(Note: Episodic notes are still mostly to be found on the Episodics Notes’ page, but up to a couple every week will have their write-up appear on the main page, when I think they warrant it. For those who don’t know, I take the notes as I watch the episode, and merely re-order them afterwards.)
So, the new Ikuhara show, eh? Should be full of symbolism, and a story where one can’t tell where the symbolic ends and the real world going ons begin. I thought of Mawaru Penguindrum a while back, and thought how my brain would’ve fried had I tried taking notes for it.
Well, I’m not sure if the notes will be “per scene” or “per moment of interest” here, but there will be notes. Now just to hope my brain won’t melt, as I need it.
Thoughts and Notes:
1) “Yuri! Yuri Bears Everywhere!”:
1) “I’ll never back down on love.” And here we already have our narrative conflict. “How far will you go for love? How far before you’ll break down, how much of a price are you willing to pay?”
2) “Bear Shock!” – It hit me, we have our two “lilies”, and then we have bears. It made me think of how Red Riding Hood is also a story about sexuality. Big furry animals, in a story otherwise about “pure” maidens? Yup.
3) Oh, they translated “Yuri” as “Lily”. So, “Girl lover”, above. And of course, the visual cue.
4) Interesting how the wall’s design, with the bear claws, is fractal. No matter how much of a vantage point you gain, it’s still the same picture.
5) “Bears eat people. That’s just how we are.” And here we have fate, the natural order of things, and what we rise against.
2) Sensuality, Threatening and Alluring. Growing Up:
1) “I’m gonna do my best and gobble them all up.” – This is something I also touched upon in my write-up of the first episode of Tokyo Ghoul, and to which I’ve alluded earlier, stories about werewolves are often stories about our hidden sexuality, about our sexuality manifesting, and how we might find it monstrous. Here we have a story about werebears, or rather, and of course, the intentionally thin line between “eating them” and “taking their innocence”. Were-animals are a Structural blurring of the lines (a-la Claude Levi-Strauss), so it’s all about taboos, and sex, here, even more than usual.
2) Kureha is worried about Sumika going off alone while there might be bears nearby, so she runs off alone after her. Master plan. And they go to their own secluded part, a home in the forest, beset by flowers.
3) And now that the two girls are together on the roof, we have the green doors with the same diamond motif.
4) Everyone and everything here is about food. Well, eating is a sensual activity. I think we’re being hit a tad too hard on the head with the symbolism here, though.
3) Social Pressure:
1) Someone frowns upon this dalliance and had cut down the lilies, someone has cut down the yuri. And of course, Sumika is starting to enact what I predicted above. As Kureha points out, the things they care for will be removed, one by one. And each time, they’ll have to reaffirm their resolve, to not back away from their love.
2) Another girl whose name contains “Yuri”. “The Invisible Storm”. I guess that’s as good a name as any for jealousy, for disapproval, for “Tsk, tsk”. A susurration of gossip and disapproving glances against which you cannot fight back, but which sweeps all.
“Together, we can halt the Invisible Storm.” – Can you? Of course, with everyone together, there’d be no storm of gossip, but the whole thing stems out of you not being the major group.
3) Damn, that sniper pose. Also, that emblem on the wall, a lily framed by two guns. “This time, I will protect those I love with my own two hands.”
And the enemy is the bears, the invading presence that threatens the pure girls, for some more allusions. Speaking of furry invasions, for those who don’t know, in the original Cinderella story, it wasn’t a glass shoe, but one of fur, which the prince tested of all the girls, until he found the match, ahem.
Of course, knowing it’s going to be a love story between the bears and she who cannot forgive the bears is another layer of fighting against fate.
4) Oh yeah, somehow missed this. The safe haven of the two girls, their nest of love, had been invaded and defiled by those from without. First those who disapprove, then a third wheel, and now blood, and things can never be brought back to how they used to be, after the bears invade.
5) “This is what happens when you’re not invisible. That’s right, it’s important to act as a group.” And the theme of gossip to punish those who stand out, who don’t step in line continues.
4) Monkey Business at The Bear Court:
1) “This is a challenge from the Severance Barrier.” – Will you be torn asunder, or will you reach across? All relations are about this question, each and every moment.
2) “Danzetsu no Court” – The court of extinction. Human or bears, love or, well, not love. Of course, it’s “Danzetsu”, which also means extinction, severance, division. A division of the two worlds. But more than mere extinction, of ceasing to exist. Will the girls cease to exist? Will their love? Is the barrier to stand between what is and what is no more? That’s probably the most symbolic and least decipherable of “objects”, and it won’t change.
3) “Bearfendants.” – That was cute translation.
“Ud Ursam” instead of “Ad Hominem”. Wow.
4) And it’s interesting the bear-court is also interested in maintaining the status quo, of bears on one side, and humans on the other. Then again, we don’t let people walk into the safari and eat the various animals within, do we?
5) “Shabadadu” O.O This isn’t close to the catch-phrases from Penguindrum. I am disappoint.
6) “Will you eat humans, or will you become invisible?” – In other words, will you cloister yourself, or will you reach out and engage with others? Even if we don’t look at “eating” as a metaphor for sex, by interacting with others, you affirm your existence. It’s interesting to note here that bears can’t affirm their own existence, and must go beyond the barrier, and reach out to humans. That of course is a metaphor for ourselves and others.
5) A Lily, By Any Other Name (Yuri):
1) And we have a naked Kureha covered in flowers, as if I’m watching American Beauty again.
2) “Yuri Instatement”, is this about the “yuri”, or about them becoming “lilies”, to say, maidens? Some would say it’s the same thing, and that it’s the love, the connection to the other, that allows them to transform.
3) A lily sprouts from within Kureha, a symbol of her love, and the bears are eating it, gobbling it up. Yup, there you go with “yuri symbolism”, and adding a deflowering on top.
4) The real question here is, where is Sumika. Kureha was promised she could reach Sumika if she overcame the Barrier’s test, if she came to the roof, but she’d been lied to. Her only decision was to go to the roof, to affirm her love, but after that, she was just acted upon.
She’s been lied to, she’s been bearboozled.
5) “I’d eat them even if it were a crime. I won’t forgive those who destroy love.” – Now that’s interesting. Are they referring to how other girls tried to destroy Sumika and Kureha’s love? Are they referring to how a girl like Sumika tried to destroy their love for Kureha, or perhaps, those who would try to stop them from enacting their act of love, that of feasting upon the girls?
6) “Yurikuma! Yurikuma! Yurikuma!” Just before the start of the ED. An interesting touch, and the true form of the bears is already known, so we’ll have to see how it ends up, or whether Yurizona is about to get eaten as well.
OP – Not a fan of the “hoarse whisper” voice. But, “Flood me with your sweet, light honey and make me all sticky”? Oh my.
ED – A nice but not very memorable pop-song with a pretty meh electronic/techno beat. Really not a fan. The words are alright, so yes, it’s all about love. The 8-bit tune tone made me think of Disgaea, actually. No Sumika here either though, I guess she really is gone.
Post Episode Thoughts:
I went to upload my screenshot album for the episode, only to find out I’ve taken 245 screenshots. I have no idea how that happened, huh.
Well, this was definitely an interesting episode. Some might say that this is the goal of first episodes, to be interesting. Except it’s not. The job of first episodes is to grab us, to make us want to watch the next episode. Being “interesting” is indeed a very good way of going about it, but interesting in this sense is more “I wonder what’s going on” and “Huh, I don’t really understand.”
This episode didn’t at all grab me, there was no “BANG!” – Yes, we’ve had someone find out who the bears are as the episode ended, we’ve had the titillation provided by lesbian relationships, and we’ve had allusions to Kureha’s past, and there’s some grand and half-symbolic hierarchy beyond the “barrier”. All of these things will do work in the future, but none of them are an immediate “Grab” on one’s attention, and are mostly puzzle-pieces that had been dropped on us and aren’t doing any work, yet.
And that’s the point. While as a first episode that is supposed to grab us, the grab-bag (see what I did there?) of “interesting” might not have done its job, it did do its job in letting us know of how many angles are going on, and that the “interesting” will probably become more so as we keep on watching. The work was done not to grab us, but because it’s laying the foundation for future events.
What else did I think of this episode? The symbolism was there, but I didn’t think much of it in either direction. Bears and werewolves and sex. Eroticism and love as being conflated via the sensuality of food. That’s solid.
The characters? We don’t have characters yet. We didn’t really learn anything of their personalities, and more than that, they didn’t get to interact with one another yet, so they don’t really exist either on their own, or in relation to one another. Considering it’s a show about “crossing the barrier of love”, I’d say that this is a mistake for the first episode, but something which I trust (and hope) will be the focus of the series from here on out.
There was one more aspect I pointed out in my write-up, which I did find interesting of the good sort, but that’s because I love me some symbolism and social commentary, and that’s how the real barrier to love is the “silent storm”, the disapproving glances, the quiet oppression. The force that will hammer down any who will dare to remind us that not everyone is like us, that there are others. Something we cannot permit.