Huh. Haven't been very keyed into this series from the start, but it kinda got a little better in some places...I thought. Then I thought they just descended into Samurai Flamenco levels of wtf-ery, with a misogynistic slant. But whadaya know - just as Mayoiga was a comedy disguised as a supernatural thriller, Kumamiko turned out to be a psychological horror show disguised as a quirky SOL comedy. Stepford Wives or The Wicker Man with the ambience of Shiki thrown in for good measure.
In retrospect, the clues were all there. This is a town founded on the belief that women have ritual sex with bears. They discipline their misbehaving children by locking them in a cage overnight with a huge, slavering animal. These traumatized children cling fixedly to their cell phones that they can't call anyone on, showing how they can't expect help from the outside.
The elders call for rituals that no one knows the purpose of. That woman in glasses lives in constant terror of her boss (crying sexual harassment when it's clearly not is the only form of protest she dares) - she knows the truth about the village but is too afraid to break free on her own, knowing all too well what would happen... In a town where time has essentially stopped, the richest person sells clocks. She's not selling them to the non-existent tourists, so why are the locals buying enough to make her wealthy?
Machi is completely at Yoshio's mercy, but he never shows her any, and her presumed protector Natsu is well aware of what's going on and not only fails to protect her, but is complicit in her downfall. What character development we thought we were getting for Machi turns out to be a view of her gradual descent into madness. Note that every new "city test" she had to pass was accompanied by increasingly severe delusions of terror until she was finally broken, leaving her with the mental capacity of a 6 year old. And Natsu is right by her side to make sure she stays that way.
Even Hibiki, who seemed to have escaped, was drawn back in by Yoshio and her concern for Machi, whom she also failed to protect. In the end, she looks on adoringly as he rants about his plans for the village, not even questioning his story about being stoned himself. Yes Hibiki, Machi was right, the outside world is a terrifying place, stay here with us...
And what about Yoshio's story? Didn't he go away to college for a bit or something? Now he's acting as the cult leader for the village. Even for Machi, the ancient punishment of stoning is an odd delusion to have. If both of them had the same hallucination, it implies that the mountain god is actively messing with the minds of the entire village to make sure they won't leave.
I don't think they actually want outsiders to come visit (did anyone else notice how hard it is to even leave the place? Only select, trusted locals and the UPS guy (who's apparently one of them) seem to have the freedom to leave, because they won't dare try to flee. In reality, all of Machi's "tests" were carefully planned to break her mind, not to bring publicity. That was just the lever they used on her to get her to go along with them. These people's Machiavellian schemes make Mumei's brainwashing look like kindergarten.
Something about those exterior shots of the temple at the end and the incongruously cheerful music really capped it all off. The comedy facade of the series is emblematic of the serene and simple face this village of the damned shows the outside world. This is what the modern version of "sacrificing the maiden" for the good of the village looks like.
Seriously, this is the only way I can look at this without wanting to destroy the writers. If they honestly see this as a happy ending, they're are sick and twisted people who should never be allowed near children, especially their own.
As usual, you put a lot more thought into this than I do. I can't even think of a proper response, given that it's 8am and I'm still trying to wake up.
Oh good God how did I miss this? Yeah....I had issues with Yoshio and the asshole that he was throughout, and them glossing over Machi's severe social anxiety disorder too, but in general didn't take the show anywhere near as seriously as what your interpretation suggests. I probably couldn't have enjoyed it if I did. Not to say you're wrong or anything. I remember how everyone but me took that bestiality stuff seriously back when the first episode aired though so in retrospect maybe that shoulda been a warning sign.
I only wanted to watch this show because it had a shrine maiden.
I suppose I should be thankful for my laziness.
I've got a couple more episodes left, but I'm pretty sure Yoshio is a sexual predator who hasn't been caught yet because he strategically goes after children that live in hick towns. He targets Machi in his lust to satiate his sick underage idol fetishes on her because he's an older cousin which makes her susceptible to manipulation, but she is also vulnerable from crippling agoraphobia confined to a hick town by a bear that became her father figure (it was probably Yoshio's idea for her to get near the bear too cause his imagination can go wild about the bear/maiden ritual as applied to young girls). His endgame was always to use Natsu's overprotectiveness from the city life and Machi's anxiety to keep her confined to the village and continue his cycle of abuse. On television news, people like Yoshio are hauled away to prison after years of elaborate cover ups start to unravel. Hopefully at some point in the manga, she will be able to report him to metropolitan authorities that won't hand her back to her abuser like hick village cops that'll laugh it off as trouble in the family.
Muscle, muscle! Hustle, hustle!
Wow, guess those threads on /a/ comparing the show to that doujin about the high school girl who was tortured to death and buried in a concrete barrel weren't exactly exaggerating after all.
It's certainly brewing up a storm over on reddit.
And seems like the ending was so controversial that the screen writer for the show deleted their twitter account, according to this post.
anime-original episode they say?
maybe there is hope for the manga after all.
Thank god I'm not the only one who really was bothered by that ending but I didn't expect others to hate it more than I did! Relieved, actually.
And honestly, they did seem to tone down the beastiality thing a lot since the first episode so I was not bothered by it nearly as much from there on out.
Anyway, super mixed feelings about this show. I was really rooting for Machi.
I just read about how it ended, and what a crap shoot this turned out to be. It had its moments of cuteness, but it seems like the unpleasantness that Yoshio brought with him leaked all over the last episode and made an anime-original ending that sucked out any reason to finish the show, let alone watch it. The nihilistic bait-and-switch would've been nice for something that was already heading down a dark path like Madoka or Watamote, but it feels out-of-place and demented in a show about the hijinks of a small shrine maiden and a bear dad.
Muscle, muscle! Hustle, hustle!
Oh wow the original creator even trashed the ending? Yeah...that's a sign that you done fcked up. XD
I love how they say Kumamiko was deleted from his Wikipedia page, but a little comparison of edits reveals that it had only been deleted for all of 50 minutes before one of the many people who dedicate their lives to keeping Wikipedia as accurate as possible undid the edit.