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Admittedly, my knowledge of the history of Japanese Christianity is limited to a couple of Wikipedia articles and a viewing of Ninja Resurrection nearly 20 years ago (and I have to question the historical accuracy of the latter). But I couldn't help but draw parallels between it and the show.
The yuris seem to know nothing about Kumaria while the bears do everything in her name. Reia even said that it was Ginko who taught the two all about Kumaria. And, as has been discussed more than a few times, the bears' religion has trappings that are very very similar to Christianity.
Christianity began spreading in Japan around the middle of the 16th Century with the arrival of Portuguese traders. Because the converts were expected to adopt Western habits, others in Japan viewed them with distrust, believing them to be disruptive foreign agents. This led to severe persecution and the eventual outlawing of the Christian religion after a bloody peasant revolt in the mid-1630's. Many practiced in secret during this time and things didn't change until the arrival of Matthew C Perry and the Meiji Restoration when foreign ideas were welcomed in order to make Japan competitive with the rest of the world. There are Japanese people who openly practice Christianity today, though they still represent a tiny minority of the greater population.
In this framework, the Wall of Severance represents the isolationism of Edo Period Japan and the bears' habit of consuming girls (this is possibly a mental stretch) is a parallel to the sacrifice of traditional Eastern values to Western practices. We've yet to see the arrival of the American bears who shake the Japanese yuris into opening their borders again. The presence of bears and worship of Kumaria are still illegal. Those who are associated with either are excluded. Meanwhile, in the bears' world, the name of Kumaria is corrupted and used as a way to satisfy the interests of the ruling class. The world is still in the process of developing into something more modern and progressive.
Mind you, this is only a shallow look at both Yurikuma's themes and Kirishitan history. But it's one of those things that I've noticed and I hope will generate more discussion.
I thought it had a connection to the yuri icon that is Marimite, even if the actual lesbian content there is quite low.
On a wider scale it occurred to me that both Christianity and lesbianism are used as fetishes and for the sake of pure aesthetic appeal in Japanese media, especially in manga/anime. The usage of Christian iconography simply for the sake of coolness is so rampant that it barely needs mentioning but there is a lot 'cool' bait-and-switch lesbians whose sole purpose is to engage the fantasies of a mostly male audience. Actual yuri not so much but highly ecchi anime is full of girls who go beyond skinship with one another just to appeal to the audience.
It was been a while since I watched Yurikuma but I am reminded of that scene where the Judge Bear is looking at girls making out through a telescope and feeding coins into it, a more literal case of 'male gaze' could hardly be conceived.
It's almost as if both Christianity at its most shallow, with its plethora of crosses, haunting chanting, decadent cathedrals and the lot is receiving the same treatment as faux lesbianism with all the blushing school girls that tend to do little else but blush and act coy: both are boiled down to being edgy, attractive and ultimately with no actual substance.
Yurikuma would then be bringing attention and subverting this attitude as in the end the girls do end up together as an actual couple and the Christianity surrogate of Kumalia turns out to be very real and not just postering for the sake of fancy imagery.
Last edited by Nocturnalux (04-02-2016 09:32:22 PM)
I've seen it mentioned many times that Christianity is as exotic and mysterious to the Japanese as the Eastern religions are to us in the West. So I can see where you're coming from.
In both, we're seeing a half-conceived ideal, those things that people associate them with because that's what popular media tends to focus on. The sexy exhibitionist lesbian schoolgirls. The cavernous cathedral-like environments filled with overwhelming organ music (which admittedly keeps giving me flashbacks to going to Mass when I was much younger). And it winds up looking like a spectacle of the real thing, like you said.
It's the ones who were rejected by those worlds who wound up rediscovering the principles that the spectacles were based on. The Christian rituals designed to show how dedicated the practitioners are to Kumaria are cast aside in favour of communicating with her directly, without bothering with the clergy that the Judgemens represent. The sweaty slutty hot and heavy action of the Yuris for the titillation of the male audience is abandoned to reflect Ikuhara's own personal philosophy that lesbianism is a pure expression of love, uncomplicated by male involvement (who are also coincidentally the Judgemens).
Yeah, I definitely like where you went with that.
I attended Catholic schools most my life, complete with palatial buildings that are a century old, sprawling gardens dotted with virgin Mary statues and built-in churches. So I always feel bemused whenever I encounter this pop-Catholicism, for lack of a better word. My schools were all co-ed but had been all girls for most of their long history. There also used to have a uniform that was abolished because no-one was interested in wearing it and because it was absurdly expensive. The middle school-high school divisions were surprisingly liberal in certain areas, namely homosexuality so something like Yurikuma was doubly interesting to me even if as a whole I was not all that impressed by it. But all those stained glass sequences almost gave me flashbacks.
By the way, if you're interested in Christianity in Japan I highly recommend the novel Silence by Endo Shusaku. The author was a Catholic and knew his doctrine, enough to flesh out a Portuguese priest in the 17th century in a very believable way. It is also historically accurate and disturbingly hopeless in its portrayal of oppression.