“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
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.
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.
When Flip Flappers first introduces Cocona, she is trapped in a sterile classroom taking a test. The shifting of sand is heard rather than the ticking of a clock — an hourglass resembling a Rubin vase takes the place of a traditional clock face mounted on the wall above a white board.
Rubin’s vase — named after its creator, danish psychologist Edgar Rubin — shows two shapes only one of which can be recognized at any given time. You can see the hourglass, or you can see two faces with negative space between them. While your mind can recognize that there are two things to see available to you, your eye can only focus on one at a time.
This plays tricks with the way the human brain generally perceives objects — by establishing depth and separating figures or objects from the ground. Ambiguity, like the less distinct image of Rubin’s vase, allows our minds to take the lead in perceiving the object in front of us. Do you see an hourglass or two faces first?
“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?