OP4: “You & Me” by Saki and Rie Fu
Seeing this cast again for the first time in the new year really does feel like happily greeting old friends. We have a new OP (extraordinarily happy-happy-joy-joy), a new ED (Mei Mei and KanaHana get their turn) but the same old Shirokuma Café – some of the easiest anime to enjoy even if it’s not the flashiest. It’s remarkable how much this low-key slice-of-life comedy has crawled into consciousness and built a nest. I’ll be really sorry to see it end (back to that topic in a minute).
We start out this week with a New Year’s “Hidden Talent Party” at the café – a project that seems, based on enthusiasm, to have been Penguin-san’s idea. This goes about as you would expect, with Sloth-san choosing the worst talent possible, Handa’s hidden talent proving to be indescribably domestic and boring, and Panda-kun finding one that makes him look cool without doing any work. Without doubt the highlights are the duel between Shirokuma and Grizzly-san (it’s almost touching now how badly Shirokuma-kun wants to keep his friend with him over the long, cold winter) and Llama’s incredibly ambitious but ultimately doomed attempt to steal the spotlight. Fortunately Shirokuma is there with some café latte art to help soothe Llama-san’s wounds.
The second chapter would have been worth it just for the image of Shirokuma-san in a hula skirt macking chicks in bikinis, but it offered so much more. Having just experienced my first New Year’s in Japan, I can sympathize with Panda-kun’s frustration at finding Shirokuma Café closed – much of the country closes down between the 31st and the 4th, including the “24-7” places. Sadly for Panda, this resulted in Penguin-san encamping at the Panda family compound, charming the entire clan (Mei Mei certainly has odd taste in men) and it doesn’t sit well for Panda-kun to have a more sybaritic presence in the house than himself. From Tai Chi and sake’ with Grandpa to snow play with Mei Mei and the twins, Penguin is as cool as a- well, as a penguin in an ice bath. Only an emergency call to Shirokuma can put things to rights.
The New Year also greeted Shirokuma fans with this interesting bit of news:
Yasuko Yamauchi, the editor-in-chief of Shogakukan’s Flowers magazine, confirmed that the anime adaptation of Aloha Higa’s Polar Bear’s Café (Shirokuma Café) manga will continue until this spring. Another project based on the manga is currently planned.
That falls under the “good news bad news” heading, I guess – I’d hoped we might see the current series extended beyond this cour, though four is certainly nothing to complain about. But I’m interested in seeing what they come up with for the “another project”. The fact is that despite not doing overwhelmingly well in video sales (actually the Blu-ray is an Animate! exclusive, so impossible to measure until they tell us) Shirokuma Café is doing quite well in terms of merchandising and manga sales – in fact it’s one of the biggest hits in the josei segment for a while. Another season would be wonderful of course, but I’d love to see a real-life Polar Bear’s Café, complete with Penguin’s Mocha and Panda’s Bamboo Salad – maybe in Ikebukuro.
ED10: “Bamboo Rendezvous” (バンブー・ランデヴー♥; Banbū Randevū) by Kana Hanazawa