Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 12

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

As you can probably tell by the cover art, the entire first half of the book sees Yuna outside of the bear suit, dressed in a school uniform so as not to attract the attention she did as a bear last time. (She still has the bear paws and feet, just in case.) And what ends up happening is one of the more fascinating psychological examinations of a character I’ve seen in some time. Yuna, throughout the series, has complained about having to wear the bear outfit all the time, as well as the fact that people can’t recognize her if she’s not dressed like that. In fact, that’s a running gag here. But as she walks around the festival looking like a cute and pretty 15-year-old girl, and more and more people stare at her, the reader starts to realize how much the bear suit is a shield she uses to avoid attention. Yes, she’s the most conspicuous thing ever, but she’s conspicuous as a bear. Yuna as a real girl is still “one step away from a NEET”.

Yuna and her group are ready for the second day of the festival, this time walking around it with Princess Teilia, who has been shooed away from her class’s booth for attracting TOO much attention. She realizes that Yuna has the same problem, so forces her to remove her bear suit and attend the festival that day as a regular girl. They watch plays, concerts, and sword dances. And they also watch a sexist knight captain trying to destroy the women attempting to be knights, which requires Yuna, bear suit or no, to fight back and teach him a lesson. After the festival ends and they all go back home, Yuna is asked by the King to take the mana crystal she got from slaying the Kraken to a desert oasis that desperately needs it, and so she moves south, fighting hornets and running into old friends along the way.

I joked on Twitter that you should take a shot every time Yuna deflects or denies when anyone calls her cute, or pretty, or is obviously staring at her in astonishment. The series rarely looks back at Yuna’s past in Japan, and I don’ really expect this to ever be anything but a character tic of sorts for her, but it really shows off how little socialization she has before meeting Fina. We’ve seen her being blase about her astonishing OP skills and deeds before, and calling acts of kindness and heroism “common sense”, but here we see how viscerally uncomfortable she is with being the center of attention, or having the idea that anyone could be attracted to her. Even when we get the “comedy” scene where she has to have her measurements taken for a swimsuit, which is filled with “lol I have small breasts and hate it” patter, there’s a sense that Yuna’s bear suit is a mask that she can use to hide from everything when she wears it. (I don’t think it’s quite at the level of “Yuna hates herself” per se. But Yuna doesn’t like herself all that much either.

Again, for the most part this series is “cute girls doing cute things”, and fans of that will be quite happy. But I do admire the jagged undercurrents in these waters, and though I don’t expect any emotional payoff, it serves to make me more interested than I might otherwise be.

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