Yurikuma Arashi Recap – Episode 9: “The Future of the Girls”

Finders, keepers, losers, bear food.

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The Recap

Welcome back, everyone! Are your fingers achin’ after dangling from that cliff for the last two weeks? Well, just in case you forgot where Kureha was, the episode uses its first couple minutes to remind us. Bear to the left of her, teacher to the right, here she is—stuck in the middle with Luluuuuu! Having learned the truth about Ginko and Sumika, Kureha raises her gun, and…

…Wow. She actually shot her off the roof. Yuriika looks on approvingly, and Reia’s pendant falls into darkness.

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“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

The rest of the school gossips about how way terrible everything is, seeing as how another bear’s been spotted and shot…ted, but rumor has it this bear may still be alive. Which is right when the camera shows us a flash of LONG BROWN HAIR AND AN ARMBAND?!

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That’s right, team: Yurizono “The Worst” Mitsuko is back, and ominous as ever! She approaches the lily garden, which converts into a doorway that leads to what looks an awful lot like the world outside the wall where Kureha once found Ginko—a land of snow, abandoned warfare, and spooky black canopy beds. Heyyy, and Ginko’s here, too!

But before we can learn what’s up with that, we need to check in on Yuriika, who’s feeling very satisfied with herself for getting rid of Ginko. “Instead of getting love, you fell into the abyss,” she says, and blames this outcome on Ginko—not because she didn’t tell Kureha the truth, but because she didn’t acknowledge Lulu’s obvious affection for her and “tried to abandon her.” And golly, I do believe that brings us to:

5-Minute Mark Theory Time! This is a really nifty use of perspective, because even though Yuriika is talking about Ginko and Lulu, the fact is she’s never directly interacted with and barely (bearly?) knows the two. So rather than giving us insight into the LilyBears, this is really showing us more of Yuriika herself. The way I see it, she’s projecting Reia’s perceived crimes/sins (the Japanese word tsumi can mean either) of ignorance and abandonment on to Ginko, and projecting her own actual crimes onto Lulu, trying to justify Reia’s murder (i.e., “It’s your own fault for not understanding how I felt”).

As for Lulu? Well, I don’t buy Yuriika’s reading of her, but I’m admittedly suuuuper biased at this point. What I will say is that we should wait until we get some insight from Lulu herself before we make any assumptions, and definitely not take Yuriika’s analysis as the Gospel (Gaospel?) Truth.

As Yuriika makes plans to box up her new bride (seriously, Kureha, is it too late to transfer schools?), Ginko awakens in the black bear’s den to find Mitsuko looking after her. “Oy, didn’t we kill you?” Ginko asks, to which Mitsuko responds: “Yup, I’m pretty much all in your head.” And so our wild early episode theories come true, and a bear really IS a figment of someone’s imagination! I knew we’d get there eventually, gang! Mitsuko says she’s a Streetcar Ghost Named Desire living inside of Ginko, which means, uh…

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Oooof course it will.

She welcomes Ginko to The Door of Friends: the “center of the sky that divides the worlds of moon and forest,” and “the place where true love is tested.” It may or may not be real. It’s also, turns out, the place where we’ll finally learn about Ginko’s crime.

As Mitsuko gives Ginko a progressively more erotic sponge bath, we flash back to the day before Sumika’s death, when Mitsuko sensed Ginko’s presence/desire for Kureha and realized she needed to move quickly if she wanted to eat her first. So she laid a trap for Sumika where the two would get there early and surprise Kureha with new lily flowers.

Ginko saw all this, and eventually comes out of hiding when Sumika’s buying a lily at the local flower shop. Sumika waxes romantical about her own “delicious smell,” if you will.

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Yeah? Well, Ginko liked ‘em before it was cool, so THERE.

Sumika renews her vow to not back down on love (except that she’s totally about to break up with Kureha without telling her WHY or giving her a chance to… ah-hem. Anyway), and in The Present, Mitsuko calls Ginko out for being jealous of Sumika’s relationship with Kureha.

Back on That Fateful Day, Ginko left Lulu sleeping adorably (secrets do NOT make friends, Ginko!) and went to the school to warn Sumika about Mitsuko’s true intentions. But then Sumika gets to talking about her hairpin and how her friend “found” it for her, and, well…

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After some prodding from Mitsuko (“We ought to be honest about what we want”), Ginko realizes that she wanted Sumika to die, which is why she stood by and did nothing while Mitsuko chomp chomp, grawr’d down. And the two agree: Mitsuko was the one who ate Sumika, but Ginko—a “slave to desire”—was the one who killed her.

10-Minute Mark Theory Time! Well, now’s as good a time as any to take a crack at DesireBear. Ginko’s a deeply flawed but nevertheless sympathetic character, so a part of me would like to see this as some kind of Angry Ghost/Possession thing, and while I think there might be some truth to that given that Mitsuko seems to know things Ginko couldn’t, it’s also a far too forgiving interpretation.

Regardless of how real or imaginary Mitsuko is, she’s still a representation of desire, so what’s basically happening here is that Ginko is having a long conversation with herself, coming to terms with (and being seduced by) some of her most selfish, primal urges and motivations. More than anyone else in the series, Mitsuko was the living embodiment of desire—pure hunger and id, as she herself explained back in Episode 3—so it makes sense that Ginko’s own raw desire would appear in this form.

All of which makes what happens next so very hard to watch, because Mitsuko swiftly strips, justifies Ginko’s actions—“everyone sins,” “it’s Kureha’s own fault for forgetting you”—and tells her:

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Is it death? Taxes? Rule 34? It’s Rule 34, isn’t it?

“It’s me—desire.” (So, yeah. Rule 34.) “Love is a savage emotion. To love someone is to rule them. To want to become one with them so badly that you consume them.” Mitsuko, you are truly The Worst.

She tells Ginko about the “other bear” (Yuriika) and blames her for both Kureha killing Mitsuko andLulu betraying Ginko. Again, there’s a question of how much of this is true and how much of it is assumption/conjecture, but it does turn out that Yuriika’s the one who sent the “criminal-bear” letter to Kureha’s house, so there’s at least some truth to these revelations. Spectral DesireBears have a good intel network, it seems.

But we could debate reality vs. fiction until the cows come home—point is, Mitsuko says Yuriika is after Kureha, and the only way to stop her is for Ginko to become “one with” Mitsuko and devour Kureha first in order to “prove” her love. And she does exactly that, despite my best attempts to dissuade her through the TV.

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“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

After the eyecatch, it’s time to check in on the classroom and the Invisible Storm, who are finally starting to catch wise to the bears wandering around disguised as humans. Our new Storm Leader, Oki Chouko—her first name is a facepalm-inducing pun on chou, meaning both “butterfly” (like her hairband) and the slang term the subs translate as “way” (e.g., “way scary”)—gets the gals together so they can rethink their Exclusion Strategy. And they do, by adding a new level: “Can’t Follow Social Cues = Evil = Bear.” Which, on the bright(?) side, means Kureha gets to join in on the Exclusion Ceremony now. Hooray?

The CourtBears look on via coin-operated binoculars, and Life Sexy provides some insight about how “those girls” just need to exclude someone, doesn’t matter if it’s bear or human so long as there’s a “them” so the girls can feel like an “us,” and you know, pal, this would carry a heck of a lot more weight if you weren’t simultaneously getting off on watching a pair of high school girls go at it in the infirmary.

15-Minute Mark Theory Time! Two things, here. First, I like how the CourtBears are becoming distinct characters, not only in their mannerisms but in how they approach and react to the events around them. Cool stops watching once he has the intel (which, combined with his reluctance to pull strings last week, makes him the only CourtBeart I even remotely trust at this point); Beauty is cheerfully going along with Sexy, albeit it more innocently (he’s still looking through the binoculars but it’s implied that he’s watching the class); and Sexy’s attention has turned to… well, sexy things.

And second, this is the first time our Judge has been outright depicted as a less than objective or trustworthy voice—plenty of us have suspected it for a while, of course, but having him wax philosophical about “those girls” while getting his jollies from their (secretive) canoodling undermines pretty much everything he’s saying, and the voyeuristic camera angles are really the first time the series has provided us with not just sexuality but sexuality through a(n again, veryliteral) male gaze. The question “what right have you to judge these girls?” is becoming more and more explicit, and I’ll be surprised if it’s not directly addressed before all is said and done.

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Stop being cute, you jerk! I don’t trust you anymore!

While Life Sexy laments his binoculars’ time limit (shaba-da-doo…), the girls vote on their next evil, and Ginko’s name shows up on the list. Kureha hesitates to press that button, though—she may have shot Ginko in a moment of blind rage, but now that she’s had time to consider it, she’s not so sure. After all, she knows Mitsuko killed Sumika, so…

Kureha’s interrupted mid-ponder by a phone call that mimics the CourtBears’ challenges, directing her to the lily bed and leading her to believe Ginko will be there. She runs out the door, unarmed for once and hoping to talk.

But it’s not Life Sexy on the other end of that line—no, it’s Yuriika, ready to spring her trap (noteworthy: Life Beauty calls her court session a “contract”). She’s convinced the reason she feels empty even after devouring Reia is because Reia transferred all her love to Kureha, so now that Kureha is older and isolated (and therefore unable to transfer that love to someone else), Yuriika can devour her at last and take Reia’s love for herself.

And she would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!

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20-Minute Mark Theory Time! As is often the case at this point, my brain is beginning to sputter, but I’m considering the way the Invisible Girls are changing—in how they included Kureha, demonstrated decisive action against an actual attacker… heck, even the way the infirmary girls were being affectionate in a semi-open manner (I think I’m officially subscribing to the idea that everyone at this school is a lesbian and “evil” girls were those who were public about it, the way Kureha and Sumika were).

I doubt we’re supposed to 100% agree with Life Sexy’s (dismissive) analysis given the way he delivered it, so what’s really going on here? Is it just that the girls are starting to understand what’s going on and where the real threats exist? They’re still stuck in a dangerously simplistic “us” vs. “them” mentality, but this does at least seem to be progress in some small way, as they’ve not only fought back against an actual threat for once, but saved a classmate in the process. Baby steps, maybe? Or maybe I’m just an optimist.

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The injured Yuriika escapes back to her office, where Reia finds her at last. Yuriika confesses to stealing the last part of The Moon Girl and the Forest Girl and hiding it in one of her Triangle Boxes because it was “the dream of our love that never materialized.” As Reia smiles down on her, Yuriika decides that the book isn’t her destiny after all, but belongs to Kureha and Ginko. She confesses her love once more, and dies.

…I didn’t like Yuriika, you guys. She was a victim-blaming serial killer who spent her entire adult life preaching a destructive belief system to a group of girls so she could more easily isolate and prey upon them. I understand why she did those things, mind you, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior or make it any less reprehensible.

I didn’t like her.

I really didn’t.

BUT DAMMIT, PEOPLE, I’M NOT MADE OF STONE.

As Yuriika passes, the vision fades and we see that it was actually Kureha who held her in her last moments (which was probably obvious, but hey, this is Yurikuma—I assume all visions are at least semi-real until explicitly told otherwise). Which means she knows where to find the final pages of her mother’s picture book, and can write the end of her story with Ginko as well. Except…

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Aaaaand we’re just gonna end the episode there. Because of course we are.

Afterthoughts

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Repetition is a sneaky writer trick. It gets you to associate certain words or images with certain scenes or emotions, so that when you see the word/image again elsewhere it evokes those memories. At this point, “found” is basically my Puddle of Emotions switch. So thanks for that, Ikuhara.

This episode was all over the place and so was my brain, and as a result I don’t have any one single topic to discuss. So here, have some stray thoughts for the road:

  • I think it’s time we came to terms with the fact that Sumika’s dead for really reals, you guys. :(
  • This episode was severely lacking in Lulu. Double :(
  • Yurikuma and its use of nudity would make for one heck of an interesting essay. Take this week, where both Ginko and Kureha are stripped by others to convey their vulnerable positions (both emotionally and physically), while Mitsuko takes off her own clothes (and presumably Ginko’s) to show that she’s the one with power and absolutely zero reservations about it—and meanwhile Yuriika, our purity-obsessed and most emotionally “hidden” character, remains fully clothed even when she’s ready to “devour” Kureha. And then the only consensual sexy-time scene involved two fully-clothed girls, perhaps suggesting that while the rest of the school is becoming more active and honest about their sexuality, they still haven’t stopped being “invisible” yet…
    See what I mean? Heck of an interesting essay.
  • I was going to talk about how Mitsuko and Yuriika were similar cautionary tales, but it’s more like two sides of a coin: Yuriika is obsessed with purity and self-denial (unsullied but denying the natural world—a paper lily) while Mitsuko is obsessed with desire and “sin” (a natural force but a malevolent one—a black lily). Different perspectives that ultimately lead to the same kinds of thought patterns that insist one must “devour” or “box up” the things one loves—to possess them, and ultimately destroy them.
  • Kureha must just be dead on the inside at this point—she was completely unphased when Yuriika pinned her down and metaphorically stripped her, and she didn’t even flinch at Yuriika’s bear-shocking confession about killing Reia. That poor kid. One of these days she’s gonna go all Tommy Wiseau on these bears, I just know it.

I’ll be out of town for most of next week, so the blog post might be a bit truncated and/or later than usual. Rest assured that I will be back to cover the storms, though—bear, invisible, or otherwise!

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