Yuri Kuma Arashi and the Effects of Symbolism, Part 6
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you head back to Part 5 and peruse the symbolism from episode seven. Its talk about racism, religion, and remembrance is not only vastly interesting but wholly important for the rest of what the show has to offer.
Today, we’ll be going through just episode eight. This one continues with the idea of racism in a rather strange way, even for Yuri Kuma Arashi’s standards. Beyond that, and as becomes quite apparent, this is an episode dedicated to Yuriika: who she is, where she comes from, and most of all why she is acting the way that she is.
Day six, 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 8 – “Bride-In-The-Box”~
-Literal: Yuriika’s foster father
-Interpretation: “The Man” and racism
-Explanation: Yuriika’s dad appears for approximately two minutes. And he only appears within this episode. So is he really that important in regards to everything going on? Perhaps not so much with respect to the entire anime, but his inclusion certainly has a direct effect on Yuriika and her characterization, as well as coinciding with the established theme of racism.
First, it’s important to look at his overall design. He’s never named, simply being called “Him” by Yuriika in passing. This is very intriguing, simply because he is the only male that exists outside of the human side of things. Despite this, he seems quite feminine: his hair, face, voice, and red high heels paint him more as a “she” rather than a “he.” But before seeing his actual person, what we get is his red umbrella. Besides acting as the symbol for violence and discrimination against sex workers , and also its various connections to religion, in this context, the umbrella represents protection, which are exactly what umbrellas do. And obviously, this is what “He” does with Yuriika and everything else he owns. The redness can have any number of meanings: love, sexuality, leadership, etc.
In the picture above, we get another side to “Him.” He wears a brimmed hat, a suave coat, and carries a nice leather briefcase. And in the distance, a classic, black limousine with door ajar waits for him. All of this signifies a high level of professionalism or importance to his being.
We’ve described “Him,” but what do such details reveal? Of course, his introduction, leaving, and immediate death is what causes Yuriika to develop her abandonment issues. But what he symbolizes is something more intricate: “The Man.” He’s “the man” who raised Yuriika, “the [only] man” in the world of humans; in a sense, he’s “the man” who started a terrible series of events. Colloquially, “The Man” is someone who represents a higher authority, most often the government. Regardless, such a conclusion isn’t farfetched – he runs the school (a government-run building), he seems to hold some amount of power (coat, briefcase, limousine, etc.), and he is intentionally androgynous (making “what” he is rather ambiguous).
And what does he, the character, do? He places his “precious” things in boxes and eventually ignores them. He even calls Yuriika “my most especially precious treasure,” but decides to leave her behind. This is similar to what “The Man” does; oppresses the people it has control over, doesn’t always care for them, and lies in order to satiate those needed. Here, these traits combined, with heavy emphasis on oppression, can be viewed as a form of racism, continuing this newly established theme. As part of the story, though, he loses; Yuriika “sticks it to The Man,” loses trust (love) in everything, and later becomes the principal of the school herself. But due to the events that play out, she falls back on the only teachings she can trust – those of “The Man” – and therefore she, too, partakes in racism. She preys on the girls of the school, oppresses them from the shadows (especially Kureha), and manipulates the situations to fit her rather wicked ways. She holds no love for humans and bears alike; she chooses oppression over unity.
-Literal: A pair of shoes worn by “Him”
-Interpretation: A reference to the iconic footwear from “The Wizard of Oz”
-Explanation: In the previous description, one small detail included was “The Man’s” red high heels. They wouldn’t be terribly interesting, except for what he does with them on a regular basis: clack them together thrice. With such a simple gesture, the shoes go from insignificant to contextually relevant.
The most famous use of red shoes and tapping them together is from The Wizard of Oz. To refresh your memories – or if you have yet to see the classic – Oz is a movie about a young girl who one day loathes the place she comes from. After a yellow brick road, a couple of friends, and a strange wizard, she comes to learn that “there is no place like home.”
The reference is actually performing two tasks at once. One, it demonstrates what Yuriika’s “home” is. Here, it’s not so much a physical building (like the school) but her state of mind. When Yuriika kills “Him” and she is left to her own devices — boxes — color drains from the world. After meeting and befriending Reia, color is regained. But unfortunately it is lost when Kureha “steals” Reia from her. This kind of color framing is exactly the same as within Oz; it starts off “black and white,” becomes colorful, and then goes back to its original colors. This is because Dorothy – like Yuriika – goes “back home.” For Yuriika, this home is the only thing she (believes) she knows, and that is her own loneliness and multitude of boxes.
And two, the allusion is keeping with the previous theme of homosexuality. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz was a character played by renowned actress Judy Garland. Besides being known for her famous role, she is also popularly known to be a gay icon. “Over the Rainbow,” her “camp” style, and personal struggles paint her as an advocate for homosexuals.  Yet, in this context, Dorothy – “Him” – is killed by Yuriika, demonstrating her complete lack of care for others and reinforcing the notion that she values oppression over freedom of expression.
-Literal: Yuriika’s red drawers
-Interpretation: Further characterization of Yuriika
-Explanation: When looking at Yuriika’s file cabinets, their orientation and depiction is quite strange. As such, this should immediately set off flags of them doing more than just acting as containers.
The boxes are obviously red in nature; such coloring holds associations talked about at length beforehand – love, passion, anger, etc. What’s more intriguing than the coloring, though, is the given shape. It’s essentially a triangle that has been inverted. This symbolizes countless ideas at once: females (icon for the genitalia of women), passiveness (Yuriika stalks her prey from the shadows), down (Yuriika has “fallen”), the Holy Trinity (more religious undertones), and balance to obtain wisdom (she places items in boxes to mend her psyche). 
At the same time, the boxes can be seen as an absence of love. During the episode, Yuriika foregoes bear-dom and subsequently “gives up on love.” Once again, this is unique within the realm of all that is going on because Yuriika is the only person/bear shown to give up on love during her trial. She feels that the boxes she owns are the only things that remain constant; they don’t hurt her, they don’t betray her, and they don’t forget her. Boxes have two states: filled and not filled. For Yuriika, when a box is filled she no longer cares for what’s inside and when it isn’t filled she tries to make it full by putting whatever she finds “precious” inside. Yet, no matter what Yuriika does, she still feelsempty, despite filling not only the “box that is herself” but also all of the other boxes she owns. Nothing seems to take up the void within and without her. The only thing that can is the only thing she’s lost, the only truly precious thing: love.
-Literal: Hard evidence of Ginko and Lulu being bears
-Interpretation: Memory focus and story purpose
-Explanation: While watching Yuri Kuma Arashi, there is this strangeness about how those who are humans cannot tell apart each other from the bears unless they physically see them as such. All of the growling, the licking, and the clothes they wear somehow don’t make them out to be the bears that they are. In a sense, this gives off the impression that the bears aren’t so different from the people they hang around; that we are all, more or less, “the same.”
Here, the picture presented to Kureha acts as a kind of memory. For that is what pictures are; a still frame of the past. There are more pictures taken than just this one, too: later on Konomi’s bear status is revealed through pictures as well, Yuriika has one of her own, and Kureha, Reia, and Ginko are shown to have taken a picture together. Such a device ties in with the idea of memories and remembrance; it already has its significance (the flashbacking) and is ultimately what caused the entirety of the events in the first place.
This moment also serves another purpose: to push the narrative forward. The show could have made the revelation of Ginko and Lulu’s bear status this big ordeal or at the minimum some drawn-out scene. But instead, the anime decides to quickly get past such an event by saying, “Here you go. They’re bears.” It’s quick and it’s simple, with its overall goal being to showcase not the actual story but instead the themes that envelop all of it.
-Literal: A “Promise Kiss” between Kureha and Ginko
-Interpretation: An ultimate act of friendship and love
-Explanation: The scene begins with apparent overcast, highlighting the ominous nature of what is about to go down. And when Yuriika turns on the strobe lights, it becomes akin to an intense interrogation, a stand-off between the “good guys” and the criminal. And as the rain begins to pour and the storm rolls in, the only outcome possible is the most tragic of all.
Many people often say “I would do X for Y.” A common phrase that is uttered by people between friends and lovers is something along these lines: “I would take a bullet for you.” Here, that is exactly what Ginko realizes must happen. In order to prove her love for the girl who was “there from the beginning,” she must be willing to take the gunshot that is filled with both love for a dear friend and hate for a criminal. Furthermore, she feels that this is necessary to atone for the “grave crime” she committed against Sumika, the girl who had exactly what she wanted – this of course being Kureha.
List of References for Part 6