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I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

JP/Clammbon/Saki & Rie fu -- Opening Themes for "Shirokuma Cafe" (しろくまカフェ)


I haven't been all that prolific on the blog over the past few days since I've been battling a bit of a gastrointestinal issue. It's pretty obvious to say that it hasn't been all that fun but it looks like I've finally started getting a handle on things again. Last night, though, since I wasn't feeling all that happy, I decided to check out an anime once more that brought more than its share of gentle smiles to my face when I watched it for the first time.

"Shirokuma Cafe" (Polar Bear Cafe) had a good year. Aside from a certain magical girl franchise or two, it's awfully hard to encounter an anime that actually goes beyond the typical 13-episode cour, and the adventures of Panda, Penguin and Shirokuma went four times as long, from April 2012 to March 2013. It was the anison equivalent of a good hot cocoa with a marshmallow as I viewed this odd fusion of "Cheers" and "Wild Kingdom" with its quirky yet amiable characters and the running gags such as the one above where Panda would frequently fall prey to his Mom's vacuum cleaner.



So, now that some of my energy has been replenished, I've decided to cover all of the three opening theme songs that greeted me through the 50 episodes of the series. The first opening was "Boku ni Invitation"(ボクにインビテーション...An Invitation For Me)by JP which is short for American singer-songwriter John Paul Lam from Hawaii. According to Wikipedia, he collaborated with Misia to write a song titled "Work It Out" for her 2009 album, "Just Ballade". However, "Boku ni Invitation" from 2012 was JP's debut single with Avex Group. JP took care of the melody while Yoshiharu Shiina(椎名慶治)wrote the lyrics.

"Boku ni Invitation" was an appropriately weird and hip-hop way to start off this series about a gently droll animal comedy. I had never heard quite that much Auto-Tune in an anison before, but the song had that 21st-century vibe but was reminiscent of the old welcoming theme song from "The Flintstones" as Shiina incorporated some of the cafe's goodies and the opening credits had the three main characters dancing away. The credits automatically set the friendship core for the series.



Strangely enough, the episode I re-watched last night is represented in some of the stills in the above video. It was the 2nd episode in which the gang hold a picnic in the park. The highlight was seeing a drunk Penguin give his ode to Penko-san, his unrequited love.




Some months later, the opening changed. The credits now centered upon one of the few main human characters, Sasako, as she made her spirited bike commute to the cafe while the new opening theme of "Rough & Laugh" flowed. Of the artists covering the songs here, Clammbon(クラムボン)is the band that I have heard the most about. I've always associated this alternative pop-sounding unit with my old Tower Records in Shibuya since often when I entered the huge emporium, I would usually see either a display of their latest album or hear one of their songs on the store speakers. But to be sheepish, "Rough & Laugh", which was their 11th single from November 2012, was the first song that I've heard by them in its entirety. Written by vocalist Ikuko Harada(原田郁子)and bassist Mito(ミト), and composed by the latter, I liked the melody which was as spirited and cheerful as Sasako's race to work, and also Harada's sweet vocals. The song peaked at No. 57 on Oricon.


Then, there was the third and final opening theme, "You & Me" by singer-songwriter Rie fu and Saki(紗希)who was behind all of the ending themes sung by the characters of "Shirokuma Cafe". Splitting up the composing and writing duties, Rie and Saki came up with this huggable tune that seemed to wrap its arms around the entire cast and setting for the series in a sign of affection and thanks for a job well done. Although there were several weeks to go before the show finally wrapped up, "You & Me" and the credits seemed to signify a goodbye of sorts from Shirokuma and the bunch with everyone heading back to that park for another picnic which for me was the first memorable scene from the show.


Allow me to end this tribute to "Shirokuma Cafe" with another one of the show's rituals, the introduction for the next episode. Also, you can check out a couple of my favourite ending themes from the show by Panda and Penguin.


4 comments:

  1. Hi J-Canuck.

    I hope you're feeling better now. I too had been under the weather as well this past week. The usual cough and cold, although it's a lot more persistent this time round - I'm still combating the cough bit.

    Anyway, I've finished this silly series a while back, and it's hard not to crack up at the things the characters say, especially Panda and Shirokuma (my favourite character). They can so be unabashedly blunt or random!

    The theme songs are all enjoyable in their own ways, but I find myself gravitating towards "Boku ni Invitation" with its funky music, though it is indeed heavy on the auto tune. "Rough & Laugh" was an odd one. It encompasses the cafe's laid-back atmosphere well but in the end, I didn't take a particular liking to it. I thought "You & Me" was a welcoming change in pace after "Rough & Laugh", with it being more upbeat, and it feels rather Christmas-sy with the bells ringing away.

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    1. Hi Noelle.

      My situation is now much improved when compared to earlier this week, so thanks for asking. Still, at my age, when something more than the common cold hits me, I need to find out what happened so I'm keeping my doctor's appointment and get his opinion.

      I'd say my favourite characters are Shirokuma and Penguin. I like the former's calm yet non-sequitur demeanor, and the latter's snarkiness. It's like having Spock and McCoy in the same body!

      With me, I can't really pick a favourite from among the three opening themes. They just seem to be three different yet fun entities.

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    2. Hello. Glad to hear you're better now, J-Canuck.

      Besides Shirokuma, other characters I do like include. Grizzly with his tough-as-nails, yet very patient (to deal with Shirokuma's antics) demeanor; seeing those 2 friends together makes for some good laughs. And Handa is funny to watch as well as he tries to keep the pandas and the other animals in check, and the running gag about Mei Mei having a gigantic crush on him seems close to home.... Well, one thing's for sure, you won't see much happening on the outside (no rolling around or squealing like the panda) since I tend to keep most of it on the inside... for various reasons... ...

      ANYWHO, you seem to be a Trekkie. I've seen a number of articles on the blog that have you talking about the Sci-Fi show. I'm not a fan of Star Trek - not really my generation and I'm not into Sci-Fi - but I do recognize the iconic characters like Spock (it's hard to ignore him) and Captain Kirk... and KHAAAAN!!!

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    3. Yeah, I've been a Trekkie since I was a little kid although I think some of the glow has waned in the past few years. Will still be going to FanExpo in 6 weeks, though. Although I know logistics on the Japanese side are probably too daunting, it would be nice if some seiyuu actually visited Toronto during the event.

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