Yuri Kuma Arashi and the Effects of Symbolism, Part 4
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you head back to Part 3 and peruse the symbols from episodes four and five. The former gives you a lot in regards to Lulu’s characterization and development while the latter does the same but for Ginko and Kureha. They’re important episodes – realistically, they all are – that help to let us, the audience, understand where the main players are coming from. So it’s vital that such motivations are understood before moving forward.
Today, we’ll be going only through episode six. This is one of the, if not the, strongest episode(s) in the series in terms of its symbolism, character development, narrative, direction, and overall execution. If you only read one part of my essay, I would be inclined to have you read this one; that is how masterfully done it is.
Day four, 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 6 – “The Moon Girl and the Forest Girl”~
-Literal: Reia’s children’s book about a girl and a bear
-Interpretation: Allegorical tale of the events taking place
-Explanation: This is an incredibly strong and complex device, due to its relevancy, the symbolism it uses, and its connections throughout the entire anime.
It’s used to foreshadow past and future happenings in regards to: Yuriika and Reia, and Ginko and Kureha, respectively; it maintains parallelism in regards to the world the anime takes place in; it helps to explain and reinforce the idea that the only thing stopping love from occurring is “you”; it places Kumalia as the “divider” of the world and as its all-knowing, otherworldly being – aka, God; it demonstrates the uniqueness of the separate sides, their figurative “distance,” yet just how similar and close they truly are; it relates back to the Promise Kisses as “shooting stars” in the sky, and how they’re used to make that ultimate connection; and that the crossing of this wall can be viewed as sinful – more religious undertones.
But the genius of the symbol doesn’t end here. For it contains symbols that hearken back to the established themes of homosexuality, love, and religion.
First is the mirror. As has already been described, the mirror is serving as the self. Going further, the mirror allows forself-reflection, or the ability to look at one’s own purpose or inner-thinking. But it also holds other connotations: the mirror is a symbol of the Roman goddess Venus (the goddess of love and sex) and holds Christian associations to the Virgin Mary (as being a “mirror” to see that which is impure of oneself). 
Second is the forest. The initial reaction is its use within fairy tales, of which it finds itself here. Delving deeper both into the forest imagery and connections, it is also known as being “at all levels with the symbolism of the female principle or of the Great Mother,” which in turn is “opposed to the sun’s power and as a symbol of the earth,” (goes against the Heavens), making the forest also represent “the unconsciousness in Man.” 
Third is the moon. Holding a plethora of symbolic meaning unrelated to Yuri Kuma Arashi, some more relevant and important are: it acting as a “mirror” to the sun’s (God’s) light , its own connections to femininity, its various forms and changes, and its position as the link between the conscious and unconscious. 
Fourth, and finally, is the ladder. Ladders have long been used as objects of spirituality, with associations of connecting the Earth and the Heavens. Furthermore, they provide both the ability to ascend and descend, and in terms of the religious story of Jacob’s Ladder, the ladder helps to lead one along the whole path of consciousness. In other words, it symbolizes the “union of masculine and feminine principles as the central meaning of initiation.” 
With all of this talk of mirrors, forests, moons, ladders, femininity, and religion surrounding “The Moon Girl and The Forest Girl,” looking at it all in its entirety: what does it all mean?
It’s saying the following: that homosexuality is not a sin. Both characters, besides literally being girls, represent females in their entirety. Kumalia – or God – at first denies them from seeing one another, naming such severance a “grave sin.” However, after contemplation, they are permitted to use ladders to get nearby their counterpart – they are unifying the unconscious “Man” (forest) and the conscious “Woman” (moon); it’s a natural combination. Upon viewing the mirror of love, they are looking not only at their physical selves, not only their inner selves, but at each other, to reflect on what they each will do. The wall is preventing them from being together, but Kumalia gives them an out; do whatever it takes, even sacrificing “yourself,” and such genuine, real love will be granted. In short, even God allows two people of the same gender to be together.
-Literal: Harishima sleeps with another woman
-Interpretation: The hypocritical nature of society
-Explanation: This small scene firmly declares Harishima’s treachery and provides us with another, more cunning adversary. By not showing the face of the newcomer, blanketing the room in fog, and using the drapes and sheets to obscure vision, everything feels rather hazy and mysterious.
But, like most things in the show, it’s more than that. What it does is highlight the ridiculous hypocrisy of not just Harishima, but all of the girls. By performing such acts herself, but chastising and tormenting Kureha for doing the same, she shows how hypocritical people can be. And it doesn’t matter with what venue. Be it homosexuality, drug-use, or other “sinful” behavior, not permitting someone to partake in something despite doing it yourself is beyond contradictory; it’s stupid.
-Literal: The girls of Kureha’s class gang up on her
-Interpretation: How psychotic such directed hate looks
-Explanation: The striking visuals this scene symbolizes are once again grand in scope.
When first looking at the image, without any pretext, it is rather peculiar. Each girl is holding a single candlestick, smiling happily at whatever lies before them. After understanding the situation, though, it doesn’t become more clear but rather more crazy.
This symbol is called a “ritual” for a reason. The girls are chanting in unison, they’re congratulating Kureha’s demise, and they have congregated around her like piranhas feasting on a meal. By no stretch of the imagination, it all seems like a cult, as if they are offering up Kureha to obtain some higher purpose. The use of the candles further accentuates their shadowy behavior.
And that’s important; the candles are what make the scene. Not only do they hold meaning as birthday candles for Kureha’s celebration (and if we go into conspiracy territory, there are seventeen girls, not counting Ginko, Lulu, and Kureha, left in the class; Kureha turned seventeen on this day, with her candle, should she had held one, being the “one for good luck,” and since she doesn’t have one, her luck turns sour), not only do they represent life and humanity , but they also have always been associated with Christianity and Christ, being used in “all Church services.” 
Once again, religion plays a profound part. By combining the girls’ ridiculous actions and the candles’ symbolism for religious undertakings, what the “party” represents is the idea that the beliefs the class holds towards Kureha are evil, malicious, or unjust. The scene is designed to be unsettling and overzealous, because such societal movements are, too. Because remember why they are doing this; Kureha has deep love for Sumika, or taboo feelings for another girl. So what we see is yet another statement on religious doctrines: that such religiously ingrained hatred towards homosexuals is both insane and wrong.
-Literal: A multitude of different symbols
-Interpretation: An extraordinary use of symbolism
-Explanation: To put the “icing on the cake,” if you will, what this episode presents is a storied example of all that symbolism offers.
We know what symbols are – things that mean something but hold an underlying meaning. And we’ve learned that context truly matters. So what happens throughout the entire episode is a fascinating technique: altering the symbols’ hidden meaning depending on the context.
This has already been seen just prior with the candles; they’re at first symbolic of a momentous occasion but then become symbolic of religious affiliations. This can be extended everywhere. Going back further, the picture book holds different meanings depending on its applications to the different characters and events – homosexuality and racism, to be specific. The fire that engulfs the flowers is first a device that represents anger, hate, and spite towards Kureha but later becomes representative of Ginko’s love, passion, and drive to protect her. In the above image, Sumika’s letter is initially a device used to crush and destroy Kureha while simultaneously painting Sumika as traitorous. But when the variables change, it comes to be what heals and mends Kureha, and instead shows Sumika to be a savior, someone who “doesn’t back down on love”; it’s her “Promise Kiss” and “sacrifice” of herself, enveloped into one entity. And Harishima embodies this direction as well: she symbolizes friendliness but eventually betrayal, once the contextshifts.
All of this double-symbolism is happening on Kureha’s birthday. But that, too, changes meaning. It’s normally a day used to celebrate the continuation of one’s life. Yet, once the dust settles and the party is over, it becomes not a day of birth but a day of rebirth. After this confrontation, Kureha’s state of mind moves from only worrying and caring about Sumika to opening herself, however slightly, to the possibility that there is more to love and loving than she has always thought.
And to bring it all into perspective, this is the sixth episode in a twelve episode series. In other words, it’s the halfway marker, the turning point, the separator within the story. That is, like the duality of the symbols presented here, this episode upholds two different sides. These two sides being: sexual discrimination and racism.
List of References for Part 4