Your guide to interpreting Yuri Kuma Arashi episode 1!?

After one episode and some discussions about Yuri Kuma Arashi, here are what I think are its most solid interpretations, theories and analyses as well as other noteworthy details. I’m curious how much of that post will hold up after the end of the series.

Let’s start this post with one of the worst blogging sins: quoting TVTropes. Skip this if you are familiar with “Class S”, but the text contains very important information.

… “romantic friendship”. This practice waned at the turn of the 20th century, as adults, particularly men, did not want to be mistaken as homosexual. Generally, it only still occurs between young girls, where it is more socially acceptable, and non-indicative of sexual orientation.

In Japan this is known as “Class S” and is far more common than in the West. Due to the influence of Western female literature the Japanese developed a belief that young girls are expected to have friendships with each other that emulate boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. This is considered a temporary but wonderful part of adolescence. They can then graduate from these friendships to “real” relationships with boys. To remain in a “Class S” relationship past middle school is seen as a sign of immaturity. It is expected that these friendships will continue into adulthood, but without the romantic elements. The possibility of one or more of the girls involved in a “Class S” relationship being truly invested in the other romantically is usually ignored.

If the romance starts to become too passionate, parents will often intervene to separate the girls, perhaps entirely. This should never become physical that way; it would sully the Incorruptible Pure Pureness. Which is then traded in for marriage. If the girls do cross the line into sex (or even passionate kissing), they are no longer this trope, instead becoming Schoolgirl Lesbians, and are treated very differently.

Kureha and Sumika are in a “class S” friendship. They treasure their purity and run away from anything that is vaguely sexual and might corrupt their pure relationship. For example, the bears, who are straight homosexuals and accept their sexuality and love (but are frowned upon by society unlike class S relationships); the second example is the invisible storm, which I interpret as puberty: it cut the protagonists’ lilies, which is a symbol of their purity. Because the antagonists in this show are homosexual as well, I don’t believe that the lilies are a symbol of their homosexuality and hence the invisible storm a symbol of homophobia.

The invisible storm might specifically refer to periods, as it is one of the most noticeable changes in (female) puberty, but maybe it doesn’t need to be that specific. Periods were also done several times in anime symbolism: the giant period monster in FLCL, Nanami’s egg in Utena. And lastly, I think the age of the characters is not mentioned in the anime, but in the manga they are 16, which is a bit late to have your first periods.

Ikuhara asks if Kureha’s love is real, and so might be asking her to acknowledge that class S relationships are no different from lesbian relationships and that running away from sex is silly; maybe Ikuni’s just trying to make Kureha come to understand her own sexuality. Or perhaps Ikuhara is saying that lesbian/homosexual relationships are no worse than class S relationships and that people have double standards. I can see the end of the series with the bear side being depicted as righter than the school’s and Kureha joining the bears. (I need to make actual, sort-of bold predictions in this article or else it’s not fun, lol.)

I am not sure how the Sankebetsu incident will tie thematically into the series. Perhaps, unlike the sarin gas attack in Mawaru Penguindrum, here the attack is just used as an aesthetic reference rather than something to talk about. It should be noted though that if the humans are responsible for the explosion of the asteroid that woke up the bears we could make a parallel with the attack which people blame human deforestation for. (Bears don’t usually attack humans, but deforestation reduces the availability of natural preys.) But maybe the parallel with deforestation should be with the wall rather than the asteroid?

My guess is that the bears, AKA the homosexuals, are trying to corrupt the public’s cherished “class S” friendships as a revenge for being treated with double standards. Whether this translates into a criticism of anime and manga, media in general, or society, this is still unclear.

The differences between the anime and manga series can also inform us as to the series’ thematic intentions.

Spoilers Yuri Kuma Arashi manga chapter 1 & 2

Also of note:
– Arashigaoka, the name of the school, means Wuthering Weights.
– The school and the trees around it are a pink triangle in a green circle!?
There’s a photo of the attack in Kureha’s room.
– The opening by bonjour Suzuki has a french verse at the end saying “I need you”. French might be reinforcing that platonic, pure romance.
– Certain parts of the school make visual references to horror films like Suspiria or The Shining.

Update:

if you would like to read more analysis of the show, read the very interesting conversation in the comments! It adds a lot to this post, and changes some of its conclusion. The analysis itself is in the comments but here are the conclusions:

– The protagonists might not be running away from the Invisible Storm and the bears, which only the president and the rest of the class do. The president is actually trying to convince the protagonists to halt the storm and kinda forces them into it, while the protagonists are accepting their sexuality, i.e. not backing down on love. The Invisible Storm is not puberty but rather perversion/”unrejected homosexuality”. The bears are a real threat but the protagonists would rather face danger than give up on love (i.e. being visible)
– The other, pure/heterosexual students are, as stated in the dialogue, invisible, and have the support of the group, while lesbians are visible and risk being eaten. Accepting one’s homosexuality — becoming visible — means losing the support of the group and taking the risk to be eaten so as to save one’s love.
– The judge, in asking if the characters’ love is real, actually weighs if they care enough about their love that they can face the consequences of it (social rejection, or being eaten by bears), and if the love is stronger than the need to conform, then the judge “approves the yuri”.
– Therefore the social commentary that I thought would focus on “Class S VS Homosexuals” may actually focus on “Heterosexuals VS Homosexuals”. Instead of mainly critiquing society’s double standards about Class S and Lesbians, could actually simply make a study about the risks, consequences and dilemmas of realising and acknowledging your non-straight sexuality.

Do you agree with this post’s speculation? Disagree?
Later, or after the series ends, I will make a new post comparing my early speculation with updated theories.

5 thoughts on “Your guide to interpreting Yuri Kuma Arashi episode 1!?

  1. Thank you very much for writing this as it cleared up all my questions. I will look forward to reading more of your inputs on Yuri Kuma. The bears are so attracted to Kureha because bears can smell the menstruation. (Invisible Storm) :OOO

  2. My personal interpretation is that Yuri Kuma is following up on Penguindrum’s themes of abandonement by society. “becoming invisible” means the exact same thing it meant in Penguindrum: Being assimilated into society at the cost of one’s individuality, while the Invisible Storm represents ostracism.

    Sumika and Kureha risk being ostracized by being in a lesbian relationship. One could argue that lesbianism isn’t considered taboo in this world, but I don’t think that’s necesarily true. They did have to sneak out of school in order to see each other, and Sumika seems reluctant to meet her at first. And so far we haven’t seen any other lesbian couples. The 100% female population is more reminiscent of a convent than a lesbian paradise.

    The first scene with Mitsuko comes to mind. Basically, I believe she was trying to deceive them by getting them to admit that they were in a relationship. When she grabs Sumika’s hands and she gets some dirt on her own, she jokingly says that this means she’s “part of their group” now. I think this means she considers them “dirty” for what they did.

    I definitely agree with the bears representing unrestrained sexuality though. Each member of the Life Trio, who seem to be the highest authority among bears, are anthropomorphic representations of aspects that make a person more sexually desireable (Sexy, Cool, Beauty).

    Something else that’s worth mentioning: Every single character so far has “yuri” in their name, the only exceptions being Kureha, Sumika and the Life Trio. Not sure what the significance of that is though.

    This is definitely a really interesting interpretation that I hadn’t even considered before though! I’ll definitely have to keep it in mind while I’m watching the show.

    • Thank you, this comment made me think a lot and helped me reshape my theories quite a bit! I agree with a lot of it after revisiting the episode so here’s what I can add in support to it and about doesn’t fit into my theories.

      You made me start to wonder how the invisibility would fit into the series. I also like the association between “Invisible Storm” and invisibility, it might be important in deciphering this show! I went back to the episode (with Asenshi subs) and invisibility is mentioned twice.

      The first time, the students inform us that you getting eaten by bears “is what happens when you’re not invisible”, which suggests that the pure (or heterosexual, depending on the degree of interpretation) girls are invisible, and the impure (or homosexual) girls are visible and about to get eaten. The students add “We need to stick together; it’s important to act as a group”, supporting what you said about not staying invisible to gain your identity earning you ostracism.

      Grasping at straws, the phrasing also suggests that girls being eaten MIGHT happen regularly, and that the bears systematically break in when non-fully-heterosexual students fail to reject their unconventional sexuality.

      The second time, the judge asks the bears “if they will become invisible or if they will eat men”, which means that bears (i.e. the lesbian transfer students) are able to become like normal students as well. At this point in the series, we still don’t know if the eaten girls really die (Sumika is still being eaten at the end of the episode). Does this suggest she might just turn into a bear by becoming impure and then being spotted, the same way the bears seem to be able to become normal by becoming invisible (i.e. like the normal students)?

      This all makes your interpretation of invisibility very valid! Might this be the actual focus of the show? Or maybe there will be both some of the “class s” issue and some of the “becoming invisible” issue, to different potential extents each!

      I really didn’t consider the possibility that the class president was tricking them. It makes a lot of sense. The way I interpreted it, which I think was a little hurried, was that the class president somehow had a romantic interest in Sumika. In her first scene, it seems she is quite set on halting the Invisible Storm, which, contrary to my initial theory, suggests that the Invisible Storm symbolises something less universal and unstoppable than puberty! The better explanation then could be that the Invisible Storm represents not puberty but simply perversion/homosexuality.

      I’m wondering what would be the relation between the Invisible Storm and the invisibles. Does it mean you lose the support of society (the invisibles), and even earn its hostility, putting you in danger?

      As for the characters, you can find other unintroduced characters with and without Yuri in their name on the website there: http://yurikuma.jp/chara.html
      I don’t know the significance, either.

      So the alternatives and additions for my initial theories are:

      – The protagonists might not be running away from the Invisible Storm and the bears, which only the president and the rest of the class do. The president is actually trying to convince the protagonists to halt the storm and kinda forces them into it, while the protagonists are accepting their sexuality, i.e. not backing down on love. The Invisible Storm is not puberty but rather perversion/”unrejected homosexuality”. The bears are a real threat but the protagonists would rather face danger than give up on love (i.e. being visible)
      – The other, pure/heterosexual students are, as stated in the dialogue, invisible, and have the support of the group, while lesbians are visible and risk being eaten. Accepting one’s homosexuality — becoming visible — means losing the support of the group and taking the risk to be eaten so as to save one’s love.
      – The judge, in asking if the characters’ love is real, actually weighs if they care enough about their love that they can face the consequences of it (social rejection, or being eaten by bears), and if the love is stronger than the need to conform, then the judge “approves the yuri”.
      – Therefore the social commentary that I thought would focus on “Class S VS Homosexuals” may actually focus on “Heterosexuals VS Homosexuals”. Instead of mainly critiquing society’s double standards about Class S and Lesbians, could actually simply make a study about the risks, consequences and dilemmas of realising and acknowledging your non-straight sexuality.

      That was long, and I’m a bit too tired to assess whether it’s doesn’t ramble too much, but I felt this was very productive! I will add the updated theories to my post. Thanks a lot again for your interpretation.

  3. I think that the conflict between Class S x Homossexuals makes a lot more sense, even with just one couple for now. Class S is usually seen as a simple phase, a consequence of puberty, when the girls start to have this kind of strong feeling and don’t know what to do with it, and the society expects them to shake it off and pursue what they consider normal, acceptable.

    “Being visible” means accepting their feelings and going ahead with them. The girls at the classroom say that Sumika was eaten by the bears because it’s a simple consequence of not being invisible, then they knew about her relationship with Kureha or they came to that conclusion after she was eaten. They also says that the next invisible storm is coming, so I’m guess they are saying that Kureha is the next target.

    The invisible storm goes after the pure things, starting with the flowers. Now, the whole lily flower is obvious here. The purity of their relationship is something that is dangerous and must be cut down. Seeing as Ikuhara is known for showing the adult world/society as something cruel and dirty, I’m guessing that the storm symbolises the social pressure. The girls are afraid of society becoming aware of their feelings, making them a “visible” target for their criticism and possibly leading to isolation.

    Yurizono, at least, seems to be aware of their relationship, as she says “as I expected” after seeing how close they are. She says that the invisible storm is after them and had cut the flowers at their peak, that is, when their relationship is about to evolve. She also offers help and seeing as she is one of the characters with “lily/yuri” on the name, I guess she’s also on the same situation and want to change it.

    I’m also agree about the bears representing the lustful aspects of sexuality, which is also another aspect of the Yuri genre. They are sexually actives beings and want to corrupt the girls, so they made a wall to project themselves. That is, a moral/conservative wall which project them from any amoral feelings.

  4. The Invisible Storm is Coming – Yuri Kuma Arashi Theory Crafting | 萌え Alternative

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