「新しいパンダ／グリズリーバーの同窓会」 (Atarashii Panda/Gurizuriibaa no Dousoukai)
“New Panda/Reunion at Grizzly Bar”
I don’t care if I repeat myself over and over–Shirokuma Cafe has continuously gotten better ever since its first episode. Even though we’re at the end of the 2nd cour, the show still runs strong and continues to tap into its vast potential as a premise. It’s a shame that most potential watchers were turned off by the slowness in the first few episodes, since we’re at the point where the show is definitely showing its strongest points. It’s been a long time since Panda first stumbled into a quaint little coffee and tea shop, and it’s still a long time until Panda has to say goodbye.
What Shirokuma Cafe has done well, looking back at its 26 episodes, is develop a setting where a vast cast of characters interact with one another. The show has no shame in introducing new characters, for each of them has their own unique personality that breathes a unique life into each skit. However, the show doesn’t fall prey to the shortcomings of ignoring characters. Instead of being limited to 12 episodes, Shirokuma Cafe gives itself time to casually develop all of its characters. This does sometimes result in episodes without much happening, but in my opinion, that’s much better than having to be rushed through a plotline to make episode deadlines. Here, we can lazily observe how Pandas can be the most engaging yet lazy animals on the planet, where Llamas can turn any situation awkward, and where bears are the most awesome creatures to walk the animal planet. Week after week, I’ve never felt much pressure from the plot to wonder what’ll happen next–what happens each week is special on its own. Although there may be faint plotlines regarding Sasako, Handa, Penguin-san, and others, never do these plots really…force you to pay attention.
For a plot-driven show this would be suicide, but for a show that’s meant to be the quirky slice of life in your anime schedule…it’s perfect. Although Shirokuma Cafe never was on my “most exciting episode to watch this week” list, it did manage to be a show with pleasant surprises. Although the skits of this show rarely make me laugh, the fact that the show throughout keeps a smile on my face is an accomplishment of itself. Without anywhere to aim for, without any overarching conflict to resolve, all the show has to do, and has done, is be the show that makes me smile.
This episode in particular brought a wide smile to my face and brought out a rare laugh. Never did I expect the show to make fun of a struggling Panda trying to support his family, but somehow the show makes it work without being dark! I can’t help but pity Full-time Panda, who struggles so hard to keep his adorable children smiling, only to be beaten out by the younger generation so easily. Despite the somewhat serious theme, never did I think the show was actually forcing a morale or emotion down my hatch: it was just a funny story, using everyday life and brightening it up using animals. The same kind of trend applies to the second half of the episode too. Three young adult animals start having a crisis of youth, which in reality can be really dramatic. However, Shirokuma and Grizzly, with the amazing talents they amassed during their own youth, remind them that youth can be forever within. Normally melancholy, the scene is brightened up by contrasting animals, who themselves represent stereotypes of brash youths entering reality. If you were to ask someone what kind of job a wolf would work in, “baker” definitely isn’t in the top 10.
That stereotyping of daily life through animals is perhaps the hidden gem of this show. If we were to take out the animal aspect of the show out, if we were to strip the one defining trait that makes this show stand out, don’t you think that we’d start comparing the animals to our own lives a little more? Shirokuma Cafe takes away that comparison, and instead of creating a universe that’s close to us, where we can call out how unrealistic the setting is, it’s an alternate reality where we don’t have to really care what goes on! Animals and humans live in harmony, where no one has any malice towards one another. No conflict is ever too severe, and nothing is ever taken TOO seriously. These animals can do whatever their pure hearts desire, and since they’re animals, since it’s such a different reality, we don’t have to care how outrageous the plot gets!
That is what I’ve loved about this show this entire time. It gets slow at times, the animation may falter a lot, and Panda can get REALLY annoying, but in the end, I forgive it all, for it’s a show that doesn’t try too hard to conform to anything or make things coherent and real. It’s just a show that one can watch and smile at, which definitely is enough for me.
However, for me, this is where I say goodbye to Shirokuma, Panda, Penguin, and the large cast of characters for now, at least as a blogger. After some discussions that I had with Div, I will be halting my coverage of Shirokuma Cafe, effective immediately. I will be blogging the last episode when it airs months from now, but for now, I have to put this show to rest. There is another show out there that needs some loving, but it’s not listed on the schedule because I’m unaware myself how my life schedule will fare these next few months. That’s why it’s not listed–I can’t make a commitment, yet. It has been a very, VERY pleasant ride with Shirokuma and friends, but sadly this is where my coverage stops for now.
Although your comments were few, I read and appreciated ALL of them. This was really a niche show, but your humble comments made this a show worth sticking with. Someone’s gotta stick up for the niche shows, am I right? Perhaps I will return to cover niche shows if one really catches my eye, but this one definitely holds a special place in my heart for being the longest and one of the first shows I’ve covered. Thanks, those of you who have stuck with this show so far. We’ll see each other again when the finale finally comes!