yuri kuma arashi

The true giraffe was in our hearts all along (or, the Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight finale)

“A stage that never ends. Taking on the shine that this stage requires enough for someone else as well. Such is the atonement for a stage girl who must surely die. The stage of fate that she has chosen.”

-Giraffe while observing Hikari Kagura, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 12

Previously I had thought of Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight‘s giraffe as an arbiter of the system, similar to Yuri Kuma Arashi‘s Judgmens who preside over the Severance Court. In Yuri Kuma Arashi, the three Judgmens are the only body allowed to permit relationships — there’s even an offical stamp that says “Yuri approved!” — a reminder of societal constructs and barriers that the leads eventually break by the end of the series. The giraffe seemed to be of this vein, presiding over the toxic top star system of the Takarazuka Revue at Revue Starlight‘s Seisho Music Academy. This is why he always cheered or commented during the duels, kept track of the top star standings in his room, and was an important signature on Hikari Kagura’s transfer documents. Because the giraffe is the system, naturally he would have a hand in her “transfer” from Seisho once she reached the top star stage.

Yet, the giraffe’s true identity is revealed in Revue Starlight‘s finale. This revelation recontextualizes the giraffe’s actions throughout the series. While it’s not wrong that he’s an arbiter, he’s also something concrete and very familiar to anyone who has watched a stage production.

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Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, sparkles, and the comic relief episode

Tomohiro Furukawa’s overarching direction of Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight is an interesting cycle of influence. Furukawa worked alongside Kunihiko Ikuhara on Mawaru Penguindrum and Yuri Kuma Arashi. Ikuhara’s directorial flair has clearly inspired a lot in Revue Starlight, especially in the mechanical transformation sequence that transitions Karen Aijou from Seisho Music Academy to a surreal underground dueling stage

Yet, Ikuhara was influenced by the Takarazuka Revue itself: the main subject of Revue Starlight. He also drew inspiration from Takarazuka-influenced anime and directors like Rose of Versailles and Osamu Dezaki. Rose of Versailles in and of itself is often synonymous with the Takarazuka Revue, and helped cement its top star system — the same system that is under scrutiny and criticism in Revue Starlight. Furthermore, Revue Starlight isn’t just an anime project, it’s a multimedia project that includes a stage play directed by former Takarazuka actress and director Kodama Akiko.

No other episode showcases this cycle of influences better than Episode 5, “Where Radiance Resides.”

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To be a center — Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight Episode 1

“The normal happiness, the pleasures of a young girl, all burned away to aim for a distant twinkling.”

-Giraffe, Shoujo ☆ Kageki Revue Starlight, Episode 1

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Kureha Tsubaki and flower language in Yuri Kuma Arashi

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.

Then a white lily appears.

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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.

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