Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear – 1st Episode Review
Synopsis: Yuna’s not your typical 15-year-old. First, she’s crazy rich from playing the stock market. Second, she’s a recluse obsessed with a VRMMO game, and she’s really good at that too. Her life is pretty much perfect—until she wakes up one day inside the game she loves and back at level one. She has to start over, but this time, she has a powerful bear suit that’s guaranteed to take her places! (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear quickly falls into the trope that so many video game world based stories are prone to; that of trying to convince the audience to sincerely fear for the fates of the residents of the video game world when they’re nothing but lines of code and pixels. Why care about a fictional world within an already fictional world? That’s not to say viewers cannot get wrapped up in fictional worlds and characters but in this case, it’s literally just a game that exists to be played for entertainment in an already made up world. Our protagonist, Yuna will often marvel and remark about the game world, making comments such as how resilient the children of this world are as if these are actual children and not just coding. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear tries its darn best to convince you to care for the game world so as to raise the stakes when Yuna eventually ends up trapped in it, somehow, but for now since it’s all just a video game, it’s hard to care when you know you could simply reload a save or respawn any time you wanted to.
To its credit though, the show does downplay Yuna’s skills and abilities compared to other, similar titles. People openly remark and mock her comical get up. There is no universal acknowledgement of her as the ultimate hero/saviour or prodigy like other video game anime love to do. For now at least, she isn’t some power fantasy stand in, which should be a good sign for those tired of that trope. Her cute costume and her adorable bear summons also help to avoid the usual trappings of overpowered protagonist in suave looking armour, injecting a breath of fresh air aesthetically as well. The ultimate reveal of her true powers comes about as organically as possible in anime storytelling terms and this discrete approach further helps Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear stand out.
However, that’s about where my praise for the show ends. For one, the premiere really clashes with the synopsis of the series as we spend this entire episode making it very clear she isn’t stuck in the game yet. It does not even end with her getting trapped, making for a premiere that feels like a lengthy prologue that doesn’t even make it to the main catalyst of the tale. And for an episode that spends so much time faffing about, we also get very little personality through Yuna or the storytelling itself. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is so preoccupied with trying to make us care for video game pixels that it ignores most everything else. Yuna is reduced to a one note gag about how she’s used to people underestimating her based on her fluffy bear costume with just enough basic exposition to let us know she is very wealthy and living on her own in the real world in classic anime protagonist style.
Meanwhile, the narration and execution itself is very subdued. Often shows rely on comedic moments or action to really spice up the story but in this case, the action is limited and the jokes extremely mundane or repetitive. For example, there is a scene where you THINK the show is about to reveal just how wrong Yuna’s idea of what egg laying creatures in this world look like but it fizzles out without an actual punchline. We build up to literally seeing what Yuna thinks they look like in her imagination but then we never get to see if she was right or wrong. Maybe this is a set up for future episodes but it feels like such a wasted moment. And this isn’t the only time the show fizzles out on comedy. In an earlier scene, when a young boy gets to ride on one of Yuna’s summoned bear companions, he is unable to even sit up thanks to the speed but the scene once again is played out very matter of fact with Yuna simply responding by telling him to point, if he can, in the direction of their destination.
Ultimately, for now Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear feels like another show that is heavily relying on the design of its main character to be its main selling point. Yuna does indeed stand out with her one of a kind battle armour that looks like a kigurumi meant to lounge around at home than one to take down vicious enemies in. And the gradual build up to her heroic moment is definitely uncommon. However, the first episode engages in excessively long set up that doesn’t even get to the actual main point of the story, making it feel like wasted airtime while the subdued tone overall makes it hard for Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear to really stand out. If the idea of a heroine dressed in what looks like a cozy bear onesie sounds adorable enough to sweep you off your feet, then by all means, do dive right into Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear but if you want a tight set up with convincing narration or energetic story telling, you might not come away all that impressed.
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is available for streaming via Funimation.com