Bear hugs make everything better.
This post is coming to you on holiday, two time zones and a primary laptop away from my usual writing location, which means I’m lacking both my reaction gif archive and a whole mess of available writing time. So while this post is still plenty long on account of all the Lulu (#BestBear), I do apologize if it’s a bit sparser (and lower on terrible puns) than usual.
Let’s start this one 11 Years Ago, The Day Reia Died (History), as Li’l Kureha finds the house empty and a note from her mom saying she’s sending “her” back through the door. Li’l Kureha does not compute, but that doesn’t stop her mom from saving Ginko from exclusion (read: execution). Ginko also does not seem to compute.
Then it’s back to The Present for some patented Ikuhara black humor, as the Invisible Girls (now proud members of Unit KMT6) patrol for bears and find a Lulu.
“We thought you were a bear,” they say, to which Lulu oh-so-smoothly replies “HAHA YOU CRAZY HEY LOOK A DISTRACTION GROWL” and asks them about the Ominous Military Vehicle at the school. Turns out it’s a Bear-Killing Beam Truck powered by none other than Zombie Cyborg Yurikawa Konomi. Yes, really.
InvisibLeader Chouko says they’re looking for another bear, and warns Lulu that it’s dangerous to go alone right before she leaves her alone. She continues searching (presumably for the star pendant) as the CourtBears spy from their coin-operated perch, theorize about character motivations, and basically do my job for me.
The CourtBears are once again not in alignment this week, as Cool doesn’t understand Lulu’s “inconsistent” actions, Beauty simplifies it to “well, she was in love,” and Sexy gives us some more of his philosophical musings, noting that “love comes in many forms,” which is why Kumaria always asks anyone who tries to go beyond severance if their love is “the real thing.”
5-Minute Mark Theory Time! So at this point I think it’s pretty clear that “severance” and its wall functions a lot like Yuriika’s boxes, and stands for two primary ideas: First, the strict (arbitrary) social divisions set up between groups (particularly bears and humans, but we could also extend this to Invisible and Evil, pure and sullied, etc.). And second, the individual walls (or “mirrors”) of selfishness/ego/fear/etc. that stand between two people.
Reia’s book frames it in a more positive light, calling this wall the “Door to Friendship” and encouraging our heroines to smash through this division in order to move on to a new world. In other words, all our images and metaphors are gelling into a more-or-less cohesive story, just like we thought (hoped?) they would. I love it when a plan comes together.
There’s a nifty bit of compare/contrast story crafting as Kureha re-reads The Moon Girl and the Forest Girl while the Invisible Stormtroopers gear up for war (the book talks about breaking down walls to reach your friend while Chouko gives a speech about how they need the Wall to protect their invisible lives, and it’s hectic and contradictory and does a real nice job of setting up the two as opposing forces), then it’s time to finally open that picture book and see how Reia’s story ends.
And hooray! The story has a happy ending, as the girls shatter the wall between them, share a Promise Kiss, and begin a “journey beyond severance, guided by the star of love.”
We’re also treated to more gorgeous illustrations. Here, have one:
Oh, what the heck. You’ve all been such good readers—have another!
Kureha reads the book as a prophecy about her relationship with Ginko, but can’t see how that’s possible. A bear and a human, together? That’s crazy talk.
Speaking of bears, Lulu’s come a-calling to return the star pendant. Kureha proves that bears and humans can at least be buddies when she invites Lulu in for a bath as a kind of “thank you,” and even acts out the previous end credit illustration when she washes Lulu’s hair for her. In this shared, intimate space, the two at last speak honestly with each other, particularly about Ginko and her role in Sumika’s death. Lulu names jealousy as both her and Ginko’s fatal flaws, and apologizes for it.
10-Minute Mark Theory Time! I’m still fan-theorizing that Lulu was driven as much by her desire to make sure there were no secrets between Kureha and Ginko (“you can’t do a Promise Kiss without telling her the truth,” after all) as she was by her own self-proclaimed jealousy, buuuut this does sort of tie into the show’s ongoing discussion of what it means to have your love be “the real thing.”
Everyone says theirs is real, but Promise Kisses come from shattering the wall between selves, which suggests that “real” love is ultimately unselfish—something given rather than taken, with the focus on truly seeing the other person’s wants and needs rather than one’s own image. Of course, that easily leads into a discussion about whose love we could consider “real” at this point, but I’ll leave that debate for the comments section.
With bathtime over, Kureha pops the star pendant back into the music box and unlocks the picture inside—which, unfolded, reveals Cub Ginko as well. Kureha believes it even though she can’t remember it—but she also says she can’t love Ginko again because of the impassable severance between humans and bears. Then Lulu makes me sad with memories:
But wait! There’s no time to be sad! There’s a phone call from InvisibLeader Chouko, warning Kureha that the bears are after her. Kureha’s way chill response confirms Chouko’s suspicions that Kureha is harboring the bears, and she and her Stormtroopers bust into the house—only to find that Kureha and Lulu have already escaped.
15-Minute Mark Theory Time! Welp, my tentative hopes about the Storm becoming more aware and less awful lasted all of half an episode. They’re way terrible again. Sigh. I’m a fan of redemption arcs so I’m a little sad it looks like we won’t see one from the Storm, but I get the intent: They’re supposed to represent the most aggressively close-minded (not to mention hypocritical) portion of not just society, but also individual mindsets, meaning they’re less actual humans and more a faceless (invisible) force that has the potential to exist within everyone (remember, every “excluded” character has excluded someone else at some point, too).
Plus, if they were more sympathetic, we’d have a much harder time excusing the LilyBears for eating so many of them. As it is, it’s more like the LilyBears were nomming on an emotion rather than a series of people. I guess that’s one way to look at it, anyway.
As the girls flee through the town, Lulu spills the honey about her Magical Bear status. In order for bears to become girls, they have to make a deal with “what stands between bears and humans”—i.e., the Wall of Severance and its (all-male) Court. In exchange for a human form, the bears give up the thing they care about the most. Lulu gave up kisses, Yuriika gave up love—and as for Ginko? Lulu thinks Ginko gave up Kureha’s love, meaning that Kureha lost her memories of their time together. But since Kureha didn’t give up on it herself, Lulu thinks she can still get it back.
And then—girl SHOCK! By revealing the “secret of transformation,” Lulu breaks her contract with the Wall, loses her yuri approval, and reverts to her original form. Yeah, forget Mitsuko. Magical Contracts are officially The Worst.
Which is, of course, exactly when The Storm finds her. They fire up their LilyCannon and send a massive blast of energy straight at her, whereupon my heart stopped and my eyes got real big and I was planning all manner of violent acts of vengeance to wreak upon both the Storm AND the creative team because—because—LULUUUUU!
And then, as the smoke clears…
KUREHA, YOU MAGNIFICENT MACGUFFIN! I’m so happy I could Promise Kiss you!
Yep, looks like The Storm got the wrong bear (which begs the question of what bear they DID hit, but… nope, you know what, I’m too relieved to ask questions, we’re lettin’ this one go), and Kureha’s able to dash off again, with Lulu in her arms serving as a nice callback to Reia’s mother saving Ginko at the start of the ep.
Along the way, Kureha Flashes Back to The Day We Met (History), when she felt someone “calling” her, so she passed through the lily garden and the Door to Friendship at its center and found the battered Ginko on the other side.
20-Minute Mark Theory Time! I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of giving up on the other person’s love rather than your own, as it sure seems Important—for Ginko, obviously, but also for Sumika, as we could see her decision (to keep loving Kureha from afar) in a similar light. It continues to strike me as a largely selfish choice (they hang on to their own love while “letting go” of Kureha’s, and without giving Kureha any say in the matter), but I’m not sure if that’s how YKA itself wants me to read the situation.
Then again, I’m also not sure how much of a say Ginko had in the matter either. We never see her choosing what she’ll give up the way that Lulu and Yuriika did, so it’s possible that Kureha’s love was the only available toll, and Ginko paid it because she trusted that their feelings for one another were stronger than lost memories. Which, okay, yeah. That’s pretty darn romantic, actually.
Having remembered their meeting and the love they shared, present-day Kureha returns to the lily garden and opens the door once again, allowing Lulu to escape to the other side. She performs the LilyBear equivalent of a “Go on, git!” on Lulu, insisting that they aren’t friends and that she’ll kill her if they ever meet again. The two share a silent farewell as the door closes between them.
The Stormtroopers arrive as soon as the door shuts, and Chouko declares Kureha the REAL evil, accusing her of opening the secret passageway to severance and bringing the bears into school in order to take revenge on the girls who’ve been excluding her. Well, gee, Chouko, you ignored her, gossiped about her, made her girlfriend break up with her, and set her flowerbed on fire—I mean, your accusations are false, but it’s not like it’d be surprising if they WEREN’T.
The girls hold Kureha at gunpoint, but the fight isn’t over yet, because a certain green red-eyed monster is on the prowl. Gulp.
Oh—and there’s also a short, post-credits scene of Kureha standing defiantly before the Severance Court. Whaaaat?! So humans can go to Yuri Trial, too? I hope they find her guilty and turn her into a bear so she and Princess Lulu can go on adventures together. I’d watch the hell out of that spinoff.
It should be noted that I watched this episode on my phone in the backseat of a car while driving to a baseball game (I love you, 4G), which is a great way to find out if you have a proper poker face or if everyone is just going to think you’re nuts.
— Josei Monogatari!! (@joseinextdoor) March 16, 2015
All joking aside, I kept my outer cool while letting my insides scream a whole bunch, and I’m honestly just so, SO happy Lulu made it to the end credits alive that I’m declaring this episode a huge, glorious success. Lots to chew on, particularly where those (shitty) contracts are concerned, what Kumaria considers “real” love, why Kureha wound up in front of the Severance Court, and of course the big question of how in the world Ginko and Kureha are going to get their storybook ending.
Hash it out in the comments, theorize away, and join me in breathing a big ol’ sigh of relief about bear tragedy averted—well, for now, anyway. I mean, we DO still have two whole episodes to go, and if we’ve learned anything these last 10 weeks, it’s that anything can happen when the human and bear worlds collide. Gulp again.