Yuri Kuma Arashi and the Effects of Symbolism, Part 3
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you head back to Part 2 and peruse the symbols from the first three episodes. They form the “basis” for what is going on within the anime and act as the world building for everything that is to come.
Today, we’ll be going through just episodes four and five. Episode four follows Lulu, now one of my favorite characters in the medium. She’s arguably the strongest the show has to offer, and her backstory not only helps to develop her person but also provides us with our first true look at what love is and what such a feeling really means.
Episode five follows Ginko’s failed attempts at getting Kureha to notice her. Here, the symbolism works at making such an idea known while simultaneously characterizing both Ginko and Kureha in the process. Once again, there is a lot to get through, but I hope that something within manages to be enlightening!
Day three, let’s go.
Yuri Kuma Arashi’s Thematic Presence
As a reminder, here are Yuri Kuma Arashi’s own themes, or what the symbols are being used for:
-Sociopolitical commentary on the perceptions of prejudice, specifically sexual discrimination and racism
-Telling a complex yet richly unique love story
-Challenging religious connotations associated with preconceived beliefs
~EPISODE 4 – “I Can’t Get a Kiss”~
-Literal: A bee flies around Lulu
-Interpretation: Manifestation of her standoffish attitude, caused by her loneliness
-Explanation: Princess Lulu, like her name implies, is royalty. She has parents, doting servants, and the whole kingdom watching her. But despite all of this, she feels empty, pushing everything away. Her parents are never near, the servants’ compliments mean nothing if they can’t see her , and the other citizens and their gifts never bring about satisfaction. Her whole life, she was never truly given anything she desired. And so this constant repetition, of not receiving what she’s always wanted, causes her to become numb – like reactions to bee stings can cause  – to any advances, even to those things that she craves the most.
And this, of course, is Prince Mirun’s Promise Kiss. No matter how many times he tries to give it to her, she literally throws it away, telling him and it to “bug off” – more insect references. But after his death and subsequently getting back everything he had “stolen” from her, she has that same emptiness, that same bee, within and around her. She still desires something, but she doesn’t know what. It’s not until Ginko gives the Promise Kiss that was thrown away back to the lonely princess that she realizes a lesson that is always too little, too late: “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Only then, when she posthumously accepts the Promise Kiss, does that bee finally decide to leave her be.
-Literal: Lulu’s younger brother, Mirun
-Interpretation: Love transcends all
-Explanation: Prince Mirun came into this world seemingly from the cosmos, and his appearance and actions paint him as a completely nice kid. Children themselves symbolize innocence, kindness, and goodness, all of which he exudes. From the outset, he appears to represent just the love that Lulu needs; the box he is always placed in is tagged as “Love” and his constant adoration towards his older sister demonstrates his feelings. But in contrast to his size, his purpose is much bigger. What we witness happening to him is not only absolutely hilarious due to its severity and craziness but also rather philosophical. Keeping in mind that he is love incarnate, he is: flung from a cliff into a dense forest, drowned in quicksand while being eaten by a monster, and melted in an erupting volcano. But it has no affect; he always comes back to Lulu.
Even following his death, even after years and years of being away, he “makes it back” to his big sister. It doesn’t matter how, as that is never shown. No, what one is supposed to take away from this is that love is outside the rules of time and space. That is, love finds a way.
-Literal: A “shooting star”
-Interpretation: The penultimate act of love between two individuals
-Explanation: This is one of the most important symbols within Yuri Kuma Arashi in regards to love, what it is, and what it truly means.
They’re described rather nonchalantly in a conversation between Lulu and Mirun. They exist as stars that have fallen from the sky, taking on a form of color and love. As Mirun somewhat states, they’re like an entity taken from a picture book, with their very fairy-tale-esque nature. Even Lulu remarks, “Ha! Love turning into a kiss? What a stupid idea. Such a turn-off, growl.” In essence, they’re heavenly bodies that descend from above to bring love and happiness to those that need it. They are not revered, but at the minimum they are an “otherworldly” and mysterious object that is constantly sought after.
What’s interesting is that a Promise Kiss isn’t just a “shooting star.” Mirun’s is a jar of honey, Ginko’s is a bullet, and Yuriika’s is the star pendant. In other words, it doesn’t matter what it is, because it isn’t so much the object that matters, but the feelings of love that they represent. The idea is that giving it to someone will reciprocate those same feelings stored within. It being a “kiss” or not is only relevant in terms of what that symbolizes: an act of love. In the end, “love is what you make of it.”
And just as the form of the Promise Kiss doesn’t matter, neither does the parties involved. It can be between two best friends (Yuriika and Reia), two lovers (Ginko and Kureha), or two siblings (Lulu and Mirun). As was already demonstrated, love takes on many different forms. So, with various modes of transportation come various destinations. Meaning, age, race, and sex are irrelevant when it comes to love. It’s something that should be shared, regardless of one’s background. From the lonely princess to the broken-hearted, bear-hating girl, everyone deserves a Promise Kiss; everyone deserves love.
-Literal: Mirun sadly passes away in an accident
-Interpretation: Love’s only weakness
-Explanation: Mirun’s death comes somewhat as a surprise to the audience. After all of the Earthly trauma and all of the untold countless times he was sent away to die, he is done in by…a bee sting. The unseeing servant describes the event as an “accident,” but as we, she, and Lulu know, that isn’t the case.
Directly, Mirun dies to most likely an allergic reaction. Indirectly, though, he is killed by Lulu. Her constant tossing of Mirun’s Promise Kiss forced him time and again to (successfully) find it, until it led him to his doom. If she would have just held onto it, his death would have been avoided. In this way, the “bee” he succumbs to is technically real, but in reality, it was Lulu’s all along.
But his death means more than just Lulu being his “killer.” Hearkening back to what Mirun symbolizes, we know that he represents love. While his resurrection showcases love’s ability to transcend death, we now understand, with that and this symbol here, that love can only be defeated by one thing: yourself. The only thing stopping or denying love from occurring is you.
-Literal: A toolbox used to fix the window Ginko and Lulu broke
-Interpretation: The relationship status between them and Kureha
-Explanation: In a medium like anime, “every shot counts.” In this episode, the camera places focus on Ginko working on the broken window from the previous episode but also the toolbox used to fix it, as shown above. The question, then, is, “Why?” The anime doesn’t have to have such directed scenes, but it chooses to. The reason is simple:because it is important.
The window was broken by Ginko and Lulu after they front-flipped through it when confronted by Mitsuko previously. It’s then fixed by Ginko while Lulu attempts to give her special honey porridge to Kureha, in order to establish them all as friends. Therefore, the window represents their current relational status.
The broken window is metaphorical of their broken relationship; like them front-flipping through it, it was caused by “outside circumstances.” In this case, Kureha not willing to be friends with anyone, given what happened to Sumika. After protecting her from Mitsuko, Ginko fixes the window, or mends their relationship, however slight it might be.
But windows also serve two purposes: they keep things out but also let things in. Here, Kureha is obviously keeping others from getting close to her; Ginko and Lulu want to be her friends and are ready to make that commitment. But it’s Kureha’s house and therefore Kureha’s window, meaning only she has the power to open it.
~EPISODE 5 – “I Want to Have You All to Myself”~
-Literal: a magazine about bears, girls, and love
-Interpretation: Ginko’s inability to comprehend Kureha’s current feelings
-Explanation: As is talked about at length here, and which is corroborated by previous evidence, Ginko’s actions have been performed to save Kureha. But despite their rather admirable performance, Kureha is still standoffish, completely shutting herself out from anyone, humans and bears alike. And so what we see throughout the episode is the opposite outcomes that have been occurring as of late. Namely, Ginko and Lulu still cannot connect with Kureha. Their “neighbor noodles” are pointless; tailing to or watching her at school is creating distance, not closeness; and obviously the hints and tips they got from their “love source” were doomed to fail, since such advice is not truthful or sincere. Their motives are kind and filled with love, but they’re not quite what are needed to get through to Kureha on an emotional level.
-Literal: a kitchen meeting
-Interpretation: The “boiling over” of the situation
-Explanation: This entire scene is actually a lot more complicated and involved than it is initially perceived as being.
The water in the pot is the first, obvious symbol being used. It perfectly captures the atmosphere: it’s playful and fun but when Kureha arrives, it becomes tumultuous and filled with anger. The angle and arrangement of the shot helps to visualize this as well. Kureha is standing in the open doorway, with the door swung towards Ginko and Lulu in an “offensive” manner. Her side is barren of items, signifying her loneliness. This is further backed by the darkened hallway. And her attire matches her attitude; she is in her full school gown, with hat, tie, and briefcase in tow. She is dead serious, both in her way of talking and in her conviction.
Ginko and Lulu are the opposite. They are standing in a well-lit room, filled to the brim with food, utensils, and other objects. It’s lively, with their fun and skimpy maid uniforms matching the rather carefree feelings they are expressing in that moment.
But where it gets quite interesting is when investigating the food being used throughout.
During the dream sequence, Kureha feeds three different pieces of food to Ginko: a cherry tomato, some flan, and a huge salmon. In older, European times, the tomato was actually known as the “love apple” and therefore considered a kind of aphrodisiac. It was even used alongside cannibalistic endeavors ; quite relevant, considering the bears/girls/humans eat humans. The flan is described as being “creamy” and “honey.” It’s enticing, acting as a super sweet dessert. And it has previous connections with the other already-established uses of honey – for friendship, in sexual acts, etc. As for the salmon, it can actually be looked at as a double entendre. The first side makes it look as something that bears have in their natural diets. However, given the sexual nature of the anime, the “lightly salted”fish can be a subtle way of having Kureha offer herself, or more specifically, her genitalia. 
Finally, there is Kureha’s “love flavor,” or shiokara spaghetti. Again, the obvious symbolic meaning is her refusal to eat it meaning her refusal of Ginko’s love. But looking at the food itself helps to characterize Kureha further. Spaghetti is a common meal served or had between couples; Lady and the Tramp’s iconic scene demonstrates the romantic nature of such food.  But the other part to the meal, the shiokara, means the most. It is known as an “acquired taste even for the native Japanese palate.”  Taking into account the context once more, “acquired taste” here can be applied to Kureha’s homosexual feelings that she has been known to have.
Collectively, everything eaten is literal and figurative “food for thought.”
-Literal: Ginko’s sexual fantasies
-Interpretation: Characterization of Ginko’s more instinctual desires
-Explanation: During this episode, there are exactly three instances where Ginko has fantasies involving Kureha in some kind of loving, caring, or sexual fashion. In the morning, Ginko daydreams that Kureha licks her face; before dinner, she imagines that Kureha feeds her food in a lovey-dovey way; and while taking a bath, Kureha rubs all the right “spots.” Just as there are three fantasies, so there are three purposes to them.
The first reason is purely fan-service. We get to see the girls be friendly with one another, in sexy clothes, and be naked together. Second, is for the humor. The scenes are not only implausible given the situation but also serve to make everything more light-hearted to contrast further with Kureha’s more stern self. And third, the most important purpose of all, is to quickly and easily visualize both Ginko’s true wants and, just like their given nature, how silly she is for believing that she can have these moments at this point in time.
-Literal: Ginko gets caught in a bear trap
-Interpretation: Ginko traps herself
-Explanation: This scene, and subsequently the symbol here, is the climax of the episode. It’s a culmination of everything that has been discussed thus far: Ginko’s inability to understand Kureha, going about connecting to her in the wrong way, and having out-of-place delusions. Furthermore, just minutes before, the Severance Court warns her of her apparent arrogance. All of these missteps lead to her getting trapped. The trap itself is not only one that is used for bears but it takes the shape of a heart, clearly signifying that Ginko’s current selfish behavior is working against her.
List of References for Part 3