Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 6

By Kumanano and 029. Released in Japan by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by M.B. Hare.

Towards the start of the Bakemonogatari series, when the protagonist, Koyomi Araragi, meets Tsubasa Hanekawa for the first time he talks about how he doesn’t have any friends as they would “lower my integrity as a human”. This is, of course, the sort of self-assuring bullshit that a lot of lonely teenagers go through, trying to reframe their social ineptness as cool reserve. Eventually, Araragi grows past this sort of attitude. That said, our bear girl Yuna may have a large number of acquaintances from all over the kingdom, but at heart she seems to think much the same thing about having friends, holding herself at a remove from everyone else and telling herself that she’s really a cool, somewhat selfish teenage girl who is not remotely a great hero. Mostly, I think, as she does not want to deal with potentially tragic consequences if she does end up getting closer to others. That said, I don’t think she can keep this up forever. Sometimes you just want to buy your best friend/protege a really cool knife.

As with a lot of books in this series, there are basically two main plotlines. The first has Yuna reluctantly agree to be a bodyguard for Shia and three of her classmates as they go into the woods as part of their classwork. Yuna is only to help them in a dire emergency. That said, once again we are reminded that, to folks who haven’t met her and seen her in action, Yuna is a small girl in a bear costume. (Later in the book, Yuna angrily reminds the other students that she’s the same age as they are – they thought she was much younger.) Needless to say, by the end Yuan wins over the other students AND defeats a hideous tiger monster. Then in the second half of the book Yuna helps Anz, the girl from the seaside city who wants to start her own restaurant, as well as the four young widows who Yuna rescued from the bandits who want to start over in a place with fewer memories.

I mentioned Yuna’s social ineptness above, and it’s never been quite as visible as it is towards the end of the book. The reader may recall that the four assistants Anz has were all raped by bandits and had their families brutally murdered a couple of months earlier. (Remember, cute bear girl series, really. It’s just like K-On!.) They’re there to help Anz with the restaurant, but Yuna decides to also have them help at her orphanage, which she feels is understaffed. One of the young women is CLEARLY distraught over being around children who are presumably the same age as her own children she saw murdered not long ago, but the story is still from Yuna’s POV, and the most we get out of her is a “huh, maybe I should not have done that”. Fortunately, it all works out well, but there is a reason why I keep highlighting the dark bits in this otherwise fluffy light novel series – they’re the most interesting, character-wise.

As the book ends, Yuna is off to battle a cave of endless golems, and we are briefly reminded that this is supposed to be based on a video game. I assume Yuna will win, but… the jagged edges that surround the big pluffy bear girl are why I really enjoy reading this series.

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