaphor for the male gaze, and how the ultimate arbiter of being an acceptable woman is being declared “sexy” – but as it is, I’ll wait it out and see where the show takes it because I don’t want to reveal sweeping theories yet. This show is pretty much heaven to analyse and incredibly relevant to my interests and me personally (I’m female, bisexual and a committed feminist, which makes it hard not to ramble either here or in my notes), so I’m more than ready for next week.

  7. I looooooovvvveeedd this episode.

    It’s kind of surprising to see how divisive it’s been. Ikuhara’s stuff seems to suit me pretty well, though. I actually watched Penguindrum first, and I enjoyed that. Finally getting around to Utena, which is gorgeous and funny and…gah! So good!

    Since this is only a single cour, I think it has to potential to be something really special. Just total fun for its entire run–never a dull moment.

    I guess the only issue I have is with Kureha. As others have mentioned, I’m not really invested in her right now.

    • Was thinking the same! I was waiting for a catchy song à la Rock Over Japan or Zettai Unmei Mokushiroku, but we only got the “yurikumayurikumayurikuma” near the end.

  8. I am totally fascinated by this new series. I love Ikuhara with all my might, but I cannot say I have the full knowledge of how to properly interpret symbolism and I’m glad the internet have so many intelligent people.
    In any case, even if I have a lot of troubles dealing with interpretations, YKA is a big fun to analyze. I’ve watched the episode a couple of times and I’m amazed at how it strikes me on so many levels. The invisibility is one of the big central theme of Ikuhara’s works and each time the interpretations coming up with it are just amazing.
    Damn, can’t wait for the rest.

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