If there’s such a thing as a representative Shirokuma Café episode, this was it. You had Panda-kun generally being a completely self-absorbed baka, Penguin-san being tormented, Shirokuma-san puns, Sasako-san being a Yamato Nadeshiko, Grizzly GAR with sharp objects and absurdly cute new animals introduced. Plus the entire cast cutting up and acting silly on an outing, and a small sliver of social commentary and romance. Neither one of the chapters was exceptional, but they were certainly true to form.
First up is Panda-kun yet again dreaming of being on his own, except this time he’s actually talking about getting his own place instead of part-time running away (does that mean Panda-kun is growing up – having teenage delusions instead of grade-school ones?). There are basically two jokes running through this skit – first, Panda’s absurdly romanticized view of life on his own reflecting the reality of teenage fantasy, and the fact that Penguin-san is in every part of Panda’s dream scenario is a manservant or waiter (the tux look doesn’t hurt). Panda-kun is looking for a place with “Waaah!” and “Daaah!” – and natch, the real estate agent promises he can deliver (he can’t). What Panda is looking for is, not surprisingly, his own house – though before we get to that point we do get a look at what sort of cribs the zoo animals live in (Tortoise-san is living like a rock star with a sand fetish) and an uninvited – and brief – stay at Handa-san’s bachelor pad.
The second sketch was the better, in my view, as the gang sets up a food stall at the summer festival. Any Grizzly-san appearance is a good thing, and he’s his usual bombastic self using his claws to work the yakisoba on the grill. I love the zoology geek streak in this series that comes out sometimes, and here we get a taste of it with the introduction of Red Panda-kun (who also has another name). Panda-kun introduces him as “Onii-san”, but cousin is closer to the mark – and in fact, the taxonomy of the red panda is still something of a contentious subject. They’re probably related more closely to raccoons than “true” pandas, though they do subsist mainly on bamboo. They’re also off the charts on the kawaii scale, including helpful and responsible Red Panda-kun here.
This chapter also loops back into the Handa/Sasako romance thread, which has been quiet for a while. Sasako-san looks dazzling in her yukata, so it’s little wonder that Handa-san is in a bit of a daze when he shows up at the matsuri with a cooler full of soft drinks. Panda-kun definitely wants to play the matchmaker and push the two of them together, but alas, he’s as tone-deaf to the moment as the rest of the gang. Apart, that is, from Penguin-san, who’s the only one who gets it – perhaps better at the observation of romance than the practice of it. There’s also a very funny moment in the preview, as Panda-kun asks about Penguin-san’s “non-stingy way of splitting the check”.