Note: This review is the start of an reviewing event called "The Nine Hells". This is Day I (The Circle of Limbo) and contains severe spoilers. Your discretion is strongly advised, should you want to watch the show.
Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear is a 12-episode seinen, slice-of-life comedy based on a manga series of the same name about a mountain shrine miko (shrine priestess) in her younger teens aspiring to be a high school student that lives in a city. She has a talking bear and some nearby villagers to help her prepare for life in the big city. Or so it seems...
It seemed to be a charming slice-of-life at first aside of one uncomfortable moment, but as the show goes on and as we explore Machi's mentality deeply from each of her obstacles, the show ends up being grating and even pretty dark in between times thanks to some key characters only making things worse for her for every cute moment that she had, especially with the talking bear of the village, Natsu. To add to the dragon-fueled fire, the plot seemed to progress with Machi trying to adapt to technology and casual clothing like a city person, but as she was often being forcefully coaxed into things like going to an ominous store or trying to become an idol by nearly everyone she knows, she ends up being eventually broken by her social anxiety and her fear of being discriminated for being a country bumpkin. The worst part of it all was that instead of her mental illness being taken seriously (aside of her affected behavior being addressed alongside the ways that she was being forcefully coaxed in earlier episodes), it was treated as if it wasn't even there after she gives up on all of her aspirations to stay in the shrine's temple with Natsu, thus eliminating all of the process and development that Machi and the entire show ever had. It turned out to be quite the infamous ending thanks to how the other characters handled Machi's final decision in the tale and it was so astonishing that even the mangaka for the source material got heavily shocked and had to apologize for his reaction.
As fate would have it, Machi turns out to be the only good character in the show aside of her severe character regression mentioned earlier. Before it all went to waste, seeing her progress with trying to get used to technology or learning more about cities brought sings of her maturing, despite still having a ways to go due to her upbringing in the village. She enhances the show's cutesy side, but lashes out at times when being severely overtaken by her abuse and anxiety, yet often fails to resist almost any unwanted errands from the villagers in her normal state. One side of her that wasn't explored too much was her state of divine possession, which only helped with Machi's anxiety issues once in the entire show when it could've been useful for her in the story without being a huge deus ex-machina, unless for some comedic effects. Onward to the other central character, Natsu turned out to be the most fatherly to Machi, especially thanks to his talking abilities (aside of them not being explored other than a sleazy village lore) and seemed to be quite understanding to her, but he later grew reluctant to let Machi mature and have faith in her dream deep inside and then fell into being completely selfish and insensitive after being elated about Machi's final fallout. This led to him from sharing the same rank as Machi to being a member of "Evil Town"; The evolved form of the "Deserves Death and Far Worse Club" from this review forward.
The rest of the notable characters as well as 97% of the whole village are much deeper into Evil Town with said notables in the worst and most deadliest part of it. Yoshino was questionable at the start, but from the third episode onwards (and yes, the whole first half of that one was the best the show had to offer, so it hurts one billion fold), he turns out to be worlds worse due to physically and mentally forcing Machi to get his tasks and wishes fulfilled. Even though he was a mentally dense character and none of his motives were in a lustful manner, his actions are very abusive and end up coming off as sexually volatile, mainly towards Machi. While his abusive actions were rightfully addressed by the other notable character at a later point in the show, where it was also revealed that he helped raise Machi since infancy to the point of being a human father figure, the critical damage was already done and even then, all of the attempts for this anime to redeem him instantly become null and void. From the impressions of the opening and ending sequences, Hibiki was advertised as the straight woman to Yoshio from her physical abuse against him, but while that does happen a few times after her true appearance, she outright physically and psychologically abuses Machi way more to the point of her being on the same level as Yoshio. Her being a tsundere in love with him just makes her character even less redeemable and the way that she appeared like she became Machi's friend after the clothing store visit felt so forced, it almost choked me out. In the end, Hibiki is just another enabler to Machi's suffering and a pure scumbag of a character.
Pros and Cons
The art style is very nice-looking and has an air of cuteness thanks to how the main characters are designed while the other characters looks range from also being cute to average-looking. The animation is above average and ends up being fluid at times throughout the show's run and as for the musical score, both of the main themes turn out not only to sound good, but to be fitting to a "T" while the background music is also listenable. The best of the two main sequences turn out to be the ending sequence for the song and the aesthetics to meld together nicely. A light treat for the culture buffs happens to be from the times when Machi must do rituals for her shrine or have to correctly place key items for a offering shrine. Some of the comedy does manage to work, but as the show goes onward, the comedy gets darker and even volatile, the comedic pluses start to be sparse over time and the gags that were already done once like the "sexual harassment" thing from episode one end up being worn out at the second round onwards.
There are even bigger problems that followed Kuma Miko and it's planet-sized one is that some of the humor is at a very damaging level of sanism for any viewers that are actually suffering from social anxiety (or anything related to that), especially when considering on Machi's afflictions and severe harassment being played for laughs and on her being mentally broken by the show's end. The big planet next door happens to be not only the out-of-place sexual humor (which only involved Natsu, Yoshio and all of the show's minors), but all of the very uncomfortable fanservice in the show and each of them involve Machi (her underwear and bath scenes included). There are times when some of her tasks and actions look sexually suggestive, even with Natsu included in some moments and especially at the times where Yoshio looks like he's going to brutally rape Machi when he's either interrogating or coaxing her into something she doesn't want to. There is even some bestiality references into some of the lore that this show contains for those that are wary of such things. Lastly, the other thing that went away with the show was the fact that the messages that the show tried to convey ended up being completely obliterated with the end result and utterly failing the delivery in every single aspect about.
What was a cute, promising-looking show quickly degenerated into an unfathomably trashy show and ended up becoming a chasm of never ending pain and disgust thanks to the bad points vastly outweighing the good. To slightly quote one of the characters, the one thing that nobody "has to think about" is ever watching this Absolutely Apocalyptic drek at all cost. This is a prime example of an ugly monster inside of a pretty exterior and this is just circle number one: The Circle of Limbo. It's going to be a very, very long way down from here...
(Source Used for the Mangaka Apology Links: AnimeNewsNetwork.com)
Taka: I see. A global release will benefit it. Gundam did pretty good. The only few franchises that are only popular in Japan but not popular in the west - Yokai Watch comes to mind.
Apr 10, 2021 1:55:16 GMT
Master Menos: F for Respects. DMX did all his work while suffering from a drug addiction, and I almost never knew until a point. I hope his next life treats him far better.
Apr 10, 2021 15:30:45 GMT
HungryWorld: Sorry for taking so long for the things i have to do, have been suffering from some health issues (including mental health deterioration). Anyways hope i can be a bit more active here soon enough once i am properly patched up again.
Apr 27, 2021 17:45:38 GMT
Taka: No worries, health, family, school, and work take priorities first.
Apr 28, 2021 7:41:52 GMT