We flash back to Lulu’s life before she came to the human world, where we discover she was a princess with some pretty serious jealousy issues.
This was by far and away the best episode of Yurikuma yet, because it began to give us context and characterisation to back up the bizarreness that we’ve seen so far. It’s been somewhat obvious that Lulu and Ginko are not entirely villainous characters, but this is the first time we’ve actually seen them as fully fleshed out characters rather than merely a threat or a source of fanservice. It also allows Ikuhara to indulge in several of his trademark indulgences, which fortunately he does very well.
A recurring reference which came up in our group watch of the show was episode 9 of Penguindrum, which draws some close parallels with this episode – both flashback episodes set deliberately uncertain realities, with overtones of fairytale princesses (perhaps Ikuhara’s most favoured motif). The deliberate use of human forms throughout the episode (despite the characters being explicitly bears in this period) makes everything cuter and more relatable, but also more bizarre and deliberately obscure. There’s also a pleasantly fresh, colourful palette to everything which acts as an excellent contrast to the dark, shady blues and purples of the school. In fact, it looks considerably more inviting than the human world, something which may not be accidental.
There is also of course the fact that this is a shockingly dark episode presented in one of the most lighthearted, humorous ways possible. Make no mistake, Lulu’s absurdly cartoonish murder attempts are hilarious, but at the same time they’re building meaningful motivation behind her character. It’s very rare to find meaningful black humour in anime but this is a great example of it, and one that actually has an emotional payoff. By the end of the episode we’re much more understanding of the two bears and while their motivation still remains somewhat unclear, I definitely felt I learnt something about them both. With depth to add to its marvelous craziness, Yurikuma continues to go from strength to strength.
- As ever in Ikuhara’s shows it’s worth keeping an eye on the environment. Lulu’s room is full of chintzy trinkets when she’s young, becomes empty when Mirun arrives, then gradually fills back up again after he’s dead. When he returns in her dream, it appears to be empty again.
- Notably, Lulu has a copy of Picasso’s The Weeping Woman by her window, except suitably bear-ified.
- While the repeated scenes in this episode have legitimate thematic reasons to exist, there’s no doubt it also saves an awful lot of money.