You simply need to watch the first few episodes of Yuri Kuma Arashi to understand that it is a cut above other anime. There are many threads running through this complex tapestry of a story. Yuri Kuma Arashi tackles homosexuality, being social ostracized, bullying, and acceptance. You can tell that just by the surface level of the show. However, there is a deeper meaning to it. Yuri Kuma Arashi is a manifesto against the collectivist culture of Japan and in support of individualism. This anime puts individualism on a pedestal and encourages people to be themselves rather than hide within the safety of a group. That kind of hiding will break your heart and cannot match the happiness of being yourself. Yuri Kuma Arashi does not simply broadcast this message out on one level – it is woven into several levels of the story.
The anime of Yuri Kuma Arashi is littered with symbolism that emphasizes individuality over collectivism. The biggest symbol throughout this anime are the bears. Within Yuri Kuma Arashi the bears are a symbol of the other. Those in life who, for reasons they cannot control, cannot assimilate into the collective group. The LGBTQ community is an example of the other that is often evoked throughout this anime. The bears are individuals that cannot assimilate, but can wear disguises until they decide to reveal themselves. Similar to how homosexuals can blend in until they come out of the closet. The regular high school girls in the show are symbols of the collective. They often refer to themselves as the herd. They are always in a group and talking about how being in a group will keep them safe. However, they are one of the antagonists of the story. The collective seeks to punish individuals by bullying and shunning them throughout the story. The punishment that rains down from the collection of high school girls in Yuri Kuma Arashi is known as the invisible storm.
The invisible storm is a symbol of prejudice which riddles society, such as homophobia. In the show the invisible storm is an attempt at pressuring individuals to conform to the group by withholding friendship and destroying the things that the individual holds dear. The first example of this is when the lily garden that the main character, Kureha, and her lover, Sumika, were tending to is destroyed. The deaths that take place in Yuri Kuma Arashi could also be blamed on the invisible storm because it is what created the circumstances under which the characters were killed. When Sumika was killed by the rogue bear Mitsuko it was because she was alone, due to being targeted by the invisible storm. The entire reason that the invisible storm targets anyone is because they are different from the group. This is the same criteria that prejudice uses to find its victims. It is no coincidence that the protagonist of this story, Kureha, fights against the invisible storm the entire story refusing to conform to the group. By choosing to take up arms against this storm Kureha is vilifying the prejudice that it represents. She is also placing heroic virtue on the choice to accept your differences and stand out from the crowd. These symbols are not the only parts of the story that support individualism over collectivism – the story itself also takes on that task.
Actions of the Characters
Throughout the story the cast of main characters refuse to conform. They all take action to preserve their individuality and fight against becoming a member of a larger group. Kureha refuses to join the group of high school girls because it would mean denying the love she has for her classmate Sumika. Kureha is willing to accept the abuse of the invisible storm because she could not live with depriving herself of loving Sumika. This is taken to an extreme place at the end of the series. In the final episode of Yuri Kuma Arashi Kureha declares the love she has for Ginko and refuses to let go of it. At that point she is transformed into a bear, thereby making it impossible to ever become part of human society again. The bear characters of Ginko and Lulu also reject belonging to a group. Rather than being bears they leave the bear world and take on the mantle of Criminal Bears. It is later revealed that Ginko chose to do this in order to regain the love of Kureha, whom she had loved in childhood. Lulu chose to follow Ginko because she had fallen in love with her and wanted to help her on her mission. The heroes of this story not only choose to stand on their own feet, but also inspired others to do so.
Many of the characters that fill the role of protagonist in Yuri Kuma Arashi inspire other characters to embrace their individuality as well as doing so themselves. In the flashback scenes it is revealed that Kureha and Ginko met each other in childhood. This friendship and budding romance is what inspired Ginko to leave her world behind and seek out Kureha once again. While Ginko was not leaving behind a robust life, she had no real friends and was drafted into being a Guard Bear at a young age, but she still had to abandon the world that she grew up in. Armed with only the hope that she would find Kureha once again. While on her journey Ginko meets Lulu, who is bear princess. Unlike Ginko Lulu did have family, friends, adoring subjects, and material belongings that she left behind. Lulu fell in love with Ginko upon their first meeting and decided to help Ginko on her quest. By deciding to walk away from their society and venture into the human world Ginko and Lulu were labeled as Criminal Bears. Such a label would not allow them to live freely in the bear world and the human world would never accept them because they were bears. Our bear heroes had to embrace their individuality in order to survive; they were outcasts in both worlds. Similar inspiration was being given to the human characters as well.
The first instance of one character inspiring another towards individualism is when Kureha learns to “never back down on love,” from her mother, Reia. Reia teaches Kureha, as a child, that love can transcend all barriers. This is illustrated for Kureha when she first meets Ginko and begins to love her. The philosophy to stand by her love puts Kureha at opposition with the other girls at school due to the fact that she isn't adhering to the group's rules. Kureha's strong stance on love also inspires Sumika, her lover in episode one. Through flashbacks, the audience is shown that as Sumika is slowly exposed to Kureha's philosophy of standing up for what she believes in Sumika is inspired to do the same. This is illustrated in the scene when the group of high school girls are voting on who to shun next. The other girls vote to cast out Kureha based on her individuality, but Sumika stands up for the girl she loves and refuses to vote. This leads to Sumika also being shunned and both girls getting targeted by the invisible storm because they refuse to follow the mob mentality. This type of inspiration is shown once again in the final episode. After Kureha transforms into a bear and then disappears with Ginko, appearing to have died, the audience is shown the group of high school girls deciding who to shun next. One of those girls stands up and walks out of the meeting, appearing to have been influenced by Kureha and Ginko's love. After walking out of the meeting this girl finds an injured bear and befriends it. Thereby embracing her own individualism and defecting from the group. The character interactions are not the only way that Yuri Kuma Arashi favors individualism over collectivism, we see this message relayed through the group that is supported in the anime.
Support for LGBTQ
Yuri Kuma Arashi heavily supports the LGBTQ community. This is shown by making every romantic relationship in the series a lesbian one. This support is encouraging viewers to embrace individualism in the collectivist culture of Japan. Members of LGBTQ community are not openly welcomed into mainstream society, especially in conservative countries like Japan, hence why they have created their own community. As they are blocked from being a member of the collective they must embrace their individuality. Which is the case with so many minority groups. By giving such heavy support to a individualist culture Yuri Kuma Arashi is slyly condemning the collectivist culture that oppresses the LGBTQ community. Another way that this anime encourages individualism in through the major theme of acceptance.
Theme of Acceptance
Throughout Yuri Kuma Arashi the theme of acceptance is reinforced over and over again; acceptance of yourself and others. In the beginning of the series Kureha struggles to accept the death of her lover Sumika. This struggle with acceptance leads her to translating her sadness into anger and hatred, which is aimed at bears. Once that hatred is fueling Kureha she then has to struggling with expelling it because she falls in love with Ginko, the Criminal Bear. Ginko's partner Lulu has to struggle with a similar love as well. Lulu comes to the realization that in order to love Ginko she has to accept Ginko's love for Kureha. We see a struggle within Lulu as her love goes unrequited. This struggle ultimately ends in Lulu sacrificing herself in order to save Ginko near the end of the series. Another way that the theme of acceptance is explored is how the herd of high school girls never accepts those with differences, declaring them evil. The main villain of the story, the herd, refusing to extend acceptance the audience is further shown, by the heroes, what a virtue acceptance truly is. It also shows the viewers that in order to accept those different than yourself you will become an individual, as the collective rarely accepts those who are different. This is yet one more way that Yuri Kuma Arashi acts as a manifesto against collectivist cultures and promotes individuality.
Individuality is placed on a pedestal in Yuri Kuma Arashi. By doing so the show is also criticizing collectivism. This core message is emphasized with several story telling techniques. There are several symbols that are peppered throughout each episode. The most apparent being the bears symbolizing the other while humans symbolize the collective. Another major symbol is that of the invisible storm that illustrates the prejudice that is placed on those that are different. The character interactions make individuality look like a heroic virtue. The audience is shown that all the heroes in Yuri Kuma Arashi refuse to belong to a group, instead they stand on their own. These acts of individuality inspire other characters to do the same and break away from the herd – showing that accepting your own differences takes courage. This further supports the concept of individuality by giving support to a minority group, the LGBTQ community. Giving support to a small community that celebrates individualism it is also criticizing the collective culture that refuses to accept them. Finally, the major theme of acceptance is the last volley that Yuri Kuma Arashi fires across the bough of Japan's collectivist culture. The characters of the anime that accept their own differences, and the differences of others, are celebrating their own individuality. In the series the herd of high school girls will not accept differences, therefore those that do cannot be part of that collective group. In all of these ways Yuri Kuma Arashi acts as a very entertaining, and touching, manifesto against collectivism.