Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear
Episode 9

by Richard Eisenbeis,

How would you rate episode 9 of
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear ?

“In which our heroine exploits child labor for fun and profit.”

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a series with minimal conflict, focusing on being light and fluffy more than anything else. Even when there are problems to be overcome, they are easily resolved with only the happiest of outcomes allowed. This makes the series safe and tension-free. To some, that may make this the perfect show to relax to. To others, however, it's just plain boring.

While I find myself in the latter camp more often than not, there is one thing I am completely invested in: Yuna's growth as a person. Before arriving at the fantasy world, Yuna was antisocial to an alarming degree. She lived alone in a self-financed apartment—spending her days playing a VRMMORPG instead of going to school. She wanted so little to do with her family, she sent her parents on an overseas vacation just to keep them out of her hair. Even her grandfather, who called to check in on her moments before she was transported to the fantasy world, hasn't even crossed her mind since her adventure began.

Since then, we have seen Yuna become more involved in the lives of others. At first, she treated the world as a game—doing quests and the like for fun. Outside of that, Yuna was completely reactive, solving only the problems that pop up right in front of her. However, slowly but surely, she has started to care about those around her—actively offering to help with things that don't affect her directly.

This episode gives us the next tiny step in Yuna's evolution. Up until this point, Yuna has done only what she wants to do—be that doing quests or helping those she comes across. The one notable exception to that has been her first meeting with Cliff—which could have left her blacklisted in the town and potentially exiled if she had declined. Yet, in this episode, Yuna herself decides to do something she actively doesn't want to do—not because she is being forced to but simply out of the goodness of her own heart.

Before returning from the capital, Yuna and Fina come across a baker and her daughter who have been forced to close their shop due to loan sharks. After teaching the pair to cook some of her favorite dishes, she offers them jobs as the head chefs of a new restaurant. Now, Yuna has stated more than once that she didn't want to open a restaurant. She likes cooking for fun and for friends but has zero interest in cooking as a job. Even cooking for the King's birthday leaves her exhausted and in a bad mood. However, if she opens a restaurant and leaves others to run it, she can eat the food she loves—made by people far more competent at cooking than her.

However, while Yuna is able to get the restaurant up and running, she makes one major mistake: she vastly underestimates the popularity of her “new” dishes. With only two cooks, the restaurant lacks the personnel to get food out in a timely manner. If this were the old Yuna, she probably would have just left things as they were. Sure, some people will be unhappy, but it doesn't matter as long as she gets her food in the end. However, this evolved Yuna cares about the people of the town—to the point where she does something she is fundamentally against: going into the kitchen to help with the cooking. It's a subtle but important moment for Yuna as a character and yet another step on her road to becoming a healthy, outgoing adult.

Now if only she'd realize that building a restaurant empire on the backs of underaged orphans isn't a good thing.


Random Thoughts:

• It was just feeding chickens and gathering their eggs for sale at first, but now the children are working as servers, bussers, and prep cooks.

• While the kids learning to cook are actually getting apprentice-level training which may help them later in life, the kids doing the unskilled labor would be better off learning to do things like read, write, and do math.

• Are the children getting a salary or is the orphanage getting all the money?

• Honestly, a good way to get around this child labor thing would be for Yuna to promise to hire any children that age out of the orphanage—and just have the eldest “intern” for the year before they do.

• Am I imposing modern morality on the issue of child labor? Yep. I'm just surprised Yuna, a modern-day Japanese girl, isn't.

• Can you imagine being a fully grown adult and having to work in a kitchen in those bear outfits? (Or maybe Yuna has invented “bear industrial air-conditioning” and “bear flame retardant fabric.”)

• So after Yuna's big stink about not wanting to reveal her bear-house construction magic to people, she just did it anyway in the middle of the capital?

• I'm actually surprised the King let Yuna leave the capital. Then again, as much as everyone likes Yuna, they also fear her.

• Best use of Bear Magic this episode? The “bear brick pizza” oven.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is currently streaming on Funimation.

Richard is an anime and video game journalist with over a decade of experience living and working in Japan. For more of his writings, check out his Twitter and blog.

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