Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear
by Richard Eisenbeis,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear ?
“In which our heroine takes over-hunting to a whole new level.”
You know, back in episode three, I made the comment that while strong, Yuna does appear to have limits. After all, she was in the “starting town” and her bear-magic, though formidable, couldn't one-shot powerful enemies; she had to use at least a bit of strategy to win. I had hoped that when Yuna went out into the greater world, she would find others that could match her in strength and discover she had been little more than a big fish in a small pond. Then not only would we get some much-needed tension in the story as she was faced with problems she couldn't simply power her way through, we'd also see how she would be forced to grow to overcome these challenges as well.
Now, however, that seems like a foolishly idealistic dream. After all, this episode has Yuna offhandedly kill 10,000 monsters—some of them quite powerful—in just a few minutes.
But let's back up a bit. This episode is somewhat unique in that it's not really Yuna's story. It's Gulzam's. Gulzam was a magic researcher who used convicted criminals in his experiments. Apparently, he never asked permission for this and so when the king found out, Gulzam had his right arm lopped off and was exiled.
Now, years later, he's back with an army of monsters—and will die soon thanks to the spell he is using to control them. He is a man that wants nothing more than revenge on the king who, in his mind, treated him so unfairly. And as the King is a good man who actually cares about his people, Gulzam's best path to revenge is simply to unleash his horde of monsters upon the kingdom's populous. A madman bent on revenge; an unprepared kingdom: It's a situation rife with tension.
...and then Yuna decides to go for a walk.
Okay, to be fair, that's a bit of an oversimplification. Yuna is actually going to make sure Cliff safely gets to the capital and decides to eliminate any monsters she runs into along the way. But what's interesting is not what she is doing but why she is doing it.
Up until now, Yuna has been very reactive in the way she goes about things—she only tries to solve the problems she is directly faced with. Even when she first discovered her healing magic, she didn't think to try and heal Fina's mom until she was literally standing in front of the dying woman. However, this time, all it takes for Yuna to act is Noire mentioning that she's a bit worried for her father after the recent rise in monster attacks along the road. Simply seeing her friend worried is enough for Yuna to offer to go out and escort Cliff to the city. The fact that she has to kill 10,000 monsters to do so is inconsequential.
And what's really great about this moment of character growth for Yuna is that she actually realizes the change within her. She was once a girl living alone, unconcerned with the people populating the real world—even her family. But here in the fantasy world, she's found people she truly wants to be with and make happy.
That's why when the king asks about her desired reward, she would rather her contribution be ignored. She didn't intend to save the kingdom—she just wanted to make her friend a little less worried for her father's safety. She understands that what she intended to do wasn't anything special—it was simple kindness for a friend. To be rewarded for that—for simple human decency—rubs Yuna the wrong way. (And there's also the fact that, despite her “bear-y” appearance, she'd rather just blend in with the crowd.)
All in all, this is a better than average episode of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear. While all the tension it tries to build early on is ultimately used for nothing more than comic relief, the growth we see in Yuna makes everything that has come before have a bit more value—as necessary steps on the path to her becoming a better person.
• Is it wrong that I am still hoping, against all indications to the contrary, for some kind of legitimate action climax to the series?
• The “bear fire” bears say “kuma” when they attack.
• When I first watched the opening, I thought Gulzam was beheaded, and that he reappeared later on as a ghost. Then I noticed that his right sleeve was empty and it all made sense. Solid visual storytelling there.
• Does the fact that Fina, Noire, and Misana formed a secret fanclub for Yuna creep anyone else out? I mean aren't they friends and equals?
• The Japanese title of the episode is “Kuma-san, Musou Suru.” In Japan, Dynasty Warriors-style games are called “musou” games. So a fun (and completely apt) translation of the episode title would be “Ms. Bear Goes Full Dynasty Warriors.”
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is currently streaming on Funimation.
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