Kunihiko Ikuhara and Akiko Morishima
On a certain level I think most of us enjoy the idea of being an early adopter when it comes to any form of entertainment. You want to be the person who learns of a title first so you can show all your friends what is cool. It also lets you present them with a title that is free from a good deal of preconceptions that fandom can attach to a property while making sure a title does not have a backlog to get through to be caught up on. The biggest barrier to hooking anyone on One Piece is the 745+ chapter/643+ episode Mount Everest sized wall to climb to gain entry alongside all the fan baggage that comes with that. It can be a hard sell.
Now recommending a new title that is still in production has its own flaws. We have all been burned by a concept that starts off with seemingly unlimited possibility that degrades into an utter mess. That is a risk with putting forth any bleeding edge ongoing title. No one wants to champion the series that dies in a horrible death spiral.
But when everything works out in that wonderful high risk/high reward formula you seem like a hero. So I’m giving you the chance to be a hero in your little section of fandom by telling you about Yurikuma Arashi before it hopefully explodes. There is only one chapter out so you can be right on the ground level for this series.
Kureha Tsubaki does not stand out in any way. She is not really bullied or even ignored. That sort of exclusion would require someone to notice her. Ginko Yurishiro is the exact opposite. Ginko is a cheerful dynamo that is instantly the center of attention after transferring to a new school. When Kureha notices Ginko saying that she is a bear to herself it sets off an unlikely friendship between the two of them. Now Kureha is constantly dreaming of her friend being a magical girl bear and an upcoming Yuri Bear Storm. Ginko claims to be 100% human but clearly hints to having even more bizarre secrets than just being an ursidae than can transform into a homo sapien.
With only one chapter out it is reasonable to ask why I made this the Manga of the Month. The reason is the pedigree on this manga is extremely strong. The story is by Kunihiko Ikuhara of Utena fame. His involvement with anything instantly makes a project one hundred times more intriguing. The art could be done by a drunken elementary school student and I would be intrigued. He brings a wonderfully bizarre world to anything he creates with a mixture of humor, perversion, and drama balanced with deep layers that make his work feel substantial.
On the other hand the art is not done by some rank amateur. Akiko Morishima has been doing yuri manga for years. While we usually think of the yuri genre as being focused teenaged school girl lesbians Akiko Morishima does all sorts of stories. She does the more well know Class S styled stories as well as tales of older working women in more mature relationships. In many ways she is probably the perfect choice for a collaboration with Ikuhara. Morishima’s soft style works well in setting up the idea of a typical high school setting romance while at the same time she has a more mature background that allows her to support Ikuhara’s complex storytelling.
I can’t fully vouch for the story. It has all the earmarks of a Kunihiko Ikuhara story. A seemingly normal setting with a few incongruous elements that foreshadow a much more magical and allegorical existence. A detailed mythology that is more revealed slowly by inference than laid old plainly via exposition. Characters who stand out vibrantly with strange quirks and bold personalities but at the same time don’t feel entirely like stock archetypes.
I’m selling this as a series to watch more than a series that I guarantee will be amazing. Often I hear when manga companies want to know what titles fans want they either get series everyone is aware of (and probably bidding for already) or series no one can get. This is a title you can ask for that is just off enough people’s radar that it is worth asking for but at the same time actually has some amount of commercial viability. Read the first chapter and then keep your ears open. This is definitely a title to keep your eye on.