Did you know that “yuri” means lily? Did you also know that “yuri” is used on Japan to denote a girls-love story? You did? Good. Shall we continue?
The first episode of Yuri Kuma Arashi introduced us to the girl pictured above, Konomi Yurikawa, as the mouthpiece for one of three groups of three friends shown following Sumika Izumino’s presumed death.
There are many directorial staples for Kunihiko Ikuhara. One of the more pronounced ones is the use of a Greek chorus element. In Revolutionary Girl Utena, The Shadow Girls appeared with their signature phrase, “Have you heard, have you heard?” to dispense cheeky commentary on the series’ proceedings. Mawaru Penguindrum used public service announcements on the Maranouchi Line to frame each episode.
Yuri Kuma Arashi presents tertiary information through whispered rumors from the peanut gallery of Arashigaoka Academy. When Sumika is attacked in the first episode, groups of girls are “interviewed” by the series, gossiping with one another as high school students are wont to do. They often sorted into groups of twos or threes, and offer insight such as, “It was her fault for being alone.” and “To survive, we need friends!” reflecting the insipid prevailing attitudes of the general populance.
Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s second episode reprises this with the sequence shown above. The Arashigaoka students are still gossiping about Sumika’s demise, this time questioning the Wall of Severance’s ability to keep bears separated from humans along with mentioning that another girl is already missing. Again, they are neatly sorted, although none are presented with titles.
These titles, when present, are subtitled with katakana that reads “yuri” underneath them. Additionally, there are multiple characters, all with the “yuri” subtitle, that bear yuri in their name as well: the two transfer student bears, Lulu Yurigasaki and Ginko Yurishiro, Mitsuko Yurizono the student council president, Yurika Hakonaka the teacher (whose given name is also written in katakana), and the aforementioned Konomi Yurikawa. Yuri Kuma Arashi confirms in episode two that all of these characters – aside from the teacher who is neither confirmed nor denied – are bears.
At Sumika’s wake, held at the school, these characters are also singled out due to the lack of a black gull pattern surrounding their presence, including Kureha, her empty chair pictured above.
Kureha, who is neither bear, nor has “yuri” in her name, has been grouped with the bears. Furthermore, the messages from the peanut gallery in episode two indicate a lack of public trust in the Wall of Severance. How effective is a wall, if what it is meant to keep out insists on forcing its way in?
Aside from her family name of Yurikawa, there were no indicators that Konomi would turn out to be a bear. She only began to show bear-like tendencies when she admitted her longing for Mitsuko and grew jealous when Mitsuko paid more attention to Kureha. Mitsuko appeared in bear form only after she confessed to having feelings for Kureha. All of these bears appeared following extreme feelings of jealousy or lust.
“Only excluded individuals are truly delicious.”
-Mitsuko Yurizono, Yuri Kuma Arashi, episode two
There are also these parting words from Mitsuko, that what smells most delicious to the bears are the strong emotions of humans who are isolated or excluded from the rest of society. However, these are the same emotions that end up isolating the bears themselves. “Bear” has not yet been established as a permanent state of being, and is likely a result of one’s actions or emotions rather than something able to be separated from humans by a wall, even one titled “Severance,” which embodies the act of ending a relationship.