Yurikuma Arashi – 05 Review
That was a ridiculous fanservice-moment. It would’ve been better, though, if it hadn’t been like the third daydream-fanservice-sequence in this episode.
I’m still kinda hoping that this series is going for something deeper than “love is good”. Right now it isn’t a very remarkable series. It’s stylish but somewhat ordinary on the story-front. And the characters haven’t developed much depth either. It’s all catchphrases with the dialogue in this series but genuine emotional moments that delve deeper into the reasons for what the characters are doing come rarely. This series needs one hell of a third-act-reveal to make up for this somewhat ordinary first half (with the style being the only remarkable thing about it).
Shots like that may show a nice attention to detail in how little stuff relates to the story… but one, it’s a bit on-the-nose and two, I don’t think it actually adds anything. You could remove this scene from the episode without losing anything and instead have Lulu or Ginko just naturally come up with the idea for cooking.
Utena and Penguindrum had used its theatrical stage-y presentation as a foundation for its story and new aspects were added to the story constantly. And another common aspect of Ikuhara’s series is how incomplete the mythology is which the series presents at the beginning. Take the ultimate villain in Utena and the children-boiler: Both significant elements of the series’ story and yet you only get to see them right at the very end. Ikuhara seems to love presenting these stories where you know what is going on sort-of but then reveals it’s about so much more. And so we’ve reached the halfway-point of this series which begs the question: Has Yurikuma Arashi’s depth grown due to the presentation of new significant elements of the story?
What the series definitely has done in this episode is adding more elements to the story. This episode delves into the topic Ginko’s love for Kureha and what she exactly means with her catchphrase “delicious smell”. And it explains a few things while also raising a few new questions. Kureha, meanwhile, struggles to find a place in a world where everybody wants her to move on from Sumika – except she can’t. And so there’s the confrontation between Kureha and Ginko/Lulu while there’s also the confrontation between Kureha and the class. And the usual allegories and symbols reappear but this episode feels surprisingly tame and diminished in comparison to the previous ones.
A big problem of this episode is the story itself. Like usual, the series had started out with this incomplete picture of what’s really going on. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews already how the first three episodes were mostly rendered inaccessible and distant due to that. It was hard to relate to this incomplete presentation of the story. And I’ve also suspected the reason for that wasn’t less the style but just that the story of this series isn’t that deep to begin with. It isn’t complex enough to be cut into pieces and to be turned into this allegory-laden theater-performance. And the more the series reveals about what is going on and why anything is happening you can’t help but notice just how trite some of the ideas are that sometimes lurk behind witty allegories.
Yeah… what actually IS Ginko’s and Lulu’s relationship like with the rest of the class…? I guess, the cliffhanger of this episode made that clear but I guess, even Ikuhara’s stylishness hasn’t found a way to make what students normally do in schools look exciting and entertaining. Students learning in school in animes is the same thing as hacking in movies, it seems.
The biggest one is of course the reveal of why Ginko loves Kureha: They are sort-of childhoodfriends. And Kureha has naturally forgotten everything. In both instances here you got really boring tropes that really only would get interesting if it turns out that this episode has kinda lied about what it’s saying and implicating. That this trope-ridden story-element is then supported by a photo of Kureha and her mother that got cut off right at the point where Ginko would’ve been doesn’t make it much better, either.
At the same time, though, this revelation isn’t that meaningful because as I said it raises new questions as well. Why was Ginko on a battlefield? Why was Kureha as a little kid there? Why did Kureha’s mother and her adopt Ginko? What had happened to make Ginko leave Kureha behind? Has Ginko been the one who somehow killed Kureha’s mother? Who knows… This series will probably answer those questions but the obvious nature of those questions underlines how Yurikuma Arashi isn’t like the children-boiler in Penguindrum or the last villain in Utena. In those cases, the revelations came as a surprise that added to the established universe of the series. But what Yurikuma Arashi is doing is always more about what you don’t know instead of what new things you’ve learned about the story. There’s always this uncertainty hanging in the air that you don’t know what’s really going on but unlike in a mystery you’re not faced with a couple questions but dozens of them. And since there are so many of them the story isn’t driven by them as it’s busy working through the exposition and explanation needed to answer all those questions. Also, there are questions of such an essential nature still lingering that the sense of mystery exists less between the characters and the world around them but more between the series and the audience.
Ikuhara’s style of stage-iness, theater and surrealism is slipping as well, further underlining some of the more trite elements of the series. What I mean with stage-iness is this feeling of a place being used repetitively and in a way that constricts the scene. The world doesn’t feel as open as it would in a movie. You don’t do stuff like tracking-shots as someone wanders through the streets of a city. Places are becoming just this static background for the unfolding scene. The first three episodes had that feeling as the series indeed seemed to cycle through five or so locations again and again. But the backgrounds would become allegories and so they were meaningful in a way as well. This world felt structured but it also detached. By adding stuff like flashbacks and Ginko’s daydreams this structure is disappearing and the series starts to feel less and less like the stage-y abstract thing it had been at the beginning. But maybe that’s intentional. Maybe the point is to show this transition from order to chaos as even elements like the Three Judges stop relying on repetition.
Despite that it doesn’t feel like the story itself is out of control. Sure, you’ve got that cliffhanger at the end and the pacing of the episode is far more free-flowing than in previous episodes, but the actual story lacks a genuine mystery. After all, what this series is really about is love. And the series raises an interesting question regarding Ginko’s love but in the end it didn’t amount to much in this episode. The question of how selfish Ginko is by demanding that Kureha should love her doesn’t lead to the confrontation between her efforts and the class it first appears to be. And that’s where the series starts getting a little bit trite again as despite the allegorical implications, the class (the invisible people) devolve into this monotone villain that does nothing more than serve as an adversary to Kurehara’s and Ginko’s romantic sensibilities.
I would actually like all those allegories and themes better if the series would actually discuss them. So far, though, most of it feels too much like posturing. The series may have some interesting things to say with its allegories and the story itself is fine but there’s no actual dialogue going on here. The series is just stating what it wants to say and then does nothing more than restate the same thing or state new points. This is supposed to be the halfway-point of the series and it feels like we’re barely starting the second act here with where the cliffhanger is going. I feel like this series doesn’t reflect on its own themes enough and therefore episodes like this one may offer new substance but not enough reasons to stay interested. I mean, seriously, what is actually at stake in this series? The best answer I could come up with is Ginko’s quest to win Kureha’s love but aside from that… maybe Kureha learning to love again? The series needs to up its game if it wants all its stylishness and allegories to amount to anything.
- That new class-president looks like “someone” but all the story bothers to tell us is that she’s the new class-president… which isn’t a lot as far as characterization is concerned.
- This episode certainly went overboard with the amount of Ginko-daydreams it had.
- So… are the invisible humans the bad guys now?
- When you find yourself in front of a group of people that hated you a while ago but now desperately want to help you and while doing so actually start clapping in unison… Well, then you’ve either joined Scientology or all those people are actually sentient robots trying to take over the world. The point is: That sort of friendliness is fucking creepy. A normal group would’ve had at least this one girl in the last row who’s rolling her eyes while halfheartedly clapping and is like “Jesus, we all die. Get over it, Kureha. I know a dead person, too, but it’s not like the class wanted to help ME with publishing my poem-collection ‘Sad and Not-Happy: The many feelings reduced by the words that feel or don’t feel like the individualization of the neglection of a person who moves or stands still as the emotions walk or run into a state of implosion or explosion imploring sadness’ when my grandpa died.”