Toshiyuki MorikawaTakahiro SakuraiKatsuyuki KonishiWataru Hatano
Polar Bear Cafe
Also known as: Shirokuma Cafe
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2012
Director: Mitsuyuki Masuhara
Writer: Toru Hosokawa
Original creator: Aloha Higa
Actor: Aya Endo, Daisuke Ono, Hiroshi Kamiya, Jun Fukuyama, Kana Hanazawa, Katsuyuki Konishi, Kisho Taniyama, Takahiro Sakurai, Tokuyoshi Kawashima, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Wataru Hatano, Yuichi Nakamura
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 50 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=13985
Website category: Anime early 10s
Review date: 16 September 2020
Misaki (age two) adores this show. She'd have it on a 24 hour loop if she could. Even some of her Japanese occasionally has turns of speech she's clearly learned from the show.
It stars a mix of humans and talking animals. Polar Bear runs a cafe and his customers include Panda and Penguin. Almost nothing ever happens and it's a slice-of-life with lots of puns and character humour. What's interesting is:
(a) the animals are realistically drawn. They're not cartoons. Polar Bear really is a polar bear, etc.
(b) their personalities fit the animals' real characteristics. Polar bears really are laid-back. (If you lived at the North Pole, you'd learn patience too.) Penguins are indeed anti-social and nowhere near as cute as they look, although different breeds have their own personalities. Pandas do indeed loaf around all the time.
The show's understated about this and it took me a while to notice, but it improved the show for me when I did. As for the episodes, they're basically vehicles for the cast to be themselves. Ranking them in order of my personal preference:
1. PANDA
He's the laziest being in the universe and so self-centred that he simply doesn't understand the concept of effort. (His mother regularly menaces him with the vacuum cleaner.) He'll be surprised when people fail to appreciate the difference between lazing and slobbing. He's polite and softly spoken, but so autistic that he'll say jaw-droppingly offensive things to your face because he can't tear his attention away from himself. (He also thinks he's so cute that he'd like to divide up his adorableness and share it with the world.)
Even after two months of Panda's mental problems and Misaki's TV preferences, he could make me laugh with a particularly outrageous line. "So, Penguin, what's your uninteresting hobby?"
His voice actor, Jun Fukuyama, is a big factor in that. I rarely pay much attention to voice actors, except when they're annoying. One day, Tomoko pointed out that she'd only heard me praise two voice performances (Panda here and Koro-sensei in Assassination Classroom)... and they were both the same actor.
2. MEI MEI
Panda's little sister. A relatively minor character, but she can make him look intelligent.
3. PENGUIN
In some ways, he's the only sane man. He's the only cast member with any sensitivity and self-awareness. Unfortunately, he's also a jerk with a sandpaper personality, so the main person he's torturing is himself. He keeps falling in love with female penguins without bothering to remember their names or what they look like, for instance.
4. POLAR BEAR
Runs a cafe and is easy-going about everything. Loves bad puns.
Incidentally, Misaki's favourite characters are the penguins who put on a superhero show at the zoo. "Penguin Jar!"
Very occasionally, something will happen with emotional depth. For the most part, though, it's laid-back character humour with a silly cast. You couldn't find anything safer or more family-friendly. Your brain will rot if you try to marathon all fifty episodes, but it's definitely made me laugh. Usually thanks to Jun Fukuyama.