Rec of the Week: Shirokuma Cafe

Released: April 2012 – March 2013
Episodes: 50
Starring: Sakurai Takahiro (Polar Bear), Fukuyama Jun (Panda), Kamiya Hiroshi (Penguin), Endou Aya (Sasako), Ono Daisuke (Llama), Nakamura Yuichi (Grizzly), Konishi Katsuyuki (Full-Time Panda), Morikawa Toshiyuki (Panda Mama)

Synopsis

     The story is a slice-of-life comedy revolving around a NEET Panda who gets a part-time job at a zoo. He meets and befriends Polar Bear and Penguin, and, along with his zoo animal co-workers, they frequent a popular and well-kept cafe run by Polar Bear. In the Shirokuma Cafe world, sentient animals and humans co-exist peacefully. Despite its skeleton of a plot, the show was quite popular during its airtime, and racked up 50 episodes.

My Thoughts

1) Cute talking animals that sit around all day drinking coffee and occasionally snarking at each other doesn’t sound like much, but the show is wonderfully addictive with its smooth animation, engaging dialogue, and funny jokes (mostly at the expense of other characters – Penguin and Llama being the usual victims). Occasionally, the animals teach each other or Sasako (the human waitress of Polar Bear’s cafe) some fun animal trivia, which you can then show off to your own friends.

2) Despite the fact that the majority of the characters are animals and all they do is talk to each other, Shirokuma Cafe has an all-star cast, even for minor characters. Popular veteran seiyuu that have a supporting or one-off role in Shirokuma Cafe include:

  • Wolf: Sugita Tomokazu (Gintama, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, BlazBlue)
  • Businessman: Suzumura Kenichi (Gundam Seed Destiny, Ouran High School Host Club)
  • High School Girl: Kugimiya Rie (Shakugan no Shana, Fullmetal Alchemist, Zero no Tsukaima)
  • Porcupine Idol: Miyano Mamoru (Gundam 00, Death Note, Kingdom Hearts)
  • Tarsier: Ishida Akira (Gundam Seed, Gintama, Naruto)

3) The humour is, for lack of a better word, somewhat mundane. A lot of shows that belong in the slice-of-life genre get ridiculous a few times to mix things up (ex: Lucky Star, Nichijou, Azumanga Daioh…) but Shirokuma Cafe stays strictly on the side of normality. Well, as ‘normal’ as you can get in a world where animals can talk and drink coffee. They operate almost strictly within the constraints of the universe given to them, and so all the humour from Shirokuma Cafe is through the interaction between the characters, and the situations that their daily lives throw them into.

4) It is a very easy to watch anime! There is no extravagantly long or complicated plot to follow; the humour is fresh and simple; the characters are enjoyable and/or likable who develop enough so they’re not stagnant, but not enough so that viewers who miss a few episodes will be lost. This allows viewers who want something cute and (for lack of a better word) meaningless to jump in and enjoy.

5) Polar Bear’s love affair with puns and everything that came out of Panda’s mouth were extremely relatable on an almost spiritual level.

Overall

Story: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Music: 6/10
Animation: 8/10
Entertainment: 8.5/10

Total: 39.5/50

Noragami OVA 2

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     I had always been a little confused about Noragami due to the fact that it seemed to straddle the border between humour and drama in a way that left me wondering as to what the show wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Noragami but I got a little bored of the show around the halfway point.

     The second OVA focused on the downtime of the gods and their shinki, as well as expanded a bit on how shinki can get new masters thanks to Takamagahara’s job pamphlet. Apparently, the dead are treated much better than the living in terms of how much the government cares about the unemployed or dissatisfied worker.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun #3

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     The newest instalment in shoujo comedy Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun introduces us to Kashima (Nakahara Mai) and Hori (Ono Yuki), yet another hilarious and adorable couple/pair. Kashima is, despite being a girl, known as the prince of the school due to her habit of acting like an over-dramatic host to girls around the school, and she’s one of the best actors in the drama club; Hori is her senpai and is prone to violent tendencies around Kashima (somewhat understandable), but as seen in later manga chapters, he genuinely cares for Kashima and seems to view her as a sort of daughter.

     One of the best parts of the Hori/Kashima pair is the number of misunderstandings that surround them. Unlike the sort of melodramatic misunderstandings normally found in shoujo manga, the two being on different mental vectors is purely for comedic purposes. Though I had imagined Kashima with a slightly deeper voice when I read the manga, I have no qualms with Nakahara Mai’s performance of Kashima.

     I love how Hori is a little ball of rage. Granted, you’d have a somewhat short (ha) fuse if you have to constantly deal with Kashima.

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     Today’s episode delivers the usual hilarity, from Sakura and Hori’s discussion about briefs (as well as Kashima mistakenly deducing that the best way to get on Hori’s side is to talk about dirty jokes), and the usual teasing of an endearingly embarrassed Mikorin.

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     One of the best things about Nozaki-kun is that the cast is made up of adorable idiots, with Kashima, Mikorin, and Seo as the shining stars. Hori/Kashima is my favourite canon couple in Nozaki-kun and I’m super pumped for the Tomoda (otome game) episode next week. That was one of my favourite chapters in the manga.

Overall Enjoyment: 9.5/10

Barakamon #1-3

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     When I first read the synopsis for Barakamon on anime sites, I admit I wasn’t too interested at all. From the summaries, it seemed like a slice-of-life comedy that would rely on childish innocence and mischief for humour. I’m very happy to say that I was wrong about this. Barakamon is a cute and fresh anime that I’m excited for every week.

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Review: How To Train Your Dragon 2

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     “I would ride Hiccup’s dragon any time.” – My words upon leaving the theatre.

     I went to watch HTTYD2 today with my cousins at the local theatre. I never liked watching movies in Taiwan due to the fact that people here can’t seem to stay quiet while watching a movie. They like to talk to their neighbours, exclaim their reactions, and in general, I’ve found that watching a movie in a Taiwanese theatre is akin to watching it on a plane in terms of how much you are able to immerse yourself in the film.

     HTTYD2 is a strong and fantastic sequel to the original HTTYD, building upon the worldview and characters, and giving a fresh look into the world of Vikings and dragons. The story of this film centres around Hiccup and Toothless as they try and stop Drago Bludvist, who is a maniac set to create a dragon army in an attempt to take control of both humans and dragons. Viewers are reunited with our lovable Vikings, as well as introduced to Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), who had been thought as dead five years ago during the first movie.

     Although toted as a sequel, HTTYD2 is strong enough to stand on its own. The plot builds naturally upon the conclusion of the first film, giving the audience a satisfying and real look at how the Viking world changed since they started living with dragons. Characters are shown to have changed and developed since the events of HTTYD, and they continue to grow still. The battle sequences, and scenes of Toothless flying gracefully through the air, are both so breathtakingly animated I could have cried that I hadn’t thought to watch it in 3D. John Powell, one of the biggest composers of animated films, continues to amaze with the orchestral score that builds upon the original HTTYD leitmotif.

     In particular, I was very fond of Valka’s character. Her somewhat bizarre antics and body language when Hiccup first encounters her really made it clear that she had been living outside of human civilization for the past twenty years. I found her to be a fascinating character and can’t wait to see her development for the third movie.

Story: 9.5/10
Music: 10/10
Animation: 10/10
Enjoyment: 9.5/10