Yuri Kuma Arashi and the Effects of Symbolism, Part 8
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you head back to Part 7 and peruse the symbolism from episode nine. There we received symbolism that showcased Ikuhara’s genius direction while also providing us with a look at love’s often-times sinful ways.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at just episode ten. This episode is surprisingly lacking in grounded symbolism, acting more as setup for the finale that is about to unfurl. At this point, though, it’s finally prudent to take a look at the repetitive nature of the show itself as well as one of the symbols that has been looming over us since the beginning and will continue to do so when all is said and done.
Day eight, 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 10 – “The Door to Friendship”~
-Literal: Konomi is now a robot
-Interpretation: forced labor, otherwise known as slavery
-Explanation: Continuing with the idea of racism, it goes to the extremes in this situation. Konomi – the beaver-looking bear – has been turned into a cyborg and forced to power the machine used to annihilate bears; “Fight fire with fire and bears with bears,” as Oki puts it. But they are literally forcing Konomi to work against her will, enslavingher to a lifetime of servitude for their own purposes. Slavery, as perhaps everyone knows, is considered not just an act of racism but also one of the most deplorable things someone – bear or human – can do to another. The girls of the school think nothing of the way in which they’re acting towards Konomi, signifying how desensitized and menacing they are to someone they feel is beneath them.
-Literal: Kureha saves Lulu
-Interpretation: A nuanced look at repetition
-Explanation: Throughout much of the anime, the same kinds of events have been occurring without end. This episode in particular contains one such event – Reia saved Ginko in the past and Kureha does the same but with Lulu. Repetition can be found in other scenes as well: the Yuri Trial, the Exclusion Ceremony, and Sumika’s losing of her hairpiece come to mind. The most prominent example, however, comes from the dialogue that is said. “We hated you from the beginning…,” “Delicious smell, growl,” and “I’ll ruin bears” are just a small sample of the kinds of things said by the different characters. It almost feels like half of all that is said is just copy and pasted from one episode to the next without much thought. In a way, everything sounds like a broken record.
Hearkening back to the previous talk on flashbacks, here again this kind of repetition can be looked at in a couple of ways. The low-level interpretation relates to uniqueness; where something being unique is important, so is something being done over and over and over. The same scenes happening time and again are there to highlight how their inclusion is meant to be taken as more than just what is initially shown. That is, by feeding us the same scenes and dialogue without end, we are forced to consistently reevaluate what exactly is going on and attribute deeper meaning beyond what is given.
The high-level interpretation actually contrasts with the low-level one: the repetition is designed to be unbearably annoying. In a medium like anime, most people don’t want to see the same thing happen again or hear the same dialogue uttered by the characters. That makes a lot of sense; it can easily get rather boring seeing Ginko growling or hearing Life Sexy ask “Is your love the real thing?” for the one millionth time. But that’s the point. The annoyance at having the exact same things happen without end is because the same ideology can be applied to the themes at large. Going back once more to the discussion about flashbacks, debates on sex, race, love, and religion have been going on for as long as humans can remember. In a way, one can see such arguments as being annoying as well. Why have the same conversations about such subjects when the same outcomes are always had, for as long as we can remember? The answer is simple: because an all-around solution still needs to be found. And that’s why Yuri Kuma Arashi utilizes repetition almost as much as it uses symbolism; to link its thematic focus with these same arguments. But instead ofnot reaching that much needed answer, the anime instead establishes one of its own.
-Literal: A giant wall that separates humans and bears
-Interpretation: The unfinished divider between ourselves
-Explanation: Now that we’ve talked about repetition, have a nice grasp on the themes at play, and are nearing the end of the show, we can finally take a look at the daunting wall that can be seen at all times throughout Yuri Kuma Arashi.
This wall is known as “The Wall of Severance.” Severance is defined as being “a breaking off, as of a friendship.”  This definition fits snuggly within the realm of the show’s rules: the “Door to Friendship” exists at its middle and the themes dealing with said relationships have been known for quite some time now. Thus, the wall is acting as ametaphor for the kind of thinking employed by those unable to deal with others of a different kind. The anime describes the wall as being erected after the “Day of Severance,” where the humans and bears fought one another on the battlefield. So, instead of trying to reconcile with the other side (both sides), a temporary solution was brought forth; this solution being a wall that separates the warring groups. This kind of wall has already been loosely talked about in relation to society: rather than coming to a peaceful conclusion, society often skirts around issues of sexual discrimination and racism without looking to integrate a proper answer. That is, the solutions created thus far have yet to fix the issues at hand. And in a similar fashion, the wall doesn’t fix the tension between the humans and bears, and instead only serves to halt the tension from growing any bigger.
Interestingly, though, the wall doesn’t really keep either side away. Looking at what it has, there is the literal door that connects both sides – not the best idea for wanting to keep two opposites from ever meeting. This door even opens without much effort. In fact, the process by which it opens is never revealed; it seemingly does so when prompted to. In a way, it helps to highlight that the wall’s purpose of being a wall – that such a half-hearted attempt at calming both sides – doesn’t work.
The most important aspect of the wall, though, is in its appearance. First, is what “makes up” its design: nearly-interlocked hexagons that each contains a bear paw. The paw itself is simply there as a reference to who presides over the area; namely, the Life Bears and Lady Kumalia herself. They “exist” in the space between humans and bears – they’re metaphorically found “between” people of opposing viewpoints (those who are homophobic or racist, in the context of Yuri Kuma Arashi). That is, they and the wall represent the ideological rift that exists between those of completely opposing perspectives.
The hexagonal structure is a bit more involved. Hexagons are inherently six-sided in nature, with such a number symbolizing harmony, love, sincerity, and forgiveness.  The number six also holds meaning in regards to unity, communication, and “making love, not war.”  Speaking of nature, the world itself often contains this shape. From bees to snowflakes to natural formations, nature often prefers the hexagon due to its overall efficiency.  The hexagon even has religious associations with older, funeral caskets and the six days of creation of biblical origin.  Therefore, the wall’s design and subsequently the purpose of its existence (the existence of the Life Bears and Lady Kumalia) isn’t there as a potential separator. Rather, they are there doing exactly what they have been throughout the anime – bringing both sides of the conflict together.
Last, but certainly not least, is one other detail about the wall itself. It’s peculiar, but the wall is technically still in construction. It’s in the process of being made, with steel girders and heavy machinery being littered across its entire length. In other words, the wall is unfinished. Since we know that the wall represents our own “walls” we put up between people who are different than us, this development can be looked at in one of two ways. One, that the “solution” to solve the issue of discrimination is still ongoing. And two, and the more profound option, that we as a people still have the opportunity to stop this wall from being constructed. We don’t have to keep building such divisions; we don’t have to continue constructing something that only serves to prevent us from understanding one another.
And with all of the symbolism of generating an answer to the problem at hand, the talk of natural forgiveness and unification, and the thinking that we can tear down the walls that divide us, “The Wall of Severance’s” message becomes wholly apparent: the answer to such discrimination – be it homophobia, racism, or any other form of prejudice – is to understand, respect, and simply love one another for who we are.
List of References for Part 8