Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear – Review
Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear:
Original Air Dates: April 3rd, 2016 – June 19th, 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.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Kumamiko has a great protagonist in Machi and thanks to her innocence and cute looks, is sure to attract a ton of moe fans. She’s definitely been one of the cutest in her season (tied with Chinatsu from Flying Witch) and the combination of her country bumpkin innocence combined with her frustrated determination makes her both adorable and amusing to watch as she struggles through her attempts to become a ‘city girl’.
Tom: There’s little doubt that Machi, the lost cause that she is, is adorable. Watching her remain defiant in the face of obstacles is a load of fun. She wants to become a city girl and even following setback after setback she remains steadfast. Despite her youthful age, she feels like one of anime’s stronger female characters. Sure she cries, and pouts and has terrible common sense, but she rarely backs down. Natsu, our other major lead, is also enjoyable. I found him nearly as much fun to watch as Machi. There’s just something about a technology with it bear that seems oh so amusing. However, Natsu’s character, particularly in the final few episodes, becomes a bit too overbearing, pushing his will onto Machi more than before. His protective nature of Machi has always been there since the start of the season, but events start leaning on it so heavily that it changes from enjoyable to frustrating particularly in the way he treats Machi.
Linny: Machi’s cousin, Yoshio is the other big star of the show, despite not being billed alongside Machi and Natsu. From his inability to recognize Machi as a young woman, and his treatment of her as a doll to play dress up with, Yoshio gets himself into situations that would raise many an eyebrow, all the while completely oblivious to the wrong image he could be projecting to strangers. His cluelessness and blind determination are traits he shares with Machi that makes him entertaining in his own ways.
Tom: Yoshio and Hibiki along with the other side characters are how Kumamiko keeps the variety rather than having a ceaseless barrage of Machi and Natsu. However, like any show that relies on its supporting cast to keep things fresh it means that episodes vary in terms of quality. Yoshio and Hibiki, the bad ass delinquent, provide the most fun and variety, where as the rest of the villagers feature less prominently and the laughs they generate vary wildly. For example, the recurring children of the show are used to surprisingly perfect effect in the first episode during a sequence that remains the stand out moment for the series, but their subsequent and brief appearances lack impact. In fact, the sad fact is that Kumamiko’s comedy ultimately peaked in that second, and controversial half of its first episode. Kumamiko is never that laugh out load funny again and that moment sets up exceedingly false expectations for the series going forward. There’s plenty of misunderstandings to be had, but it never gets that edgy again and that’s disappointing.
Linny: Kumamiko has an infamous premiere episode, one that was heavily criticized and shocked quite the vocal anime community for making some graphic bestiality jokes. How offensive it actually is depends highly on your personal sense of humour. The show actually becomes rather mild after that, almost boringly so from that point. Yes, there’s still some unconventional humour, like Yoshio forcing Machi to change into an outfit he had made for her to wear in an Idol contest, which for those keeping up, comes across more as a harried parent trying to get their kid changed for school than something far less innocent.
Tom: It’s almost as if Kumamiko has a split personality: At times trying to push the boundaries of acceptability for comedic sake and at other times it strays into exceedingly bland territory, becoming too focused on the mundane everyday country-bumpkin life that Machi so desperately wants away from. While the second half of its premiere showed how absurd and funny Kumamiko could get, the first half was as bland as the series ever gets. Kumamiko ultimately sits somewhere in the middle between those two extremes. Surprisingly, Kumamiko is actually all the better when Machi strays from her quest to become cultured. Whenever the series focuses too heavily on that plot line is when Kumamiko becomes dull. It’s the characters that sell the series but they’re often let down by the content they’re given to work with.
Linny: The level and style of humour is definitely all over the place. While some segments are rip-roaring hilarious, others come off quaint and slow. Some jokes are based on the absurd, others so subdued and vague that they barely exist as jokes. The show is a mixed bag and might let down those who go into it hoping for more extreme humor like the second half of episode one. There’s some quirkiness and coziness to be found watching Machi perform her duties as a Miko (Priestess), and it certainly makes the show stand out for its focus on her miko role compared to other shows that feature miko characters.
Tom: Kumamiko is pretty hit or miss, but I think generally falls more in the hit category. My biggest disappointment with the series is its final episode. Machi remains a pretty steadfast character in her quest to go from country bumpkin to eventual city girl. But in the series’ final episode she instead retreats from that goal in what is meant to be a comedic revelation as she decides to remain in the village forever. It’s an odd moment, and I don’t think really fits with the general perception of her character up until now. It also sends an odd message about giving up in the face of adversity, although it’s not as if Kumamiko was ever a message driven show. Still, the ending feels like a misstep and a lazy way of giving the series an anime only ending (unfortunately without a localization it remains difficult to compare this anime to its source material.)
Linny: It most definitely was disappointing to have Machi suffer a complete breakdown and give up on her dream since the entire series has her trying to overcome her fears and doing her best. Even though it was played as a joke, it did make for a discouraging message. Another thing that might seem weird to viewers is the little skit in the after credits of every episode. It’s drawn in a completely different, extremely crude and simplistic style clashing against the more polished or cutesy animation used in the show and its ending credits. Furthermore, the gags in it are always about Machi and her hunger and seem to have a humour all of their own that some western audiences might not get..and yes, I was one of those that never really got it.
Tom: Kumamiko has been, overall, an enjoyable ride, if perhaps a bit forgettable. Comedy needs punch and Kumamiko doesn’t always manage to have that. It’s an enjoyable tale, but I find myself without the need or desire to ever come back to it, satisfied with its 1-cour run this season. Kumamiko is far from perfect, but if you’re looking for a slice of life that sometimes pushes your comfort zone Kumamiko is worth a once over.
Linny: Kumamiko is a weird mix between scandalous and subdued, with some scenes that might leave you scarred and others that leave you snoring. It’s a slow comedy with some over the top jokes ever so often. If you want a comedy that’s constantly one upping itself and crossing the line, this isn’t it. If you want a chaste slice of life, this isn’t it either. If you want something right in the middle, this is your pick. Kumamiko is perfect for those who want a quaint and peculiar show that’s laced with some hearty laughs every now and then but also winds down for most of the ride.
Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear is available for streaming via Funimation.com