Anime with LGBTQ characters can be a hit or miss. Some can be problematic with extreme age differences, sexual abuse/rape, or the same-sex attraction is treated strictly as a comedy rather than genuine. Others are extremely well written but can be underrated, nowhere to be found on streaming apps, or for sale on Ebay with a hefty price tag. Luckily this title can be found subbed or dubbed on multiple streaming apps if the price for the home release, ($32.00 and up), is too steep.
Yurikuma Arashi, (which translates to Lily Bear Storm or in the Otaku world Lesbian Bear Storm), is set in world where humans are separated from bears. The Wall of Severance quite literally cuts bears away from the human population otherwise the bears would eat them, but that doesn’t stop the bears from crossing the wall especially since some bears are granted the ability to shapeshift into humans.
Kureha Tsubaki is a human girl in love with Sumika, a girl who attends the same girls academy. News has been spread that bears are attacking near the school and before long, Sumika is murdered and eaten by a bear. The arrival of two new students, Ginko and Lulu, may be attached to her murder considering these girls are really bears in disguise.
Before I dive into picking parts of the story apart and thematic material, I cannot go without mentioning its ties to a 1977 horror classic film titled Suspiria. From the color scheme of the school, shape of birds shown throughout the series screams of Suspiria. Even the musical arrangement of a song heard throughout the series sounds so eerily similar to the theme song of Suspiria that it might as well be a rendition. Plot-wise however, there’s not much similar between the two with the exception of the deaths of students in the schools being tied to their stories.
The plot of Yurikuma Arashi initially seems to have a goofy premise, cute character designs, and phrases like, “growl, growl” certainly doesn’t help but this 12-episode series covers a lot of ground in same-sex attraction and basic human nature. One of the most dominant themes is lesbianism. Including the love displayed in the first episode, nearly every character is either a lesbian or sexually fluid. Later this theme is explored in a different, darker light but initially there’s plenty of sexual imagery to go around.
Another theme explored is jealousy. Once the true plot is revealed and subplots come into the picture, the show is nowhere near as goofy and playful as it first appears. Motivations for characters get darker and borderline terrifying as the story progresses but nothing tops a side character named Yuriika.
Before the primary events of the story, school Principal Yuriika was once in a marriage quite stereotypical in today’s world and learned a menacing form of love until she meets Reia Tsubaki. Reia gives a whole new outlook on life and love so it becomes no surprise that she falls in love with her. However, Reia is one of the show’s few heterosexual characters. So when Reia gives birth to her daughter Kureha and later gives away a gift Yuriika gave to her, Yuriika eats her but acts as though she had no part in it.
Her jealousy still unchanged, she disguises herself as human to become a teacher at Kureha’s school and sexually manipulates many characters to lead Kureha into her hands. Her jealousy mirrors Ginko’s jealousy as Ginko knows the full events leading to Sumika’s murder, but did nothing to stop it. Her jealousy and desire is personified as another student named Mitsuko, (another sexually manipulative student who desired Kureha), and morphs into her will to live after she is nearly murdered.
Another theme explored in Yurikuma Arashi is homophobia. The Invisible Storm is a group comprised of students and seems to be in place to eradicate the bears disguised as humans. However, this is not always the case. The Invisible Storm also targets students with a same-sex attraction and attempts to assault them or even kill them. Before losing her memories, Kureha once knew The Invisible Storm for herself after becoming targeted and beaten for her friendship with a bear. This violent, bloodthirsty cult is another antagonist in the story which prompts most sexual and romantic displays of same-sex attraction to be private.
The Invisible Storm is really a personified version of the homophobic mindset. The characters involved in the cult are violent, often irrational, ignorant, but most of them are actually closeted. This cult was written as a reflection of homophobia in Japan but the theme is also present in the U.S. today. Even as we live in 2018 after a murderer has been sentenced the death penalty not because of the deadly crime he committed, but because of his sexuality.
Yurikuma Arashi is one of the perfect anime to watch for Pride season. Although the writing reflects uncomfortable truths about society and human nature, the true plot is a love story. A love story about the acceptance of love and most importantly, the love of self regardless of societal views.