Situated near the local zoo and owned by the charismatic polar bear Shirokuma, Shirokuma Cafe is a popular spot for animals and humans alike, allowing them to sit back and relax after a hard day of work. Whether it's a cold beverage or the latest item on his menu, Shirokuma finds joy in being able to serve his customers, often striking up conversations about various subjects.
Together with the sarcastic Penguin and the clumsy Panda, they form an odd trio who get themselves caught up in all sorts of misadventures with their other friends such as Grizzly, a bar owner, and Sasako, a human who works at the cafe. From dealing with unrequited love, outdoor camping trips, karaoke sessions, and even the secret to brewing delicious coffee, there's always something bound to be happening in Shirokuma Cafe!
#01: "Bamboo☆Scramble" by Jun Fukuyama (eps 1-5) #02: "Grizzly-san no G★ROCK (グリズリーさんのG☆ROCK)" by Yuuichi Nakamura (eps 6-9) #03: "Mizuiro (みずいろ)" by Aya Endo (eps 10-13) #04: "ZOO tto ne! (ZOOっとねっ！) " by Katsuyuki Konishi (eps 14-17, 44) #05: "Michinoku Shiiku Blues (みちのく飼育ブルース)" by Wataru Hatano (eps 18-22) #06: "Zokkon! Penko-san (ぞっこん！ペン子さん)" by Hiroshi Kamiya (eps 23-26) #07: "Kimama ni Panda Mama♥ (気ままに パンダママ♥)" by Toshiyuki Morikawa (eps 27-30) #08: "Llama-san no Llama Mambo (ラマさんのラママンボ)" by Daisuke Ono (eps 31-35) #09: "Largo (ラルゴ)" by Kishou Taniyama (eps 36-38) #10: "Bamboo rendezvous ♥ (バンブー・ランデヴー♥)" by Kana Hanazawa (eps 39-42)
#11: "PANDAHOLIC!!" by Tokuyoshi Kawashima (eps 43, 45-46) #12: "My Dear" by Takahiro Sakurai (eps 47-50)
Polar Bear Café (Shirokuma Café): A charming, puntastic show filled with memorable moments – 9/10
PLOT: Polar Bear Café is about the daily lives of a bunch of animals who frequent a café run by the titular Polar Bear, including a panda, a penguin, a llama and a sloth (among many others). There are a few random humans thrown in there too – the perma-smiling Sasako, the bumbling zookeeper Handa and the panda obsessed florist Rin-Rin, but the cast is mainly animals. Animals that no one bats an eye at when when they’re casually wandering about town buying groceries, or working in a bakery or running
a bar – they’re fully integrated into society. And yet there is a fully functional zoo where a number of the characters actually work! You kind of take this strange setting for granted after a few episodes – it just works.
Polar Bear Café is a show I couldn’t watch without a smile on my face (trust me I desperately tried when watching the later half of the series on my own in public, being caught grinning and giggling like an idiot when there’s pastel renditions of wild animals emitting showers of sparkles and hearts on my screen is not fun); the show just thrums with feel-good vibes. It’s also consistently hilarious, and displays excellent use of puns, parodies, basic comedic timing and the usual tsukkomi/boke routines. The series uses all the run-of-the-mill s’life situations (festivals, onsen, road-trips, all the holidays you can think of) but simply having the characters be animals puts an interesting spin on things, as they have a unique outlook on things. I don’t usually get on well with s’life shows, but I adored Polar Bear Café – it just balances the mundane with wit so well.
The characters are probably what kept me coming back to the show so much – the central quartet of Polar Bear, Penguin, Panda and Sasako just have superb chemistry and play off each other brilliantly. The side characters are also wonderful and all get their own episodes to shine – my favourites have to be Polar Bear’s long suffering childhood friend and bar owner Grizzly and poor overlooked but utterly charming Llama.Polar Bear Café also has “The Feels” in spades – it just gets under your skin and forces a reaction out of you with alarming frequency. After 50 episodes these characters feel like old friends and I was desperately sad to see the series end, I do hope we get more at some stage.
ANIMATION: The animation is by Studio Pierrot and is very simple but serviceable. The animals are well drawn and surprisingly expressive given many of them lack the usual facial features humans rely on to determine emotion (just where are Penguin & Panda’s eyes anyway??). The over all look of the show is quite soft and pastel, and there is creative use of sparkles, bubbles, hearts, flowers and sweatdrops to punctuate gags or emotion. On the flipside the humans in general are actually terrifying in their inexpressiveness – Sasako in particular has completely dead eyes that are rather unnerving. The show also experiments with unusual visuals in its many EDs – stop-motion, live action, shadow-puppets and paper cut-outs all get a turn, and it is clear that the staff had a lot of fun making this series.
MUSIC & VOICE ACTING: The cast of Polar Bear Café has to be one of the most star-studded I’ve ever encountered. Everyone seems to be a noteworthy name – the central quartet consists of Jun Fukuyama, Takahiro Sakurai, Hiroshi Kamiya and Aya Endo – but the extended cast reads like a who’s who of popular seiyuu! They all seemed to have lots of fun working on this series as well, as the chemistry is brilliant and the acting is really excellent on the whole. A few actors even voice a number of different side characters giving them completely different voices and displaying their range well.
Another thing of note is that there are a lot of different EDs for this series and each of them is an image song, sung in character by the seiyuu – resulting in some truly wonderful songs. I particularly loved Panda’s ‘Bamboo Scramble’ by Jun Fukuyama and Llama’s ‘Llama Mambo’ by Daisuke Ono, but all the song are special in their own way. Even the OPs are pretty damn good, but I’ll always like the first OP best.
Overall I just have to reiterate who utterly charming this show is – it’s a wonderful show to watch if you need cheering up (just avoid watching episode 44 for that purpose – it’s a proper tearjerker). When I first picked up the series last Spring I never would have imagined it turning out to be this good – always a joy when that happens. So yes Polar Bear Café is a show I’d highly recommend picking up – it deserves much more love!
If there was ever an anime which put "kwai!" to perfection and graced it with a significant degree of adorable charm, this one does. While I would go on and proceed about all aspects of this masterpiece, I find it would be a lacklustre review and would undermine the wonderful experience of watching this lovely anime. Nevertheless, some pointers are always best to mention.
While there are some really nice aspects to this anime, the best thing which makes it sell and makes it viewable is that it isn't 50 FULL episodes, but 100 HALF Episodes (2 story events occurring per episode). Amongst the best aspects
of this anime are:
The Characters: Panda, Polar Bear and Penguin, and Mr. Honda as well as Miss Sasako are at the helm in terms of screen time, yet everyone else (Anteater, Llama, Apacha, the other Penguins who become THE SOUTH POLE SQUAD, the boy band Yama Arashi, the Penkos, Panda's family, Full-Time Panda, Rin Rin, Grizzly, Sloth, Tortoise amongst them) delivers just as well. Personally, I think the highlight of the show is Polar Bear and his performance is - if not stellar - hilarious and really well thought out. And everyone compliment that performance with a grace that is adorable, and yet balanced out with an acute sincerity. Its hard NOT to like these characters, because they NEVER go out of character - in fact, you root for them and watch all 50 episodes just because the characters make the show what it is: adorable.
The Art: The puns are the identifying hallmark of this show. Combined with the cheese in the later episodes of The South Pole Squad (SOUTH POLE SQUAD! PENGUINGER!!), the tension which is exhibited by the character arc of Penguin, as well as the character emotions when corresponding with each other, the art sells perfectly in this work and makes it worthwhile. Nothing less than well thought out, balanced with good humor, and really fun presentations of the episodes as they progress.
The Sound: All the characters sounded exactly as they should, followed by the really fun soundtrack (mellow and sweet in episodes in which the characters accept each other, as is the case with Grizzly and Panda; brooding and yet laughable when Penguin interacts with the Penkos; cheesy and roaring awesome when introducing THE SOUTH POLE SQUAD! PENGUINGER!! - and as you can imagine, my personal favourite moment in this anime; and even sad when some of the characters have doubts over their minds - episode 45's first story, without adding any spoilers to it, is the emotional equivalent of being stabbed in the heart upfront and then bashed by a spade followed by having your legs chopped off, such is the sadness felt in it. Yet, it doesn't seem forced, but comes off naturally in this anime. Which is always a good thing and works to its benefit.
In essence, this is the perfect "feel good" anime to watch when life gets you down. Panda is mischievous and evil, yet so adorable you squee inside (and feel crippled when he's sad. Period); Penguin is awesome - especially his interaction with Polar Bear which makes him a comedic riot; and of course, Polar Bear, whose puns are perfect, his observations are sharp and clever, and his wit makes the whole show standout and make everyone sweet, adorable, enjoyable, and amusing by association.
The perfect light hearted 50 episode anime. And it does everything right.
There is probably no better anime than the one and only Shirokuma Cafe. I have rewatched this about a good 34 times and it never gets old for me. There are far too many legendary aspects in this single series for me to even begin to talk about. I wil leave you with an analogy instead.
<analogy> Meet Beareskinford. He is a rebel bear who has been fighting off the government for many years. He has been working with his trusty sidekick for about the same time. Fast forward a couple years... Beareskinford walks into a bar and meets a bison. Now he hasn't
seen this bison for many years after beareskinford took off one day.
Naturally, beareskinford goes in for the brohug, but the bison has other ideas. The bison sneaks in a cheeky shank onto beareskinford's chest and the once great bear takes a graceful dive to the floor. It is revealed at this time that the bison was actually beareskinford's son in a freaky sex accident. He had been slowly bottling up rage from the countless years that his father had been absent.
From the moment that his so-called-father entered the bar, he decided that it was finally his time. The forest took many, many weeks to mourn over beareskinford's death and one could only hope there was a light at the end of this dark tunnel. </analogy>
Hopefully this left you with a good idea of what this masterpiece is truly capable of. I would rate this 5/7.
I was recently recommended to watch this anime. I wasn't sure what to think at first. I do enjoy Slice of Life quite a lot, the theme seemed interesting and the art looked like something I'd enjoy watching. But I will admit that knowing that the main characters were animals put me off for a little while. I felt like it would probably be incredibly childish. In the end... I was half right, half wrong?
The humor can be childish, at times. But I think it can also be incredibly smart, especially with Shirokuma's puns. They play with the Japanese language in a way that
made me even more curious about the language that I already was. It was also refreshing to watch an anime that relies heavily on humor, but also doesn't hesitate to bring heavy subjects in a few episodes. As much as most of the tears I've had while watching Shirokuma Cafe were tears of joy and laughter, I did find myself crying in a few serious moments of the stories. That's something I couldn't appreciate more in a Slice of life/comedy anime.
The art is, in my opinion, beautiful, and fits really well with what type of anime it tries to be. It definitely appeals to anyone part of their target audience. The soundtrack was incredibly enjoyable. By the end of the 50 episodes, I found myself humming and singing along some of the songs, especially the Llama one. Llamambo!
And what to say of the characters! God, I loved them. All of them. Shirokuma, Panda, Penguin, Llama, Tortoise, Sasako, Sloth, Grizzly, etc. There is honestly no character that I disliked throughout the whole show. I felt attached to them, always happy to see any of them have screen time or even a whole story to themselves. I was always curious to learn more about them and see what they were going to do next. When they were sad or laughing, I found myself feeling the same. I might be pushing it a bit far, but my point is, they made a really good job of making you connect with the characters. They're probably the reason I binged on 50 episodes in a week. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next, what they were going to do next. Which is a surprising feeling to have for a Slice of Life anime. It's not as if it's full of action or fast paced. Nonetheless, I was always eager to see the next episode.
Overall, I think this anime is awesome, especially for Slice of Life lovers. It is incredibly sweet, funny, smart and it will make you want to watch more, even after 50 episodes. I would recommend this to anyone!