19 CommentsFirst Impressions / By Scamp /

Polar Bear Cafe episode 1

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Have you seen that opening? It has a car that turns into a flying polar bear. Also dancing penguins. And autotuned dreadful boyband pop music. Like, holy shit, they’ve basically made my dream anime opening.

This may sound like an awfully strange statement, but I believe the moon is a giant hologram created by the government that compels us to eat grilled cheese. Another strange statement would be that I was a little bit let down by Polar Bear Cafe. It’s a bit unheard of to go into something about animals running a cafe with Expectations, but there’s a rather big problem with the series. It’s about humans that run a cafe that just so happen to look like animals. Nobody comments on it, they just happen to be animals walking around, who occasionally do animal like things, such as eat bamboo and be lazy. Good for a quick giggle, which is what I got from that opening song.

But that’s all Polar Bear Cafe seemed to have. That’s just a gimmick. What’s the set up, the premise, the concept from which the jokes will arise. You can’t run an entire series on the hopes that we will continue to find animals acting like humans amusing for that long. I mean fair enough, occasionally you remember that it’s a penguin that is ordering a mocha and a grin sweeps across your face, but that holds limited appeal. Beyond that, Polar Bear Cafe hasn’t really got very many jokes. It has a poor sense of timing, the waits being just too long to hit that sweet funny spot for a punchline. Sure, a bunch of the jokes are dumb puns that us foreigners won’t get, but even the trans-language jokes tend to just fall flat. It even does that cartoony whooouup noise when a joke happens, which has the same effect on me as canned laughter does. That is, it makes me feel embarrassed for the show when I’m not laughing at the jokes.

Thankfully, Polar Bear Cafe does have something beyond the concept of animals running a cafe. The main character, Panda, while looking for a part-time job, ends up working at a zoo as a panda. What I love about this joke is that it feels like this idea is what the entire concept of the show was formed around. What if the animals in the zoo didn’t actually live there, but were just employees. They come in, act about a bit to amuse children children, then collect their payslip before slipping off to the local cafe for some post-work drinks. As someone who has always liked zoos, it’s an amusing idea. The smaller panda that just came in is a part-time worker, or on work experience learning from this experienced panda here.

To sum up, making animals act like humans has very little scope for humour beyond the central strangeness of the idea. Animals you see at the zoo are employees though? That’s a concept that has a much larger scope for comedic potential.

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  1. RogerMoore
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I was slightly interested in the show, entirely because of the cast and the cool premise, but it ended up just being another one of those “hey guys let’s make an entire series out of one joke” shows. I think a shorter runtime may have really helped this show, because I can’t see this generating enough original jokes for ~12 episodes x 25 minutes.

  2. Chipp12
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Too bad that I’ve dropped this after the 15th minute and didn’t get to the zoo episode.

  3. Alex Voda
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Mu ha ha ha.
    I have seen the potential of this show since the opening.

    Of the shows i have seen only one so far had an amazing opening and then proceeded to disappoint: Fractale.
    The reverse is not applicable, many shows are good but have a dull OP.

    It might not be consistent for a whole season but it has potential.

    P.S.:That is why more shows like Thermae Romae and BRS should be made. Shows that do the best they can for as long as they can and then stop before they ruin it. Shows unconstrained by standard number of episodes and episode lengths.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      I would be totally OK with Nichibears running for 3 episodes like Thermae Romae

      • Alex Voda
        Posted April 6, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        Actually, AFAIK Thermae Romae has 6 episodes.

      • Scamp
        Posted April 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        Eh, they were 12 minute long episodes, so it’s the same difference

  4. Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    “You can’t run an entire series on the hopes that we will con­tinue to find ______ act­ing like ______ amus­ing for that long. ”

    Fill in your own blanks and you will find that sentence quite contrary to the entire history of commercial entertainment. Just because you don’t like realistically rendered animal cartoons that talk doesn’t mean it’s a failing formula or won’t work.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

      Er, not really? X acting like Y is amusing for how many jokes they can make from that formula. My point is that these animals basically being humans has no way to stretch that formula

  5. Posted April 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Well then, if you think animals basically being humans will grow stale, I got a curious question: would it be better if they were humans instead? In fact, would the whole show be better?

    (oh, and I agree about the zoo)

    • Scamp
      Posted April 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      No. Then it wouldn’t have anything amusing about it at all

      • Posted April 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        Well, I guess I will never agree with you regarding ‘slife :(

      • Scamp
        Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        I don’t like shows about nothing. How can that be hard to understand?

      • Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        I understand what you mean, as that’s why I don’t like CSI, but when I become attached to the characters, I don’t mind it at all.

  6. Ahelo
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    cute animals doing absolutely nothing. It’s like K-ON except with animals!

  7. Posted April 7, 2012 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    Oh, come on! It has a polar bear, a penguin and a panda. Clearly it’s the best show of the decade.

  8. Posted April 7, 2012 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    What if the anim­als in the zoo didn’t actu­ally live there, but were just employ­ees.

    I’m reminded of the following joke from The Simpsons:

    Homer: Psh, if I wanted to see Japanese people, I would’ve gone to the zoo.

    Marge: Homer!

    Homer: What? The guy who feeds the elephants there is Japanese. His name is Takeshi. He’s in my book club!

  9. Erif
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    lol, that op is actively atrocious. If I had to sit through that each episode… :/

  10. Someone Else
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather watch Otters 11. Damn how come Bakuman has so many good manga ideas yet they really don’t exist!?

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