Polar Bear’s café revolves around a Canadian white bear that quits his boring job and starts a cafeteria near a zoo. He loves telling tall tales and always brags about himself. According to him, he was picked up by a human couple who owns a diner while he was drifting around on an iceberg.
Though he has lost all contact with his Canadian family, he has discovered a new home in serving the diners’ clientele, thanks to the kind couple. His café is an embodiment of his personality. The place is always packed with many regulars, animals and humans, who are drawn by his charismatic magnetism.
How are you with cafés? Are they places you go on your own to or is it to meet up with friends or family? Here in Ireland, we don't have a culture of the café as a focal point. Pubs, sure, typical Paddy behaviour, right? But the café remains this weird place where we have all the trappings of a bar or pub but without the hangups associated with it. Now imagine you're in a café. Have you ever had one of those idle moments when a crazy thought popped into your head? Imagine, then, there was an anime like that set in a café. Better still, imagine all the scenes filmed in Central Perk in Friends but without the all out slapstick humour and replace the cast with animals. You have arrived at the Polar Bear Café.
Ostensibly about the exploits of Polar Bear, er, a Canadian polar bear, who owns and operates his own café in what I suspect is Japan. I say suspect because we're never actually told this. Plus there's Panda who lives in a Chinese style house complete with pagoda. Panda is a young teenaged Panda bear who lives with his mother. He lazes about the house all day so after his mother threatens to hoover him up, he starts looking for a job. After a quirk of fate leads him through a forest (even though, it isn't really) he arrives at the aforementioned café.
I think Polar Bear Café might be the sleeper hit of the year. Just the way the whole setup is done, it just screams out to be licensed on DVD/BD. It's got that matter of fact way in which the people in the series don't blink while working and living alongside wild animals who converse with them in their native language (in this case, Japanese) is crazy. Animals seem to have two choices: work in real industries: service, agricultural and so on, or work in zoos and parks as pretend wild animals, clock off and go home at the end of the day. Polar Bear is a considerate, quirky sage who treats his customers more as his friends whether or not they're animals or humans. He's fond of using the fact that some of his conversations revolve around people using Japanese words that sound alike as an excuse to dress up in relation to the word, all while his friends are rolling their eyes. He likes to make origami and pretend he's not a polar bear when visiting the zoo. Penguin, one of his regulars, is a snarky, lovelorn penguin who constantly is in a nervous state over the fact that people know he likes a female penguin named Penko. He denies that he does like her despite getting drunk and mouthing off about said fact or blabbing about it on his blog. Panda is a foolish, naive, lazy bear who eats bamboo constantly, hangs out at the café while being tired all day trying to hold down a part time job in the zoo, pretending to be a panda. Crazy enough for you? There's more people and animals in the cast but this who the show revolves around.
With such diverse characters and a bananas setup, the deadpan humour is what I like about the show. Jokes that have less weight than a lead balloon are par for the course. Or watching Panda apply for an interior designer with his main skills listed as sleeping and eating bamboo. It's a take it or leave it attitude with Polar Bear Café so if off the wall Japanese humour isn't your thing, stay away. For those of you that do like it the show is inoffensive (unless you think Polar Bears have too many social freedoms) and fun and whether it lasts for thirteen, twenty six or even fifty two episodes, it'll be fun while it lasts.