Yuri Kuma Arashi and the Effects of Symbolism, Part 9
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you head back to Part 8 and peruse the symbolism from episode ten. There we received symbolism that made it easier to understand not only the constant repetition employed by the show but also what the Wall of Severance means to everyone both inside and outside of their world.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at just episode eleven. As we approach the conclusion of Yuri Kuma Arashi, the anime begins to wrap everything up by providing us with some final insights in regards to the themes it has been utilizing all this time. We see some talk on exclusion’s childishness, what we can believe in, and how sometimes we never seem to care enough about the people around us.
Day nine, 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 11 – “What We Hope For”~
-Literal: Kureha is physically abused for her relationship with Ginko
-Interpretation: Frightening representation of group mentality and hatred
-Explanation: After befriending Ginko for a good amount of time, Kureha is confronted by a few girls who accuse her of being weird for hanging out with a bear. Afterwards, the children begin to chant and clap in unison, all while harming Kureha in the process.
This scene is rather reminiscent of the ritual performed on Kureha’s birthday, where the young women gathered round her person and mentally broke her. Here, though, the scene is filled with a lot more horror: the music becomes grating, Kureha can be heard screaming, and the black silhouettes with red background paint the situation as rather scary. Even considering everything that has happened thus far, it’s apparent that such an act is insane. Their unfettered hatred is in some ways a hyperbole in regards to those who stick up for others who are looked down upon. And in some ways it is not. Society often sees various levels of abuse with relation to discrimination, and such gross advances against someone like Kureha are not entirely implausible.
But there is another reason why the scene generates such an unsettling vibe: because the people involved are children. As has already been discussed before, children often symbolize kindness and innocence, yet ignorance – an important connection given the overall themes. In this circumstance, they all completely forego the former, embrace the latter, and attack the defenseless little girl out of anger. The group, though, is representative of society; therefore, what is given is the following message: such unreasonable hatred towards another is not just crazy but extremely childish.
-Literal: Ginko kills multiple students
-Interpretation: Desire’s wickedness
-Explanation: A few episodes ago, Ginko succumbed to desire, having the love she has for Kureha begun to be clouded. While she tries to fight off Mitsuko’s sly ways, she cannot, wanting nothing more now than to eat Kureha. And to that end, Ginko goes on a literal killing spree, taking out any human attempting to thwart her off the path she is running down.
This is basic reconfirmation of desire’s sinful ways. Ginko, despite the entire time looking to love and be loved by Kureha, has her thinking gone askew due to desire alone, demonstrating its ability to influence someone of even the strongest of convictions. Beyond her mental weakening, Ginko goes about murdering various female classmates, which is essentially no different than those same girls shooting at Ginko – both have intent to kill. The human girls are likewise feeling such a desire, one to rid themselves of the bear that is seemingly causing all of them their unending trouble.
Before, Ginko (with Lulu’s help) would kill girls only when they were threatening the love of her life – Kureha. Now she doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. Desire has blinded her to what truly matters, and that is the love she shares towards the girl who has “hated her from the beginning and loved her from the beginning.”
-Literal: Oki rips up “The Moon Girl and the Forest Girl”
-Interpretation: Love is something we can unanimously believe in
-Explanation: Kureha has been taken hostage by Oki and the girls, to be used as bait for the bear that is terrorizing them all. And in an act of what can only be described as pure evil, Oki rips up Reia’s only copy of the “Moon Girl and the Forest Girl.”
There are quite a few things going on at once within this symbolic scene. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is Oki’s talk of God not existing – her destruction of the picture book helps to make this as clear as possible if her words didn’t already. Up until now, we weren’t sure whether or not the humans believed in anything. During the “Day of Severance,” where they fought against the bears, their motivations weren’t as clear as those of their adversary – the bears were religiously motivated to do the things they did. But here, we’re given the notion that the humans don’t think anything of gods or the heavens, believing only in the “invisible atmosphere,” as Oki puts it.
This development is rather interesting, considering all of the religious undertones that the human side has dabbled in thus far. We’ve heard them learning about the First Crusades and have seen them participating in ritualistic yet religiously-based behavior on Kureha’s birthday. So while they may not follow any higher being, they are still going about doing these rather heinous crimes. Meaning, it doesn’t particularly matter what creed or faith one follows, for we are all capable of performing the same types of atrocities towards each other.
This goes hand-in-hand with Oki’s conversation. While the girls may not follow God, Kumalia, or any other divine presence, what they believe in is each other. Or in other words, the girls believe in the notion of free will. They have their own ideas of how things ought to be, going about their actions based on their own form of morality or understanding. What they choose to “follow”, then, is the Invisible Storm, the group mentality thinking that anything different from them must be evil. In essence, they follow what is “invisible”; that is, nothing. From what has been presented, this kind of thinking is evidently evil itself. And at the same time, it diametrically opposes the bears’ faith; the bears are religiously indoctrinated from birth. In other words, absolute abstinence from belief isn’t right nor is absolute religious devotion.
And that’s where Lady Kumalia comes in. Lady Kumalia – or at the minimum, her home and servants – reside at the “Wall of Severance.” The wall is conveniently placed at the divide between the two sides. In this context, they represent the balance that is needed to be obtained between both groups in the aforementioned thinking. Furthermore, we know that Lady Kumalia actually exists – her appearance within the final episode proves this without a doubt. More striking than her actually showing up is “who” she is: Sumika, who, as talked about briefly before, represents pure love. Then we need to ask ourselves: what is the balance? What is it that does need to be believed in? The answer has constantly been given to us within a recurring phrase: “As long as you don’t forget love, you’ll never be alone. If you don’t give up on love, even if you lose something, you’ll never be invisible.”
In other words, what we all can agree on is love. Love is this insanely complex emotion; but when applied to others, between others, and for others, it becomes this kind of natural language that anyone can understand. We’re not supposed to simply do as others do because that’s “normal” and likewise we’re not supposed to be programmed to follow something without reasoning. Instead, we’re supposed to love one another. Love the family you have, the friends you meet, and the strangers you pass, because love, above anything else, is something that we can all believe in.
-Literal: Ginko smashes her side of the mirror
-Interpretation: Love’s triumph over low sin
-Explanation: While walking up the spiral staircase, Ginko has an “inner monologue” where she confronts Mitsuko and subsequently leaves her behind in order to answer Kureha’s call.
In common Yuri Kuma Arashi fashion, this whole scene is packing quite a bit of punch. Perhaps the most obvious of the developments is Ginko’s ascension. Having fought through a forest both of trees and of women, she climbs both a literal and figurative landscape at the same time. The real is obviously to reach Kureha and attempt to have her feelings finally reciprocated. The imaginative is Ginko absolving from the sin that has plagued her. Mitsuko, as discussed, represents desire – a “low” form of sin that is inherent in the other, cardinal sins. She tries to persuade Ginko, but to no avail; Ginko realizes that true love prevails over anything else.
At the same time, the scene is playing out exactly as “The Moon Girl and The Forest Girl” depicts: Ginko wades through a forest, climbs up to the proverbial mirror, and destroys “herself” to attain enlightenment. The destruction of the mirror – of the self – is Ginko foregoing desire. Mitsuko states that, “Beasts who lose their desire die,” and in the context of Yuri Kuma Arashi, that line is both apt and ironic at the same time.
In a sense, she’s right; bears, like nearly all animals, base their decisions on instinct. So what is a bear without their natural, genetic instinct? Not a very good animal, for starters. But here, that puts her one step closer to being human. It’s true that humans also have desire as well – we are animals, after all. Yet what separates our species from “the rest of the pack” is the ability to reason. And that’s exactly what Ginko does; she reasons that true love, not desire, is the thing in her life that pushes her, guides her, down (and up) the right path. The irony to Mitsuko’s statement is that it’s also not true; Mitsuko, desire incarnate, is dead. As is every other bear: Konomi, Yuriika, and soon-to-be Lulu. Each desired something of their own – Kureha, Mitsuko, Reia, and Ginko, respectively – with each bear never having gotten what they truly desired. In other words, while desire does indeed make one bestial it also causes irreversible ruination.
Finally, due to the mirror being what it is, this scene mirrors that of Ginko’s from when she was a child. Now, instead of Kureha saving a lonely Ginko, it is Ginko saving a helpless Kureha. The former happened on a grounded, cold, death-filled battlefield. The latter happens on a high-up, calm, barren rooftop. And where Ginko’s situation was done voluntarily, Kureha’s is done against her will, which interestingly contrasts with the philosophy of the people who put them there – the brainwashing bears of the church and the free-spirited girls of the school.
-Literal: Lulu passes away
-Interpretation: Repentance of sin and uncaring of death
-Explanation: Perhaps for the first time, Lulu actually does something “clever.” Coming back over the wall after being saved by Kureha, Lulu jumps in front of the shot by Oki that was meant for Ginko, losing her life but saving Ginko’s in the process.
This is quite the interesting scenario for two reasons: in regards to what happens and in regards to how it is depicted. Lulu’s actions this time aren’t contradictory like they were previously; ratting out the woman she loves doesn’t send that kind of message. But in a way, it did. Jealousy, the kind that Ginko felt towards Sumika, consumed her, almost forcing her to do what she did to stop Kureha from taking the only girl that seemed to understand who she was. As we’ve learned from Yuri Kuma Arashi, love is this intricate emotion that is not always wholly good or wholly evil. Lulu’s actions on the rooftop during Ginko’s initial confrontation were done out of love but based on sin. Therefore, this time, rather than “giving” Ginko a love bullet she receives it instead. This way, she not only repents for the sin she committed prior but also protects the girl she holds most dear in her heart, giving Ginko the opportunity to have both her own and Ginko’s love come true.
But what’s captivating about this entire sequence isn’t just Lulu making her noble sacrifice. The scene begins with Lulu getting shot, Ginko running over, and Lulu apologizing to Kureha for seeing through Kureha’s lie. It then transitions into a somber yet peaceful environment: a purple background, white falling petals, and serene music fill the screen. It’s quite the beautiful moment that hits its crescendo with Lulu’s ever-cheerful smile (as depicted above)…but then the music cuts, it comes back to reality, and all that’s there is her tiny, deceased, bear body.
As with all things within the anime, it becomes prudent to ask why the show chooses to frame the scene in this way. The huge juxtaposition, from endearingly serious to strangely comical, gives it this weird vibe that is somewhat unsettling. Of all the characters to have this done to, it seems almost harsh to place it on Lulu; her affable personality and contagious happiness makes it seem rude to treat her wonderful moment rather offhandedly. But just like her previous actions, there is some sense to doing it in this way. Everyone has their own lives to live: we get up, tend to our responsibilities, have some fun, go to bed, and do it all again. Truthfully – and this applies to you, me, and everyone else – we as people aren’t constantly thinking about everyone around us. Sure, we may be concerned about something we see in passing or worry about someone when reading an article, but we aren’t always wondering how a random person halfway across the globe is feeling let alone our next-door neighbor.
This isn’t necessarily “wrong” to do; everyone has their own problems that they deal with on a daily basis, so suchhuge amounts of empathy aren’t always the first things on our mind. Contextually, Yuri Kuma Arashi’s depiction of Lulu’s death follows this same kind of thinking. That is, her death is “just one more.” On a personal, individual scale, it’s this amazing instance of love and compassion between Lulu and Ginko; as all deaths are for those that hold a connection with the person affected. But when the curtain is pulled back, and the whole picture is given, her death is sadly not perceived as “special” despite it being so. And given all of the talk of prejudice up to this point, societylikewise sees it as such. That is, while we know that such atrocities exist – be it here with Lulu or elsewhere – sometimes we don’t care enough for what happens to people who are subject to such prejudice. But hopefully, like Lulu, we, too, can have a literal change of heart, correct our mistakes, and begin to do what is right.
List of References for Part 9