Yuri Kuma Arashi
Surely you have seen this title before. Well, at least if you've been following the new series. In my case, I just labelled it as weird due to the synopsis and stayed away from it. Recently, however, I got a chance to get a good look at what I have missed, and... I don't regret a thing. Yes, I have enjoyed it. Half the time I wasn't even sure what I was really watching, but yes, the enjoyment surely was there. Yuri Kuma Arashi, because that's how the anime in question is named, has all of the three things the title promises.
Yuri, or rather shoujo ai, is the main fuel of the series. The true friendship between girls, or rather - love, is the main motif of each action going on in this anime. Tsubaki Kureha, our protagonist, is a student at Arashigaoka Academy. She's in love with Izumino Sumika, but this person isn't as significant to the plot as I initially thought. It's just the feeling of love that was formed between the two that moves the plot forward and away from that same love. Complicated? Yeah. That's exactly what I thought for the most part while watching this show. It's complicated, but rewarding.
Kuma here means literally 'bears'. Are there bears? Yes, there are. Some time before the anime takes place, the asteroid called Kumaria exploded in space, remnants of which fell on Earth, causing all the bears to rise up and start eating humans. After a war between humans and bears, a Wall of Severance has been created to protect the humanity from the ferocious beasts on the other side. Little did the humans know, however, as to who's pulling the strings...
Arashi, the last bit of the title, means 'storm'. In this case, it relates to everything that's going on the screen, because to a certain point the events are a real hurricane that makes no sense and leaves you wondering what happened. The other meaning of the storm is pointed out by the anime itself, which introduces a mechanism called Invisible Storm (toumei no arashi), which is possibly the strongest metaphor in this anime and suggests that it had a hidden meaning. This said organisation is made up of various students, who decide on a person to exclude from their group to protect their safety. It sounds like so many things I'd have trouble keeping the count, so I'll just say that it's a very clever decision to put something like it in the anime. Makes you think, for certain.
Did I ever mention that the people responsible for this anime had an experience with such titles as Revolutionary Girl Utena? No? Well, there you go. Hidden meanings, odd narration, all in place. What if I told you, then, that a very similar story has once been used in an anime, that just coincidentally happens to be a shoujo ai as well? Simoun, because that's the name of it, was a production that didn't really score a success, remaining a hidden gem for those who care to find it. Now, I'm not sure if it matters or it's just a coincidence, but either way, Yuri Kuma Arashi used a good story, a neat way to put it together and a few odd keywords to make it noticed. And it worked.
From a technical aspect, the anime seems to meet the requirements of any shoujo ai title. Male characters are nearly absent, save for a select few (mainly Life Sexy, Life Cool and Life Beauty), which pretty much gives off that subtle vibe of a shoujo ai title. The visuals are rather odd at first glance, but once you go past the overly cute character designs you'll find your teeth deep in a freshly baked donut, with a sweet coating made of an experimental design which makes both Bakemonogatari and Mawaru Penguindrum proud. And that sweet fragrance that the sound aspects give off? Seventh heaven, which welcomes you with a sweetly calm opening tune by Bonjour Suzuki, has you go through the catchy, matching soundtrack, and waves goodbye with the ending 'TERRITORY', that is my personal favorite of a really long time.
Concentrating on the characters, we can clearly see that the main cast consists of three of them, with the rest serving as a background for the events happening. Kureha, the maiden in love, has had her mother taken away by the bears, and hated these creatures ever since. By a number of events, however, her view on the matter changes and some things I'd never think are possible in this realm come to life. Huge point for the creators there, a really satisfying storyline. Lulu, one of the mysterious students, follows Ginko wherever she goes for some reason. Seems vague? Well then, imagine that the same girl has a really good backstory justifying her actions... told as a fairy tale! How cool is that? Ginko, on the other hand, is calm and composed, but strangely fixated on Kureha. Again, I have to admit, they way they revealed facts about her was really good.
Ahh, the spoiler-free reviews, I hate doing them. Really. I feel so bad I failed to express even half of the feelings I felt during the show. But that's how it should be. If you can't tell, I really enjoyed it, and even though I didn't understand most of it during the actual show, the aftereffects were pretty good and kept me thinking for hours as to what possible hidden message the creators might have concealed.