#1 A girl’s war against bears
When one day bears around the world awaken to a higher level of intelligence, a war between them and the humans becomes all but inevitable. Many years later, mankind and bearkind live separated by magical barrier, until one day the alarms sound and speakers announce that a bear has been detected wandering the streets.
While the alarm lifts and all seems normal once again, young school girl Tsubaki Kureha returns to class the following day, only to learn that her girlfriend has been eaten by bears. Soon other classmates begin to follow suit and the girls of the school take up arms. From their perspective, they must root out and butcher these bears for their own self-preservation and Kureha is the most determined sharpshooter of them all, but the story takes on a different meaning when we get the perspective of the bears.
They are privy to information that Kureha doesn’t have and imply they have different plans for her entirely. They do kill and eat humans, but suggest that this has a higher purpose. Perhaps they are helping Kureha. Perhaps they are just isolating her.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is a strange story and I like how it keeps you guessing about the true intentions of all its characters.
#2 Everything is symbolism
This is another Kunihiko Ikuhara anime, so of course the plot is absolutely loaded with symbolism and other bizarre imagery. I won’t even pretend to have understood the anime entirely on my first time through; I ended up reading The Chuuni Corner’s 17-part essay on the show to figure out the puzzle pieces that I was still missing.
What I like in Ikuhara shows, though, is that you can just take the eccentric storylines, artsy visuals, and flowery dialogue at face value and still have a great time. You don’t have to read that essay to gain an appreciation for the story and you don’t have to wreck your brain trying to figure it out yourself either. This is a beautiful show and I had a great time watching weird shit unfold in it while I just sat back and enjoyed a story about a girl trying to hunt down the bears who killed her beloved.
It’s the kind of show that made me want to look up the deeper meaning, rather than forcing it down my throat.
#3 Everything is yuri
As the title implies, this anime falls into the yuri genre and, despite all that symbolism, it isn’t difficult to perceive that it has a lot to say about LGBT rights. A subject that is rarely addressed so directly in anime.
Kureha starts the anime in a romance with her classmate Sumika, for which both girls are seemingly ostracized and bullied. When Sumika is then the first to be eaten by bears, gossip within the school seems to mostly blame the couple themselves, and Kureha is forced even further into isolation. The Humans appear to view the concept of love as a sin and dub anybody who acts out of love as evil. Exactly what the show is implying with all this is obscured by some of the denser symbolism, but I found it worthwhile to read up on.
Aside from making for interesting themes and being central to Kureha as a character, the yuri nature of the show also lends itself to some ecchi visuals that are enjoyable for more obvious and direct reasons.
#4 These character designs
Yuri Kuma Arashi has a peculiar design for its various characters. It feels like modern anime, but tweaked in just the right places to feel unique and new. I found them very appealing and it matches well with the outfits that were designed for these characters. They look like those old dolls in elaborate dresses, which are given a strange twist in the show’s various mahou shoujo-like transformation scenes where they are given a “sexy” redesign.
While the Human characters are nice, the bears are the ones who really steal the show. They are a menacing and powerful force in the anime, yet still have these cute, dopey designs to them. They are ridiculous creatures and a constant source of comedy; I love it when the show has these ominous scenes where a girl is stalked by a bear and fighting for her life, and then you see the murderous silhouette of one of these bears leap at her from the shadows.
It does mean that the anime’s value as a comedy show is very dependent on whether or not you take a liking to these little bastards. I can certainly see this being a little too weird for people.