Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear – Mid Season Review
Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear:
Original Air Dates: April 3rd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Machi is a middle school girl who also serves as the shrine maiden at a Shinto Shrine. Machi’s guardian is Natsu, a talking bear. One day Machi goes to Natsu and tells him that she wants to go to school in the city. But Natsu, fearing that Machi is too much of a country bumpkin, forces her through a series of trials and quizzes to prove that she’d be able to survive in the city. This is the story of Machi and Natsu’s life at the shrine, which is anything but normal.
Mid Season (6 episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Machi is undoubtedly one of the most fun school girl characters this season with her mix of village innocence, girlish determination and character design. Her flustered reactions, her quirky miko qualities, and her pride at achieving some really bland accomplishments make for great comedy. Meanwhile, Natsu plays the role of concerned parent and authority figure well, and the sight of a big, hulking bear fussing over a little girl is not only funny but sweet. It’s also amusing to watch him switch between strict and ferocious holy deity, and a pampered family member. The show even manages to make such a unique living situation feel natural more often than not.
Tom: Machi is one of the more adorable, effortlessly moe characters this season. Unlike some, Machi doesn’t feel try hard, instead offering us a little girl who is adorable not because she is inept, but rather she is sincerely so. She’s also defiant, as many young girls strive to be, and perhaps doesn’t have enough of her act together to stand on her own. That’s where Natsu comes in. As Linny said, he’s like an overprotective parent, and rightly so, who watches over Machi and guides her using a more laid-back style. Kumamiko is at its best when we’re watching Natsu struggle to handle the stubborn Machi and try to understand her backwards and misguided bumpkin interpretations of modern life. We’re treated to a number of recurring side characters: From Yoshio the well-meaning, but clueless young man who helps with tourism in the village, to Hibiki the wannabe rebellious twenty-something that’s afraid to admit she actually digs Yoshio. These characters help to diversify the comedy Kumamiko offers so we never become burnt out on the Machi and Natsu pairing week to week.
Linny: I am a little disappointed by how quickly Yoshio was brushed to the side after the first epsiode since he was the catalyst for the best joke of the entire series so far. He makes an extended reappearance in the sixth episode and reaffirms just how much he adds with his well meaning but clueless personality as he ends up getting into a physical fight with his little cousin Machi right in the middle of the mall. The other villagers play more of a muted role as they seem to get less one on one time with the main characters, but whenever they do, their bumpkin natures add plenty of laughs. However, some might find their portrayal and their jokes a bit cliche or stereotypical.
Tom: In fact, at times, Kumamiko can be in all honesty bland. Particularly the first half of its premiere is about the dullest Kumamiko has been, with fleeting moments in subsequent episodes coming dangerously close. The majority of the series, however, is generally amusing, but perhaps lacks that punch, that surprise gag that makes so much comedy memorable. If anything these simply amusing segments fall more within the slice of life category: comical, even endearing, but not nearly as memorable or shocking as they could be.
Linny: The central joke that Machi is a village bumpkin does get old quickly but the show tries to balance it out by having episodes where the focus is more on daily village life than Machi preparing for a life in the city. The hilarity of the show definitely fluctuates a lot with parts feeling like a quaint look at village life, rather than a rib tickling romp through it. The show perks up the most when it uses exaggeration to narrate the weirder or more uncommon parts of its story such as depicting Machi’s twisted attempt at performing a religious dance, or her past habit of going into a trance as a child.
Tom: It’s the more off beat parts of Kumamiko where the show becomes rip-roaringly hilarious. In these the show skirts the lines of acceptability, catching viewers off guard with such unexpected developments and humor that it’ll renew your appreciation for the series.
Linny: The show is making clear attempts at moving past the ‘Machi wants to life in the city’ storyline by introducing the secret crush that Hibiki has on Yoshio and focusing on it for an entire episode. There have also been callbacks and references to events from previous episodes, which indicates that the show intends to be more than a succession of random gags. There’s still a heavy focus on Machi and her bumbling ways, so for those who aren’t charmed by the jokes and anecdotes centered around that, it doesn’t really offer much else.
Tom: Kumamiko, is, without a doubt, uneven in its approach to comedy. Offering at times content more in the vein of Non Non Biyori, or Flying Witch that’s enjoyable, but quaint and calm rather than laugh out loud. At other times it offers seinen style comedy that pushes the boundaries of acceptability or veers into hilariously awkward territory. I’d love to compare Kumamiko to its source material, but the manga still lacks a proper localization.
Linny: There’s also the issue of the after credits 4-koma scenes. I have yet been able to understand a single one of them, besides the ones that seem to be saying look at how Machi shares the taste pallet of an old lady. The simplistic art style used in it is also a strange mismatch and not one I personally find that pleasing to look at. The stop motion like ED animation, on the other hand, looks whimsical and cute, and really helps seal in the moe vibes.
Tom: When Kumamiko is funny, it’s outrageously so. Some of its humor might offend, but if you’re okay with a few off-colour jokes now and then there isn’t much to fear. But when it isn’t funny it can be slow, perhaps painfully so. Generally Kumamiko is more hit than miss, enough so that I find myself recommending it as an impressive comedy for this season and that I might be tempted to label as best thus far.
Linny: Kumamiko starts off a lot more scandalous than it really is and then stumbles into a slow slice of life story. For those who find Machi and her fumbling adorable, there’s plenty of that to be seen. For those who want a lot more of episode one’s style of jokes, or of other characters, there’s a high chance you’ll come away disappointed. The comedy is great when it hits the mark, but there’s also a fair amount of bland content to wade through to get to those moments. The show does offer genuinely tender and emotional moments too, making Kumamiko a solid choice for anyone who wants a slice of life that keeps wandering between hilarious, sweet and a little mundane.
Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear is available for streaming via Funimation.com