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.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 11

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.

Another light and fluffy volume, though we are given a hint of the next major villain as Ellelaura has a noble who hates her… and hates Yuna, albeit for different but related reasons. He’s clearly going to be an antagonist at some point, but is merely shown off here in order to provide SOME drama in a book that otherwise meanders even more than a volume of Kuma Bear normally does. As for Yuna, she’s still doing her best to be blase about everything, but it’s getting harder, especially when it gets shoved in her face by multiple people that all the things she’s done, such as the tunnel, or the various new dishes, or taking out an entire noble family, cause lots of problems for the King and other nobles afterward… problems that Yuna herself has remained blissfully unaware of. That said, despite her feeling a bit of guilt over this, I don’t expect ‘The Bear Becomes a Civil Servant” to be a subplot here. Yuna is who she is.

The main plot of this volume is that the Academy is having a school festival, and Shia would like Yuna to come. This ends up roping in Noa, Fina, and Shuri as well, with Yuna acting as their bodyguard. Which, of course, means she has to walk around in the bear suit, which embarrasses her more than usual this time around, as the festival feels very much like the ones she… did not go to back in Japan. Honestly, most of the second half of the book is Yuna getting it ground into her face how much she is NOT a normal teenage girl. Yuna helps Shia’s group by suggesting they make cotton candy, an unknown quantity in this land. She also meets Flora’s older sister Princess Teilia, who has been someone upset at the rest of the Royal Family for hearing all about this amazing bear girl but never meeting her.

If that doesn’t sound like a plot, that’s because it isn’t. I’m happy everyone gets to have fun, but the main drawback to this volume is that there just isn’t any conflict at all. Previous volumes had a contract between Yuna’s fluffy antics and some surprisingly dark storylines, but that does make this one seem a bit shallow. I also urge Fina’s parents and Yuna to do something about that girl’s self-esteem, as there’s “I am modest” and then there’s this. Even as Fina shows off how she’s the best monster butcher in the land (and yes, how to butcher a monster is a booth at the festival), she still acts as if she’s going to be thrown in the dungeon the moment she makes a wrong move. She needs some confidence.

We’ve only finished the first day of the festival, so I assume it will continue into the 12th volume. But before, that… yes, it’s 11.5, featuring short stories posted to the web, original short stories, designs form the artist, and more. So I guess we’ll leave Yuna is festival mode for a few more months.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 10

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.

This is a lighter volume of Kuma Bear, despite the threat of the destruction of an ancient sacred tree. You know Yuna’s got this, though the fight is difficult enough that she has to switch from black bear onesie to white bear onesie, and she ends up fairly exhausted. Speaking of that switch… Kuma Bear is, I think, mostly written for a male audience, but I also think we’re supposed to go “aww” at the antics more than “Cor!”. Yuna has to strip to change her costume, and there’s a shot of her in her underwear. But it’s not particularly sexy, and the narrative is far more concerned with Yuna’s childish bear panties and her reaction to anyone who finds out about them. Yuna has an image that she wants to keep up of her as a cool lone wolf (or rather lone bear) sort, but it’s constantly undone by the reality of her being the big sister to 11 million kids and also having older than she looks issues. Is embarrassment fanservice?

Arriving at the elf village allows the author to bring out a whole mess of fantasy novel elf tropes to make fun of, from their supposed perfect hidden tracking skills (which Yuna spots immediately) to the fact that even “grandfather” looks, at most, about 40 years old. The barrier nis weakening, however, and it turns out the problem is that the elves’ sacred tree has been infested by a parasite, who is slowly killing it and weakening said barrier. So it’s up to the elves to fix things… along with Yuna, who can enter the protective ward that no one but elves can, because, you know, OP bear. There’s also other dangerous monsters to fight, some of which might actually kill off an elf or two… but probably not, as this is not one of the dark Kuma Bear books. The worst we’ll see is Yuna worrying about her secrets.

Yuna has, for the most part, remained quiet on her origins and the basis of her awesome powers, not even telling Fina, the one person she’s closest to. I had wondered briefly if she might open up a bit to the elves here, given that they sign a contract that tortures them with unstoppable laughter if they reveal her secret, but no, it turns out she’s just telling them about her bear gates so she can set one up here, and her bear phone so that the village can communicate with Sanya and Yuna when they want to. It doesn’t feel like she’s revealing much here, but I get it. Yuna hates making ties with other people, but does it anyway, and she also hates it when people praise her because she doesn’t think of any of it as HER. The Bear Suit is the OP heroine. She’s just the girl inside it. Which is an interesting psychological trauma to dig into, but I doubt we’re going there soon.

If you read Kuma Bear, you’ll enjoy this. If you don’t, we;ll, cute but OP bear girl slice-of-life again.