Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 18

By Kumanano and 029. Released in Japan by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by Lorin Christie.

Well, I got my wish. Sort of. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, like My Next Life As a Villainess, has a problem. It has cultivated a large yuri audience it absolutely does not want, but it cannot afford to piss that audience off too much as they’re one of the big reasons that it’s a success. It doesn’t help that Yuna has accumulated a “harem” of underage girls, which yes is the main draw of the series (the moe aesthetic, I mean), but also makes the yuri a bit creepy. Still, here at least we do have Yuna straight up saying that she isn’t interested in men. Unfortunately, she says it to a girl her own age who has expressed attraction to her, and Yuna’s response is “just because I’m not interested in men doesn’t mean I’m interested in you”. Honestly, as with many other series of this type, Yuna seems to be fairly asexual in general. But hey, a bone thrown to the fans. Now back to beating people up with magic bear powers.

As everyone predicted, Yuna’s discovery from the cliffhanger to 17 ends up being the Land of Wa that the author has threatened us with for so long. She heads over there on her bears, and finds it pretty much is just Japan in a vaguely fantasy setting. And I do mean vaguely. She can buy tatami mats, stay at a hotel with futons and a hot spring, and get artisanal candy shaped like animals (the bears have sold out, for some reason). Then she goes to the adventurer’s guild, there’s a quest to take out a dangerous predator that no one wants to take except her… and a very suspicious ninja girl named (try to contain your shock) Shinobu, who insists on accompanying her. Is there some secret plot going on? And does it involve trying desperately to break Yuna out of her shell of “whatever, I don’t care, I’m headed back”?

I was reminded the other day of a series I dropped .like a hot potato a while back, Wandering Witch. It has quite a bit in common with Kuma Bear, in that it stars talented people who try not to get involved in things but end up doing so anyway, and who have a large element of selfishness to their personality. For Yuna, though, this is mostly a front. When she finds out what’s happening to the country, and that it’s been predicted by the country’s prophet, she’s still fairly apathetic. But when she finds the prophet is a 10-year-old girl whose parents have died… naturally, she decides to help. Yuna rarely thinks about her parents much anymore, but there is a definite subtext of “kids need to be allowed to be kids, even when they are orphans and have to grow up fast, no one deserves the childhood I had”. She is a surrogate big sister to every girl she meets, and she will move heaven and earth for them. And then deny she did anything special.

This is a multi-part arc, so I assume next time will have lots of fighting. Till then, enjoy another review where I overanalyze a title that really doesn’t deserve it.

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