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Manga / Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

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Two Childhood Friends. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear (くまみこ Girl meets Bear) is a rural Slice of Life comedy written and drawn by Masume Yoshimoto. The manga has been serialized since 2013 in the seinen magazine Monthly Comic Flapper. An anime adaptation by Kinema Citrus aired during the spring 2016 anime season.

Deep in the mountains of Tohoku, 14-year-old Machi Amayadori serves as the miko of her town, a role that the women of her family had held for generations. Natsu, her Childhood Friend is... a bear. A very well-informed and cosmopolitan talking bear (thanks to the free Wi-Fi in the village), but a bear nonetheless. Together, the two of them help preserve their town's traditions, but Machi finds her life there backwards and boring.

As a result, she wants to eventually move to the city to study, but Natsu is of the opinion that Machi is woefully unprepared for city life. Still, he wants to support her as much as he could, so he gives her small "tests", to see if she's really ready to live on her own in the big city. All Machi needs to do now is pass Natsu's tests to his satisfaction. Simple, right?

Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear features the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Hibiki is often referred as "Hiiko" by Yoshio.
  • Art Shift: Used when Yoshio is narrating the folklore version of Kumade Village's legend.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Natsu normally is placid and friendly, but he still is an adult bear and is perfectly capable of matching Honoka with ease despite not being as diligent with training as she is.
  • Bland-Name Product: Zigzagged. There are some retailer stores' brands that are kept, while others aren't.
    • OIOI (pronounced as "Marui"), which is mentioned by Natsu in the first episode as part of the City Quiz he applies to Machi. The anime staff went to do a collaboration campaign with the store in Spring 2016.
    • UNIQLO, the store chain that Natsu sends Machi on an errand to get "a HeatTech item". Machi thinks it's a home heater of some sort.
    • Village Vanguard, an "exciting bookstore" which greatly confuses Machi as she arrives to one located in a mall (because she thought it was only a bookstore).
    • An straight example, however, is Shimamura (a real world discount retail store chain), which Machi and Hibiki refer to as "Shimomura" in episode three.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Hiroki Yasumoto shares a few hobby aspects with Natsu — he is an avid gamer and is up to date with modern technologies. He also enjoys cooking in real life, a trait that was eventually used for the second Nicolive streaming event of the show, where he and Natsumi Hioka (Machi) reproduced the cold rice dishes their respective characters prepared in the anime.
    • Suzuko Hara, who previously voiced Naru Kotoishi in Barakamon (the anime was produced by the same studio that did Kuma Miko, Kinema Citrus), voiced the little girl who cheers up Machi in episode 12.
  • Childhood Friends:
    • Machi has been friends with Natsu, ever since they were pretty young (Natsu is actually younger than her in human years, though).
    • Yoshio has known Hibiki since they were kids, and Hibiki started to develop a crush on him when they were growing up.
  • The Ditz: Yoshio is very clueless about what is going on around him. He is Innocently Insensitive around Machi, he ignores if he did anything wrong until someone points it out (or punches him out), and there's no way he would guess that Hibiki likes him... unless she says it straight out.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The ED of the show is sung by Machi and Natsu's voice actors (Natsumi Hioka and Hiroki Yasumoto, respectively) featuring the rest of the Kumade villagers' VAs as backup singers, in the chorus.
  • Down on the Farm: Kumade Village is located in the Tohoku region, surrounded by forests, agricultural fields, and mountains — very far from urban civilization. There are few young adults, and most the townsfolk are either elderly or middle-aged. With few tourism opportunities (Machi vehemently disagrees to be used as the town's mascot), there's really not much incentive for young people to stay in town too, enough that it's often brought up by the Women's Association and the Town Hall.
  • Empty Eyes: A good sign that Machi is possessed by something is whenever this happens to her.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe. In episode nine, Yoshio is planning to do a tourism commercial for Kumade Village with help of the townsfolk. However, he didn't have the money to get the airing space to do so until he got Old Lady Tokuyama, one of the wealthiest people of the village, as the sponsor. She agreed to fund it with a few conditions, such as Product Placement for her watches and glasses shop and putting her granddaughter (and her song) in it. No one knew about it until the commercial was aired, but only a few were upset at the final product... especially old man Usui, who originally directed it.
  • Face of a Thug: Hibiki. Or in her case, face of a Delinquent. Hibiki's constant frowning doesn't help, which is why Machi was initially terrified of her.
  • The Faceless: Machi and Yoshio's grandmother, Fuchi Amayadori. Although she is Machi's legal guardian, she is never seen around since she is doing errands as a priestess in the village. The few times she has been mentioned, though, she appears on-screen as a voiced shadow or her face is hidden thanks to the camera angles (in the original anime OVA). As of volume 6 of the manga, she hasn't made an official physical appearance in the series.
  • Gecko Ending: Episodes 11 and 12 are entirely anime-original, and do not follow the equivalent chapter (Chapter 18), barring Machi's nightmare of city-folk throwing stones at her for being a country bumpkin.
  • Hikkikomori: What Machi is afraid she's turning into, especially when she realizes that, apart from school, all she does is either stay at home, or hang out at the shrine.
  • Hopeless with Tech: Another of Machi's issues, which is why Natsu's really worried about her insistence on moving to the city to study.
  • Imagine Spot: There's a lot, mostly from Natsu, but the most prominent example comes from the aftermath of Yoshio telling the local kids the Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action details of their town history.
  • Interspecies Romance: Prominent in the town's folklore, and conveniently explains not only Natsu's existence, but his relation with Machi's family — In the ancient past, a bear started preying on the people of the village. In order to placate it, a woman from the village was offered to the bear as Human Sacrifice, but instead of eating her, the bear fell in love with her instead. The results of their union were the Kumais, the talking bear clan that Natsu comes from, while Machi's family was said to have been relatives of the sacrificial maiden. This leads to one of the kids asking of Machi and Natsu whether or not they did the deed as well. Natsu is quick to defuse the situation however by explaining that it was definitely not happening, as he was neutered years ago. Cue the boys hiding their crotches in empathy.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Yoshio's childhood friend Hibiki still hasn't quite shaken off this aura, despite the fact that she's already part of the workforce. As Natsu tells Machi later on, Hibiki was a pretty bad case when she was in middle school (to the point that repeated visits to the bear cave didn't affect her a single bit), she's cleaned up since then.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: The kids' initial reaction to Natsu's "kuman" (pun of "kuma" + "gomen"), also translated to "Beary sorry".
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The bears Natsu and Honoka have this dynamic. While Natsu has a cuddly appearance and comes off as more relaxed and easy-going, Honoka looks threatening with her scars and is very aggressive and competitive.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: You'd think that a series that features a talking bear this wouldn't be much of a big deal, but even Natsu becomes suspicious when Machi stops a mountain squall via dancing the Kagura properly, and causes a thunderstorm because she was using it to lose weight. While the manga leaves enough ambiguity for it to be interpreted either way, the anime definitely pushes for "magic", because it's funnier that way.
  • Miko: Machi is the town Miko, and as such is the intermediary of her village with the Kumai clan of bears, as well as local mountain god. While she does her role dutifully whenever there's a festival, in practice this just means she has more excuses to lounge around at the shrine with Natsu.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Lampshaded in Chapter 17; Yoshio tries to get Machi to dress in a special outfit so he can take promotional photos of her. When she refuses, he keeps coaxing her to undress and tries to take her clothes off. While his intentions are pure, both Natsu and Hibiki point out that if anyone saw what he was doing, they'd think he was trying to advantage of Machi.
  • Noodle Incident: Natsu mentions two more instances where Machi went into a trance state to channel the mountain gods, and both of them seem to describe near-disasters that hit the town.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The series is set in Tohoku, which is considered the boonies as far as someone born in Tokyo is concerned. However none of the characters, even the adults, speak the Tohoku dialect.
  • Parental Substitute: Even though Machi lives with her grandmother, it's actually Natsu who acts much more as a parent (and most of the times, as a brother) to her. As mentioned in "The Ordeal", Yoshio and Fuchi would be completely fine if Natsu is the one who puts the final word on whatever she asks to them.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: The punishment for particularly naughty kids in the town is to spend a night with Natsu in a bear cave. But Natsu happens to be play-acting a very hungry and unfed wild bear. Usually, this is enough to scare the kid in question out of their wits to not do anything bad ever again, but Natsu notes that the tactic isn't always successful, pointing to the experience of an older relative (Gozanburou) with Hibiki (who was forced to visit the cave multiple times, but never shook off her Japanese Delinquent habits).
  • Shout-Out:
    • The anime ending's art style is similar to those of RPG games such as the Mother series.
    • One of the "alternative miko costumes" that Machi gets to try on is a copy of the iconic outfit of AKB48. The manga even mentions "Flying Get", one of AKB's more well-known songs, just to hammer the reference home.
    • While in a trance, young Machi mumbles "Johnny Pamyu Pamyu", which is a clear reference to the stage name of pop idol Kiriko Takemura. Machi also makes numerous references to the latter's career, such as her producer (whom she calls Natsutaka Yakata instead of Yasutaka Nataka) and the infamous (at least in the West) "PONPONPON" music video.
    • While getting into the mood to do the Kagura properly, and prodded by Natsu thanks to his trance mix, Machi does John Travolta's iconic Saturday Night Fever pose.
    • Old man Usui as the director of the Kumade Village commercial, starts acting and wears a similar attire to Akira Kurosawa, as lampshaded by Natsu.
  • Small Town Boredom: Machi's main reason for her need to escape to the big city... which is funny, considering that Natsu, who's even more well-informed than her about city life, is perfectly content staying in their village (though being a bear might be part of the reason for it).
  • Smart Animal, Average Human: Natsu and Machi, in a nutshell. Despite being a bear, Natsu is well-read, up-to-date on the latest technological and pop culture trends, is dextrous enough to use a personal computer to browse the internet, and uses a touchscreen tablet. Machi, on the other hand, has difficulty using a rice cooker, only recently learned how to copy from CDs to MDs (after manufacturers stopped making MDs), and thought that UNIQLO was a hardware store.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: While Machi is quite fine interacting with the other residents of her small town, she suffers crippling panic attacks in other public places, to the point where she can barely look other people in the eye. Most of this is due to her own overthinking, however.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Not intentionally, but the shoppers in episode 8 definitely felt they had to buy something from Machi due to how pitiful she looked (complete with visual metaphors of The Little Match Girl, Christians being burned at the stake, The Little Mermaid, even Cosette from Les MisÚrables...).
  • Talking Animal: Natsu, as part of the Kumai clan, is literally a talking bear, also applying to the Woman's Association members and Honoka. While there is an in-universe justification for this via the town's folklore, it's mostly done in the name of Rule of Funny and to give someone for Machi to bounce off.
  • Tsundere:
    • Hibiki, for Yoshio. She has a crush on him ever since they were teenagers (and it was a well-known rumor in the village), although the only way she could tell about it (and flirt) was just noticing "how tall he got".
    • Parodied by Natsu, where he acts out the standard anime tsundere cliches to make Machi understand that Hibiki loves Yoshio, but she covers up her feelings with violence.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Due to the town's history, none of the townsfolk think that a talking brown bear is unusual. However, they keep it as a secret for outsiders.
  • Willing Channeler: Part of Machi's role as a miko. She's personally skeptical at this, as she claims that she's just a normal girl with zero spiritual powers, but Natsu insists that Machi has been possessed by spirits before. The series go out of its way to show Machi going into trance-like states (complete with her brown eyes becoming Empty Eyes), where she starts babbling about information she could not know about on her own, such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu song lyrics and dance moves, or information about a department store that sounds like it came from an investor portfolio.

Alternative Title(s): Kuma Miko