It seems fitting that the anime I’m watching while waiting to check in for the first leg of my trip to Japan would be focused on two things that have been so important to my time in America, coffee and baseball.
OP2: “Rough & Laugh” by Clammbon
There was lots that was new in this episode of Shirokuma Café, including a couple of first-time events. We got our first new ED, and our first two-part story. The former was a pretty radical change, a catchy number featuring Sasako-san on her bicycle and some clever animation, and the whole package certainly feels like the most traditional of all the OP/EDs so far. It also should give considerable hope to fans of her non-starter romance with Handa-san, if flags are to be believed. As for the ep itself, our first full-length story features a grudge match on the diamond (the ball field at the petting zoo) between Shirokuma Café and Grizzly Bar.
The game is full of the trademark Shirokuma humor we’ve come to know and love over the last six months, with some nice twists. Grizzly’s team is a murderers row of “wild and cool” animals, including the predator pack from last week’s ep, while Shirokuma’s squad is the usual lineup of zoo misfits. Umpiring of course is Handa-san, a bit miffed at not being able to stay home and clean his fan, but as always dutiful and responsible. Llama eats grass mid-inning while playing left field, Anteater sucks down lunch instead of covering first, and as for the pitching – that’s a mess. Panda-kun – whom “evening primrose” Red Panda-kun graciously allows to take the mound – doesn’t quite get the concept, and things don’t improve when Penguin-san offers up his “South Pole Blizzard” to four straight home runs.
This is safe territory for Shirokuma Café, but that’s because this is a style of humor it does very well indeed. Sight gags like giraffes catching fly balls that should have been home runs, Penguin-san’s surprising baserunning skills (he seems to “swim” through the air the way penguins usually do in water) – it’s classic material. We also have the outrageously kawaii Red Panda finally getting his chance on the mound (secretly, he really does long for the spotlight) and proving tougher than expected, and of course Shirokuma-san bringing the game to a climax with one of his classic trolls. He spins a yarn about having promised a sick boy named Ichiro that he’d hit a home run (more holes in this story than I can count) and ends up playing his trump card to win the game – the four red squirrel moms pinch-hitting with the bases loaded and proving impossible to pitch to with their two-inch strike zones.
I can’t forget the “Coffee Break” segment, because it proves conclusively that the mangaka is a serious, serious coffee geek. I was in the coffee business for a long time, and taught classes about coffee, and was in heaven as Mama Red Squirrel was going into copious detail about coffee cherries, light and dark roasts and such. It’s all true, including the bits about Jacu and Civet coffee (though most roasters I know think that’s pretty much a gimmick) and I’ve seen many people have the exact same reaction Masaki-kun did when hearing about how dark roasts are actually mellower than light roasts. Given that this geek talk was my life for years, it’s bizarre and very cool to hear it discussed in an anime – especially when it’s a squirrel with Miyata Kouki’s voice lecturing a human.
This week features a new ED as well, and this time it’s Panda Mama in the spotlight. The song is pleasant in a very traditional way, and the most interesting part of the collage-style animation is the schoolgirl lifting her skirt over and over. And I wonder whose baby that was in the preview?
ED7: “Kimama no Panda Mama” by Morikawa Toshiyuki