The idea of “control” is a funny thing – we strive for it, we arrange our lives to own it, but when we feel we have it, that’s often when it falls out of our grasp. In episode one of Yuri Kuma Arashi, the latest series from Kunihiko Ikuhara, we’re introduced to the actors, many of whom are struggling with or struggling for control.
The setting for Yuri Kuma Arashi is unique – a self-contained community surrounded by a wall to keep man-eating bears outside and humans safe within. Right from the beginning, then, we see this idea of control as the humans erect the wall in an attempt to keep the bears out. Two of these “bears,” Ginko and Lulu, also attempt to wrestle control of their fates by sneaking into the city to satiate their appetites. Finally, a student, Kureha, decides she will be able to keep her love, Sumika, safe by her determination and skill with a rifle.
Of course, all this control quickly breaks down – the bears penetrate the walls, Ginko and Lulu must leave their fates to the hands of the Judgemens, and Kureha is unable to protect Sumika (or even herself).
This theme is nothing new for Ikuhara – it was emphasized in Mawaru Penguindrum as well. Several characters from that series sought to change fate, but found themselves ultimately unable to. Each was humbled and by being brought low, were taken to an unexpected (and better) place than they had anticipated.
We, too, try to wrestle control over our lives – after all, they are our lives, and we should be masters of our destinies, right? Of course, even in the most optimal conditions, we never fully have control. As with the humans and their wall, unforeseen events take place. As with the bears, unknowable forces, players, and beings affect our plans. And as with Kureha, our own imperfect selves cannot be fully counted upon.
In the Christian life, we’re called to do the opposite of these characters – we’re told that we must surrender. It goes against our instinct, but it also breaks that illusion that we are our own gods, an idea almost all of us follow either consciously, like some mad anime character, or practically as we live for ourselves.
And when see that a life we “control” is rather a life in chains, we discover one of Christianity’s most peculiar truths – that in giving up our freedom, in surrendering our lives, that is when we become free. That is when we truly begin to live.