Yuri Kuma Arashi and the Effects of Symbolism, Part 10
If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you head back to Part 9 and peruse the symbolism from episode eleven. There we received symbolism that had us look at abuse, beliefs, and even death itself.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at the last episode, episode twelve. In the finale of the series, Yuri Kuma Arashi not only ends its own story but solidifies the themes it has been working with the entire time. Prejudice is defeated, love wins because of us, and a final, simple message sends us away thinking that there is still hope for tomorrow. Alongside episodes six and nine, this one stands as one of the best.
Day ten, 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 12 – “Yuri Kuma Arashi”~
-Literal: Kureha gives up her memories of Ginko
-Interpretation: Pride’s place
-Explanation: After everything that’s gone down, after all of the death, all of the lost love, and all of the problems that had to be overcome to get to this point in time, the show gives us one final twist. This twist being that it was Kurehathat caused all of these events from the beginning. After being beaten for her relationship with Ginko when she was younger, she undergoes a Yuri Trial to “save” Ginko by making her human. The price: the dear memories she had of her best bear friend.
While this near-final plot point is incredibly intriguing, what’s even more interesting are the conversations that are had during these moments and the subsequent decision made my Kureha. Kureha’s wish back then was accused of being overly prideful. But to the little Kureha, she simply responds, “’Pride?’ What’s that?” This makes complete sense: she’s literally just a kid wanting to have her (seemingly) innocent wish granted. She is ignorant of the world around her, thinking that her “selfish love,” as her older self eventually calls it, is justified by what she wants to have happen.
But like the “exclusion” done to her just minutes before this scene chronologically, it’s the mindset of a child. In other words, the sin of pride is being equated to that of a child’s antics. In this context, Kureha wants Ginko to become human because, “Ginko will be happier as a human anyway!” Her believing essentially that humans are better than bears is mired in pride, mired in sin, and Kureha fully admits to this in what is best described as a confession.
-Literal: A judgment call done by bears
-Interpretation: Love brings balance and subsequently togetherness
-Explanation: Three bears – Life Sexy, Life Cool, and Life Beauty – preside over the “Yuri Court,” each reigning over the proceedings to provide a final verdict and possibly “Yuri Approved.”
It can’t get much wackier than that, right? And that’s the first clue as to this rather ridiculous idea: it’s not supposed to make sense. Following Occam’s Razor – which is kind of ironic, given everything that is Yuri Kuma Arashi – looking at all of the different theories behind it, simply take the simplest one.  It’s supposed to be absurd, it’s supposed to be crazy; even with everything going on, with the bears, the apparent lesbianism, and a high school girl brandishing a rifle, you, me, and everyone else still went “Huh?!” whenever this occurred.
However, don’t take “not making sense” to mean “having no purpose,” for it most certainly is purposeful. For this symbol, it’s best to break it down into its component parts. The court is run by what appear to be arbiters of Lady Kumalia – the “Life Bears,” as they are known. But they’re given rather strange names: “Life Sexy,” “Life Cool,” and “Life Beauty.” As has been talked about at length, the court is associated with the Wall of Severance, or the dividebetween the conflicting sides. In a way, like the bears, we often see life in this divided manner. Something might be good or bad; strong or weak; right or wrong. We most often categorize sections of our life this way because it’s easy to do. The Life Bears follow this same idea: something is either sexy or unattractive, cool or lame, beautiful or ugly. But they’re in the middle, meaning – like the anime has been aiming for – some kind of compromise needs to be found instead. Because we can’t always agree on something being sexy, cool, or beautiful. That is, there are times when it’s necessary to come to an agreement.
This makes sense, considering what they are. Besides being bears, their existence is one of law. They call themselves a court; courtrooms are symbolic of meting out justice to those involved with the process. And they’re described, and describe themselves, as such. Life Sexy is the presiding judge, Life Cool is the prosecutor, and Life Beauty is the defense council, with all three looking to weigh the “scales of justice” as impartially as possible. While it happens much later, they do, indeed, question both sides; it’s normally the bears that are the subject of their conversations but Kureha’s judgment helps to show that they cater to the humans and bears equally.
We’ve discussed their place at the Wall at certain points, and technically speaking, they do “exist” there. But in reality, they actually exist in two states at once: everywhere and nowhere. This paradoxical representation actually fits quite nicely with who they are: holy messengers who follow Lady Kumalia’s guidance. How do they exist everywhere? The near-end of the anime provides this answer. Upon Lady Kumalia’s summon, the Life Bears, noticing her return, shoot off into space, become stars, and converge into a single point. But it’s not just themselves that are coming together; the scene depicts hundreds and hundreds of stars – hundreds of different Life Bears – forming one entity. In other words, they’re located all across the globe. This development also has another implication: that the same problems here within Yuri Kuma Arashi are happening everywhere as well.
How do they exist nowhere? Where the former is determined near the end, the latter is determined near the beginning. For many of the judgments, they sort of just “happen,” with whatever comes next having no environmental relation to the current situation. For example, at one point, Kureha has difficulty shooting Mitsuko. But following Ginko’s and Lulu’s trial and “cleansing” of Kureha, she obtains the resolve needed to take out Sumika’s killer. They don’t have some established locale. Instead, the Severance Court exists metaphysically within ourselves.
Continuing with this motif of dichotomy, ultimately, what is it that the Life Bears do throughout the show? Once again, it’s two rather huge extremes: everything and nothing. The Life Bears literally “call upon” the various girls, make them “coincidentally” meet up, and are always having the “plot” move forward. These moments usually occur at random, inexplicable times that either serve a particular character in the moment or push the story in the direction they want it to go. Due to this and their godlike associations, they are literally acting as a deus ex machina.  At the same time, though, they don’t really do anything. At the most, they transform a given bear into a human. The majority of what they do is debate among each other with the same outcome regardless of what is said: a question to the defendant. This question is usually about giving up love or not: Kureha is asked to choose between Ginko’s memories or love, Lulu between kisses and love, and Yuriika between boxes and love. That is, not only do the life bears always grant “Yuri Approval” – it doesn’t matter what the defendant chooses – but they likewise never make the final decision. That is left up to the people involved.
Taking all of the previous points together as one – the nonsensical nature of the court, the dichotomy that permeates throughout it, and how it is up to the defendants to choose love – we can now see what the Severance Court symbolizes: love balances ourselves. The court contains opposing ideologies both within and without itself. And at the center of any of the conflicting viewpoints are specific characters within the anime that choose to give or not give up on love. In other words, it’s not divine beings making choices for us and neither is it the people around us; it falls onyour own person to obtain the balance, that “real thing” called love, between each other. For that is what Yuri Kuma Arashi has been tackling all along; that it’s up to us, individually, to band together, find our balance, and ultimately fight for love that we can believe in.
-Literal: Kureha smashes her side of the mirror
-Interpretation: Love’s triumph over low sin (again)
-Explanation: After slowly walking toward Ginko, while ignoring said bear’s pleas to stay away, Kureha gives Ginko the pendant that symbolizes the love they have for one another. And upon doing so, she calls for Lady Kumalia to grant her just one more wish.
Repetition comes back in full-force once more; Kureha’s actions here are quite identical to what occurred in the previous episode with Ginko. Kureha rises from her “low” sin of pride (as a small aside, it’s interesting to see Kureha climbing steps as opposed to going down them; due to her placement within “The Moon Girl and The Forest Girl,” one would think that she would be descending from up high. Perhaps given her egregious offence of pride, though, one can interpret her as having fallen from where she once stood as an innocent, precious, and loving girl) following another “inner monologue.” This time, though, instead of it involving Ginko and Mitsuko, her conversation only involves herself. Meaning, like pride’s inflated sense of self, Kureha overcomes her own being to reach full repentance.
And like Ginko, like “The Moon Girl and The Forest Girl,” Kureha destroys “herself.” The destruction of the mirror – of the self – is Kureha foregoing pride. She no longer sees humans as being above the bears, finally remembering who she was and the love she had for Ginko. Therefore, as the ultimate virtue that completely opposes pride, she embraces the other side. And by “embraces,” we know that this really means transforms into the very creature that she has “hated” for a large portion of her life. She no longer despises Ginko and her kind, realizing that it was precisely because of Ginko that she was able to experience the love she had back then, the love she had with Sumika, and the love she has with her now. Her movement from human to half-bear matches Ginko, with both striking that ever-present need for balance that has existed throughout all of Yuri Kuma Arashi. The end result being that the lovers finally have their much anticipated Promise Kiss, demonstrating that humans and bears – people who “shouldn’t” be together – can, in fact, truly love one another.
As a final note here, alluding back to the repetition and Ginko’s own ascension from sin, this scene, as with nearly everything that the anime has to offer, is mirrored in relation to another. Namely, Kureha’s “exclusion” when she was a child. Now, instead of Kureha being tormented, Ginko changing forms, and the tale just starting, it’s Ginko being attacked, Kureha doing the changing, and the tale is finally concluding.
-Literal: Sumika descends from heaven as Lady Kumalia
-Interpretation: Reinforced power and representation of love
-Explanation: After delivering Reia’s pendant back to Ginko, Kureha cries out to Lady Kumalia to change her into a bear. The Life Bears, witnessing their goddess’s return, shoot towards the sky; the stars seem to converge and Lady Kumalia gracefully floats to the surface in-front of Kureha.
While we are still astonished by God’s appearance despite having it foreshadowed throughout the majority of the anime, we are taken aback even further by who Lady Kumalia is represented as being. She is shown to be none other than Sumika. But is she really Sumika? More than likely not; it appears that only Kureha can see her, meaning she manifested into a form that was familiar to our main heroine. As has been talked about here and elsewhere, this makes a lot of sense; Sumika represents unblemished goodness, or in this case, “The Star of Love.” And in the end, it is Lady Kumalia, or love incarnate, that brings Kureha and Ginko together. Thus, it is ultimately love that prevails.
There’s another implication that surfaces due to portraying Lady Kumalia as Sumika. Thinking back to what went down within the show, Sumika was killed by none other than Mitsuko. Where Lady Kumalia (Sumika) represents that which is good, Mitsuko represents that which is evil. And we know this to be true; her persuasive skills to enact in sin and desire contrast with Lady Kumalia’s infinite goodness. Mitsuko has constantly been depicted as downright bad, thereby making Lady Kumalia’s manifestation as Sumika to follow logically within the anime’s own ideas of love and sin.
But there is still the “issue” of Mitsuko having killed Sumika – or sin beating love. Looking at just that scenario, it still works; sin is “stronger” than love in the sense that it is “easier” to have around. That’s what occurs: the cunning Mitsuko takes out the fragile Sumika. Yet this didn’t have to happen. There is a reason that Sumika perished to Mitsuko; that love lost to sin. And that reason was Ginko. Rather than stepping in and stopping Mitsuko from killing Sumika, she let Sumika get eaten. In other words, Ginko allowed love to die. This idea has already been established throughout the show: that love’s only weakness is you. Lulu stopped Mirun from loving her, Kureha refused to love or be loved, and even the Life Bears follow this method – they always ask if you will be the one to forego love. So this situation, Sumika dying to Mitsuko – love dying to sin – once again confirms that we, ourselves, are the only thing preventing love from winning in the end.
As one final idea in relation to this symbol, it’s important to also understand what has really just happened. In summation: Kureha calls out to heaven, millions of stars converge, Lady Kumalia appears, and transforms Kureha into a bear. In short, a miracle has happened. This seems quite contradictory to everything that has been presented so far; that even with love triumphing, with the girl and the bear becoming one, it required nothing less than a miracle. Meaning, one can view that the chances of love beating all – that society can come together through understanding and respect – is almost an impossibility. Or we can take the “glass half full” approach. That is, it’s almost an impossibility, but such an event happening is still feasible. We can come together. All that’s needed is love, and a smidgen of luck for good measure.
-Literal: Uko Ai hugs the cyborg Konomi
-Interpretation: There’s always hope
-Explanation: Oki lets out a blood-curdling scream: “Fire!” Gun smoke fills the air, making it difficult to see. But Ai witnesses a glorious moment; Kureha and Ginko, holding hands, are guided by Lady Kumalia into a land unknown.
As Yuri Kuma Arashi’s final symbol, it’s immensely profound. At this point in the story, all of the major players from the past generation have died or left. Lulu, Yuriika, Reia, Mitsuko, Harishima; there is nobody left to talk about love. Even Kureha and Ginko are gone. Their departure is intentionally ambiguous: did they die there on the rooftop, did they manage to escape, or are they really somewhere outside of our imagination? I like either of the last two options. Regardless, they, too, are no longer around. And so it seems that, while love did the impossible, it’s once again gone into hiding.
…But it hasn’t. For Ai, having seen Kureha and Ginko’s love for one another, is moved. She hears Oki’s speech in the assembly hall, decides to herself that it is no longer worth listening to, and leaves. Instead, she goes to the disposed-of Konomi and, seeing her in the terrible state she was left in, does something quite common but truly touching: she hugs Konomi.
With that, the anime leaves us with a concluding message. Hope. Hope that, even if the previous generation couldn’t instill respect, the next one can. Hope that, no matter our sex, race, religion, ethnicity, status, or any other background, we can learn to understand those around us. And hope that, despite facing adversity, we, as people, can truly learn to love one another.
There is hope for the future; it’s simply up to us to make such love a reality.
List of References for Part 10