Wednesday, April 06, 2016

10 Second Anime - Kuma Miko - Episode 1

Kuma Miko (Girl Meets Bear) tells the story of the friendship between a remote village's shrine maiden and the local bear clan's representative. This gag comedy touches on themes of traditional culture clashing with modernity and progress, with hilarious results because the bear clan speaks the human language. Season Premiere.

Episode 1 - "Time for Bear and Girl to Part"

First Thoughts.

A shrine maiden and a talking fierce beast growing up together? Where have I seen this before? Yes, it's very much like Gingutsune, but that story was more of a narrative comedy whereas this one is very much a gag comedy. Here, the bears are very real, everyone can see them and they talk Japanese. Of course, the villagers have to keep this a secret because the bears are related to the mountain god, but even the local cops know the Kumade residents never take the bear sightings seriously. Why would they? They're neighbors and friends.

The whole comedy very much rests on the relationship between the titular girl and bear and we're well served, so far, by Machi the miko and Natsu the Brown Bear. To make their relationship have a source of conflict for comedic inspiration, Machi's character wants to leave the village to go to high school in the big city. Her best friend Natsu the bear can't leave the mountain, but doesn't want to be explicitly selfish in making her stay, so he takes on the voice of reasonableness (notice I didn't say "reason"), to convince her to stay. Hijinks and hilarity ensue.

To add spice to the comedy, the villagers have to balance their traditional culture, which includes living in the aftermath of actual folk tales, with the march of progress. This is a major theme in popular Japanese culture as the rural towns face depopulation because the younger generations keep moving to the large metro areas. The kids and young adults of the village will definitely have some storylines devoted to generational conflict with their elders, complicated by talking bears insisting they stay too.

I love this crap! Japanese folklore come to life with moe miko girls in a gag comedy. Of course I'm going to watch this!


I figured the setup was going to feature a big scary bear hunting an innocent girl and then turn on a dime toward the cutesy stuff and I was right! Better yet, they had used this sudden thunderstorm to make it scarier and they kept using the weather to punctuate the comedy as Machi and Natsu comedically argued about why Machi should not go to high school in the big city two hours away.

Oh, let the opening credits explain everything you need to know about Natsu and Machi's friendship.

Does Natsu want his childhood friend to move away?

Oh, no way! Does Machi feel hurt, betrayed and unsupported?

Oh, yes way! Actually, I thought she displayed a bit of self-centeredness by focusing too much on what she hates about the backwardness of their remote village and not considering her role as the shrine maiden for the mountain god helping enforce the peace between the bears and the people.

Natsu, who's the more mature of the pair, because bears reach adulthood sooner than people, understands her feelings to try new things, but he doesn't want her to use bad language about their town.

Also, he doesn't want her to leave him!

Well, he is more mature, so he has a way to out-maneuver her for now. The City Girl Quiz!

Now why does Natsu have an official looking boonies flash card game for living in the big city in his box? Has he been preparing for this day? Machi reacts angrily, but realizes there is wisdom in compromise. I also think she's a little lacking in confidence in her decision to go to the big city, so she's going with Natsu's flow to convince herself.

Ha! Natsu said Machi would only see his tears on her wedding day. He talks like an old-fashioned big brother!

Oh man, I died at the moe scene of Machi trying to stop Natsu's countdown by trying to close his mouth. Adorable!

Uh oh. Living in the big city is going to be harder than she thought!

Village Initiation.

I thought this was a great change in pacing to anchor the rural setting in relation to the rest of Japan.

The cops warn about bear sightings and Kumade villagers never seem to care. The cops joked that the bears were probably old friends, which we saw with Machi and Natsu, but why didn't anyone else know about the talking part? Enter the children who have come of age.

I guess 9 years old is a good enough time to hear that nursery tales are a bit more risqué than what they've been taught.

Kaori the girl has obviously been learning the wrong kind of English phrases. Not only did she say "sexual harassment" in full English, not the usual Japanese acronym of sekuhara, but she also said, "Don't Touch Me!" Are these phrases taught to Japanese girls living around American military bases?

Of course, the boys wanted to hear all about the birds and the bees and how the bears got so friendly with the Mountain God's virgin sacrifices.

This bird heard enough.

Hellooo Virgin Sacrifice!

It should be no surprise that there's a lot of bear puns around their village. Kumade Village, Kumai last name, these all have the word for bear, 熊 (くま kuma), in them.

But the kicker about the folk tale origin of their village's founding is that every word of it was real! Which is why they have talking bears living nearby. And also serving juice...

This was some of the funniest stuff I've seen in ages.

I'm not a big fan of the Japanese convention of selective deafness. Especially in this open space, the kids should have heard Natsu talking with Yoshio and Machi before he said his nonsense word "kumaan."

Oh well, it still gave us great gags of Natsu scaring the little kids because the Mothers' Association asked him to instill a little bit more fear into the young ones. These are talking bears, not talking teddy bears.

The best stuff came along when Machi was dragged into the initiation meeting. She's just reached puberty herself, so she's now become very self-conscious of the implications of the actual folk tale, where the bears made families with the maidens, and how the miko is supposed to represent them in the rituals.

Ah. The little boy imagined those implications...

The punchline was that Natsu had been neutered, so there wouldn't have been any of that ecchi stuff going on with Machi anyway. We had already seen what the ritual consisted of. Just Machi giving Natsu a fish, an apple and rice husks, and they didn't stand on too much ceremony as they went through the motions either.

The boys didn't like imagining the neutering process, but the girl Kaori had a nice peace of mind, relaxing, sipping juice brought to her by a talking bear.

I'm going to love watching this show! I'm sure they can't keep up this manic energy throughout the season, so I'm looking forward to seeing the other characters in the opening and closing credits and what they'll bring to this funny story.

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