What’s it about? Yuna is one of the most powerful MMO gamers out there, known by two calling cards: her powerful bear summons and equally powerful bear kigurumi.
Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is an EMT Squared production, coming from a studio known for the High School Life of a Fudanshi and Urahara. Staff for the series includes Series Director Ishii Hisashi (Yamada’s First Time, Naruto Shippuden), Aoshima Takashi (Aho-Girl, Love Lab) on Series Composition, and Nakano Yuki (New Game!) on Character Design.
Together–with the work of numerous unnamed creatives–Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear (hereafter, Kuma Bear) is a nice looking show with potential. If I’m being honest, that’s exactly why I chose to cover Kuma Bear: the premise was so darn full of potential that I couldn’t help but be excited from the moment I started my watch.
Yet episode one didn’t do much for me in terms of offering me a peek into the series’ trajectory, and it barely did that. In fact, this pawsitively bear-tastic premiere left me feeling mostly “meh” feelings inspite of its beary good premise and the promise of an enjoyable VRMMO anime series.
Why? Well, read on the find out why Kuma Bear was a bit “bear” on content.
(Also…no more bear puns. Well…maybe just a few more.)
Episode one, cutely titled “Bear, Appears,” is a very straightforward as both a premier and an introduction to Yuna’s world.
Our story starts in media res with a young boy fleeing his village, which is currently under attack by a Black Viper. In the real world, Black Vipers–also sometimes known as Black Adders–are plump British snakes known for playing dead and generally minding their own business. However, in the world of World Fantasy Online (WFO), Black Vipers are vicious foes, capable of being the ruin of villages.
This soon becomes incredibly clear as Kai, the young village escapee, makes his way to the Adventurer’s Guild and begs for help. Unfortunately, all of the high ranking adventurers aren’t available. No matter how much gold Kai offers up, nothing can bring them since, assumably, the adventurers are also players: there’s no estimate on when they’ll come back and be able to take on a quest. Like the guild assistant says, they’re all gone, with no estimated return.
That is, all except one.
Enter Yuna, also known as the Bloody Bear, Bear Sis, and Miss Bear: it all depends on who she’s speaking with, which is kind of cute. While she’s still a kid IRL, she’s one WFO’s skilled players, harnessing fierce magic when she battles. Without hesitation, Yuna declares that she’ll go with Kai to his village to check things out and see what the situation is.
With a warning to not act recklessly, Yuna and Kai set off on the backs of her Summon Beasts Kumakyu and Kumayuru–two bears that Yuna wears as hand puppetesque gloves–towards Kai’s home and potentially, the Black Viper itself.
What ensues is an okay action sequence that’s pretty enough and a fairly predictable series of scenes: Yuna heads to the village, goes to scope out the situation, encounters the Black Viper face to face, and ultimately defeats the Black Viper in what easily could be described as an okay action scene.
In many ways, this won’t come as a surprise to even new viewers: it’s clear that Yuna’s going to be the one to take down the Black Viper, whether that’s through direct combat or through happening upon it. There’s very little mystery about how, especially for seasoned fans of both isekai and VRMMO-themed anime and manga.
Really, that’s the biggest crime of this premier: it’s a bit predictable overall. Unfortunately, Yuna’s perpetually chill personality does little to pick up the pace of the premier. She feels like many cookie-cutter quirky anime characters in a VR game, which hopefully…will change over the course of the cour.
Art-wise, the show is quite cute. In fact, I often found myself thinking that it looked like a storybook: fitting for a show about a girl in a bear kigurumi. I was particularly charmed by the lineart, which is colored and adds a bit of softness to the characters, furthering that fairy-tale, storybook vibe. Yet nothing stands out about the style overall: if anything, it’s so charmingly designed that it actually becomes a bit okay.
On the other hand, I found the music to be quite well done: during the action sequence when Yuna encounters the Black Viper, the music picked up, matched the scene so well that it got me invested in the fight, enough to notice the uptick in the animation and the smoothness of the entire sequence. Credit goes to Komori Shigeo (Elegant Yokai Apartment Life, K-On!), who’s handingly music for the series. I’m really looking forward to hearing more of what Komori has to offer.
At the end of the day, I have a lot of mixed feelings about Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear. In many ways, this was the premier I had the most anticipation about: after all, who wouldn’t be excited about a girl fighting monsters in a bear kigurumi? Yet I was left feeling rather…“meh” about everything, which really is a shame, considering Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear’s popularity as a light novel and its quite charming hook.
Right now, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is all fluff and not a lot of development, at least in its premier. There’s a solid action sequence and we get a little hint of a look into Yuna’s life outside the game, but ultimately, Yuna’s still a very surface-level character with minimal development, and so is the world. Nothing stands out as being good: if anything, Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear’s biggest crime is how unbearably average episode one feels.
(I told you there’d be some more bear puns!)
Will I stick around to see her pawssible rise to a more developed character? Well…honestly, at this point, I can’t give a firm yes or no. Do I know that I’ll stick around so I can give some feedback for the three-episode check-in, but afterwards? We’ll just have to wait and see.
For now: this feels like a series worth swinging back around to in a thinner season.