Initial Impressions: Shirokuma Cafe, Fate/Zero 2, Saki: Achiga-hen

Shirokuma Cafe
Watching

Thanks to the kind prodding of bloggers Riyoga and Foxy Lady Ayame, I picked up this show that I had previously dismissed.  Shirokuma Cafe is an odd cross between slapstick humor and clever commentary.  The main laughs stem from the oddity of seeing these exotic animals, including a polar bear, empire penguin, panda, sloth, and several others, acting like humans amongst humans.  I’m not sure how long the novelty will remain entertaining through out the rest of the show, but I’m willing to give it a chance after the success of this first episode.

Some of my simplest pleasures come from the cafe setting.  SnippetTee has a delightful discussion about the cafe and coffee culture.  As a coffee lover, I couldn’t help but adore the cozy cafe with its deadpan humor owner and his deliciously foamy espresso drinks.

Another part of my satisfaction with the show is not only how it humanizes otherwise wild animals, but how it does so in a way that calls attention to the separation of the two.  The best example of this is how Panda obtains a part-time job at a zoo as a “Panda”, where he is paid to act like an uncivilized animal.  The zookeeper even asks him to extend an extra service for the visiting elementary school students–which for pandas, means extra rollie-pollie antics and tons of bamboo munchies.  The scene put a whole new spin on civil and uncivilized, as the children went into a frenzy at the pandas’ “service”–think a G-rated colosseum of sorts!

My main concern about this show is that the style of humor may quickly bore me.  Shirokuma and Penguin are the classic straight man and funny man (manzai), complete with puns that are possibly funnier with an understanding of the Japanese language.  Panda and his mother used the same skit numerous times in this first episode, enacting the lazy son and strict house mother.  I’m hoping that each episode provides a new series of gags unique from those before them.

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Fate/Zero Part 2
Watching

If you haven’t seen the first part of this show, which aired in the fall, then I strongly suggest, no demand, that you skip this section and go watch it now.  F/Z Part 2 picks off almost exactly where the first part ended, with several heroes temporarily aligning to take down Caster’s monstrosity.  I did feel a flash of irritation right at the start of the episode, however, with the jet fighter pilots jokes about monster movies and their roles as victims.  It was like they placed a sign around their neck proclaiming their unavoidable deaths.  And since I’ve started with my irritation, I may as well continue with my negative thoughts.

Although a good number of heroes–Saber, Lancer, Rider–have joined together to attack Caster, Archer/Gilgamesh witnesses the battle from far above.  I always knew that Gilgamesh was an elitest among elitests, but he really succeeded in pissing me off with his disinterest in joining the fight, despite his disgust for Caster.  When he sacrificed three of his Noble Phantasms to the beast, his inability to kill it and subsequent decision to leave without collecting his now tainted Phantasms just looked like a coward tucking tail from a fight he can’t win.  Follow that with the death of Caster’s master, Ryuunosuke; it appalled me that it took this long for the another master to locate and kill him.  He didn’t even try to disguise his delight in Caster’s creation, and looked to be the only other human witness at the start of the battle.

Despite these negatives, the positives did very well to outweigh them and keep me exciting for what is to come.  The entire showdown between Berserker’s hijacked jet and Gilgamesh’s Vimana Phantasm (his flying throne) kept my adrenaline up, though I couldn’t help but watch it all with a slight Gilgamesh-like smirk on my face from the way that he slouched in his throne through the whole ordeal.  Similarly, the face-off between their masters, Kariya and Tokiomi, brought with an intriguing verbal spar.  For a good majority of the first part, Kariya is praiseworthy as a martyr of sorts; he only takes part to relieve Sakura of horrors of the War so that she and her mother, whom he both loves, can be together again.  All the actions he does to make that happen are thus presented as morally just.  And yet here, Tokiomi questions that nobility.  Looking at the crux of the problem, it was Kariya’s failure to take on the responsibility of his blood and birthright that brought Sakura into the nightmare of the Matou family.  His calmness and exuded self-righteousness make Kariya, in turn, look like an out-of-control zealot.

But of course, this wouldn’t be the Fate franchise without mention of Saber, and the show reminds us of that at the very end.  Her part in Caster’s demise better be a fireworks display to warrant her so far ho-hum abilities when compared to the other Servants.  I’m rooting for you, Saber!

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Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A
Watching

Although I made my ho-hum stance about the plethora of high school anime, like the little hypocrite that I am, I will be happily setting aside my prejudices for Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A.  I could argue that these are elementary/middle school students, and that I’m obligated to watch this sort of prequel to an anime that I’ve already seen, but neither of those would really be the true reason why this show is set in stone for my spring list.  I just can’t seem to resist these game-oriented anime.  Shion no Ou, Hikaru no Go, Saki, Chihayafuru–I am constantly amazed at how easily these anime enchant my mind with games I can’t help but feel would be extremely boring to watch in real life.  Like the aforementioned series, Saki: Achiga-hen places a lot of emphasis elsewhere to make the game more casual friendly.

Very similar to its parent story, the anime presents us with moe-blobs for characters–and Haramura Nodoka still has a large chest despite being an elementary school student.  Puberty impossibilities aside, I found the art style and character design clean and attractive in an idealistic small town Japanese setting.  The girls are predictably optimistic, tackling their burgeoning realizations of growth and separation with a stubbornness I suppose the viewers are to find admirable.  Although I have little to go on for character, I have a feeling that I’ll like these girls more than those of the original Saki.  I won’t go into the details for why too much for fear of later retracting that statement, but I will say that I’m glad  Ako seems nothing like her look-a-like, Yuuki.

For now, I’m excited to see how Achiga Girls’ Academy’s Mahjong Club will obtain enough members in enough time to prepare for the inter-middle school championship.

15 thoughts on “Initial Impressions: Shirokuma Cafe, Fate/Zero 2, Saki: Achiga-hen

  1. Not gonna lie. When I saw the title with the word cafe I laughed to myself and said I know why she’s watching that. So I was surprised you had dismissed it previously.

    It does sound rather interesting. The panda getting a job at the zoo as a panda was intriguing.

    I duly skipped Fate/Zero’s section and cried about being unable to watch it since you made it sound so amazing. I hope you’re pleased with yourself!

    I actually like playing mahjong. The more poker esque kind to clarify so that anime might catch my attention for that reason alone. I’m beginning to think I can enjoy about any type of anime. In fact I’m curious about your thoughts on the one I’ve been watching recently that I have routinely avoided….Clannad. I’m 4 episodes into Afterstory to avoid spoilers.

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    • Yeah, I think it was the art style on the promo art that kind of threw me off. Despite being much more open now to different styles, I find myself still passing on shows for art in seasons that are especially full.

      About CLANNAD: Afterstory, have you een the first season of it? I actually prefer Afterstory since it feels more relatable. In the harem genre, I would place CLANNAD, Kanon (2006), and Ai Yori Aoshi among my top.

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  2. I rather enjoyed the first episode of Shirokuma Cafe, but think I will have to pass on the other two titles. I’m clearly at my limit this season, and I haven’t even checked out the Noitamina series yet!

    I did watch the first season of Saki, and it was quite enjoyable for a while, but there are some parts that I didn’t care for. I don’t know anything about Mahjong, but the gameplay became more and more ridiculous. Whereas Chihayafuru drew me further and further into the game, Saki seemed to just get further and further off into flights of fancy.

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    • This season is ridiculously packed with shows I want to watch. I feel your pain!

      I think some of my draw to Saki also has to do with the circus that the games inevitably become. It kind of becomes a running joke after a while; how out-of-control will these games get further into a competition like the regionals? I wouldn’t even place the anime anywhere near Chihayafuru in terms of quality.

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  3. I have that same issue with art styles unfortunately. I know that gut reaction has to have cost me.

    Yeah i watched Clannad first. I’m watching it as one series. I’m just curious because everyone says it’s a sad series which is why I’ve always avoided it. I don’t like to be sad and crying… It hasn’t been like that thus far and I wonder if it’s me, if it’s the ending, or if they all were messing with me. Thanks.

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  4. Hidoi Marina-chan. How could you have initially dismissed the masterful concept of an anime starring a polar bear, a panda bear and penguin? Shame on you for denying it at first. As for how lng the novelty will last…have you seen any Western cartoons in your life?

    Saki is obviously on my watchlist and I need not explain why at all, as much as it baffles your superior intellect.

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    • I know, I know, I’m still kicking myself about my uncharacteristic decision to skip Shirokuma Cafe. ^^
      I have seen plenty of Western cartoons; I remember always scanning over to Cartoon Network. Repetition will probably be my biggest complaint about the show.

      And I love that you’re watching Saki, as well. I’m wondering if there will be just as much yuri goodness in this one as there was in the parent story.

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      • The power of the Professor is strong in you Marina-chan. Never let go of said power.

        One more thing: High Five for being a Game Oriented Anime fan. It’s like outside of kids game based anime (Yu-Gi-Oh, Bakugan, Cardfighter Vanguard) anime can make simple games like Karuta, Mahjong and Japanese Chess extreme to the max. I cannot tell you how many time my blood was pumping during both a Saki and Shion match. How do they do it? How do they manage to create such epicness in such simple games that aren’t supposed to be as extreme and intense as the show makes them out to be. It also helps the characters on those shows are awesome. I mean, Chihaya (Once I review Chihayafuru next week) will be added to my top 10(now 11) sexiest anime babes of all time. That’s how much of a Chihaya fan I am. Shinobu (In both shapes) is no ugly duckling either.
        Let’s see, Saki series has lesbians, Shion no Ou has a trap and an adorably badass mute (Oh and I am a huge Saori fan. Rawr.) and Chihayafuru has one of the sexiest anime women ever (imo) and the oh so cool Taichi.
        Unfortunately I haven’t seen Hikaru no Go. A 76 episode series…looks tough. I’ll eventually give it a go.

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      • I would love to be as cool as the professor any day, and as genius with my inventions :3

        Hikaru no Go is admittedly a daunting anime to watch if you’re not really into watching longer series. I know I definitely am not, which makes this shows ability to hold my attention all the way through impressive. I did take breaks here and there since there are clear cut arcs, but jumping back into the story wasn’t difficult. The show may still be on Netflix, where I saw it, with English subtitles and Japanese audio.

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