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Bears have been getting bad press for both their real-life and anime actions this month, which has some bristling at the idea of a Kuma Miko-themed promotion in Akita.

The marketing team at Kuma Kuma En probably thought their job was a slam dunk this summer. The Akita Prefecture nature center is home to roughly 60 bears that visitors can observe and learn about, and children’s inherent love of furry animals means the facility always sees a surge in attendance during the summer vacation period.

Even better, one of the more talked-about anime of the spring season was Kuma Miko. Set in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region (which includes Akita), Kuma Miko focuses on a shrine maiden living in a rural town and the talking bear who mentors her in the basics of cosmopolitan society. With Kuma Miko just wrapping up its last episode, Kuma Kuma En is planning to hold a cross-promotional event starting in July, during which the park would host appearances by the Kuma Miko franchise creator and lead voice actress, plus put up decorations featuring artwork from the series.

Back in the spring, this probably seemed like a great idea, but two very unexpected developments have thrown a monkey wrench into the bear-themed project. First, in May a senior citizen gathering bamboo shoots in Akita was mauled to death by a bear. Since then, three more fatal bear attacks have taken place within the prefecture, with some experts speculating that all of them were carried out by the same animal after it realized that it could easily kill, and eat, humans.

This has some questioning whether or not this is an appropriate time for Kuma Kuma En to be promoting seeing bears as a fun activity, since the media and forestry services are currently emphasizing the importance of staying alert to avoid encountering the animals in the wild.

▼ In light of recent events, Kuma Kuma En’s top Facebook image does feel sort of sinister.

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The message of caution starts to feel even more incongruous when you take into account that Natsu, Kuma Miko’s talking bear, is adorable

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Kuma Kuma En’s luck gets even worse, though. For most of its 12-episode run, Kuma Miko was pretty well-received. It didn’t impact pop culture at large like Evangelion or Attack on Titan, but it was a solid success…at least until its last episode, which aired on June 19.

Kuma Miko’s storyline largely focuses on country girl Machi, who wants to leave her rural home and move to the big city, and how her friends, to various degrees, assist in the preparations for her desired lifestyle change. The series finale, though, was seen as largely undoing all of that, and left many viewers feeling like it was a betrayal of the themes and characterizations of earlier episodes. The backlash has been so severe that the final episode’s scriptwriter has deleted his Twitter account and removed Kuma Miko from his resumes listed on Facebook and Wikipedia.

So now Kuma Kuma En is in the midst of getting ready for a promotional event that aims to use a controversial, widely unsatisfying anime to encourage people to come and see a type of animal that’s been involved in four violent deaths in recent weeks. That’s a combination that has many saying the park should postpone the event, at least until the bear attacks aren’t such recent news. Kuma Kuma En’s management, though, wants to press ahead, citing the anime’s freshness in the minds of fans and the summer vacation period, which also coincides with the two-year-anniversary of the park’s renovations. As such, the Kuma Kuma En/Kuma Miko promotion is still on schedule to run from July 23 to August 21.

Park information
Kuma Kuma En / くまくま園
Address: Akira-ken, Kita Akita-shi, Animatagi Jinba 1-39
Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Closed mid-November-mid-April
Website (Facebook)

Source: Shirabee via Jin
Top image: Facebook/くまくま園
Insert images: Facebook/くまくま園 (1, 2)