I didn’t enjoy Yuri Kuma Arashi all that much on first watch. I enjoyed dissecting it and writing about it, but it didn’t fill me with the same exuberance of Kunihiko Ikuhara’s other works (Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum). The ending was phenomenal but the series itself felt too dense. The characters were too distant and cold. And the series felt like it had more than its 12 episodes allowed it to say.
I’ve not-so-coincidentally mentioned this regarding Sarazanmai‘s placement in my personal top ten of the decade as well, and expect that I’ll feel differently after watching it a few times as well, but I don’t think it will ever top Yurikuma for me due to personal reasons. With every rewatch, Yurikuma remains dense but admirably concise in its storytelling. Like any Ikuhara series, there is more to discover with every rewatch, but only with Yurikuma have I loved the series exponentially more with each viewing.
The white lily (shirayuri/白百合) is the third image to appear in Yuri Kuma Arashi. First the anime opens with what we learn later is a bear alarm — resembling a tornado or earthquake siren — next, an outside shot of Arashigaoka Academy, complete with a title. Kunihiko Ikuhara loves stagecraft and with less time to work with, Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s episodes are packed with images, often accompanied by specific titles, to set the stage.
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.
I don’t remember the first time I realized an inherently unfair societal norm or institution. The closest anecdote that comes to mind is a silly debate that divided my fifth grade class by the sexes. At stake was the ability to play flag football at recess with the boys, which had been recently outlawed by our teacher. There weren’t enough of us who wanted to play without having coed groups, so the recent ban against combining boys and girls had led to no flag football at recess for anyone.
Fortunately, our teacher was also the sort who generally wanted us to find our own answers, and thereby organized a debate. The girls team met that night at my friend Diana’s house. We researched previous legal cases, coordinated our outfits, and drew up charts with pertinent facts.
The debate itself was quite orderly. For their part, the boys weren’t as organized and didn’t care much about defending their position. Yet, when it came time for my teacher to make a decision, she still erred on the side of caution – and angry parents – by upholding the existing rule.