Sometimes there are shows which I blog basically for myself. I always debate whether it’s worth covering a series that generates effectively no response from readers, but I usually end up covering it anyway – because, frankly, I would rather cover a show I like than a show I don’t like as much. I’m not sure exactly why Shirokuma Café seems to draw so little interest, apart from the obvious lack of cute girls (well, apart from Sasako-san but she’s too old for otaku tastes) and the fact that the human can be somewhat esoteric at times. It was certainly overshadowed airing on the best day of a great season, but with things looking a little leaner maybe Summer will help the series find a few more fans, if it isn’t too late.
And it’d be a shame if that doesn’t happen, because the evidence at hand is that Shirokuma Café is getting better and better. Last week the series proved it could handle the transition to fairly serious and heartwarming material, and succeeded in making me care about two characters that hadn’t previously made much of an impact. More generally speaking, the show has found the sweet spot with its humor, fitting perfectly between snark and sincerity, between smart and silly. There are still dumb puns and sight gags, but a lot of smart and subtle stuff too – and there’s an undercurrent of genuine affection among the characters now that gives everything that happens a significant upgrade.
We had two very different takes on anime trope this week, and they both worked beautifully. First off was a (sort of) body switch episode, as Panda-kun and Shirokuma-san switches places for a day. Surely four of the scariest words in this show are when Shirokuma-san says “I have a great idea” – I saw it coming a mile away, but it still totally worked. First off it was a great showcase for Sakurai-san to do his Fukuyama-san impression, and with his first “Panda-san desu!” I knew this was totally going to fly. Shirokuma-san-s trolling the zoo audience was brilliant as ever, with his feats of magic and his putting exhibition. This was also another fine example of the series gently poking fun at the way humans behave in zoos, and what the animals must think of us as we’re doing it. My only disappointment was in not seeing more of Panda-kun trying to manage the café.
Next up is the beach episode, featuring the main trio in some of their best shared screen time in weeks. There was nothing scientific here – just the three characters acting very much like themselves, but the whole venture was low-key fun to watch. I especially enjoyed it when Panda-kun started wiggling his butt and Penguin-san started swaying when Shirokuma-san played the ukulele, Shiroukma-san’s usual expert advice on everything from watermelon-smashing to kayaking, the shaved ice headaches and some very memorable sand sculpture (a great example of Shirokuma blending smart and stupid comedy) and the fact that the only ones interested in Penguin-san eating ramen were two freaked-out guys. This sequence reminded me a bit of the “boys night out” sketch with the three bears, in that the irony was toned down a little and we could see the three friends genuinely enjoying each other’s company – even Penguin-san, for a change.
We also get a new ED this week, and this time it’s Full-time Employee Panda taking center stage…