Before I start, I’d just like to say that this OVA is WEIRD! Now, I don’t mean in an ‘Oh I say old chap, this is jolly odd’ way, I’m talking of a sheep wearing roller blades skating around the top of the Eiffel Tower kind of weird.
Super Kuma-san is set in a plaza where children gather to play, draw pictures and watch a large blue stuffed bear named Kuma-san and his clown friend perform their act. Unfortunately, this also happens to be the crime hotspot of the city, complete with armed bank robberies and gangs of joy riders – seriously, would you still let your kids play there? Luckily, help is at hand as when our fuzzy protagonist gets mad, he transforms into ‘Super Kuma-san’ to fight off the enemy. However, it’s not quite so simple, as soon a rival appears in the form of a revenge-seeking sadistic doll that’s like something out of a more twisted version of Rozen Maiden.
Impressively for such a short OVA, Super Kuma-san has a pretty solid narrative – it’s just bloody barmy. There’s crime, action, rivalry, tragic pasts and a decent resolution at the climax – you couldn’t ask for much more. It would be easy to dismiss the plot as silly nonsense at first glance, but (worryingly) each aspect of the show makes perfect sense within the grand scheme of things. In reality, this anime’s biggest selling point is its inherently wacky nature. Depending on how you take it, the bizarre brand of comedy will either invoke maniacal laughing every few minutes, or fall into a dingy barrel marked ‘what the hell is this crap’. Indeed, seeing Kuma-san toss his ear at a terrified armed robber is oddly hysterical, and his habit of wearing his headscarf as a neckerchief after he transforms is the most ingenious superhero reveal I’ve seen since Clark Kent took off his glasses. This is definitely one of those series, which is so utterly rubbish that it quickly becomes brilliant. I mean come on, a slightly retarded stuffed bear fighting crime, that’s good nonsense if ever I heard it!
Super Kuma-san’s animation is quite clean with a reasonable smoothness of movement. Though not the best specimen by any stretch, it far outranks a lot of the other OVAs out there in terms of visuals.
This anime boasts some admirable character designs that are wholly befitting of the plot’s tone. Kuma-san is suitably cute, but at the same time, somewhat creepy with his blank appearance. Meanwhile Super Doll has a simultaneously beautiful yet harsh visage, and her mix of delicate features with piercing azure eyes and often-emotionless expressions give her an ominous presence.
Pretend for a moment that you’re truly terrified of both clowns and the circus. Then envisage that you’re having the most horrifying nightmare of your life about them dancing around threatening to attack with large knives and chainsaws… Now imagine this represented in musical form and you have the ending theme to Super Kuma-san. The convivial and upbeat melodies receive a menacing edge as the percussion section goes nuts all at once and creepy choral overtones reverberate in the background. Then, just to ensure that no one will sleep easy, Super Doll’s sinister theme makes a return to leave the sound of a lone, eerie music box echoing around your head all night long.
Super Kuma-san’s incidental music helps to re-affirm the series’ nature, often encompassing light carnivalesque themes to re-iterate the circus-like nature of Kuma and his clown friend. To continue the theme of the utterly bizarre, some of the score has an oft-distorted sound to it, at times appearing much like the instruments performing it are winding down or running out of power; likewise, on occasion, it simply sounds like tuneless racket. ‘Super Kuma-san’s’ personal song in particular incorporates a melody hidden under a mish-mash of musical noise, and while not something I would choose to listen to, it ideally fits the temperament of the character.
Kuma-san as a superhero is pretty useless. His attacks consist of lunging at criminals and standing around banging his drum – that is if he isn’t distracted by ice cream – however, as a character he has a surprising amount of personality. Even though he’s a bit dim, the bear has a kind heart and loves kids, so much so that when he catches a glimpse of his own ‘scary face’ he becomes traumatised and sinks into a mild, puddle-flailing depression. Through a single, short flashback the viewer learns a little of his past and gains insight into why he acts as he does, which for a rather batty, half-hour OVA is satisfying to see.
The other characters vary in their amount of personality and development. Kuma-san’s rival, Super Doll, exudes a truly eerie vibe from the outset and, much like the title character, we learn of her motivation for both her actions and bloodlust through flashback, which even encourages a slight sense of empathy. Meanwhile, the clown character is woefully unexplored; we learn next to nothing of his life, and he serves little purpose other than as a companion to Kuma-san.
There’s a lot of bizarre anime out there; Cat Soup is messed up, Nekojiru Gekijou is a comically violent mindfuck, but Super Kuma-san is just plain weird. It certainly is not the kind of anime for everyone; those who get it will probably love it, those who don’t will most likely hate it and want it to end as soon as possible. If you like odd anime then give this a go, because it really doesn’t get much more obscure than this, but regardless of how you feel about it, I defy anyone to watch this OVA without yelling ‘what the hell?!’ at the screen at least once.
Kuma is a typical friendly sentient stuffed bear -- that is, until he gets angry and transforms into Super Kuma-san, protector of all that is good and pure! With a homicidal doll on the loose, Kuma-san is up to his paws in trouble. Can he stop the carved beauty before it's too late?
While I like a variety of different genres, if you give me comedy or slice of life, I'm bound to be happy – and if it's dark humour, all the better! I'll review whatever takes my fancy at the time, and whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, feel free to drop me a line.
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