Shirokuma Cafe (Polar Bear's Cafe) is a Slice of Life manga that received an anime adaptation premiering in the spring of 2012.The show follows the daily exploits of a lazy, young panda named Panda. Constantly told by his mother to get a job, he one day stumbles into the titular cafe, run by the enigmatic Shirokuma, a soft-spoken polar bear. Joining them are Shirokuma's friend, a sarcastic penguin named Penguin, various animals from the nearby zoo, and Shirokuma's sole employee, a human girl named Sasako.
Grizzly's mother, when asked about her age, answers that she's seventeen. Her voice actress is Kikuko Inoue, who initiated the "I'm seventeen years old" meme. The other characters also note that she looks rather young to be Grizzly's mother, which is possibly a reference to Inoue's youthful mother roles.
Rin-rin is the focus of two separate episodes, both based on his obsessive panda fandom.
Grizzly gets one when he mistakenly believes Shirokuma is dead.
Mama Panda, Mama Squirrel and Mama King Penguin in episode 23.
Wolf and Tiger in episode 34.
Llama and Sasako spend an episode reminiscing about their hometown.
Llama and Full-Time Panda get drunk together.
In episode 28, Full-Time Panda gets a entire episode dealing with his jealousy of Panda being cuter and getting all the attention. Full-Time was desperate enough to even beg Rin-Rin to obsess over him as well.
Shirokuma seems to love waking up Grizzly during his hibernation in order to ask him trivial things.
Call Back: The second half of episode 50 is a cherry blossom party, as the gang recalls the party from episode 2 and are subsequently joined by every character who's shown up over the course of the series.
Played with. Shirokuma and Penguin visit the zoo's seal exhibit, which forbids polar bears because they are the seal's natural predators. Shirokuma winds up scaring one of the seals away, even if he assured that he won't eat it.
In Episode 25, Cub!Shirokuma suggested making bear paw stew (as a joke).
There's also hamburger restaurants, and in the manga Shirokuma cooks a roast chicken. Between the anime and manga, there's been at least 3 dogs that can't talk, fish are eaten regularly, and it didn't seem like water buffalo in the garden episode could talk either. The general rule seems to be that animals that are seen as food or pets in the real world are just food or pets in the Shirokuma Cafe world as well.
In "Mr. Grizzly Goes On an Adventure" an otter says that he and his friends ate a Polar Bear. (A Polar Bear themed dessert the cafe was promoting) Through multiple misunderstandings Mr. Grizzly is certain that the otter did in fact eat his friend, yet instead of reporting this to the police for murder, Grizzly just accepts that Shirokuma is dead then mopes for a while. That seems to imply that eating other sentient species isn't that serious a crime. Even more hinted with the Caimen who threatened to eat Panda, in public, with lots of witnesses around. Aside from Panda getting scared, and Grizzly yelling at him, it wasn't treated as a very big deal. In fact they just continued their conversation as if nothing happened at all. BigLippedCaimenMoment?
Childhood Friends: Grizzly and Shirokuma have been friends since they were cubs. Of course, this doesn't stop Grizzly from yelling at Shirokuma at every chance, especially when flashbacks show that he received the brunt of Shirokuma's antics in their childhood.
Chinese Pandas: When we do see them at home, Panda and his family are (expectedly) stereotypically Chinese.
Christmas Episode: Episode 37 features the Christmas holiday in both parts. (With background foreshadowing in episodes 35 and 36)
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Early in the manga it's shown that a kangaroo works at Shirokuma Cafe. She mentions wanting some help in the garden and then, outside of a brief cameo many pages later, is never seen again. note The one kangaroo was turned into three kangaroos (who don't even wear the uniform) much later in the anime. The anime also made the garden seem much farther away from the cafe than it originally was, which made it a bit less strange as to why they're never around.
Episode 24, where Panda's seen eating a bamboo parfait and Masaki and Tree Kangaroo show up to deliver coffee beans.
Episode 32 references the cherry tree party and Penguin getting drunk.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: In revenge for Shirokuma's constant use of puns, the animals, Handa, and Sasako band together to say nothing but puns back to him. Shirokuma ends up running away each time.
Cool, but Inefficient: Panda with Smartphones. He really really wants one because they're "Cool" but doesn't give a crap about using it for anything. He just wanted an excuse to use a Panda themed protective cover. "Panda: The Smartphone was the accessory"
Credits Jukebox: A new ending every 4-5 episodes. Three openings so far, spaced farther out.
Cuteness Overload: No matter how uncomfortable Mr Necktie gets at the Cafe, this keeps him interested.
Death Glare: When Penguin accidentally blurts out that he can't tell all the "Penko's" apart during episode 22, he receives a death glare from all seven of them. Rather impressive, considering you can't usually see their eyes.
Baby King Penguin has a permanent death glare, albeit unintentional. He is very pure and innocent and just happens to look scary.
Drives Like Crazy: Implied with Penguin, as he appears to be easily distracted during driving lessons and has failed his driver's test several times. Shirokuma attempts to teach him, but his advice is largely useless. He eventually does get his driver's license, but Shirokuma and Panda make him twitchy when he's driving.
Epic Fail: Penguin and Panda visit Shirokuma when he's sick and try to tend to him. After demonstrating that they're incapable of helping him in any way, they end up catching his cold.
The cafe throws a sports day for all the animals (and Handa) with Sasako serving as the emcee.
Shirokuma sets up a food stall at the summer festival and the cafe celebrates Tanabata with a massive bamboo tree.
Flat "What.": Shirokuma after Masaki declares he wants to learn how to roast coffee from Tree Kangaroo, who does not accept apprentices. Complete with gobsmacked◊ expression◊ when Panda wants in on the attention and says he wants to as well.
Since the show takes place in a cafe, this is expected, especially with Shirokuma's desserts and other things he's made.
Subverted when Sasako creates three parfaits in the image of Shirokuma, Panda, and Penguin as test samples for a future menu special. When two curious patrons offer to taste them, they demolish the desserts with such frightening enthusiasm that Shirokuma changes his mind and offers a lunch sampler special instead.
The show likes to spend several seconds on the food as well as the ingredients.
The theme has this (Example Translated): "Let's drink Mocha latte Ole Tea, and add pancakes and ice-cream to that, let's drink strawberry and mango shakes"
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Zig-zagged. The animals who usually walk on all fours (namely the bears, big cats, and mustelids) are bipedal. However Llama, Tortoise, Sloth and few others still walk on four legs.
Genre Savvy: Penguin instinctively senses he's better off not knowing the details about what happens in the shadowed portion of the Cafe's backyard. Especially when asking about it causes Shirokuma's visage to darken and his voice to distort.
Gilligan Cut: Played with. Shirokuma seems to enjoy Tempting Fate in order to invoke one. Sometimes it works, as in the case of Rin-Rin tracking down Panda's home.
Panda and Full-Time Panda like to speculate about Handa's (non-existent) love life and couples at the zoo.
Shirokuma gets in on the act when Handa asks him for romantic advice and Shirokuma proceeds to text all the animals for their opinions.
Grand Finale: All the characters that have appeared in the anime all come together at the cafe for a cherry blossom viewing party.
Hair Decs: Mei Mei has a pair that makes her ears look like odango.
And as seen in a flashback, Grizzly's high school crush Tsukiko wears ribbons around her ears.
Hair-Trigger Temper: King Penguin. People keeping on mistaking her kind for emperor penguins and Panda's sheer cluelessness (or stupidity) when trying to console her don't help. Bonus points for being voiced by Hot-Blooded specialist Nobuyuki Hiyama.
Hammer Space: Where does Shirokuma get his miscellaneous pun props?
Hidden Depths: Penguin enjoys painting as a hobby, Sloth likes ballroom dancing and has a Ph.D. (Even if it's a doctorate in hanging out in a tree all day.)
Panda when feeling guilty for Shirokuma to be questioned by the police, gives Shirokuma a daylong vacation and runs the store in his place. One watching would assume "Hahaha he's going to Epic Fail and run it into the ground!" but actually Panda does a really good job, because he actually gave a crap about work for once.
A one-sided version with Panda's littler sister crushing heavily on Handa. Then Shirokuma jokes about them marrying and Panda's imagination runs with it.
Panda sees a real estate agent mistakes Handa and a female badger as a newlywed couple. Panda's imagination really runs with it and mistakenly lets the zoo believe it's true.
In another episode, Penguin mistakenly thought Penko was in love with Tortoise.
Jack of All Trades: Shirokuma is talented with pretty much any task, whether it be running a cafe, cooking, surfing, catching a baseball, golf, playing the Ukulele, making sandcastle sculptures, when he filled in for Panda at the zoo, he was even a better Panda than Panda was. Seeing him "Fail at something" rarely ever happens.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Grizzly could fit as this, he's has a short fuse, yells and swears at his friends constantly, immediately insults Penguin upon first meeting him. But as Panda says "Mr. Grizzly doesn't think about what he says" and he does have a soft side, and does genuinely care about his friends and even cried for an entire day when he thought Shirokuma had been eaten.
Grey kangaroos work at the cafe vegetable gardens.
Large Ham: Grizzly, Anteater, and the penguins (except Penguin, aka Emperor Penguin).
Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Lampshaded when Shirokuma and Penguin go to the zoo and Shirokuma wants to...go see the resident polar bear diving into a pool. Further lampshaded when a sign outside the exhibit forbids polar bears from entering since it's 'confusing.'
Played with when the editor of a local food magazine is a shoebill. He doesn't speak at all, letting his writers speak for him, and acts more like a typical shoebill.
Brought up again with Mr. Necktie in the second half of episode 16. The episode follows how he reacts to the unfamiliar coexistence of humans and animals, given that he is new to the town because of work. In particular, he experiences Shirokuma's cafe and Grizzly's bar.
The anime's second opening shows how the humans and animals live and work together.
Local Hangout: The cafe, obviously. Its close location to the zoo means that all the animals tend to hang out there.
Manly Tears: Grizzly in episode 16. Wolf in episode 34.
Mood Whiplash: Some episodes have a more serious tone or do not go for the usual slapstick comedy. However, episode 44 amps this up to eleven. If you didn't cry watching this episode, you're heartless.
Nightmare Fuel: Invoked In-Universe with the cafe's ghost story night. However, most of the animal ones are not scary, scaring only Handa because he hates scary stories. Then Sasako's (mostly) unheard ghost story terrifies everyone in the Cafe with a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. Handa is rendered catatonic with terror.
Rin-Rin (especially the scene when admitting his affections for Panda) goes extremely deep into "Creepy Stalker" territory.
Nutty Squirrel: Subverted with the coffee bean assorting red squirrels from episode 19. They take their work very seriously and Mama Red Squirrel gets very serious when it comes to matters of food and nuts.
Odd Friendship: Penguin and Grizzy strike one up during the camping trip in episode 17. Despite having nothing meaningful in common, they bond over how Shirokuma and Panda drive them nuts.
Once an Episode: Waking up Grizzly from hibernation for a trivial matter seems to have become this.
Otters become a plot point in episode 16, where Grizzly thought a group of them ate Shirokuma, when they actually ate a dessert shaped like a polar bear.
The Christmas Episode reveals that an otter looks after Grizzly's bar while he hibernates.
Power Trio: Shirokuma, Panda, Penguin. Although Penguin and Shirokuma's roles will alternate depending on the situation and Panda is The Ditz.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Neither the manga nor the anime have a real overarching story, so none of the changes are important, but the manga is fairly different from the anime. Characters in the anime are introduced in a completely different order and situation than their manga counterparts. The anime has several stories not present in the manga, and for the stories the two mediums do share, there are always changes in the characters' personalities and dialogues.
One of the bigger changes is the still continuing Penko subplot. Penko does not exist in the manga in any form, and Penguin's love life is never an issue.
Pungeon Master: Shirokuma is a frequent practitioner of dajare, a Japanese form of humor that revolves around puns based on the pronunciation (rather than the reading) of words.
Lampshaded when Shirokuma is driving and he notices a bagel in his car. He proceeds to riff some puns, but then comments that it's not as fun because Penguin and Panda both fell asleep and didn't notice.
He even plays them with a Black Caiman threatening to eat Panda!
When Panda tries to do the same, nobody pays attention, and then it turns out he is inner-monologuing.
Subverted in "Penguin's Confession" when Shirokuma starts to make a pun, Penguin cuts him off and skedaddles out of the cafe. Two seconds later, he comes back in and Sasako fills in a pun for Shirokuma.
Handa adds a few puns himself.
Hurricane of Puns: This comes back to bite Shirokuma in the ass, as everyone is so tired of his puns, that they start doing it back to him. He gets so flustered that he apologizes for it but everyone acknowledges it's part of his personality.
One time when Panda says he's going to be a Roller. Shirokuma does several puns, one of which is dealer. Which in a twist to the running gag, Panda admits for once Shirokuma is correct. Though Panda meant a Car Dealer, while Shirokuma meant a Casino Dealer.
Put on a Bus: The zoo transfers Full-Time Panda to the zoo in Singapore, and Panda takes it very poorly.
Among Full-Time Panda's collection of mecha model kits [that he keeps hidden in a bush in the enclosure] are what look like several Gundam mecha, as well as GaoGaiGar.
One of the visitors to Penguin's art show is probably meant to be Osamu Tezuka.
In "Love Love Driving Tactics", at the start of the drive Panda seems to be playing a PSP like device. The panel on the back with the ring makes it glaringly obvious.
In the Summer Festival there is a mask that looks glaringly similar to Naruto.
Shown Their Work: The penguin classification in Episode 19, even using the genus names Pygoscelis (for Adelie, Chinstrap, and Gentoo) and Aptenodytes (for King and Emperor). They also described how the species from genus Pygoscelis got their names.
Most of the animal stuff in general.
The squirrels teaching Masaki all about coffee.
Something Blues: The fifth ending is called "Michinoku Zoo-Keeper Blues". The BGM that plays whenever Tiger, Lion and Wolf are present is called "Wild Beast Blues".
Squee: The ladies on the group blind date as well as the karaoke bar waitress, upon seeing Panda sitting on the floor of their karaoke room and pulling out bamboo to eat.
Panda is shown to relish being adored, but then he gets annoyed when Shirokuma steals the spotlight from him, as demonstrated during the beach adventure.
Mei-Mei's reaction to Handa in general.
Species Surname: All the animals are simply referred to by what they are (Llama, Sloth, etc.).
Inverted with Masaki, a human patron. Shirokuma jokes that he calls him "Human" while everyone else refers to him by name.
Supreme Chef: Shirokuma, naturally. Sasako is also pretty talented with food as Shirokuma loves her pot stickers (gyoza) and two female customers thoroughly enjoy the parfaits she made.
However, Sasako and Panda found Shirokuma's pancakes to be too salty because he added salmon to it.
Grizzly is no slouch, either. Although this is to be expected as he did grow up with Shirokuma and he operates his own bar.
Swapped Roles: Shirokuma and Panda try out each others jobs for a day. The results are mixed, to say the least.
Panda tries out the other roles at the zoo and utterly fails at all of them. Llama, on the other hand, is such an excellent replacement panda that Full-Time Panda compliments him several times. Witnessing this causes Panda to go back to his original job and Llama to ponder what other roles he could try out.
Sweat Drop: Sasako, Handa, and Penguin get instant ones as soon as Shirokuma or Panda say something outrageous.
Panda whenever he has to deal with Rin Rin.
Terrible Interviewees Montage: Shirokuma is in need of an employee to help him run the cafe and the animals that he interviews all fail at answering his questions. He ends up hiring Sasako after she comes into the cafe carrying Sloth on a branch.
The Thing That Would Not Leave: Things, actually. Panda Mama, Ms. King Penguin, Mama Red Squirrel, and a fourth woman in episode 23 basically camp out in the cafe, and demand free coffee refills.
Poor Red Panda has to deal with them when they also invite Sasako along.
Penguin when he visits Panda's house for New Year's.
Token Human: Although there are plenty of humans in the setting, Sasako and Handa are the two main human characters as Sasako is the cafe's sole human employee and Mr. Handa is Panda's zookeeper. They inevitably get dragged into the shenanigans.
Kirino the second zookeeper is Handa's subordinate.
Masaki, Tree Kangaroo's apprentice. At one point Shirokuma wonders if he should just call him 'human'.
Took a Level in Jerkass: Compared to his manga counterpart, Panda is much more rude and thoughtless to his friends and peers.
Too Much Information: In Episode 10's group date, Handa tries to impress the girls with his knowledge of pandas...and their poop.
True Companions: Penguin may be annoyed by Panda's often thoughtless remarks, but after seeing how depressed Panda was after learning of Full-Time Panda's reassignment to Singapore and how it affected his job performance, Penguin goes to defend Panda and calls himself Panda's best friend.