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.
Fate/Zero Part 2
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!
Saki: Achiga-hen – Episode of Side-A
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.