Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s fourth episode reintroduces us to Lulu Yurigasaki as a princess trapped by her inability to accept the love of her brother. When unoccupied with nefarious activities like boxing up her younger brother and kicking him into volcanoes, Lulu spends the majority of her leisure time isolated in a tower befitting a story book princess. Similar to the use of Himari Takakura’s bedroom decor inMawaru Penguindrum, Lulu’s surroundings, and how they change throughout the episode, reveal quite a bit about her situation and desires.
One day, while listening to a friend speak about music, he remarked that he often dislikes listening to strings only. He was quick to add that this was a personal preference, but expanded on the statement by saying that he prefers a mixture of piano and strings. In his mind, the presence of a piano keeps the strings grounded.
Similarly, I can say the same thing for an anime series directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara, where the grounded narrative serves to enhance any symbolism or subtext that arises and relate to the viewer immediately. In the first episode of Mawaru Penguindrum, one can find a simple story of two brothers treating their terminally-ill sister to a day of her own at the aquarium. The penguins, survival strategies, and monologues regarding fate are placed strategically around this setup. Utena Tenjou’s scenario is arranged as a fairytale in Revolutionary Girl Utena. She searches for the prince of her childhood while that prince serves as inspiration for saving a classmate from perceived abuse. This tale comes with setpieces, a Greek chorus, and daily after school duels with the student council.
With its more airy trappings, Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s first episode lacks a similar foothold to ground the production as a whole. Kureha Tsubaki’s search for her missing classmate – and lover – Sumika Izumino, is intrinsically tied to the supernatural elements of the story.
“Anyway, do you really think those guys have a future?”
– Five, to Lisa Mishima, Terror in Resonance, episode 8
Five has a future. She chose – according to Nine – to stay in the Rising Peace Academy, and therefore has been able to fashion herself quite the future from this decision. Thanks to the academy, Five has a cozy gig with the ISA and does not have to worry about her career. She commandeers an entire airport, blows up an airplane, and bombs an apartment, receiving only the gentle admonishment of, “Please show some moderation.” from her superiors. She has little need to worry about her own future, provided that she meets their goals.