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.