A Bearhug To The Heart I Didn’t Expect: A Yurikuma Arashi Review

The mentioned screencap....

The mentioned screencap….

Recently I’ve been spending lots of time on YouTube, and I subscribed to Funimation so I could keep up to date with current anime. Not too long ago I saw the title Yurikuma Arashi. I didn’t know anything about it, but the art in the screencap looked cute, so I watched a random episode. I’ll admit that I’m not the most eloquent person, but I was at a complete loss after watching the opening credits.

Trigger Warning: Mild Nudity and Sexual Themes

I sat there dumbfounded out of sheer confusion. A few minutes later I smacked myself in the head. I knew at least what half of the title meant, but I just didn’t pay attention to it. Yuri, in Japanese, refers to a genre about lesbian relationships. Kuma translates to bear. Then I looked up arashi, which means storm. I was intrigued—if nothing else I wanted to know what “lesbian bear storm” was about—so I decided to finish the series in order. When I saw the opening I was doubtful; worried it was going to be some strange harem anime or something. After watching it, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s bizarre to be sure, but the message was genuine. Almost all of the characters struggle with being lesbians because the world they live in tries to conform them into something else, or in some circumstances, kill them. It’s not the deepest love story, but it shows how society can shun people for being different, or try to change them from being who they truly are. Yurikuma Arashi shows how queer relationships can be complex and difficult, and touches on different forms of love, even familial.

If you’d like to see the show, it’s on funimation’s channel on YouTube, though the entire series is not loaded yet. The full series is offered free on Hulu at present. Bear in mind that it is rated for a mature audience. Spoilers after the jump!

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Manga Mondays: Secret Stream

Sixteen pages usually isn’t enough to cover a topic in any grandiose sense, so I’m not sure why I built up the expectations that I did. Maybe it was the summary, which said that SecretStreamCoverAkihito Yoshitomi’s Secret Stream would try to tackle internalized homophobia? No. That was definitely it. After reading the sixteen pages, though, I’m not sure if the summary was holding onto the same hopes that I had when starting, or if Yoshitomi thought that he was truly saying something meaningful, without realizing that they weren’t really saying anything of import in the end.

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Manga Mondays: Blank

Amnesia is an issue that’s tackled quite often in manga, whether it be through subplot or the main plot, and usually it’s trite as hell. When this convention shows up, it’s usually safe to assume that the memory loss will stay long enough for the characters to suffer a breakdown, but the memories will all somehow return at the end of the story / arc so that there can be a happy resolution. Wanting a happy ending isn’t something to be faulted for, and even writing something about the mysterious healing powers of love, while usually uninteresting, isn’t something to get angry over. However, the mention of memory loss in a romance carries with it the warning of tired tropes that don’t endear a work to me. It’s no wonder that when I read that Furiko Yotsuhara’s Blank dealt exclusively with the issue, I wasn’t overly excited to read it. And how was it? Eeh.

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Manga Mondays: Prism

I’ve read manga series that have simply faded off the plane of existence with nary a warning. That’s always the worst because it’s not until months later, when you’ve already wiped the series from your mind, that you figure out that yes, that was where the story ended, for some arbitrary reason. However, this manga is the only manga I remember reading that had actually gotten cancelled. And it’s simple enough to understand why it did: there was evidence of tracing within the work. However, I would argue that the premature end of Shou Higashiyama’s Prism is no big loss to the manga scene or the romance genre.

PrismWhen main character Megu was in grade school, she spent a summer at her grandmother’s. During this time she fell madly and hopelessly in love with a young boy, Hikaru. Her feelings for her first love remained so strong that Megu didn’t allow anyone into her heart during middle school. Now entering high school, Megu has vowed to find love and attempt to wipe the grade school love affair from her mind.

When she arrives at school, a mysterious and beautiful new girl approaches her with more excitement than Megu knows what to do with. Understandably confused, everything becomes clearer when the girl introduces herself as Hikaru. The very same Hikaru from all those years ago.

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Manga Mondays: Like a Cinderella

After the disappointment of the last manga I read (that being Hideout), I decided to return to my guilty shoujo pleasures. From first glance this manga seemed to hit two of the notes that I really love in any genre: sweetness and having a tie-in with fairy tales. With a title Like a Cinderella Coverlike Like a Cinderella, it was easy to imagine a pauper to princess type of story, but what I found beyond the cover page wasn’t quite so fantastical.

This short comic—it’s two chapters long with each chapter having roughly twenty pages—by Fuuka Mizutani follows a young girl, Chiaki, who, after an appointment at her dentist’s, finds that someone has left with one of her shoes, leaving her with a mismatched pair. Luckily for her, the shoe not belonging to her is still her shoe size so she’s able to return home despite looking a little strange. Chiaki does want her shoe back—it’s her only pair—but the nature of the shoe intrigues her and causes her to think of the girl that walked off so easily with the incorrect shoe. As opposed to Chiaki’s ratty old sneaker, the assumed elegance of the woman who left her heel behind allows Chiaki’s mind to wander. And more and more she dreams about meeting this woman in real life.

Luckily, the dentist’s office is more than willing to help. The receptionist tells Chiaki that the woman happens to have appointments scheduled a while after her own, and if she is willing to wait Chiaki can meet her in person. At first, Chiaki is thrilled by the idea. However, after thinking about it she becomes worried that she’s not pretty enough and the woman will think of her as nothing but a nuisance. In an attempt to combat these feelings on the day she’s supposed to meet with the mystery girl Chiaki dresses up in a fancy dress and goes out of her way to look like she imagined the other girl would. The pressure is too much though, and she ends up running home, embarrassed.

Like A Cinderella ShoeShe gets over this fear quickly when she recalls that this other girl already knows what she looks like. How does she know that? Because Chiaki put up a “have you seen this shoe” poster in the dentist’s office with her face on it. This girl already knew what Chiaki looked like and still wanted to meet with her—she also told the receptionist that she wanted to meet Chiaki in person as well. So with renewed resolve Chiaki waits for the mystery girl, the comic ending right as they meet.

The second chapter in this series merely covers the series of events from the other girl’s point of view. And indeed like Chiaki thought, she is a bit of a princess, but a charming princess. Though short, I feel like Like a Cinderella has a lot of heart in it. The characters are really relatable and the simple art style has an air of normality and comfort to it. Even though it didn’t exactly have the fantastical elements that I usually expect in my fairy tale-themed romance comics, it still shows that sometimes seemingly fantastical things can happen even amongst the daily grind of life. I’d recommend a read through should you get the chance: it’s cute enough to make you smile, but short enough that you can read it in under half an hour. A pretty good combination if I do say so myself.

Like a Cinderella Meeting