What They Say:
One day an asteroid hits the earth and makes all the bears on the planet attack humans. In response humans put up a giant wall and have managed to keep them out until a couple of them decide to disguise themselves as humans and sneak in. Two girls named, Kureha and Sumika are lovers and Kureha despises bears, but when Sumika disappears one day, Kureha has to come face to face with them in order to save her.
Content (warning as portions of this review may contain spoilers):
*Quick side note*- Funimation seems to have finally realized their mistake with translating Kumaria as “Kumalia” and fixed it in their translation so that’s how I’ll be addressing that for this review.
I…I wasn’t ready for this. In hindsight I should have been better prepared for this outcome, but nothing could have prepared my heart for what went down at the end of this episode. Yurikuma is going even stronger than before as it heads towards it’s climax, and what we get to set up the finale this week may be one of the downright cruelest things Ikuhara has ever done.
Alright so let’s talk about the rest of the episode first. Last week gave Lulu a bit of closure, and helped to get Kureha on track to get together with Ginko, so most of the focus here once again goes to Ginko. Said focus makes for some pretty hefty material as we get a more detailed look into her past with Kureha, and if you haven’t quite fully sympathized with her up this point, it’s hard not to after this. After the two saved each other when they were young, they got along and were always together. That is until the Invisible Storm excluded her for befriending a bear, and another big thumbs up to the show for acknowledging homophobia can be ingrained even at an early age.
Ginko feels it wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t a bear, and takes an offer from the bear judges to become human in exchange for Kureha losing her memories of her. There’s another catch to this deal though, and thanks to losing her memories, Kureha rejects Ginko’s bear form and Ginko ends up going back to the bear world. However she’s rejected there too for having fallen in love with a human and she’s left to wait for the time when she can exchange her Promise Kiss with Kureha and become human. She’s been through a lot in her quest to be with Kureha it helps make for another great scene later in the episode.
Going back to the present, the Invisible Storm decides to use Kureha as bait to lure out Ginko, who’s still possessed by Mitsuko and goes on a “eating” spree. However, Ginko decides to fight back against her desires, and believes that her love for Kureha can weather the Invisible Storm. It’s a pivotal scene for the show, and one that simultaneously addresses the two big themes of sexuality v.s. romantic love, and homosexuality as viewed by society that the show’s been addressing from the get go. In the end Ikuhara’s ultimate message seems to be that our romantic relationships are defined by more than just sexual attraction and that in regards to homosexuality, when those relationships are genuine, they’re worth enduring the social scorn that comes with them.
With all that in mind when she decides to come to Kureha’s rescue, Kureha herself isn’t quite as willing to endure the storm. She’s lost too much because of it, and tries to push Ginko away like she did with Lulu last week. Ginko sees through her facade a lot more easily though, and still wants to brave the storm if it means finally having her love returned. She manages to get through to her and it seems like things may work out for the two of them. Then…IT happens.
The Invisible Storm tries to take out Ginko, but Lulu returns just in time to sacrifice herself instead. Love martyrdom has always been a pretty big thing in Ikuhara stuff, and while not to the extent of Penguindrum, there’s been a lot of it in this show too. Still this is the first time it’s involved literal martyrdom, and it’s something I probably should have seen coming, given how the story has mainly been about Ginko and Kureha specifically. It’s a fitting end to her character, given how much of it was related to sacrificing her happiness for Ginko’s but it still hurts considering she was the sweetest of the main trio, and the most selfless even in spite of last week’s revelation (why must you be so cruel Ikuhara?).
This brings us back to last week’s big cliffhanger which how has some much clearer context, I had assumed the last time that Kumaria was just judging her for having fallen for Ginko but now it seems that in addition to that she’s also being judged for helping to lead Lulu to her demise. The judgement itself is looking to be the big focal point for the finale and I can’t wait to see how Ikuhara manages to tie it to all the themes he’s laid out so far.
Yurikuma’s penultimate episode is a big one, and accomplishes the task of both putting together the final pieces of Ginko’s character, and bringing Lulu’s to a close in the most tragic way possible. With the finale heading out way next week, I’m really eager to see how it all ends. Ikuhara’s put out two masterpieces so far and it’s time to see if he can manage to pull out a third.
Streamed By: Funimation, Hulu