TIME FOR THE BEAR STORM! Also time for the actual storm, as New England is about to get hit by a crazy snow storm and I’m just sitting here like an idiot. Hopefully I can finish the bear storm before the other storm kills my power.
Anyway! Last episode cleared up a whole bunch of stuff regarding the invisible storm, along with giving us some necessary character elaboration for Kureha. We’ve still got a ways to go on the character front, but things are coming together. Incidentally, I ran into this great blog post on a recent Ikuhara interview, which contains lots of interesting details on Ikuhara’s conflicted feelings on creating a show about/for women, his thoughts in selecting Bear Storm’s character designer, and much else. The struggle of making a piece that’s true to an experience you don’t have personal insight into is always a tough one, but Ikuhara’s clearly approaching this with all the help he can find.
But enough about that, it’s time for bears!
0:52 – Backstory time! Jeez these backgrounds are lovely
1:04 – An unanswerable question
1:17 – So by making her a human girl, she’s allowed love but not kisses. Seems simple enough – while human girls are allowed to express “pure love,” only bears can express physical affection, which damns them in the court’s eyes. You’re judged for loving in socially unacceptable or unsanitized ways, just like with the invisible storm
Also interesting to note that it’s apparently the court which allows bears to even pretend to be girls
1:34 – A problem for the ages
2:32 – This shot in the OP, where kissing makes Ginko and Kureha burst into flowers, now makes some sense
3:25 – Goddamnit these bears
4:03 – As always, Ikuhara loves his ornate framing devices, self-aware stagecraft, and use of classic fable tropes. Fables are a good way of articulating society’s expectations – they demonstrate what is accepted knowledge, what children are supposed to internalize
4:30 – So now bears are being framed as an actual race. But this is Life Sexy’s story, so…
4:39 – Hey Lulu. And that red star again, which is apparently a bee? And Lulu is the princess, not Ginko – but Ginko’s colors are red
5:43 – Very nice
5:50 – Bad news, Lulu. You’re about to be replaced by your star-brother
6:10 – Yep
6:15 – YEP. Lulu you’re the best
6:23 – oh my god
6:48 – DEAL WITH HIM, LULU
7:26 – Oh my god Lulu your face
7:35 – Talking about picture books as propaganda within a picture book within the show. “Real love becoming stars” – so far, all we know of stars is that they fell and the bears rose up. And also that Prince Mirun is himself a star, possibly?
7:54 – True love turns to stars. Stars turn into “Promise Kisses.” Kissing and love are incompatible. Kureha wants the “Promise Kiss,” and also insists that her love is the real thing. Maybe the “Promise Kiss” is the only kiss that’s compatible with love according to the rules?
8:46 – DESIRE. This show has the best catchphrases
9:11 – Oh My God
9:48 – Another shot from the intro given some context. And another symbol to keep in mind. Bears love honey, which I’d guess would make it a sign of unaccepted, physical desire – which would make sense, given Ginko and Lulu seem to lick honey off Kureha
10:39 – MIRUN STOP
10:59 – This episode is amazing
11:06 – So good. Mirun vs Antlion, Mirun wins
11:28 – MIRUUUUNNNNN
12:25 – A complicated feeling. It’s not his fault society decided he would oppress his sister simply by existing
12:58 – Now that the fairy tale’s over, it’s time to return to our regular scheduled show, where a bear is currently cooking porridge
14:04 – We’ve finally arrived. We’re past the introductory stuff now, and so the characters can actually just talk honestly with each other
15:30 – And the judgemens take the place of visiting princes, all vying for the right to control the princess
15:40 – They’re like pick-up artists. What shallow surface affectation is the correct way to woo a lady?
16:29 – Oh my god, the details in this room are so great. Of course Lulu plays guitar
16:34 – Ain’t got time for that shit
17:39 – A wonderful storybook moment
17:50 – “If you forget what you’ve lost, you really will lose it.” A straight echo of last episode’s reflections on Kureha losing her memories of Surika. Life is a long progression of losing things, and a belief in love isn’t stolen all at once – it’s lost over time, worn down by the erosion of a society that will always disagree with your personal identity
18:28 – And now bees killed Mirun
18:46 – And here it makes perfect sense. She hates what society makes him to her (a valued oppressor, someone who wipes out her existence), but loves him as a brother just the same
19:12 – Great shot
21:38 – Man, this sequence is so good. The music’s perfect, and it’s such an appropriate storybook ending
21:56 – Entrusting Ginko with her hopes. A very Utena choice
22:23 – Beautiful
23:04 – Ah, of course. Linked through her mother
Oh man, such a good episode! I think that was easily the best episode so far – Lulu’s a ton of fun to follow, the whole story with her brother was adorable and hilarious and still reflective of the show’s big ideas, and the characters are finally coming into focus as people. And that ending was so great! The song did a lot of heavy lifting, but it was just a triumphant moment in general. This show’s always been really smart and interesting, but I think it’s finally developing the emotional resonance it was lacking. Good times ahead!