Kureha has no memories of the night before. The next day, a funeral is held for Sumika. Another bear shows up, jealous of the President’s infatuation with Kureha. The president tries to fend off Ginko and Lulu, but has a secret of her own. The next day, The Invisible Storm is used to target Kureha. Unable to control herself, the President makes an attack of her own.
So it would appear that the bear trials affect Kureha much in the way they affected Himari. I find this a little annoying considering the fact that there’s no possession to explain her not remembering anything here. Either way, we see Lulu and Ginko barge into Kureha’s home and it seems like Kureha just gets stepped on in order to further the plot. Literally at one point. Lulu remains pretty funny, but the amount of fanservice devoted to her is getting a bit extreme. It’s still hard to get where Ginko is coming from, the only lead seems to be how she wears a crown in her bear forms. Otherwise she just seems like yet another person after Kureha, no different from the other bears except for the fact that she came from the outside to find her.
I’m also bit disappointed that we had that entire trial-transformation sequence happen again this soon. Granted, this is not a new concept in Ikuhara shows, but in this instance it felt like it was just there for the sake of padding. In Penguindrum the survival strategy usually at least had some point, either Himari needed to be saved from her illness or the Princess of the Crystal wanted to talk to the brothers, and in Utena it always had the purpose of fighting the other princes. Here, we see the trial happening for no reason. The bear attacking Kureha isn’t the one put on trial, the transformation does nothing to help Konoha to defeat it, as the class president does that. It just seemed to be there for the sake of having the transformation.
It’s after the threat to Kureha is over that things started to get confirmed, to me at least. The bears seem to represent carnal desire, whereas the love of Kureha and Sumika is meant to represent unadulterated love. The “bears” were never literal to begin with, but just the manifestations of carnal desire released by the magic of the meteorite. That is why we now see girls transforming into bears. On the flip side, normal people are invisible because this society is trying to foster only platonic love. If I were to bet anything, I’d say the Invisible Storm is simply the process of adulteration, the classic element of the loss of innocence on the path to becoming an adult. This is often seen through death or loss of some kind in most fiction, but it seems this show is using sexuality as the real culprit. I hope Kureha actually starts to have a bit more agency in her own story, as it seems right now that things are just happening to her instead of her affecting the plot in any meaningful way.
Kureha’s mother has been mentioned or referenced every episode so far, and this focus is only made more apparent with the introduction of Kureha’s teacher. One would imagine she must have had a normal heterosexual relationship considering Kureha exists, and yet the picture frame the teacher has of her clearly says “Yuri Friends”. Did they also have a relationship like Kureha and Sumika’s, one ripped apart by the Invisible Storm? The opening spoils it a bit, but don’t be too surprised if we see that teacher come back in a more malevolent form.
Speaking of, it was interesting to see the Invisible Storm in such a tangible form. I assumed the Storm had something to do with societal pressures and the corruption of adulthood, but I didn’t think the social pressures would be so blatant as the student body itself. It makes a lot of sense, as since time immemorable movies have pontificated on the role of high school in rigidly standardizing social norms, making the nail that sticks out get hammered in. It also makes sense from what we’ve seen so far. It was obviously a human pair of hands that cut down the lilies in Kureha’s garden. At first it could have been just as symbolic as anything, but it makes more sense as a malicious act by the class. This also makes the President’s dialogue in the first episode make more sense, as now we know why she acted responsible for what had happened.
I was surprised that the President played her hand so quickly. While her obsession with Kureha is blatant, it seemed like she was biding her time for the right moment to strike. I’m glad we actually got some payoff for the transformation sequence last time. While this seems to bring up more questions than anything, it at least does not feel like a cheap piece of padding like it did last week. I almost have to congratulate the show at also making the skeeviest scene in anime even more sexual, somehow. Unfortunately it does continue to make it seem like Kureha is only a tool in a story she ostensibly is starring in. Only by being helped through Ginko does she even get a glancing blow on the President, and the scene of her being “eaten” again still makes her seem an object of desire to the bears than an actual person. I hope to see Kureha gain some confidence of her own. Good romance requires both characters to exert their agency, and having Kureha remain this delicate flower can only hurt the story in the long run.