I’ve generally avoided a lot of the more OP Isekai Anime series – no wish fulfillment shows with characters that have a superpowered cheat ability getting ported into a fantasy world modeled on a MMORPG in my watched list. Oh, there are Isekai shows on there, and even ones with people who have abilities that are somewhat overpowered (Log Horizon comes to mind). However, all of those are ones that are cases where an existing power from the game’s world is applied differently. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is the first show with this concept that I’ve ended up watching, and it’s probably the best place to jump in on this idea.
The show follows Yuna, a rich girl from our world who is content to just laze around and play VRMMOs of the game all day – until she’s drawn into the world of the game, with a set of absurdly overpowered, and hyper-cute, bear equipment. She then goes forward to make her way through the game’s world, ROFLStomping any physical or magical threats in her way.
To be clear upfront – Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear does not have the level of worldbuilding of a Log Horizon. It probably has less worldbuilding consideration put into it than your standard Free To Play MMORPG, of the variety of many of the games that ended up on The MMO Grinder back in the day. Indeed, the worldbuilding feels like an afterthought. This makes the show, for me, something of a mixed bag.
On the one hand, the character dynamics work – the writing is nicely done, for Yuna and the various characters she encounters along the way – like Fina, one of the first friends she makes in her starting town. The characters are very engaging and I really buy the strong relationships between them.
It’s just that the world has less thought put into it than a homebrew D&D campaign run by some Middle Schoolers. While Yuna’s ability to just stomp every possible threat into the ground without any time and consideration makes for nice jokes and keeps the show’s tension slight (which is very nice considering the hell year of 2020), it also means that almost everything resolves in one episode. No narrative thread really lasts long enough for any real worldbuilding to happen.
As an example, there’s an episode where we’re introduced at the start to an evil dark sorcerer who was cast out from the kingdom and he’s out for revenge. One would think that this would be a good narrative way to develop on the magic system of the world, the political structure, and where someone like that would go to prepare for revenge, right? Wrong. The villain’s character development is a “mwahahaha” followed by an eventual “Oh Crap” as he gets bounced by Miss Bear.
I enjoyed the show – it’s some very light, fluffy, cuddly fare. However, I’m coming away from this with no intention to get the show when it comes out on physical media, and a limited desire to pick up the books, at least at present.
In short – Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is a nice, big cuddly teddy bear, and it should be taken in that context.
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