12 Days 2020, Day 9: The Nice Power Fantasy of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Isekai stories as a genre are pretty much inherently rooted in power fantasies. It’s a genre built around wish fulfillment, the idea of being able to escape the mundane world to somewhere else that appreciates you. Obviously there are deliberate subversions of this knocking around but for the most part it’s really not surprising these kinds of stories are popular with how alienating modern society can be. A major conceit of a lot of these stories is that the protagonist, either through some power granted to them by whatever force sent them to this new world or just by virute of having knowledge outside the context of that world, ends up achieving some level of power or significance within their new setting, again, it’s understandably an appealing idea. Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear offers its own version of this fantasy; what if you could just be nice?

Kuma etc has most of the standard isekai trappings in place; Yuna finds herself in a new world that resembles her favourite video game with functionally limitless funds and a bear costume which makes her absurdly overpowered to the point where almost nothing in the setting is a threat to her from the very beginning. Naturally the outfit also serves to make everyone she meets underestimate her so she gets to look cool proving them wrong, it’s a fairly common setup. Yuna finds herself in a situation where she’s functionally set for life from the very beginning. Between her wealth and the power of the outfit she could easily establish herself and live comfortably with little to no effort (and she does). She then starts helping people.

Being a fairly standard fantasy/RPG setting the world naturally has problems; monsters attacking villages, bandits, corrupt merchants, the usual stuff. Yuna spends most of her time working to help those around her, much as she outwardly projects reluctance to do so. An act which often leaves those she helps questioning her motives. Because they’re all constrained by the limitations of the world and their positions within it they can’t fathom this ludicrously powerful girl who actively eschews rewards for her interventions and balks at the idea of even being publically acknowledged for her various acts of heroism. Her consistent reasoning essentially boils down to “I wanted to help someone I like”, which is sort of the crux of the show’s specific brand of power fantasy; “What if you could just help others without constraints or consequences?” Yuna’s situation is one where she can do exactly that. All her needs are already met, she has no responsibilities to anyone except those she chooses to take on, so she’s free to just be a positive force in the world. And the world is structured in such a way that everything she does is indeed unambiguously good. The closest thing to a negative consequence she encounters is a group of bandits attempting to steal her item bag after she uses it to save a town on the brink of starvation. But even that just leads her to their base so that she can wipe them out and save the town even harder. Even her selfish whims end up helping those around her; She decides she wants eggs for breakfast and ends up saving the local orphanage as a side effect, she goes hunting for seafood (a lot of her selfish whims are food based funilly enough) and rescues the aforementioned town to get at it. It’s a world specifically designed to just let Yuna help people, without ever actively forcing her to do so.

Kuma³’s unambiguous world of no consequences can at times undermine its attempts to deal with more serious subject matter. It’s hard to examine complex issues when your solution to most situations is a girl in a bear suit showing up to either beat up the problem or exploit teleportation to create a new industry, but it’s undeniably an appealing fantasy. Also very educational.

12 Days 2020, Day 9: The Nice Power Fantasy of Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

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