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.
“Friends are important above all else, right? We, in this classroom right now, are all friends. Don’t you think that those who deny our feelings are the scum of the earth? Those who stray from us are irredeemable. People who don’t stain themselves our color are nothing but trouble, right? We have a word for people who can’t read the mood: evil. Izumino Sumika was killed by a bear because of that. But that was entirely her fault, for she was evil. We must proceed to select the next evil to exclude. Let’s . . . search . . . evil!”
-Eriko Oniyama, Yuri Kuma Arashi, Episode 3
Those evil people aren’t going to exclude themselves, you know?
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.