Tuesday 5 April 2016

Should You Watch 'Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear'? Episode 1 Spring Anime 2016 Review

kumamiko girl meets bear anime

In the beginning, I really responded to episode 1 ofKumamiko: Girl Meets Bear. The watercolor backgrounds are sweet and the premise sounded great: a shrine maiden, her talking bear, the countryside. I don’t read up on the backgrounds of anime before I watch them because I like to go into them blind and be surprised by what I find, so I expected an idyllic, calm slice-of-life anime along the lines of a Studio Ghibli production – something with whimsy and gentle fantasy.  Perhaps with episode 1 of Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear , this was my first mistake.
My expectation was fully borne out with the addition of some welcome humor… at first. I cackled when Machi went on and on listing the many, many reasons why her town sucks (“no asphalt” and “no one wants to develop the economy” among them). The bear, Natsu, has a great voice, equal parts paternally warm and whiny as a cranky salaryman.
But my first inkling that this would get pedotastic real fast was the announcement of Machi’s age: she’s 14, but looks younger. It’s always trouble in anime land when a young girl is given a stated age older than she appears. Then there’s a long flashback from Natsu, where he thinks of her sleeping (slow pan down the body), in her bathing suit, fallen on her scraped knee in a provocative vulnerable pose, giggling as she’s licked by his long bear tongue. At first I didn’t put all this together, not until Machi herself nailed him with a steely glare and informed him his flashback was getting a little long.
And then I thought, ew, no, that’s gross, that’s pedophilia and beastiality in the same joke. C’mon. There’s watercolors in the background. But the show’s tone just gets stranger after that as Machi’s cousin, a village officer, tells a small group of schoolchildren the real story behind the town’s founding. How does an adult casually inform a group of nine-year-olds “yeah, a bear totally ate the virgin sacrifice out, and they had kids and now there’s bears that speak human in our town”? The voice actor does a stand-up job with the material, but dude, gross.
Having a nine year old girl jump up on her feet and shout “sexual harassment! No!” is not, despite the excellence of the voice actress’s delivery, that funny. Not in the kind of way that doesn’t leave you feeling disgusting for having laughed. Kiddie toucher jokes are a plague in anime. One of the nine-year-old kids literally asks Machi if she got banged by the bear. How am I supposed to watch this and not feel like turning myself in?
Even if you have a super high tolerance for pedo jokes and bearfucker jokes and all that mess, the tonal shifts between “innocent cute funny” and “go to jail, kiddie toucher” jokes aren’t done that smoothly. I’m left annoyed by the whiplash and not entertained. I understand that the contrast between the two moods is what’s supposed to provide the humor, but it just winds up being jarring. The voice actors are so talented, and the art style is cute and appealing (the ending theme animation is so cute!) and there are moments of actual humor not reliant on sexualizing children, so it’s a damned shame.

Should you watch ‘Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear’?

Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear counts on the contrast between its cute, watercolor country aesthetic and its offputting turn into sexual humor to provide interest. Depending on your tolerance for jokes that involve the sexualization of children, you might enjoyKumamiko: Girl Meets Bear . For my part, hard pass.
Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear streams on Funimation Sundays at 1 PM EST.

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