Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 14

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 Lorin Christie.

No series has quite managed to make me eat my words quite as much as Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, a group of books that is about an overpowered shut-in who wanders the land defeating powerful monsters and acquiring a string of little girls to follow her around and hero worship her. The start of the series balanced out the “cute girl doing OP things” vibe with some truly dark and weird plot points, with young girls being abducted, raped and killed, or Yuna having to repatriate a group of women whose families were murdered and who were *also* raped. To no one’s surprise, as this series got an anime, almost all of this was thrown out the window in favor of “let’s watch Yuna finance a bakery” and similar things. But it still occasionally dips its toe in darkness. Last time I was grumpy about Yuna’s pathological avoidance of praise being treated like a quirk of her personality rather than a genuine problem. In this new volume, it’s clear the author knows that, and is sending us to dark places again.

It doesn’t really seem that way at first. The majority of the book is Yuna coming back home after her trip to the land of giant scorpions. She presents a “Mission Accomplished” to the King, then relaxes in her bear house, only just remembering to tell Fina and the others that she’s back. She then prepares for the massive vacation to Mileela, which by the time it starts has about fifty people going (mostly the orphanage who are Yuna’s main child labor force… let’s not go there right now) and requires Yuna to create not only a big bear bus but two bear minibuses, powered through her mana. This requires her, on the journey there, to switch from her normal black bear outfit to the reversed white bear outfit, as she’s going to be using mana like a sieve. This leads to people not recognizing her at first, which merely irritates her… for now.

So yeah, once they get to the ocean and the beach, Yuna has to give in and remove the bear costume. She’s done this before at a palace function, but that was mostly filled with people who had no idea who she was anyway, so it was mostly her own personal safety that worried her. Same with the school festival. Here she has a bigger existential crisis: when she walks around as Yuna, dressed in a swimsuit and without her bear things, almost no one recognizes her. Literally, they stand next to her and ask Fina where she is. Fina, bless her, seems to be the exception to this rule. (Note that everyone, once they DO see it’s Yuna, immediately praise her pretty and petite body, but Yuna being Yuna, she doesn’t take this as praise at all.) At first Yuna is merely annoyed, but as it goes on and on, and as she attempts to do normal things (like teaching girls to swim) and failing as she has NO STAMINA without the bear suit, she gets more and more depressed. As she states to herself, no one is friends with Yuna, they’re all friends with “the bear”. The bear is the one that does everything. The bear is their savior. The bear is their friend. Yuna? Yuna is just an out-of-shape shut in.

Frustratingly, the book goes from Yuna’s spiral of depression to the usual end of book side stories, so we’ll need to wait till next time. Fortunately, as this book ran a bit late, next time is next month. Join me then to see if we get to see Yuna on the verge of a nervous breakdown, or if she simply shrugs everything off. Again.

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