Kunihiko Ikuhara has lost his marbles. That is the only explanation I have for why his latest show, Yurikuma Arashi, is the way it is. After watching the first three episodes, I found myself not having the slightest clue what is going on, nor do I have the stomach to stick around and find out.
Let's try as best as humanly possible to piece together the general outline of Yurikuma Arashi (which translates into "Lily Bear Storm"). A meteor shower causes bears all over Earth to revolt, eating any humans they come across. To protect themselves the human race builds the Wall of Severance, keeping the fuzzy enemies from infiltrating their areas. Two bears, Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki, somehow get through the wall, disguise themselves as humans, and proceed to start lining up the victims.
Enter Kureha Tsubaki, a student over at Arashigaoka Academy, who makes it her lifelong goal to kill all the bears. Her mother, along with just about every girl Kureha has loved, has succumbed to the appetite of the bears, making her goal all the more understandable. Meanwhile Ginko and Lulu enter the Academy as transfer students, eyeing Kureha as their main target, and waiting for the right moment to make the gun girl their finest meal yet.
With it being an Ikuhara anime you are practically expected to know that it's going to be a yuri anime. After all this is the guy who brought us Revolutionary Girl Utena, along with some of the best Uranus/Neptune moments in the original Sailor Moon series. However at every step of the way Yurikuma Arashi wants to make it clear that it's a full-blown yuri. Characters have "yuri" in their name, the bears hold yuri court, and whenever there seems to be a moment of breathing space it becomes filled with some heavily detailed girl-on-girl romance.
And that's the biggest problem with this series. It's a lesbian-themed anime lacking subtext, real character development, and any sort of sensical plot. All it wants to do is reach the quickest route possible towards some pretty graphic eroticism, and then throw some kind of flashback from Kureha's life that has a half-assed philosophical connotation that's more pretentious than meaningful. For this to come from the mind of Ikuhara, it's both shocking and disappointing.
However not everything about Yurikuma Arashi is bad. For starters the animation can be quite beautiful at times. Silver Link has drawn this series with the finest attention to detail in both the characters and the world that surrounds them. I'll also admit that the bears are very cute-looking, looking less like a threat and more like something you'd buy at a Toys R Us. However with this being helmed by Ikurhara there are plenty of recycled shots, from Kureha walking and falling down the steps during her bear battle to Ginko and Lulu's yuri transformation (not to mention what the two of them do to Kureha as she tumbles, which is so finely animated that it's kinda unsettling).
The best part about this anime has to be its music. Composer Yukari Hashimoto, who has done some fine work on Toradora! and Golden Time, creates a beautiful cascade that wraps itself around the scenery with incredible ease. Bonjour Suzuki's opener "Ano Mori de Matteru" is a blend of European pop that whispers hauntingly into your ear as you listen. Closing theme "Territory," performed by Miho Arakawa, Yoshiko Ikuta, and Nozomi Yamane (who play Ginko, Lulu, and Kureha respectively) is a hypnotic dance track, one that could easily be slipped into a DJ's playlist and play without the crowd even knowing it came from an anime series.
Alas, looking and sounding good isn't enough to keep viewers enticed. What matters, after all, is the story, and Yurikuma Arashi doesn't have a single plot point that even the most intelligent of folk will find understandable. All it seems to achieve is that Ikuhara can get away with almost anything in Japan, and what he has delivered is a yuri anime that wants to show more fan-serviced eroticism than build a bond between the show and its viewers. For an anime that's incredibly bright, flashy, and loud it does nothing to gain any sort of well-deserved attention.
Is Yurikuma Arashi a top contender for this year's worst anime? Does a lesbian bear shit in the woods?
Voice actors/actresses: 6.5/10
Final Grade: 3.5/10