Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 4

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 series remains very off balance, though I do enjoy it a great deal. It sells itself as a slow-life adventure with an OP girl doing cute things with other girls, and that’s what it is about half the time. But once every volume the author wants to remind us that this world (and, it’s implied, Yuna’s past) can be dark and horrible, and it’s always tonally dissonant. Here we see Yuna stopping a gang of bandits. First of all, the bandits are really adventurers paid by the villain to be bandits. Secondly, they go above and beyond their pay, as they apparently kill everyone leaving the city who isn’t a young pretty woman, and then keep the young pretty women in their cave as slaves and (it’s implied) rape them. There’s a horrific scene where, on finding the villain has among the things he’s stolen a ring she recognizes, one of the victims attacks the villain and demands her husband back. It’s… it feels like we jumped genres.

There’s two main plotlines here. First, Yuna returns to Crimonia with Fina and buys a mansion, then converts it into a bakery. This is the more typical Yuna plotline, with lots of OP ridiculousness, lots of cute girls, and tons of bear accessories, bear names, and beat statues. (But still no bear puns. The series is doing a good job at avoiding that.) In the second half of the story, Yuna goes to the ocean in search of seafood, but finds a city under attack on both sides: there’s a kraken in the ocean making it impossible to fish or get supplies, and there’s the aforementioned bandit gang. Yuna cleans up both, though the kraken seems to give her the first hard time she’s had to date, almost exhausting her mana trying to boil it up in the equivalent of a cliffside hot pot. Throughout it all, Yuna is as matter of fact and blunt as ever… except when she realizes the ocean city has rice. And miso. And soy sauce. Then she gets really emotional.

Yuna’s mindset is the best reason to read this book. the anime softened her a great deal. It adapted both of these plotlines, but also had a final episode not in this book where Fina is lonely and Yuna has to learn how to read emotions. That’s not really here, and it’s not just a matter of Yuna being callous, but an actual deliberate character flaw. Last review I said Yuna was trying to avoid getting too well-known or famous, but after this book I suspect Yuna will try to deflect and praise or thanks thrown her way, and is desperate to not have people get too close to her. She also tends to think about this world in terms of a game – of course, it’s a world she was brought into THROUGH a game – and situations like the bandits and their captives make her remind herself this is a real world with real people. It’s something that needs a bit more reinforcement, I think.

So yes, there’s a bit more here than cute girls doing cute things. There were also some great lines in this – Yunqa’s deadpan delivery helps sell them well. Next book Yuna starts a trade route, and I may see that Yuna and Fina scene that wasn’t here.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 3

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 Will Holcomb.

Last time I noted that Yuna didn’t really seem to have a purpose after coming to this world beyond wandering around. She seems to find one in this book, but it’s not what you’d think: her purpose is to make sure that people DON’T start talking about how strong and awesome and wonderful she is. Yuna values her anonymity, bear suit aside, and wants to have a “slow life” that becoming a famous adventurer would absolutely not give her. The trouble is that she also can’t seem to stop getting into trouble and/or having to save people, and she really is a nightmarish OP powerhouse. We gradually, by the end of the book, see her gravitating towards the traditional slow life job – she’s going to open a store – and yet there’s no doubt that the store is not going to be what we, the reader, will be seeing as the books go on. We will be seeing Yuna continue to acquire a fanclub of little girls. No, a literal fanclub.

The majority of this book takes place in the capital, which Yuna and Fina do indeed head towards as promised. On the way she captures a gang of bandits (who have been kidnapping and raping women, thus keeping to this series’ “one tonally awful event per book” quota), she meets Noa’s older sister, an academy student who is far stronger than most of her classmates, and thus Yuna is used to take her down a peg or two; manages to convince everyone that potatoes are not poisonous when prepared properly, and the same goes for cheese; draws an adorable picture book for the princess which is basically a childish retelling of her meeting Fina; and, oh yes, defeats ten THOUSAND goblins, orcs, wolves, wyverns, and one giant wyrm. By herself. On the bright side, this does actually get her to drain her magic a bit, though it’s still not enough to actually injure or trouble her.

This probably reads like a short story book, and to an extent that’s what the books are; Yuna does adventures, about 3/4 of which are warm fuzzy things, and 1/4 of which is fantasy game violence. Yuna remains rather emotionless at the best of times, but her heart is still in the right place, as the reason she kills all those monsters is that Noa was worried about her dad getting killed by them. By the end of the book, she’s returning to Crimonia, but I get the sense that the book will take us wherever Yuna can meet more guys who judge her by her appearance and thus have to be beat up, and young girls who are in awe of her. Noa has fan club cards made at the end of this book, as I noted, and I suspect numbers will go up fast. Which is probably a good thing; Yuna functions best when around others, and by herself can get somewhat callous and mean.

If you want a nice combination of slow life, ludicrously overpowered hero, cute girls beating up sexist jerks, and bears, this is your ideal series. If those things aren’t for you, your mileage may vary.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Vol. 2

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 Will Holcomb.

There’s a lot less focus on bear in this second volume of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, mostly because Yuna herself has gotten used to it – at one point she casually names something with a bear motif, showing that unconsciously she’s accepted that’s what she is now. Instead the focus is on Yuna and her general attitude towards everything. Yuna is, in both her own internal narration and dialogue, a grumpy girl with minimal emotional range, and we see lots of that here. That said, the point of the books is to show that Yuna, underneath that, is a caring girl with a heart of gold. Here she helps a nearby orphanage, employs Fina’s mother so that she doesn’t have to return to adventuring, helps save a village from a giant snake, and protects a newbie group of adventurers from a giant wolf. All in a day’s work for our overpowered heroine, who has a few moments here where she has to break a sweat and not simply overpower everything in her path… but only a few.

As with the first book, if the idea of OP heroes irritates you in any way, steer clear. Here not only does Yuna do awesome power moves to defeat strong monsters, including having an army of tiny bears made of fire march down the gullet of an enemy, she’s also learning cure and heal, so that she can be an all-purpose team all on her own, and also save Fina’s mom from her tragic ending. Other than that, though, Yuna doesn’t really have very many motivations in this book. The ending of the book indicates she’s going to the capital city of this world, and that might be a good idea, because she’s a bit unmotivated. We see her looking at several quests and rejecting them all as she doesn’t feel like doing them. It’s hard when you’re stuck in a rut only a few weeks after you arrive in your “trapped in a game world” world.

One interesting thing (in both good and bad ways) that was done here is the local lord of the Town, who Yuna meets in this volume. He’s a nice guy with an adorable daughter, but Yuna, having read far too many light novels in her old life in Japan, immediately thinks he’s going to be cruel and arrogant, with a snide, privileged son. This turns out not to be true… however, the lord *is* negligent, as we see when Yuna discovers kids begging on the street and a run-down orphanage losing its funding. Yuna is understandably furious, even as she fixes the problem all on her own (because of course she does). That said, it turns out the reason for all this is an evil aide and his evil family. The aide is REALLY evil – as in “kidnapping young girls, raping and killing them” evil. It’s tonally awful in a book that is supposed to be “cute girl in bear suit is awesome”, and I didn’t enjoy it, mostly as the lord, who was negligent in not noticing this, is very quickly forgiven. (The first book also had that mindboggling “so I paid my parents off till they abandoned me” moment, and it was just as jarring.)

Putting that aside, though, the book delivers what its readers want, though I wish Yuna’s stoic emotionlessness didn’t sometimes carry over to the actual prose. It will be interesting to see what a larger city does for our favorite bear.