The Visible Storm of Yuri Kuma Arashi

At Arashigaoka Academy, blending in is not only a way of live, it’s introduced as the only way to survive. While the body count rises in Yuri Kuma Arashi, so do the cries from various young women in the series to uphold the status quo at all costs. Sumika Izumino is announced as the first casualty within the scope of the series and all her classmates can say about her rumored death is that it was her fault for going out alone. Friends are necessary for survival. The Wall of Severance is constantly being rebuilt to keep the bears, the others, out. The Invisible Storm consumes those who don’t follow the status quo and stay within the lines.

Blend in completely. Be invisible. Those who cannot read the atmosphere are evils inevitably sought after, found, and obliterated by the Invisible Storm.

For people who are supposed to make a homogeneous background pattern, thereby becoming invisible, these young women — lily and bear alike — are oddly conspicuous individuals.

Arashigaoka students are frequently presented next to patterns or as patterns themselves. Most are taken from various horror films including Suspiria and The Shining, which inform Arashigaoka’s red-patterned fleur-de-lis wallpaper and the bear-paw-and-honeycomb pattern of the Wall of Severance respectively. The emblem of the school is an M.C. Escher-inspired design of lilies transforming into birds.

Patterns are further reinforced by the placement of the Arashigaoka women, who often become an M.C. Escher-like tessellation pattern themselves, especially when positioned neatly at their desks, allowing the negative space equal visibility to the students when we parse the entire image. In a standard tessellation pattern, the negative space and the young women would be as similar as possible. Yet, Yuri Kuma Arashi purposefully ensures that certain students stand out, thanks to their hairstyles, posture, uniform differences, or accessories. Their function as members of the Invisible Storm is to blend in, but to us, the audience, they’re meant to stand out. If they were meant to blend in as a true background pattern, they would have been shown as icons, like the crowds in Mawaru Penguindrum.

Every student that stands out from the pattern dramatically becomes a leader of the Invisible Storm, a bear, or both at one point in the series or another. It’s natural that Kureha Tsubaki and Sumika both stand out — they’re the series’ first couple and are attacked for their relationship — as well as the two bears Lulu Yurigasaki and Ginko Yurishiro, who both have differently-colored uniforms than the rest of the students. However, those within the pattern who aren’t in the process of being excluded by the rest, like Konomi Yurikawa, Mitsuko Yurizono, Kaoru Harishima, and Katyusha Akae, are immediately visible and memorable. Even the last known leader of the Invisible Storm, Choko Oki, is shown in the series’ first episode as part of the pattern, easily-recognizable due to her large pink butterfly hair clip. Those who do not end up leading the Invisible Storm still are somewhat different from each other, through visual quirks as simple as sock style or uniform tie color.

Yuri Kuma Arashi also makes it a point to give some of the eventual leaders lines and a title with their name on it while they’re waxing poetic about how they must stay together to survive in Episode 1. This removes them from the group well before the viewing audience is made aware of how the Invisible Storm voting system works and who runs it.

It’s no coincidence that all of them end up transforming into bears, or are eaten by bears. Yuri Kuma Arashi makes it clear that queerness is not limited to those who are excluded, like Kureha, or identified (outed) as bears, like Lulu and Ginko. The lines dividing bear and not bear are purposefully muddied — even the physical ones that can be seen all around the city are not uniform and are always under construction. By making these young women immediately identifiable in a pattern despite their claim to invisibility, Yuri Kuma Arashi further underlines the futility of their resistance to the love shown by Kureha and Ginko.

They’re already visible.


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