Kuma Miko

October 2, 2016

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. The opportunities from across always look more bountiful than the ones before you. That is why many from the countryside and rural areas always try their luck by heading out to the urban city in hopes in improving their fortunes and life. Take for instance our main character in Kuma Miko. A young girl always stuck in the deep remote and mountainous village because of her job as a miko for a local legend. It is only natural for her to yearn the city life. Imagine all the things girls her age would be doing had she been living in the city instead of being cut off from the rest of society and civilization. Sure, we can always imagine things. But the big question is, is she ready to handle all that and have what it takes to live in the city? You know how the city isn’t as rosy as it paints itself to be, right? Thus this series is about our protagonist going through her daily life as she prepares for the day she will be ready to take on the city. The other question is, can she really do it in time?

Episode 1
A girl treks through a mountainous area of Kumade Village filled with bears. One creeps up on her. Will it be her doom? Instead he welcomes her home. Machi Amayadori is a miko and Natsu is a big brown bear. She wants to go to a school in the city but he shows his ferocious fangs that are not acceptable. He gives excuses of the dog-eat-dog world the city is especially Machi who has grown up for so long in the mountains, she has a country complex. However Machi claims this village is so boring and she can’t take all that crap anymore. Now it’s Natsu’s turn to cry (crocodile tears?) as he reminisces the little girl he always has to console. What will he do if she is gone? Like Machi cares… Therefore he is going to give her a quiz to see if she has got what it takes to live in the city. Don’t worry, they’re easy ones. But how come they feel like trick questions? Like what you used to get into train stations. Watermelon? Apple? Bananas? Sure, Machi got lucky picking the green one but the next question, how the heck would she know that OIOI is pronounced as Marui?! In short, Machi doesn’t know. So the only viable thins is for a girl to get mad at the bear.

The police are on a patrol and see a bunch of kids. They warn them about the bears in the area when Yoshio (Machi’s cousin) claims he is the village’s health department officer and is supposed to give those kids a tour of the place. The police relent since the villagers never take the bear warnings seriously like as though bears and humans here have co-existed in peace for a long time. Back at the shrine, Yoshio begins his lame picture story telling. But when the boys claim it is too boring, he takes out the original traditional book. Suddenly Kaori jumps up and screams words like “Sexual harassment!” and “Don’t touch me!”. OMG! Triggered?! Future feminist?! Yeah, this book tells about the virgin maiden sacrificed to the bear. In other words, bestiality rape scene. But later parts of the story reveals the bear fell in love with the maiden, mended his ways and worked for her. Thus the beginning of the co-existence of humans and bears at Kumade. The real surprise here is that bears can talk. The kids are in for a shock when Natsu serves them drinks. They fear him more since he is not in the mood of being touched. Since Machi didn’t want to play along to this, Natsu is forced to drag her out. Seems Machi is too shy to face them after that erotic rape story. The kids are impressed as Natsu continues talking. They want to brag to others but Yoshio warns them this secret cannot be leaked to outsiders or else you’ll be punished. The conversation goes on normally till one of the kids asks Machi this curious question… Was she raped by the bear???!!! Of course she vehemently denies it. Making it even more embarrassing is that Yoshio thinks Natsu did rape her! Not sure if he is trolling her. All that fervour calm down when Natsu says he is neutered. But this still has left Machi with a very red face.

Episode 2
Machi often cried when Natsu had to leave for his hibernation. That is why he stopped hibernating. Well, Machi doesn’t remember all that… But she is still bent on going to the city. As proof, she takes out an MD. However Natsu knows where this is going. He tells her MDs are no longer in production. Somebody needs to be updated. When all else fails, attack the bear! Use violence till he relents! Natsu okays her to go to the city but first she must learn about society and stuff. So he writes he first task: Go buy a HEATTECH from Uniqlo. She has 2 days from tomorrow. Machi gets right on thinking what to do. However she is stuck in thinking what kind of clothes to wear. A mission impossible? What the heck is a HEATTECH too? She starts thinking Uniqlo is a hardware store and HEATTECH is some sort of heater. Yeah, she almost asked Natsu a stupid question if it explodes. As she sets out, she meets her first obstacle: The wooden bridge is broken. It can only be fixed tomorrow. Natsu breathing down her neck with a reminder: Only 1 day left… Fortunately he isn’t so bad as he cuts down a tree to let her cross over. Since her bicycle is missing, she sees aunt Etsuko (Yoshio’s mom) who lends her Yoshio’s bike. No wonder nobody wants to use this bike. Such embarrassing chair… As she rides down the mountains. Suddenly everything breaks apart! I mean everything! She jumps off before the bike hits the tree and dismantles itself! OMFG! That was scary! Yeah, the only thing that isn’t destroyed is the chair…

Feeling hopeless, Machi cries for Natsu’s help. But she knows she has to depend on herself at times like these and got to push on. She braves up and treks through the mountains in hopes she will reach something. Well, she did. Yoshio and his friend Kameji “Matsu” Komatsu fishing. They agree to give her a ride there. I guess she has to bear with their incessant teasing and other quirky habits. Like her misconception of HEATTECH and Uniqlo. Yeah, they’re even making jokes and taking pictures of Machi making her purchase like as though she is some sort of celebrity. Once she is done with the task, she can no longer hold in her frustration and beats them up outside! Holy sh*t! There is only so much a limit a girl can take. Back home, Machi spots a gloomy look. She felt hopeless during her journey. Yeah, she sure is, Natsu agrees to it. Machi is shocked when Natsu mentions he expected her to go to Uniqlo via Yoshio’s car. When she proudly shows her bruises, Natsu gets serious. He nags her about the dangers of the mountains and her inability to come back after the bike broke. Like a child not wanting to hear her nagging mother, she mentions she bought HEATTECH so what’s the big deal? She passed, right? Yeah, she passed. Though, Natsu doesn’t seem too pleased. Asking her to show HEATTECH, she strips open her shirt! She is wearing this heater t-shirt underneath her miko garment in which Natsu doesn’t like her doing so. Yoshio comes home and wonders where his bike is. For all he knows, a lone chair sitting deep within the mountains…

Episode 3
Natsu wants to teach Machi more stuff about the city but apparently she is too lazy. Where has all that enthusiasm go? So she says she is tired? Yeah, putting with those blokes’ harassment was really an ordeal. To Natsu’s surprise, she wants to perform the kagura dance, something that she never liked to do. After setting up and starting the music, WTF is this exercise song! Natsu is mad! Stop! Stop! See, it is cloudy now. The gods must be mad. Taking a break, Machi mentions she is just an ordinary girl with no powers doing what grandma told her to do. On the contrary, Natsu mentions she does have powers when she was young. I don’t know about that trance but it looks funny although it was scary to Natsu because she pulled out his eyelashes! There are other trance moments too and naturally she can’t remember them is because she was in a trance. When Natsu mentions about the similarities of the trance and those DJ nightclubs, it gives Machi motivation to get up and dance again! Woah! Such energetic dance! She almost knocked herself out by banging into a tree. At least Machi is now motivated to do a proper dance ritual. At the end of it, Yoshio has brought them cake and drinks. Well, I don’t know if bears can eat cake but apparently it tastes horrible to Natsu. Machi falls asleep, tired from the dance so Natsu follows suit. He wakes up when he starts to rain. It seems Machi is dancing via that exercise track! OMFG! The lightning just struck the tree! It’s on fire! Machi is still dancing! Stop it! STOP IT NOW!!!

Machi is going to give Natsu a haircut. He has a bad feeling about this. Feeling like being decapitated? He runs away when he feels the scissors poking his flesh. But here comes Yoshi with a few miko dresses for Machi to try out. It seems there was a contest to design summer clothing for her and with the few entries, Machi is to put them on so the judges can pick a winner. Machi is quite interested in the Ainu tradition but these blokes have no further information about it and it feels disappointing. But she is encouraged thinking the dresses might have Ainu design. However the first one is an idol outfit! What the heck is this?! Machi punches Yoshio when he peeks to see the commotion. However he fights back about the ‘discrimination’. So why Natsu can see her in her undies and not him?! Why the discrimination between humans and bears! Yeah, it looked like a rape scene, Yoshio pinning down Machi… Anyway, Machi puts on all 4 outfits as the judges Natsu, Yoshio and Etsuko decide. All have conflicting views especially Natsu and Yoshio in some sort of disagreement over everything. But the most disappointed is Machi because none have any Ainu designs! She returns to her usual dress and refuses to become their dress-up doll.

Episode 4
Eventually Machi wears one of the designs as she participates with the villagers in a ritual. They too know all about it since they were spying during the judging and Yoshio showed the pics from his handphone. Everyone then starts to discuss and have their own opinions about each of the design. Not only Machi isn’t pleased but perhaps the gods too since it is starting to rain heavily… Later as Yoshio delivers sushi to them, they talk about the dance being made public. Machi disagrees to it and definitely won’t do it if Natsu isn’t with her. Even more so she won’t accept somebody substituting as Natsu’s part. It makes Yoshio wonder if Machi is dependent on Natsu. So Machi thinks about it and it dawned to her that she might not survive without Natsu. To prove it, she can turn on the TV! And play some video games! Okay, maybe a little bit of challenge there. Then she wonders if Natsu can survive without her and goes to spy on him. He is doing fine. He is even high-tech using sensor keys to lock doors! Machi feels bad for having such thoughts. As she goes to apologize, Natsu praises the technology Yoshio introduced to him. Machi just goes with the flow and agrees to it.

OMG. Machi is standing next to this delinquent, Hibiki Sakata and feeling very afraid! She should be because Hibiki beats her up! Machi tries to be calm and escape but Hibiki catches up and more abuse! WTF?! Till Machi cannot hold it in anymore and starts crying. Natsu comes by and our poor miko girl seeks solace in his arms. Hibiki is Yoshio’s childhood friend and claims she just wants to talk with her. Apparently Hibiki is often misunderstood because of her actions. Besides, they know each other for a long time. Hibiki wants to take Machi to shopping. I guess Machi has no choice but to agree. And Natsu thought it was just cute, girls having a girly time together. Hold on tight. Hell is coming. Biker girl Hibiki, the ride of your life! Literally. Machi feels comfortable at the Shimomura department store but is head butt out of her daydreaming. Again, Machi is forced to pick clothes and be Hibiki’s dress-up doll. But when Hibiki is having trouble choosing hers, suddenly Machi falls into a trance and it is like she knows everything about Shimomura. Their sales, their area size, their cost cutting measures and efficiency that lead to cheap affordable items! Wow. It’s like she is an employee or some industrial spy! More explanations about their exclusive rights that even make Hibiki change her view on them! When a dress she wants doesn’t have her desired size, Hibiki is about to give up but Machi tells her there is another Shimomura store in the next town. Quickly they ride there and thankfully there is stock. There are also other items in this store not available in the previous. This makes Hibiki to believe that Machi might become a Shimomura expert.

Episode 5
OMG! Who are those trendy girls making villagers’ heads turn as they walk past?! Cool background music too! It’s like an ad for Shimomura. Natsu is happy for the girls but Machi has to go change since a job has come up. Natsu hopes Hibiki could hang out with Machi more often but she denies it and if Machi wants to play with her next time, she’ll teach her adult stuffs. Let’s hope no drugs. Machi seems to be reeling from her experience with Hibiki so Natsu tells her to express her feelings to Hibiki if she enjoys it. A father caught his son, Shouta stealing and is taken to Machi as punishment. He is locked up in a cage in a cave with Natsu. Oh dear. See how Natsu is violently tearing apart the wood? Shouta has reflected his actions but it seems he needs to stay with Natsu for a night! Oh sh*t! As long as you don’t bother Natsu, he is pretty much preoccupied with the toy offerings from the village. The boy gets the fright of his life and passes out when Natsu approaches close to him. Actually Natsu just wanted to ask Machi for an instruction manual for an appliance. Oops. They overdid it. So as they take the boy back with Yoshio, Yoshio learns that Machi has already gone shopping with Hibiki. But how does he know they went to Shimomura? Because he told Hibiki to bring her there. Before any more juicy stuffs could flow out, conveniently here comes Hibiki to shut everyone up and deny everything. So you mean Hibiki didn’t do all that for Yoshio? Really?

Back home, Machi and Yoshio are so dense as they discuss Hibiki’s actions. Of course Natsu knows that Hibiki likes Yoshio and the mere mention of it has delinquent abusing big bear and warning him never to say those crazy stuffs. Hibiki still doesn’t get the hint and Yoshio has just stopped thinking. Wouldn’t it be easier for Hibiki just to say her feelings? DON’T YOU DARE SAY IT! Because Machi gets the wrong idea that Yoshio is troubling her and offers to work together to defeat him, Natsu takes Machi outside for a much needed lesson. He wants her to learn this supernatural power called reading between the lines. Sensing the atmosphere and feeling of others without ruining the mood. So he acts out as a tsundere. Machi doesn’t get it. Even roleplaying as Yoshio and Hibiki, Natsu’s actions of hugging and saying “I hate you” only confuses Machi. Is Hibiki trying to kill Yoshio? In his last attempt, he hints there is someone Hibiki likes and shows the dire situation Yoshio and Hibiki are in now. What should Hibiki do? The correct answer is to send Hibiki home quietly. But guess what Machi does? She goes to strangle Yoshio as she misinterprets he is the obstacle to the person Hibiki likes! Frustrated Natsu spells out word for word that Hibiki likes Yoshio. Yoshio didn’t hear that properly and Hibiki knocks him out with an elbow to the gut! Then she abuses Machi and warns her not to tell anybody about this or else… Her fear of delinquents just got worse. Later Natsu and Machi talk in the bath. She still can’t believe there is someone who likes Yoshio. Yeah, you better believe it. She wonders if she will like a man herself. But Natsu can only think of Machi being abused and her body used and thrown away by sleazy scumbags. He wants her to stay in the village forever. Get real.

Episode 6
The villagers are discussing ways to attract visitors but they don’t understand what the young ones want and ask Hibiki for advice. It seems there is this cool place called Village Vanguard where youngsters can check out cool things. And since the villagers know nothing about this, Natsu decides to send Machi to go to that store with her mission to get him a DVD. Think of it as training for her city life. But does Machi even understand what vanguard means? We see how much of a country bumpkin Machi is. She doesn’t know how to ride an escalator and she keeps thinking store clerks do not want her business because she is not trendy! Once outside Village Vanguard, because of the weird items on display, Machi starts becoming scared. Is this a witchcraft shop? Yoshio tries to push her in but she resists and causes a tantrum. Embarrassing if you consider the onlookers wondering what the heck is going on. It reaches unbearable point as Machi punches Yoshio in the guts and runs for it! She almost stumbles into the path of a handsome guy but he carries her like a little girl. It got too much for her to handle as she faints.

Natsu is not happy over this failed mission but Machi is clearly traumatized. He is going to lecture her about this embarrassing incident that would only decrease her chances of living in the city but Yoshio deflects the blame back to him. Wasn’t it Natsu’s fault for sending her out to do something like this that is too much for her to handle at this point in time? Seeing how scared she is still, maybe he is right. It is no joke that Machi is still crying and scared so Natsu now becomes guilt-ridden and scared. He apologizes, he kneels but Machi is still the same. Oh sh*t. It is going to become double troublesome if you have a panicking bear in the house. He waits outside her room as Machi cries herself to sleep. Natsu remembers the past whereby he was sick and Machi took care of him. He tries to cook porridge for her but you know about bears’ paws and knives. The clumsy commotion has awakened Machi. He takes this chance to sincerely apologize to her for saying all those mean things. But Machi this time blames herself and it is not Natsu’s fault. I know she wants to release some steam and learn from her mistakes but is she trying to flip the table?! Oh, please don’t! I guess this means Natsu has to bear the brunt as Machi takes out her abuse on him. Yes, this is his atonement. This is his punishment. He will bear this sin. All bear puns not intended… Next day, Machi is looking refreshed and rejuvenated! Wow. And Natsu… He is like so dead and lifeless… What a wild night it was… Yeah, I hope all that beating was worth it. It better be.

Episode 7
Machi chops firewood so Natsu reminds her that with technology like electricity, they should take advantage of it. However Machi still prefers to continue the traditional way. This makes Natsu remember she has been doing this since young without a single complaint. If she isn’t doing this for hobby or vent her frustration, what is it for? Because if she could, she wouldn’t want to do this hard labour too. She claims she isn’t good with appliances but wouldn’t mind trying if there was one. Thanks to Yoshio’s connections, they got a rice cooker. Being the noob she is, it is freaking odd to see a bear teaching a human how to use an electric rice cooker! Because Machi carries the pot with chopsticks (fearing there would be electricity all over), of course she fumbles. Before they know it, the place is on fire! Machi is rife with guilt that she can’t do it so Natsu tells her to not give up. In the end, they manage to have their perfectly cooked rice. It was boiled over fire by the way. When Yoshio comes by to tell Natsu and Machi that there will be a job ritual soon, the duo are in shock because nobody told them there would be one. Furthermore, granny is away at the hotspring and they have to prepare for one now in which nobody knows which ritual it is. As Yoshio goes to gather more information, the duo start preparing the hall. In the end, the ritual job is kikase. Natsu is supposed to give a speech to show that he is powered by the gods and channelling their thoughts. Natsu isn’t thrilled since Machi won’t have a part in this and is taking it easy. And what is he going to talk about? Improvise. So here is Natsu talking to the old people and trying to sound more ferocious and threatening as suggested but you know what? Screw all that. He talks about the good of technology and internet! You old folks should make good use of it! Sadly, Machi wasn’t paying a single attention and you wonder if the old people understood what he said. When Yoshio returns to his office, his chief shows a flyer about a contest for ideas to revitalize the village. Yoshio becomes passionate with some ideas that he believes this village lacks confidence, pride and presentation. The chief gives him handle this although he doesn’t have to be serious. Just enough to show the higher ups they are doing something and make them look good.

Episode 8
Machi makes cold water rice and she thinks she is the best there is till Natsu makes an Italian version of it using herbs she never even knew! Don’t be jealous. They let Yoshio taste to see who is better and although he claims both are good, Machi senses something suspicious when he points out hers is better. Could he have an ulterior motive? True enough, he is asking her to use her cooking skills for this village. He explains there is a part time job of cooking food samples that she could help out in promoting the village’s specialties. If learning experience and money didn’t interest her, then perhaps a trip to Sendai or Tokyo might. See the glitter in her eyes now. But since there is a weird outfit she needs to wear, she disagrees but Yoshio restrains her and tries to force her to sign an agreement! WTF?! Rape scene?! Natsu hints for Machi to take this job as she could go to the city. Though not impressed, she reluctantly agrees when the guys mention miko outfits are the trend now in Tokyo. But Machi soon realizes she has been deceived by Yoshio. It isn’t a supermarket in Tokyo or Sendai but a nearby neighbourhood. What’s more, he left her alone in search for other places. Even worse, a supermarket employee is breathing down her neck, staring at her to do her job! Trauma mode on! She feels like running home to her furry forest animals but remembers that there would be consequences worse than death. She tries to use her meek voice but it is so soft that nobody heard.

She is about to give up but Hibiki is here. She didn’t want to help out but seeing those tears that read please-help-me in her eyes, Hibiki tries to be the decoy to lead people to her stall. Unfortunately with Machi being so quiet, Hibiki further abuses her and the other customers think the delinquent is bullying her. After Hibiki leaves, Machi is on her own. She tries to summon her voice again but this time she sounds like she is in some sort of execution! Horror! A few people sample and buy her product but it is back to the usual. Going to give up again, Yoshio is back. Learning the trouble she went through, he puts on his smooth operator skills and before you know it, everyone floods the stall curious to try the food. Wow. In the end, Natsu is impressed she stood her ground and did her job that wasn’t suitable for her in the first place. He thought she would ditch it and come back home. But Machi is motivated by a few comments of customers and would try again. But Yoshio mentions there is no need to continue the job anymore since the part timer for it is back. As he praises her first job with a hitch, Machi can’t help sense he has an ulterior motive he is up to something else.

Episode 9
Hibiki didn’t want to join the villagers in a meeting to discuss the village’s revitalization. But why did she? Because Yoshio is there. But it isn’t much of a discussion since Yoshio decides to do a commercial and the villagers agree to it. He has hired Usui as the director. Isn’t he the local farmer who got hospitalized? Isn’t he still on IV drops? So they take ideas on what products to promote the village and cheeky Hibiki suggests Machi as the mascot girl. Oh dear. You’re going to hear complaints how she doesn’t want to do it. But with Usui giving the thumbs up, I guess that is settled. Machi argues Natsu should do it but he can’t because he is the cameraman and the secret the village cannot reveal. But with Yoshio begging this commercial success will heal Usui, well, little girl has no choice but to do it once. Then there is another problem: Sponsor funds. No money how to make commercial? Hibiki thinks the old lady Tokuyama who sells clocks and glasses may have a hidden stash. Yoshio goes to negotiate with her and she agrees on one condition. Our villagers are at the hotspring site for the shooting. Again, Machi complains she doesn’t want to wear this swimsuit. Can’t back out now, right? Then there is this horrible storyboard sketch from Usui on how the ad should go. Looks more like a horror comic… Yoshio tells Natsu to focus on the watch and glasses that Machi is wearing. Yoshio takes auditions from the villagers but eventually settles for Hibiki despite she didn’t even audition at all. The others include Etsuko and Shouta. Nepotism? Filming starts and even for a girl like Machi can tell, isn’t the stupid dance make her look silly? Not in Usui’s eyes! After many takes, the shoot is done but Usui feels it lacks some sort dynamic excitement. Etsuko suggests singing and has written a song for the village. That’s it! Silly but fun song. As time is running out, they have to practice fast and manage to get it done in a single take. Yoshio works hard into the night to edit the video to be submitted to the station tomorrow. It is a big deal for the villagers to gather and watch their 30 second commercial. As it plays, suddenly certain scenes are cut out and replaced with Tokuyama’s store. In the end, Hibiki is furious that this entire ad is just a commercial for that granny’s store. Well, Yoshio’s hands are tied as that was the condition. But the villagers are celebrating in happiness they get to be on TV. I guess all is not lost. However… Usui suddenly gets up and proclaims… This is not his work!!! Then he collapses. Call the ambulance! No signal…

Episode 10
Machi is standing in the rain listening to her music. Natsu thinks something wrong must have happened in school because she does this when it is so. Apparently everyone in school has that item: Handphone. She didn’t bother too much about it at first but it soon got to her. Yeah, she is the only one without such hip gadget. Please note there is still no reception here. Thus Machi bugs Natsu for a handphone and even explains the careful thoughts she has given for wanting to live in the city. As long as she is sheltered here, she will be naive. Natsu then picks out an old handphone model from the offerings. Wow! Also there is a tablet as it instantly connects to a video conferencing with Yoshio at his office. Please note the difference between signal reception and internet connection. Learning Machi wants a handphone, Yoshio quizzes her. You bet Machi is going to think he has some ulterior motive and wondering if this question is a trick question. Yeah, he wants her to appear as an idol in exchange. Machi claims this old model handphone can be hers but she doesn’t know anything about a SIM card so it is pretty much useless. Luckily Machi gets the answer right and the new handphone is all hers. Wow. Look at the dazzling light of technology! Hey, I thought she is bad with appliances with buttons? I guess this doesn’t count? Next day, Machi shows off her new handphone like a pro. Shouta and the rest are in awe. Yup, the star for the day.

There is always a reason why Machi refuses Yoshio’s request. It is sensible that this time Yoshio wants her to be an idol. You know what? This guy is so desperate for her to change into this idol outfit that he forcibly strips her! OMG! Rape scene?! Of course we understand he has pure intentions but he has got to stop treating Machi like his pet! Hibiki is sleeping there and wakes up. The first thing she sees this ‘rape scene’ is to beat the hell out of this guy. Yoshio suggests Hibiki to be her manager and Natsu agrees thinking she needs more interaction with girls. Machi only agrees because she uses her ‘ability’ to read between the lines this might get Hibiki closer to Yoshio. And so here Machi is on stage as an idol. Man, 3 extreme idol fans? Scary. She is so nervous and singing off key but you know the extreme fervour of such fans. Go Machi, go! While taking a break, several guys from the next village badmouth Kumade. Worse, Tamura the old hag warns of some beastly curse. It descends into some name calling, name shaming and insults flying. At the end of the day when they leave, the Kumade villagers aren’t sure if they have the motivation to revitalize the village. And the busy idol fans have to move on to the next event… Abandoned? But then a spark of inspiration hits Machi. She starts questioning her motive to become an idol.

Episode 11
Machi is doing her rituals properly and Natsu thinks that idol stint must have scared her. Personally he would prefer it this way. When Yoshio receives word that Machi has been selected for the idol finals in Sendai, you can bet the entire village is getting hyped up that Kumade is going to be famous. It would be if not for this little problem: Machi doesn’t want to become an idol! How determined is she? She tied herself to the pillar! Then she runs away and sits at the cliff to do some soul searching. Natsu of course plays the pivotal role in convincing Machi to think about this opportunity. He has her remember all those city missions that she cleared (those embarrassing failed stints, if you look at it another way) and if she clears this last mission, she will be acknowledged as a city girl. Yoshio is definitely dense but even so he too realizes (finally) that Machi doesn’t really want to do this sh*t. So when she returns, he apologizes like hell and would accept any punishment. But Machi has changed her mind and will participate. This is music to Yoshio’s ears as suddenly all that guilt flew out the window and he is back to his annoying self. After Hibiki beats him up, Machi’s idol training begins. Since when did she sign up for Hibiki’s Spartan training? Okay, the usual jogging for stamina training and speech practising on stage. But tongue twisters too? Come that day, the villagers see them off with high hopes. You can tell all those reactions of Machi as she sits a real train for the first time. Meanwhile Natsu prays at the shrine for the peace of this village and their success. But he soon realizes he is a selfish prick and wants Machi to stay in the village forever and hopes everything will break down and have her return here.

At Sendai, it is an eye opener for Machi. She is at the idol backstage and meets many idols. Although they are very nice and polite but in Machi’s eyes she sees them as evil competitors mocking her country bumpkin status! During the rehearsal, the other idols do well. Naturally to Machi this means the bar is set very high and pessimism starts to sink in. She can’t do it. She is so nervous that when it is her turn, she bloopers by banging into the microphone, mispronounce some words, trips and falls hard when she tries to go away and worse of all, that silly vision of evil idols berating her as a useless countryside girl. It’s all in your mind… Machi then runs off stage with Yoshio and Hibiki chasing close behind. Yoshio tries to coax her to return but perhaps he did the unthinkable as he touches her shoulder. Her trauma instantly lit up as she punches him in the gut! This must be a very painful one. As Hibiki tries to restrain her, the policeman mistakes Hibiki as a delinquent trying to harass Machi and arrests her. A classic case of judging a book by its cover? This allows Machi to run away as she keeps calling Natsu’s name for help.

Episode 12
Natsu feels bad for making such wish and wants to go rescind it. But he gets a call from Yoshio that Machi is missing! OMG! Did the bear nearly died of a heart attack? Natsu then races down the mountains faster than a horse to Matsu’s place. He wants him to drive him to Sendai now! Yoshio and Hibiki continue to look for Machi but to no avail. Natsu uses his GPS to trace Machi and it seems her last location is at some departmental store. The duo search there but still cannot find her. That is when Hibiki chides Yoshio for being too persistent in trying to revitalize the village at Machi’s expense. Is revitalizing the village that important? Yes it is. Etsuko made that miko outfit, Natsu helped with her performance, Matsu made that banner and Hibiki helped train her. Everyone in Kumade has high hopes and is rooting for her. Hibiki agrees to look for her but with a condition that it is Machi who decides on whether she wants to continue with it or not. After they leave, it seems Matsu was hiding nearby and conveniently heard everything. Machi gets a little confidence boost when a little girl thinking she is an idol gives her some encouragement. A big traffic jam into Sendai. No time to waste. Natsu gets out and starts running. Won’t anyone notice? Yeah, the bear is so fast that they didn’t even notice. Or is everyone on their handphones? Damn technology… By the time Natsu is already in town, he realizes he is not in any disguise. He fears everyone will panic. Fortunately today’s generation thinks he is such a realistic mascot that they want to take pictures with him! Yeah, so I guess he is not much of a threat.

It is Machi’s turn on stage but she is nowhere to be seen. Before the host can change the programme line-up, here comes Machi. She is nervous at first and as usual, her delusion has her see the people as evil assholes throwing stones at her! That is when Natsu gives out a loud scream. Machi hears it and the scenery changes back to her hometown. It boosts her confidence because she can continue her dance ritual like she always have. All in her mind? At the end of the beautiful dance, Machi continues to see the crowd as evil people throwing stones at her! Yup, I think it is all in the mind. Back home when Yoshio and Natsu pretend to ask how Sendai was, Machi cowers in fear and explains as it is as seen in her delusions! She has decided. She is not going to a high school in the city! Say what?! Is Natsu happy or sad? Wait. Is that a recording app? I guess this means Natsu is freaking happy about her decision that he hugs her. Bear hug? Both of them hug each other in relief like nobody’s business while blurting out how much they love each other. Eww… Weird scene. Felt like a little bestiality… The villagers celebrate this successful event and although Machi didn’t come close to winning, at least she got a special award trophy. Yoshio continues to work hard to promote Kumade. Lastly, Natsu and Machi are living in the comfort of their shrine and anything they want from the city, they can just order it via internet shopping. All hail the internet!

Taking place during Natsu and Machi’s younger days especially that hibernation incident. When the snow falls for the first time this year, it is time for Natsu’s hibernation. As it came 2 weeks earlier, the elders still have no choice but to do a traditional farewell ceremony for Natsu’s hibernation considering last year’s fiasco whereby Machi refused to be parted from him. Yoshio is also drafted to help out for the first time. He in turn drags Hibiki into it since she is here (to return his manga). Machi and Natsu talk about the dreaded separation again. They don’t want to be apart. Machi suggests hibernating with him but that’s not possible because it is cold around. She’ll freeze to death. To make him stay away, Machi puts clothespin all over his body, glues his eyes open and forces him to drink coffee! Torture?! Natsu can’t stand this and breaks out. Naturally they get into an argument and it ends with Machi running away. Then Yoshio comes in to tell him that they are holding the ceremony tomorrow night after Machi falls asleep so she won’t feel so sad. That night, Machi apologizes for today and sleeps with Natsu. Next morning she wakes up early to cook something before spending the entire day with Natsu. Night falls and after Machi falls asleep, Natsu goes with the villagers for the ceremony. But then Machi wakes up and upon realizing Natsu is gone, she rushes out while taking her bento. Hibiki tries to stop her but Machi bit her finger! The cold slows down Machi till she eventually collapses. Natsu thought he heard Machi’s cry and rushes back. He finds Machi fallen on the snow. She gives him the bento she made so he won’t get hungry when he hibernates. Natsu is touched but carries her all the way back seeing her body is getting colder. Ever since that incident, Natsu ditches hibernation and the ceremony scrapped. It sure brings back memories for Natsu remembering this. After all, bears in zoos don’t hibernate. The biggest slap in the face is that Machi doesn’t remember a single shred of it.

This takes place after Machi’s idol contest in the city. A staff thinks Natsu is a real mascot and brings him to a nearby backstage because this is where the local mascot contest is. Natsu doesn’t think this is a good idea since he isn’t a real mascot to begin with but Yoshio believes this is a good chance to increase the village’s reputation. Naturally the organizer don’t see his name on the list. But she thinks they omitted it and puts his name as the last entry. Don’t you dare pin that number on his skin… It’s his real skin! During the rehearsal, Natsu is nervous, bumps his snout on the microphone and trips when it is over! Déjà vu? Wow. He really mirrors Machi. At the backstage, Natsu has doubts about continuing this but Yoshio has a way to make him stand out and coaches him on it. So when Natsu goes out on stage, he does his cute dance to a lame tune sung by Yoshio in the background. The crowd loves how cute he is! It is no wonder he won first place. So back at the village everyone celebrates the double achievement. They think Natsu is God and thus that’s why he won first place. The TV replays the contest with Natsu giving his final words: “Mokyuu”. WTF?! I don’t know. It was Yoshio’s idea. But Machi is shocked to hear that Natsu’s victory allows him to advance to the national level of the mascot contest to be held in Tokyo. Tokyo?! This bear is going to Tokyo?! Wait a second there… Natsu tries to change the subject and goes to bring some drinks. When he returns, he sees Machi already prepared her bags and stuffs. She’s going to Tokyo too.

For Bear-tter Or Worse, Just Bear With It
Aww… And they lived happily together. Big bear and little girl. Hugging and cuddling each other till the ends of days. The end. I guess that beats living the stressful life in the city, huh? Well, not too sure if Machi is giving up her high school in the city dream forever because you know, it could be just the spur of the moment that she decided not to go back to that scary place. It could all change again in the future. But we leave that for another time. If they make another sequel, that is. This entire series is just about a country bumpkin girl testing waters before making her permanent move to the city and in the end finds that it isn’t really one that suits her. It is a good thing she went through all that because had she instantly hoped on board, it will be the point of no return and the start of a tragic tale, a bad end. Thank goodness that never happened as long as Natsu is looking over her.

If you look at the series’ comical points, they aren’t really that over the top and during moments without any funny stuffs, it can get a little boring and slow. So if you are looking for really insane slapstick comedy like Teekyuu or those that parody the hell out of everything such as Gintama, you’d find that this series is just a pale comparison. But sometimes you do not need to have all those exaggerated jokes just to make things funny. This series has its jokes in its own pace and with the slow and sleepy stride of this village, it is only befitting that the funny scenes are paced so.

Although the characters in this series are small, you will still find something to love about them even though some are just annoying. You can’t hate them at all. Because of the focus on a handful of these main characters it is one reason why the series works as you can see the dynamism and interaction between them. Especially the tag team duo of Machi and Natsu. It already looks like an odd pairing from the start but with Machi’s antics, lack of confidence, anxiety and Natsu somehow has to deal with it all and even play the role of a motivator sometimes, it never gets tired seeing how the two interact. Therefore in place of the simple and sometimes silly general plot, the characters do a reasonable job in distracting you from the story about a girl who wants to go to the city but has to undergo trials to prepare for it but fails miserably as it only serves to induce her trauma. Yeah…

Machi is an interesting and lovable girl. She is shy, naïve and insecure in many ways that makes you think that she isn’t cut out for the city life at all. True. The peaceful and sheltered life in the remote mountains may have seemingly given her a wrong idea that she can take on the city. You know, girls and kids in general her age always think they know and can do everything, right? If she were to go to a high school in a city right now, she would quickly end up being a bully victim. As seen throughout the series, many of the attempts can be considered as big fails and even end up as an internet memes. This is where the fun and funny moments come about as Machi is forced to quickly reconcile the vast difference of reality and her expectations. Usually she ends up getting overwhelmed and scared and tries to run away from it all. She wants to go home. Nothing safe and sound like home where everything is familiar, eh? Despite all the ‘hardships’, tears and embarrassing moments she has faced, well, isn’t it a good thing that she barely pulls through all of them? Try harder again next time? Though, it felt like she did mature a bit in the end, but eventually she returned to being the timid Machi that we all knew from the beginning. I guess some things never change.

Natsu as Machi’s guardian and companion is a much cooler and mature character albeit he too is not perfect and has his shortcomings. The big irony is that he is more knowledgeable about the outside world and even technology compared to Machi and perhaps the other villagers. A bear whose intelligence and high-tech skills far exceed human capabilities? Well, he isn’t a god for nothing. Because when you have a bear that talks, it is already a sign of intelligent advanced lifeform. At least for this anime. It is safe to say that Natsu has been Machi’s saviour many times because who would Machi find solace whenever she faces her toughest ordeals yet? Not too sure about the past where Machi seems more reliable and cooler when Natsu was a cub. Or was it just a time of innocence and then as she grows up, life gets to her despite living in the mountains and thus her current behaviour. All I can say is that Natsu has been there for Machi, her ups and downs so I can’t imagine the duo being separated for long periods of time. That is why you can’t blame Natsu for being against Machi to live in the city. He knows she cannot defend herself and thus yet another irony of a bear protecting a girl from the dark side of human nature. Wow. This series sure has such subtle themes. Even better for him when Machi has abandoned her dream so he can be rest assured that Machi will stay put. Uh huh. It’s like this saying, never seen a ghost, not afraid of the dark. Yup, that sums up Machi’s ambitions in the end.

Yoshio could be the weirdest and most dense character in the series. He is hard to hate even though his annoyance makes you feel like you want to punch him in the gut. His intentions are always good and for the wellbeing of Kumade. However his approaches are the ones that are questionable. It is like he is in a world of his own. This guy is so dense that he couldn’t take a hint when others especially Machi vehemently disagrees to do something. You know, he thinks that she is just nervous and needs a little push and convincing to get something done. I suppose he can’t tell when a girl is scared and when she says she doesn’t want to do it, she really doesn’t want to do it.

Topping the list of him making things worse is his seemingly sexual harassment. Some may not be fond of such scenes that make it look like pedo and child sexualisation. You have noticed a few times that this guy would boldly undress Machi like as though she is his plaything (can you call Machi in her undies as fanservice?). Despite not having that perverted look, that dense poker face look is annoying enough. Furthermore, when Yoshio wants to make a point or calm one down, he tries to touch you! No wonder our little girl in the first episode was screaming sexual harassment and not to touch her! It is more evident that an office colleague of his is also afraid of his ‘sexual harassments’. If this guy was to live in the city, you can bet that he will be arrested and thrown into the slammer in no time and even have his name recorded as a registered molester. Therefore with poor Machi being weak and unable to fight back or get away in time like those other ladies, she is often more violated and thus adding to her list of never ending traumas and miseries. That is why from time to time this guy needs to have a good punch in the gut. Uh huh. Nice punching bag.

Last but not least of the main characters, Hibiki isn’t a bad person per se and like how Yoshio would be misunderstood as some sort of pervert in the city, the same misconception can be said for Hibiki as one would easily classify her as a typical delinquent. The mind boggling thing here is how she got her delinquent attitude. Unless she was born this way. But I am assuming that she doesn’t live in the big city assuming it takes hours to travel and it won’t be feasible for her to travel to Kumade every day unless you’re telling me the power of love makes her do so. And since there are no other delinquents in Kumade that I could see of, the only logical explanation why she is acting like a tough aggressive chick is to hide her feelings for Yoshio. Yeah, love is weird. But considering how dense Yoshio is, even if she acts all feminine and drop hints before his eyes, he still won’t catch it all. So sad to know that his first love will always be Kumade. Maybe it is because of this stress that Yoshio doesn’t realize her feelings that she sometimes take out her frustrations on poor Machi. Thus that eternal bad mood look.

The other villagers are rather okay too like the dreamy Etsuko and the casual laidback and always laughing Matsu. I think Kumade has only 3 children who are younger than Machi (among them are Kaori and Shouta). It makes me wonder if they are the only kids in school because you never see other children around. Could their school also be single class despite it looks like it has multi storeys and classrooms. Besides, I don’t see any other students there. Besides, I only see Yoshio and Hibiki as young adults as the rest are elderly men or senior citizens who usually plough the paddy fields.

An interesting and amusing segment is one before the next episode preview called the Totally Cosy Yonkoma Theatre Kumamiko-chan. In a yonkoma style animation, I mostly notice that it is either about eating or food. For some reasons, Machi is reduced into some character who is just munching away or bugging Natsu for some food because she is hungry. So she can’t even feed herself? Well, the most important thing is to enjoy their meal.

Art and drawing are pretty decent. They may look simple but only it is because the setting is in the remote mountainous village. Hence sometimes the background sceneries of the forests and greeneries may look a bit like water colour painting. But it won’t stand out and be jarring since the characters are vividly animated although their designs are mostly simple. I suppose Machi is the only one having the most ‘complicated’ design because of her miko priestess outfit that has a few Ainu motifs. This series is a joint production of 2 studios. The relatively new EMT2 whose only works so far consists of Ame-iro Cocoa and Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu and the relatively experienced Kinema Citrus who brought us Barakamon, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, Black Bullet, Yuyushiki and Gochuumon Wa Usagi Desu Ka S2.

At first I was in a dilemma wondering if the voice behind Machi was Kana Asumi but it isn’t. Or could it be Yukari Tamura? Not really either. At some points she does sound close to either. Turns out to be Natsumi Hioka (Kotetsu Katsura of Witch Craft Works) behind Machi’s voice. She did a good job in making sound cute and insecure all at the same time. Even if Machi is such a flawful girl, that cute and perfect voice of hers makes you want to pity and root for her even more. If you are familiar with Bleach’s Sado, not to say that he totally sounds like that character here, but you can identify Hiroki Yasumoto as Natsu thanks to his low voice. He is quite cool playing this bear character. Eri Kitamura is identifiable as Hibiki since she sounds like one of those delinquent or high and mighty roles she sometimes play like Ganessa in Freezing, Ami in Toradora and Odagiri of Yamada-kun And The Seven Witches. Kazuyuki Okitsu voices Yoshio who did Nagare in K and Andre in Prison School.

One of the most wonderful things of this series is the very enjoyable, addictive and highly catchy ending theme. Kumamiko Dancing by the duet of Natsumi Hioka and Hiroki Yasumoto is the song that takes the cake. It could be the catchiest anime song that I have heard in recent seasons. I can’t think of what genre this song falls into at this point but what makes it so good and hip are the perfect combination of Hiroki Yasumoto’s low (sexy) voice, Natsumi Hioka’s high pitch (cute) voice, the appealing drum beats as well as the background vocals that altogether blend in seamlessly with the great tune of the happy song. I’m not sure if I can consider this song similar to those black gospel choirs. With cute funny lyrics (“No reception, no signal but we have Wifi”, “The convenience store is not that convenient”) and the very cute isometric gameplay-like visuals, I believe it is one of those songs that I will never tire to hear for many years to come. This is really good. Not to say that the opening theme Datte Gyutte Shite by Maki Hanatani is bad. It is also cute and lively in its own rights but after hearing the awesome ending piece, it pales in comparison.

Overall, a nice and enjoyable light hearted comedy series if you have had too many comedy settings based in high schools, clubs and the slums and want something different for a change. If you can get past those seemingly pedo jokes and ‘child abuse’ moments, it is a nice slice of life series for everyone. It goes to show that in the countryside there are as many funny and amusing matters to go around and not necessarily making living in the outskirts as boring nature and backwater stuff. Just like Non Non Biyori but even cooler because you have got a talking bear! Remember, laughter is the best medicine. Natsu may not be as cute as his other more popular bear counterparts like Care Bears and Paddington Bear or even Winnie the Pooh and Yogi Bear. But Natsu shows that he can look and act (mostly) like a bear and still have a human heart and soul. Doesn’t that want to make you move out of the city and live with him in the mountains?

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