Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 11.5

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.

As Kuma Bear has gone on, and gotten more attention, and particularly when it got the anime, the author has been slowly but subtly erasing its past a bit. I had remarked in my reviews of the first few books that one of the more interesting things about the series was the way that it would balance “cute girls doing bear things” plotlines with some very dark storylines. This short story volume features stories that were bonuses with in-store purchases and also some new stories, and also summarizes the events of Books 1-9. The dark storylines are not even mentioned in the summaries, and have zero stories featuring them. The author realizes that this world being terrible and needing Yuna to save it is not really why people want to read this series, and honestly that decision may be for the best. The undercurrent of “and that evil guy has also been raping those women” was always uncomfortable, and as for Yuna’s parents, well, I don’t think we’ll ever return to Japan, so we don’t need to care. In the meantime, there is bear.

As noted, these are stories that were originally either exclusives you got when you bought the books at a specific store, online short stories, or short stories from the original webnovel. There’s also ten or so new stories exclusive to this volume. One or two of them have Yuna’s POV, but for the most part they’re exactly what the short stories at the end of the main volumes are: a chance to see the same events from the perspective of different characters. There’s Fina’s stress about meeting nobles and royalty, Cliff’s stress about the fact that everything Yuna does changes the world, everyone’s stress at not being able to get the ever-so-popular bear books or bear plushies. There are no real revelations in this book except the most obvious one, which is that Yuna is less of a teen in a bear suit and more of an Act of God.

It really gets hammered home in this book how strange and inexplicable Yuna is to everyone who encounters her. Her desire to not attract attention to herself, discussed in previous books, is laughable here – any time she appears, she immediately does something that makes sure no one will ever forget about her. She’s not even an adventurer here: she’s a savior, changing everyone’s lives for the better (except perhaps the aggrieved Cliff, who ends up having to clean up after her when she nonchalantly does things like digging a tunnel through the mountain). We also get a bit more depth to minor characters like the guild masters, etc, though again, it’s only a tiny bit more. The problem with short stories that are exclusives and not part of the main work is that they can’t actually impact the main work – they have to be entirely optional.

So yes, you can probably skip this, but at the same time, if you’re already enjoying Kuma Bear, you’re probably the sort of person who’d enjoy this anyway. Also, it’s pretty long – there’s 50 short stories here, and the book itself is almost 400 pages. Inoffensive fun.

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