Polar Bear Cafe – 01 Review
Somehow I got the impression that besides Polar Bear and Sasako-san nobody really liked working in this episode. The Penguin never even mentioned what he’s even doing, he’s just sitting around in the Cafe the entire time as if he owns the thing. He was even present when Polar Bear made the interviews so who the hell is this guy…?!
Polar Bear Cafe 01: Chilling Is A Full-Time Job
Thank God, that must be the first decent series I have watched of the new season! No, wait, Space Bros is quite decent as well… But the rest so far wasn’t that impressing of what I’ve seen… Well, I watch the whole stuff anyway. Anyway, Polar Bear Café, a series about a Polar Bear who owns a café… Yeah, I know, a real highbrow story if I ever saw one. It actually was entertaining on some level, though. Ain’t that a surprise? I mean, looking at Acchi Kocchi I feared animes would think “for kids” is the same thing as “for retards”.
Panda, a idiotic teenager who just wants to chill and eat the whole day is forced by his mom to find a part-time-job. What he finds is the Polar Bear Café managed by a Polar Bear (big surprise…) and a penguin (I mean, what else is he supposed to do there…). He’s rejected on the grounds of being lazy and thanks to the help of Polar Bear, though, he finds a job as part-time-panda at the zoo.
One of the funny aspects of the episode is that instead of Panda learning a lesson and becoming a better person he just finds a part-time job where he can chill and eat bamboo.
That’s what I would call comedy for children. It’s not like Acchi Kocchi which treats the audience as if they are total retards. This episode actually managed to bring together the necessary simplicity and humour you need in a relaxing comedy for kids.
Perhaps one should call it rather a slice-of-life-series in its ways of relying on characters and atmosphere instead of a real plot. What happens in this series isn’t the result of some sort of convoluted story. Polar Bear Café relies more on showing the story instead of telling it. For the most part it’s thanks to the really good voice-actors who do a good job of introducing the characters without any cumbersome exposition. When you hear Jun Fukuyama as Panda trying to find a part-time job where he can just do nothing he does this amazing thing as he turns laziness into something innocent. Panda is just lazy because he doesn’t know any better. And this character determines the scenes which makes them far more endearing since you can understand and follow Panda’s actions.
On the whole there’s really something innocent about the episode since characters are determined by their personality. There’s no reflection or any other kind of psychological process. Panda or Polar Bear don’t have any depth, they just are these models of a certain personality which they follow. There are no surprises as to what they will do or some inner conflicts we might have to imagine happening in their heads. But at the same time it gives the character-interactions a laid-back feeling since there are no ulterior motives and no larger purpose to the scene. Polar Bear Café is a very honest series in that way which makes it easier to understand the characters and follow the jokes based on them.
Polar Bear Café has an interesting twist on the animal-characterization as typical animal-behaviour becomes a job of the zoo while the animals actually all have a personality of their own.
The humour worked for me although it’s not the kind of great comedy that has me laughing non-stop. Polar Bear Café just wants to be endearing and want to make you relate to the characters. And using for animals for it gives it an interesting twist. Also, the animals in this series are really handled well. It’s nothing new to use animal-characters as a sort-of mirror for humanity but usually you have no humans with the animals completely representing the humans or it’s mixed with a variety of different styles of interaction between humans and animals. Relating to that Polar Bear Café has this great idea to not only put animals on the same level as humans, it also keeps our notions of what animals do in mind. So there’s still a zoo but now it’s a kind of entertainment-show where animals perform and get paid. And interestingly despite the appearance-based characterizations (the turtle being slow and so on) the animals aren’t determined by that as Panda for example didn’t know how to act natural. That makes them human characters without forgetting that they’re still animal-characters. With the animals keeping their names and Polar Bear’s pun-routine there’s also a great deal of words being taught to the children in the audience. I know for many of us watching it with English subs this part doesn’t really matter. But some animes are still supposed to be for children and therefore education hidden in some jokes is quite good, I think. For example in Haiyuro! Nyaruko-san the main-girl butchered her dialogue the entire time with various English words for no reason. Perhaps the producers already want to appeal to the foreign audience with little nods like that but I can’t imagine kids learning how to speak normal Japanese (at least I would think it would sound in any language weird if you’re constantly using single words from a foreign language and mix it with your mother-tongue).
One thing that might be a problem for the series, though, is the fact that the humour is very formulaic because of how appearance-based and honest the characters are. There were already repetitions in the first episode and I think that’s never a good sign for a comedy-slice-of-life series that wants to last an entire season. Daily Lives of High-Schoolboys only started to drag in the middle but this show might even start earlier unless it expands the cast or somehow manages to add new routines to existing characters in a believable way. One routine, though, which is Panda asking after bamboo-grass at the Café offered a nice structure to the episode and the whole benign message of him finally deciding to find a part-time-job (it’s not entirely preachy, thankfully). So overall it was a really good episode.
Polar Bear Café’s a very laid-back comedy-slice-of-life-series with interesting animal characters. The very simplistic approach to the plot gives it a very relaxed atmosphere and the jokes aren’t very deep but still endearing enough to make the episode an enjoyable experience. On the downside the episode already showed signs of being a tad too formulaic which could be the downfall of it in the end but for now it’s a good series one should watch.