First Impression – Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear

kumamiko 01-001

She and Her Bear

Okay! Villagers, check it out! It’s Kumamiko Dancing Time! It’s time to run, time to run, Miko-chan…

but we have Wi-fi…

Magic Streets Meets Magic Mountains…

At first I thought that most of the comedy was running on random. That there were just the gags the director wanted to have, put them in, check off the production box, then call it a day. Episodic comedy works better when it isn’t just a random assortment of stuff tossed at you. It took until the exchange between the local police and Yoshiho, but soon I sussed out a bit of a method to it, or I found the through line they wanted to plumb.

kumamiko 01-010

People Meet Shrine

As I said for the Summer preview: Kinema Citrus has yet to return to the remote south-western Japanese islands for a new Barakamon series, so this north-eastern, Ainu-infused slice of life tale is just the ticket. So yeah, somewhere in the rural districts of Touhoku (Aomori if the apple is anything to go by). Not that that matters much so far as most of the story goes, just so long as the setting is off the beaten path. This isn’t because it’s a comedy of bumpkins vs. city slickers, or anything like that. But because it’s about how silly preconceived notions get propped up and torn down. But don’t count on them out from using city vs. country as a cheap laugh every now and again, as comedy does have context that can be mined for laughs as well as content.

Audience Meets Main Cast

For right now, we have a very likable, funny little cast. Machi is adorable in every single moe trait she puts out there. For some, that level of feisty, moody, indignant, and possibly even annoying can get old – fast, or be too much. But she is a 14 year old, and it’s worthwhile exploring what she feels about her situation, so cut her as much slack as you wanted cut for yourself when you were that age. Nobody that ever grew up is immune to this embarrassing process of figuring these emotions out. Natsu is acting as her foil, and it looks like he’s perfect for the job. But then, looks can be deceiving. That’s what I’m going for as of the first episode, his test of general ignorance seemed a bit to tailor made for his subject; I mean, he had it stored in box just waiting for this moment. But he can’t be flawless, or else there wouldn’t be much humor about him. He is, after all, both thinking of the best for her, and also acting in what’s best for him when she declares she wants to go to the city for he schooling. There are some dramatic depths here to explore.

Boy Meets Imagination

Now, did this have a couple of rough spots? Maybe? Thing got really hairy once the strange sexual history of the ancient bear and virgin girl of long ago was revealed to the kids. It’s reminiscent of “the talk”, and was certainly presented in that matter of fact, level kind of way an adult would hope to achieve when talking rationally about sex to a younger child.  And yeah, call it the myth of why our bear talks, all you was “the talk”. But it had a very strong reaction from the girl, and an almost revelatory reaction from the boys and that was the core of the very odd charm. Kids do say the darnedest things, and adults aren’t immune to that either. It got much worse, and therefor funnier, when they tried to swing in back to something resembling sense, Yahiro trying to be “understanding” about the supposed bear on girl action that he stupidly assumes Machi is “into”, only to dig himself in deeper. The comedy of errors and our preconceived notions! Of course, Natsu was able to diffuse it with but a brief sentence, but I don’t know if he’s lying about being neutered or not. It worked, and that was the point. Much like his fully prepared questions for Machi.

On the technical side, I thought Kinema Citrus was doing just great. That watercolor style evokes both the older traditions and suits the moe aesthetic just fine. Both VAs are spot on in their performance, with Yasumoto Hiroki standing out as Natsu for being not-growly, and sounding very sensible; which is what he needs to sound like, Natsu has been with people so long he’s almost doing an imitation of a bear. Hioka Natsumi channels all the nervous energy and relative calm that is necessary for the role, and the two of them work very well with each other.  There was a great deal of sweet music in the air. The soundtrack was pleasant and the OP was cute. But that ED just steals the show; it was superlative in both it’s infectious tune and it’s spot on chibi animation. This was one heck of a treat. I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time, and I’m happy to say that it delivered for me. I’ll see you next time.

kumamiko 01-015

All according to plan…(?)


All around nerd that enjoys just about any anime genre. I love history, politics, public policy, the sciences, literature, arts...pretty much anything can make me geeky...except sports. Follow me @theskylion
Blinklist BlogMarks Delicious Digg Diigo FaceBook Google MySpace Netvibes Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter

14 Responses to “First Impression – Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear”

  1. Highway says:

    I thought that the origin story of the Kumade Village was perfect in its exposing of the outright weirdness of those kind of folktales, of which Japan (and everywhere, actually) is full. Usually you don’t have the kids thinking critically about what it actually means for the Bear and the Sacrifice girl to fall in love and have babies to start the village (although there’s always some point where the kids start realizing what they were talking about and then “waaaaait a minute…”). So I didn’t think that the presence of the story itself was strange, it was more that it was carried to a more absurd end by the kids listening to the story, who were then faced with Machi.

    And speaking of Machi, I thought that she was just about the right level. I’m usually one of the first to complain about higher-energy kids, but she never overdid it in this first episode, and maybe part of that is because her level of embarrassment and annoyance felt authentic for what she was going through, or maybe it’s because she wasn’t always high energy. Either way, I thought she, and even the rest of the kids, were fine.

    • skylion says:

      Myth and Folklore have always traded in the odd, the relatively “normal” stories wouldn’t have survived long in the oral tradition, at least from modern perspectives. It’s also interesting to add that, not so long ago, the story of the Bear and the Sacrifice really would have been believed by everyone, and not at all subject to scrutiny…mostly cause, who had the time?

      This also opens the door to all sorts of ideas, like tradition, and the foibles that come with them generation to generation.

      Oh, I forgot to link this:

      Girls and Bears! Worldwide!!!!

  2. HannoX says:

    Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting the sexual part of the bear and the maiden sacrifice. But given what many fairy tales and folk stories were like before they were cleaned up in the modern era it makes sense. Given that this anime didn’t shy away from such an explanation for talking bears and the village’s origin is a plus. This show has some real potential if it continues to bring such material into what could otherwise be a pleasant but unremarkable moe story. Of course, well done moe is just fine. But putting a bit of a bite into it adds to it in my opinion.

    • skylion says:

      I agree. Doing moe well, the best you can, is the minimum place a show like this should start. And yes, putting bite in only adds to the level of authorial intent.

    • Foshizzel says:

      Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting the sexual part of the bear and the maiden sacrifice

      same, but at least it was short and not the entire theme of the episode.

  3. Di Gi Kazune says:


    Beastiality… The things young children are reading these days…

    Gao-gao. Delicious meal. This is a story of girl meets bear.

  4. zztop says:

    Machi’s miko costume is quite interesting in how it combines Japanese Shinto with Ainu culture – note the Ainu patterns on her headband and jacket.

    • skylion says:

      I’ve not done a deep dive on the net, but have gotten some bits and pieces. They could be part of the Shimokita Ainu, which is named after the peninsula growing out of the Aomori prefecture towards Hokkaido. Again, this is a very cursory guess based on a minor google search. Please, anyone is allowed to give me more proper information; look at one of my banners above, I really am a huge nerd for everything but sports.

  5. Foshizzel says:

    I know we talked on Skype but yeah this was fun and enjoyable! It felt like a mixture of both elements from Gingitsune with the shrine stuff and the laugh out loud comedy of Engaged to the unidentified! So yeah i’m gonna keep watching more of this <3

    Machi's a fun character aka Natsumi Hioka who is still somewhat new to me because I don't really remember her from Witch Craft works or Oda Nobuna no Yabou so ya it's always refreshing to hear new actors <3

    • skylion says:

      Yeah, if you had to do a “back of the napkin estimatin”, or “elevator pitch” for the show, then Gigitsune + Engaged is a good place to start. I’m maybe gonna say it’s a “spiritual sequel” to Barakamon

      It looks like she’s had three smallish roles, and now this lead on in like 4 years? So maybe shes like Saitama, so she does it for fun?

Leave a Reply