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Ikuhara Returns With Funimation's Release of Yurikuma Arashi!

by Funimation Entertainment (Paid Advertisement),

The bears are coming, the bears are here! On June 28, Funimation will release the complete Yurikuma Arashi, the new opus by director Kunihiko Ikuhara, who's the auteur, provocateur and mad mouldbreaker behind Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum. The twelve-part Yurikuma Arashi will be released as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with a Retail Price of $64.98.

Yurikuma Arashi takes place in an academy where young women are supposedly protected from predatory beasts lurking outside the walls. In this world, an interstellar catastrophe caused the bears on Earth to go savage, devouring humans. In response, a Wall was erected by humans to seal the bears off. Unfortunately for humans, two bears – Ginko and Lulu – take on the appearance of cute human girls and enroll as transfer students at Arashigaoka Academy. Here they scent the delicious odor of Kureha, a girl pupil who really hates bears…

Ikuhara is famed as the creator of adult, allegorical fantasies that can be both playful and shocking, dealing fearlessly with real-world themes. In particular, Ikuhara is famous for his depictions of lesbian love, going back to the iconic pairing of Utena and Anthy in Revolutionary Girl Utena. This time around, the clue is in the series title, Yurikuma Arashi. ‘Yuri’ means ‘Lily’ in Japanese (and it's a common female name), but most Anime News Network readers will know that the word also denotes manga and anime about girls who love girls. The show plays with both meanings – lilies are prominent in Yurikuma Arashi, as are visual metaphors capitalizing on the eroticism of flowers. “Kuma,” if you're wondering, means bear, hence the show's nickname of “Lesbian Bears” among English-speaking fans.

Like other great fantasy creators, Ikuhara intertwines real-world issues with fairy-tales, and also with off-kilter cult films that are referenced in the series. For example, you should be on the lookout for a honeycomb pattern, like the one on the carpet of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The Academy interiors in the series are created in the style of Dario Argento's seminal horror-fantasy Suspiria. One sequence – which involves a character falling head first out of a bathtub – paraphrases one of the most famous scenes in cinema, the shower murder in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. (Kurehara's house also looks very like Mrs Bates's mansion in the same film.)

There are also callbacks and self-references within Ikuhara's own work. For example, spot how the bear/girl character Lulu's outfit recalls the dress and crown of Anthy in Utena, and is itself re-echoed in Kurehea's curtains in Yurikuma…

Ikuhara is undoubtedly the name in Yurikama's credits that will excite seasoned anime fans, especially those who love symbolism and experimentation in anime. Ikuhara was involved with the original Sailor Moon anime in the 1990s, becoming director during the second season (Sailor Moon R), and then directing the sequels Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS. After that, he moved on to direct the landmark TV anime Revolutionary Girl Utena in 1997, followed by the movie Utena two years later. More than a decade on from Utena, he directed the series Mawaru Penguindrum in 2011.

The Funimation release of Yurikuma Arashi includes all twelve episodes of the series on two DVDs and two Blu-ray discs. In the Funimation dub version, Kureha is voiced by Alexis Tipton, whose other roles include Mizuki in Baka and Test – Summon the Beasts, Inori in Guilty Crown and Saya in Blood-C. Of the “Yuri” bears, Lulu is voiced by Jamie Marchi, who is Panty in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt and Cana in Fairy Tail. Her fellow bear Ginko is voiced by Monica Rial, who is Kyoko in Full Metal Panic!, Index in A Certain Magical Index, Mariya in Maria Holic and Bulma in Dragon Ball Z Kai. Rial also dueted with Jamie Marchi as the “Stocking” half of Panty and Stocking.

You can hear the three actors in the episode commentaries included on the Funimation set, which accompany the first and twelfth episodes of Yurikuma Arashi. The commentaries also feature the dub's ADR Director, Christopher Bevins (who also takes the voice role of the character Life Cool in the series); Josh Grelle, who voices the character Life Beauty; and J. Michael Tatum, who voices Life Sexy.

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