By Kumanano and 029. Released in Japan by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Jan Cash & Vincent Castaneda. Adapted by M.B. Hare.
Generally speaking, long-running light novels tend to come in two different varieties of some sort. The first is “there is a definite end goal in mind, but we can drag this on forever if it stays popular”. This applies to most romantic comedies where the end point is “he chooses girl X”, or to fantasy books which have a save the world sort of goal, where the world getting saved is the endpoint. The others are the ones where we create a world or a situation and then just write infinite variations on the situation, with no expected end beyond “and the adventure continues…” Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear is definitely the second kind of book. No one expects Yuna’s past in Japan to ever be relevant again beyond going to this fantasy world’s Japan analogue. Likewise, this isn’t the kind of book where it’s going to pair Yuna romantically with anyone – not seriously, anyway. Unfortunately, this does mean that after a while it’s hard to find a real reason to carry on. Yuna’s not going to change.
The ten-year-old girl showing off her legs on the front cover (sigh…) is Karina, the daughter of the local lord of Dezelt, where Yuna has been sent. The water gem that stops their land becoming a sand-infested monster home has cracked and needs to be replaced, and fortunately Yuna’s water gem she got from killing the Kraken is just what they need. Unfortunately, for magic reasons, only the lord’s wife (who is pregnant) or Karina can guide folks through the labyrinthine pyramid to get to where the gem needs to go… and Karina dropped the magic map in the labyrinth. Karina, wracked with guilt, has been trying to find a group of adventurers who will help her find the map again, but you’d need someone super powerful who has a soft spot for ten-year-old girls, and where in this series can we find anyone like that?
Forgive me for saying things I have said about ten times over the course of this series, but Yuna seems to have a tremendous issue with accepting praise. To the point where even casual people who have just met her see that it’s a problem. It’s pathological by this point, and even when she’s forced to accept rewards for saving the entire town, she still finds a way to quietly only take half of it. It’s frustrating to me because, as I hinted above, I don’t think this is going anywhere. The author has mostly dropped the darker aspects of the series as they’ve gone along, so we’re unlikely to hear more about Yuna’s past. And I don’t think we’re reaching any sort of crisis point where Yuna has a breakdown or admits that she has to change herself. The only way I can see that happening would be if it comes from Fina, but Fina’s not in this book. Instead we have a Finalike, who is nice enough but frankly is another earnest ten-year-old girl with a crush on Yuna to stack onto the pile of earnest ten-year-old girls with a crush on Yuna.
I am aware that I’m not the audience for this series, and that it’s squarely in the “Cute Girls Doing OP Things” genre. But man, don’t use psychological trauma as your heroine’s one character trait.