Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear is a twelve-episode (plus two OVAs) slice-of-life comedy anime adapted from the manga series of the same name by Masume Yoshimoto. The director for the anime was Kiyoshi Matsuda, whilst it was written by Pierre Sugiura and Masao Iketani. The studios responsible for the adaptation are Kinema Citrus and EMT Squared.
The plot of Kumamiko -Girl Meets Bear – shortened to Kumaiko from here on – revolves around a fourteen year old girl called Machi Amayadori. She is a miko (that would be shrine maiden for those who don’t know) for a mountain shrine in the remote village of Kumade. She is insistent on going to high school in the city, as rural life is proving boring to her. Machi has no knowledge of life outside Kumade Village – something that is very much exploited in this anime.
The other main character in Kuma Miko is talking bear Natsu who pretty much serves as a father figure for the young shrine maiden. He completely opposes Machi’s desire to go to high school in the city, at times acting like an overprotective parent.
So far, a miko living with her talking bear guardian sounds like a a cute idea, right? In essence, it is, but it takes almost no time at all for the tone to be lowered – and it’s almost always the same character responsible for this flaw, Machi’s twenty-five year old cousin Yoshio Amayadori.
One of the viewers’ first experience with Yoshio is him telling the children of the village about Kumade’s lore – a tale that involves bestiality between a bear and a miko…
There’s also the moment where Yoshio pins down Machi whilst she’s wearing nothing but her underwear, saying he’s not a pervert. This scene is just awkward to watch, and those who find anything amusing about it might want to re-evaluate their sense of humour.
A similar event occurs later in full view of Natsu, who does nothing to stop it. It’s difficult to say which scene was more uncomfortable to watch, though it’s probably best not to dwell on that too much.
For a comedy anime, Kumamiko is incredibly reliant on one single joke: Machi’s naivete when it comes to city life. It’s established pretty early on that Machi knows nothing of city life, but the anime wants to make sure you don’t forget that at all.
There’s something of a formula there – Natsu challenges Machi to do something related to living in the city, and she gives it a try but doesn’t do so well.
Machi also goes through so much suffering throughout the course of the series. Putting aside the aforementioned stuff with Yoshio, his friend Hibiki Sakata provides physical violence. Yes, some of it is directed at Yoshio to hide her crush on him (ugh…), but she does also assault Machi on at least one occasion.
Hibiki is twenty-four years old, and effectively committing child abuse. You know, ‘comedy’…
For all its flaws, Kumamiko does actually have some genuinely funny and touching moments. The humour that doesn’t rely on Machi being humiliated in some way is actually pretty decent, and the relationship between Machi and Natsu is a good one for the most part.
Both the opening and ending themes are rather catchy, though there isn’t much else to say about the soundtrack – it does its job.
Kumamiko has a concept that sounds like it could be a lot of fun, but it never quite manages to realise that potential by relying too much on Machi’s suffering.
Despite having some genuinely funny and heart-warming moments, Kumamiko‘s flaws are too major to ignore and make for some incredibly awkward viewing. There isn’t much joy in watching a fourteen year old girl constantly suffering. A shame it doesn’t live up to the potential of its concept.