The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.” –Amelia Earhart

While in the royal capital, Yuna cooks for Noire, Shia and Elenora. Later, Yuna single-handedly destroys an evil sorcerer and his entire army of monsters en route to escorting Cliff in. During the king’s birthday, Yuna provides guests with her pudding, and after the event ends, she runs into bakers who are in debt to loan sharks. Yuna suggests that they accompany her back to Crimonia, where she helps them to open a new bakery. The shop is immensely successful, and Yuna later learns that Cliff had taken care of the loan sharks. The bakers decide to stay in Crimonia, to Yuna’s pleasure. When Yuna develops a hankering for fresh seafood, she makes her way over to the port town of Millela and learns that the appearance of a Kraken, together with bandits, has resulted in hard times. After meeting guild-master Alta, Yuna dismantles the bandits and becomes motivated to fight the Kraken after visiting a restaurant, where she is served a Japanese-style meal. Despite struggling to come up with how to fight the Kraken, a meal with a family gives her the inspiration she needs. In a titanic battle, Yuna manages to defeat the Kraken, allowing Millela’s citizens to fish again. With all of the activities Yuna is involved in, Fina becomes depressed and feels that she’s becoming distant from Yuna. She decides to spend time with Gentz, and Yuna receives a visit from Noire; both Gentz and Noire respectively explain to Fina and Yuna that they need to be more upfront about how they feel about one another. Fina and Yuna thus reconcile and promise to spend more time together. This is Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, one of the more curious entries from the fall anime season whose unusual premise conceals a heart-warming and meaningful theme.

At first glance, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is merely another isekai series, a simple and rudimentary romp in a high-fantasy world with kings, castles, quests and adventure. The genre has admittedly saturated the market of late, and it seems that one could hardly take a step without encountering isekai series. However, initial impressions are misleading, and Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear quickly establishes itself to be completely unlike most isekai; with its warm themes and tender moments, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear presents its theme in a direct manner. Throughout Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, Yuna’s bear suit and the powers it confers allows Yuna to trivially solve problems. Driven by her kind heart and desire to help those in need, Yuna leaves a tangible impact wherever she goes. However, even with power rivalling that of a GM, or Thanos, Yuna’s journey was only possible because of her chance encounter with Fina. Despite being able to take on armies on her own and terraform at will, Yuna’s inability to loot corpses means that a core part of her experience in this world was missing. This is where Fina comes in: originally Yuna’s partner, able to complement Yuna and do what Yuna cannot, Fina gradually introduces Yuna to the importance of family, companionship and love. More so than for her ability to convert defeated monsters into resources, Yuna comes to view Fina as a little sister, someone to look out for, encourage and dote on. This is the human interaction that Yuna had been missing in her old life, and while she continues to voice that she wasn’t too satisfied with interactions with other people, the reality is that Yuna also longed for people to be with. By fulfilling this role, Fina encourages change in Yuna. As such, in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, the main idea the series conveys through its first season is that all the power in the world cannot replace companionship, and it is precisely through companionship that Yuna is able to put her powers to use for someone other than herself.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This is going to be my last post of the year: looking back at 2020, I’ve written a grand total of 144 posts (including this one), and according to site metrics, each post averaged around 4200 words. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a relaxing and entertaining series, so I’ve opted to conclude this year with a positive post: 2020’s definitely been a bit of a tougher year, and I count myself as being very lucky to have come out the other end still ready to go. The global health crisis has done a great deal of damage to others, and my hope for 2021 is that once vaccines begin reaching people, normalcy can resume.

  • The last time I wrote about Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, I remarked on the series’ focus on how chance meetings with people slowly alter Yuna’s world-view. When the series started, she was content being a solo player, but since meeting Fina, Yuna’s accrued a circle of friends through her powers. I imagine that the choice to give Yuna god-tier equipment was deliberate, allowing the story to bypass the RPG elements and suppose that Yuna will never have trouble dealing with PvE, leaving Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear to focus on Yuna’s relationships with others.

  • While in the royal capital, Yuna decides to cook foods from her old world for Fina and Noire. When visiting a local market, she finds ‘taters and cheese; as Samwise Gamgee rightly says, poh-tay-toes! can be boiled, mashed, fried or stuck in a stew. Yuna ends up recreating burger and fries for dinner. A good pub burger and fries can indeed be a good meal, and of late, I’ve been watching Binging with Babbish after learning of the fact that he did Lord of The Rings meals, as well as the steak seen in The Matrix. However, my personal favourite is the King-Size Ultra Krabby Supreme with the works, double-batter-fried, on a stick.

  • I was very impressed that Andrew Rea was able to successfully deep-fry a loaded cheese burger twice: the tricky part seemed to be applying the second layer of batter, and properly guzzling the mayonaise as seen in SpongeBob SquarePants. Yuna does nothing so dramatic, creating a pub-style burger, and while Noire enjoys it right away, her sister and mother initially struggle with the concept of picking food up with their hands. Once they get over this initial hurdle, they are all blown away by how well the burger and fries taste. The merits of a classic burger are many, but I also enjoy fried-fish sandwiches (properly cooked, fish burgers are delicious and a little lighter than standard burgers), which would incorporate Yuna’s love of seafood into things.

  • Later, Yuna also whips up pizza for everyone to try out: pizza is an Italian variant of the flatbread dish that originates from Naples, although this dish is likely derived from Focaccia, which is Roman in origin. Like her pudding and burgers, Yuna’s pizza is well-received. One of the joys that Yuna introduces amongst the nobility is the idea that common foods can be enjoyed as much as the fancier dishes they are used to. Here’s a bit of little-known trivia about me: my favourite pizza is any variation of meat lover’s or Canadian: the more meat there is on my pizza, the happier I am, and incidentally, I am on #TeamPineapple: pineapple goes well with pizza.

  • One thing I did notice about Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear in its second half was that fanservice outright disappeared from the anime; viewers had a brief glimpse of Yuna’s lithe figure as she was changing back in the third half, but by the second half, Yuna’s always seen in her bear gear. One wonders if there will be a beach episode at some point in the future: Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear had been produced with two seasons in mind, and we are getting a second season at some point in the future.

  • Discussions of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear have focused almost entirely on the fact that Yuna seems to get along best with girls younger than herself, and consists largely of superficial remarks. Because of the aesthetic and overall tone in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, people might feel disinclined to look past the visual style and premise to look at the story underneath. In this case, what Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is doing with Yuna’s ease of getting along with children signifies that, although she may not be fully aware of it, she’s probably longed for a younger sister, and in this alternate world, her experiences lead her to realise this.

  • A part of the comedy in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is that Yuna’s overpowered gear allows her to perform feats that trivially solve problems affecting their world, and as a result, Yuna begins to meet with the rulers and leaders of this world, who hope that she remains in their corner. Yuna’s attitude towards things is similar to how Wizards and Witches in Harry Potter view Muggles; the Statue of Secrecy ensures that Muggles remain unaware of magic, otherwise, they’d be seeking out magic to their problems every other day. This is why Yuna is so reluctant to share her Bear House with people she’d just met, worried that they might spread word of her powers.

  • The biggest surprise for Yuna is that, upon meeting nobility and royalty, she is shocked that they are benevolent leaders who look out for their people, and it becomes clear that as Yuna continues exploring this world, the ills and issues in this world stem from mid-level people abusing the system and not doing their jobs properly. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear indicates that it is likely the case that problems in society lie not with the leaders themselves, but rather, the people leaders have underneath them. Conversely, if a leader is working with subordinates who are loyal and honest, then great things can be accomplished.

  • Yuna’s cooking leads Fina to wonder if she’d be able to open up a restaurant somewhere: her creations, which for viewers, are relatively common foods, are exotic enough in this world such that everywhere she goes, she gets rave reviews. There is something inherently tasty about melted cheese that makes it delicious, and this “something” can be described by chemistry: when cheese melts, the heat also alters the proteins within the cheese, resulting in an increased unami flavour profile. Coupled together with the compounds that result from heating up meat, it creates a very distinct taste that is appealing for most people.

  • I’ve heard a great many comparisons between Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear and Bofuri, but having now gone through the whole of the series, I can safely say that beyond Yuna and Maple sharing the trait of being nigh-invincible, there are no similarities between the two series. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is about appreciating companionship and human contact, something that Yuna was missing from her life, while Maple’s outrageous adventures and experiences despite being a novice show how beginners can often surprise other players by playing games in unusual ways.

  • Yuna’s dream of opening a restaurant is soon realised, and after convincing a baker and her daughter to move to Crimonia, she helps make the shop into a success. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is not a particularly complex anime by any stretch, and its themes are simple, but there is a certain charm to its simplicity. While anime of this sort usually don’t invite much in the way of analysis (and some viewers are adamant that anything that offers little to analyse intrinsically have less value), the counterargument is that every now and then, it’s good to kick back and watch something that is intended to help one relax.

  • Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is one of these anime, and while not doing anything particularly deep or novel, remains enjoyable on virtue of having a likeable cast of characters. The last segment in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear follows Yuna’s adventures in a seaside town called Millela. Yuna fell into a bit of a depression after longing for fresh seafood. She privately throws a tantrum inside her mind, listing off everything she’d like to eat again, before learning from Fina about the seaside town.

  • A vast mountain range separates Crimonia from Millela, and while Yuna’s powers allows her to make the trek without too much difficulty, two other travellers find themselves in mortal peril as a result of the hostile conditions. Thanks to Yuna, these two travellers are rescued, and during her journeys, Yuna manages to produce a pair of telephones to stay in touch with Fina during her travels.

  • Yuna is surprised to find Millela a sullen town upon arrival, and after meeting guild master Alta, she is able to determine on a course of action. Alta is easily the hottest character in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear thus far, and initially, Yuna assumes that Alta must run some sort of unscrupulous business on account of her appearance. However, par the course in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, this misunderstanding is swiftly sorted out. Yuna decides to sell the meat she’s picked up on her adventures to the town while they figure out a solution for the bandits, the easier of the two problems.

  • After Yuna solos the bandits one evening, Alta is able to figure out what’s been going on. It turns out the town’s leader had been robbing people and keeping them downtrodden, intending on stealing stuff before leaving. Once the bandits are dealt with, Millela’s citizens become considerably happier, able to import and collect food again. Despite being sleep-deprived, Yuna is able to enjoy the fruits of her labour soon enough.

  • This takes the form of sitting down to a proper Japanese meal of miso soup, grilled fish and rice. As it turns out, Japan in this world is known as Wa (倭, “distant”, and later 和, “harmony”), the original name of Japan. Towards the end of the seventh century, Japan would rename itself as the nation developed its own identity, taking on Nihon/Nippon (日本, literally “the sun’s origin”). The Western name “Japan” has its roots in Malaysian and Chinese pronunciations of the characters.

  • Yuna is so moved by the taste of Japanese cuisine that she cries tears of joy mid-meal, and with the prospect of a second season on the horizon, it is likely that viewers could see Yuna visit Wa and potentially get to the bottom of the mystery of this world. If this is to be the case, then the discoveries and learnings Yuna has made about companionship might help her to appreciate her family and the real world to a greater extent. This is, of course, pure speculation: I’ve not read the light novels, which have been running since 2014 and are ongoing.

  • The Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear soundtrack is something that I rather enjoyed: the incidental music in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear most closely resembles slice-of-life music, and as such, there’s a warmth about most tracks that captures the generally relaxing and easy-going atmosphere in Yuna’s world. Of course, there are songs for moodier moments and combat sequences, but I’ve found that the peaceful and happy tracks to be the best of the soundtrack.

  • Once the bandits are dealt with, Yuna turns her attention towards devising a proper strategy for beating the Kraken. The Kraken is only adverse to fire magic, but the problem is bringing the fight to it in such a way that Yuna can use her magic. Sleep-deprived, she initially struggles, and some viewers speculated that Yuna might learn the power of the Dark Side and use Sith Lightning on the Kraken. Fortunately, no such outcome occurs, and after sharing a nabe with the family whose mother and father she’d saved on the mountain, Yuna finds her inspiration.

  • Yuna thus decides to lure the Kraken into a bay, traps it there and uses fire magic to gradually wear its health down. In an exhausting battle, Yuna stands triumphant, although it seems that her magic does have limitations. Against opponents with healing factor, or groups of strategic opponents, it would appear that Yuna would struggle somewhat. This fight demonstrates that there are limits to what Yuna can do with her magic, bringing to mind how against the toughest of opponents, Yuna’s only strategy is really to “shoot it until it does”. alex_drian of AnimeSuki has claimed that series author, Kumanano, “isn’t able to image attacks where someone shot lighning[sic]/electricity. Admited[sic] by himself/herself”, as reason why Yuna does not use Force Lightning.

  • I’ve not seen any evidence to suggest this is the case, and note that this isn’t the first time that alex_drian has made a claim that proved unmeritorious of further consideration. Unless there is something substantial, like an interview, I will be skeptical of this claim. I’ve long been cautious of what this individual has stated about anime, especially after an impassioned, but ultimately immature rant about how he would’ve liked to throw Tsubame under the bus as the second season of New Game! drew to a close. It is always a disappointment to find these individuals watching the same shows I watch, but rather than with the intent of unwinding, said individuals seem to have a chip on their shoulder and flood discussions with their negativity.

  • I’ve never understood the need to be all-business when it comes to anime intended to relax, and typically, will choose to pay these individuals no mind. Returning to Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, the finale deals with the aftermath of Yuna’s adventures. Now that she’s created a tunnel to Millela, Cliff agrees to help administer and provide defense for the seaside town. Such moments continue to remind viewers that the world Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is set in is largely a benevolent one, and malevolent actors seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

  • I’d definitely like to see Alta return in the second season: despite Yuna’s initial assumptions about her, it turns out that Alta is a responsible and level-headed guild-master with a great deal of knowledge. While Yuna’s been around a while, one of the main benefits about having older characters in Yuna’s corner is that they possess a wealth of information that Yuna could take advantage of. Yuna acts in the kindness of her heart, but she can be a little impulsive sometimes, and learning to draw upon the wisdom of those around her could be beneficial for Yuna.

  • Yuna’s not a revolutionary or a politician, and as such, her motivations for doing this world special favours using her powers all stem from her own interests. It so happens that Yuna’s interests almost always line up with the rest of the world: helping Millela to sort out their problems would provide Yuna with a nigh-inexhaustible supply of seafood, and this was her only motivation for setting everything up. There is, of course, nothing wrong with how Yuna operates, except she’s very up front about this, landing her in hot water with Cliff and Alta, and she reluctantly agrees to help with the project.

  • With Yuna sent to look after all sorts of projects, Fina begins to feel more distant with her. Yuna is so swamped that she doesn’t initially notice, and Fina does her best to put on a brave face. I found that despite its premise, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is actually a lot more heartwarming and meaningful than the show initially suggests. This is why I’m so adamant about looking past initial impressions and memes for any given work: a knee-jerk reaction to a situation or event oftentimes results in more trouble than its worth in the real world, and much as how experts in the real world go about solving problems after considering all evidence and potential solutions, the best anime experience is had when one can form their own conclusions based on what they’ve seen.

  • In Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear, going with the community’s memes about the series would have led me to dismiss this series as yet another isekai appealing to a demographic I’d rather not be grouped together with, but the reality is that this anime has strikingly clear themes about fellowship, the importance of communication and gaining context regarding a situation before implementing a solution.

  • As it turns out, poor communication between Yuna and Fina resulted in their misunderstanding, and in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear‘s finale, it takes a different perspective (Noire for Yuna, and Gentz for Fina) to help the two realise what’s going on, such that both can be open about how they feel and reconcile. By the series’ end, this is exactly what happens, and so, I left Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear on a positive note.

  • Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear ultimately earns a B (3.0 of 4.0, or 7.5 of 10) in my books: the weak premise and limited exploration of the real world’s relationship with the world Yuna finds herself in meant that this anime began on a rough footing. However, as Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear began to hit its stride, the series absolutely succeeded in capturing the nuance in Yuna’s new world, and in doing so, conveys clearly to viewers how Yuna’s experiences here, especially with Fina, begin to change her for the better and help her to appreciate what human connections are worth.

  • With my final post of 2020 now done, I’m going to take the remainder of the day off. I spent the morning working on design documents for projects that will be realised in 2021, and having made satisfactory progress, I powered down my work machine and finished this post off. It is a beautiful, sunny day today, and the weather is inviting of a walk. A few days ago, I returned to my favourite spot in the city for a walk under skies of brilliant blue, but today, since we’re only a day after the Cold Moon, the weather might be pleasant enough for me to go catch the moonrise. Before I sign off for the day, I’d like to wish all readers a Happy New Year’s Eve.

Altogether, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is an amusing series. However, the series did require some time to pick up momentum: the first episode drops viewers into Yuna’s new world without any context, only establishing that she is obscenely powerful, and suggests that Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is set entirely in a virtual reality game. When Yuna is transported into this world for the first time, the series deliberately blurs the boundaries: it is left ambiguous as to whether or not Yuna’s new world is an entirely new universe, or still within the realm of a VR game she simply chooses not to log out of. As time wears on, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear dispenses entirely with the real world; Yuna’s experiences are set entirely in the same world as Fina and the others. The complexity of interactions between Yuna and the other characters indicate the series is more isekai than about a VR game with other players. This sort of ambiguity was the source of no small debate earlier during Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear‘s run, and the anime would have benefited from either a more linear introduction. Rather than starting in the new world, the first episode could have portrayed what was seen during the second episode, and then give to viewers a few more hints as to whether or not Yuna is indeed in a parallel fantasy world. Fortunately, once Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear enters its main story, its thematic elements are much clearer: the question of whether or not Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is an isekai is secondary to the experiences she has while exploring this world. Consequently, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear ends up being an enjoyable series; folks who are open-minded and set aside questions about the nature of Yuna’s world will find that the series does an excellent job of showing how, regardless of which world one is in, human contact is of great importance. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a series that has found success, being a series whose shortcomings are outweighed by what it does well.

4 responses to “Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear: Whole-Series Review and Reflection

  1. David Birr December 31, 2020 at 22:13

    A memory struck me amusingly when you remarked about how Noire’s “sister and mother initially struggle with the concept of picking food up with their hands.” Some time ago – at least two decades back, maybe even three – I glanced at the early part of a historical novel, and there was a scene of a king, I _think_ Spanish and somewhere between Late-Medieval and Renaissance, eating a meal “with his fingers.” I kind of got the impression from the way the courtiers praised his technique that they, too, were a touch freaked out by His Majesty forgoing the use of knife and fork, but didn’t dare object openly. The storyline didn’t grab me enough to read the whole thing, and I can’t recall the title or author, but even so that funny moment has stayed with me for twenty-plus years.

    Oh, and when I think of potato recipes in manga or anime, the memory always comes of Crimson Scholar in *Maoyuu* introducing potatoes … which are a great success with peasants and royals alike. And of Lady Knight’s reaction when, while she’s eagerly scarfing mashed potatoes, the Scholar “with an annoying chest” only then chooses to mention that (if stored improperly) potatoes can become somewhat poisonous. Timing, Scholar-san, _timing_.

    Like

    • infinitezenith January 1, 2021 at 11:25

      Now you have me curious to find that story! If I may, I do relate to struggling with the idea of picking up food with their hands: with the exception of burgers, sandwiches, hotdogs, ham bones and turkey bones, I do everything with a fork and knife or chopsticks. There’s something that bugs me about getting food grease on my hands.

      On the topic of potatoes, I’ve heard of Maoyū Maō Yūsha but never have seen that one. It goes to show just what can be done with humour by capitalising on a different world’s setup. Without checking out the scene in question, it’d be hard to determine whether or not the Scholar’s just salty, so I think that, as time allows, Maoyū Maō Yūsha could be something to add to my ever-growing backlog of shows to check out 🙂

      Like

  2. David Birr January 2, 2021 at 18:23

    For whatever it’s worth, I’d say Crimson Scholar is naïve rather than salty. The manga, in particular, spells out how she’s spent most of her life rapt in studying history and technology, and thus has little grasp of certain aspects of social interaction. (In particular, no matter how many people _tell_ her, she doesn’t really understand that she’s probably _the_ most beautiful and sexy woman in the story.) So I figure she included the information about poisonous potatoes while Lady Knight was _eating_ potatoes simply because it’d slipped her mind to mention it earlier, and it didn’t occur to her that this wasn’t the best time.

    Like

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