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Guess What I Think About Polar Bear’s Café

I didn’t think I’d have to write a post about this show. Then again, I didn’t expect Polar Bear’s Café to be getting such a massive free pass even by the standards of itiswhatitisism.

As with so many “slice-of-life” anime that’ve come out over the past half-decade, the jokes suck. Sometimes it’s due to poor timing or delivery, a fault lying squarely with the adaptation. The rest of the time it’s simply because the material isn’t…what’s the word…creative. Seriously, I could write some of these episodes faster than it takes to watch them, and given how slowly I update, that’s saying something.

I take particular issue with the puns. A lot of you are quick to defend “bad” puns, but these puns aren’t bad in the sense of being lame; they’re bad in the sense of not qualifying as puns. A pun isn’t simply saying a word that sounds like another word. (Word? BIRD! HAHAHAHAHAHA!) A pun needs to make some connection between the original word and the pun-chline. Regardless, Polar Bear’s puns fail even if you reduce your pun standards to reciting entries from a rhyme dictionary. In most cases, only the first pun in the pun chain sounds anything like the original word.

At this point, the slice-of-life apologists are going to chime in with their usual excuses: comedy doesn’t matter because it’s slice-of-life, shitty jokes are a part of life, not everyone is as funny as you, etc. It’s the characters that really matter, right?

  • Polar Bear: boring
  • Penguin: boring and annoying
  • Panda: annoying but entertaining
  • Grizzly: one of the few characters I have no complaints about
  • The rest of the animals: boring and/or gimmicky
  • Sasako: Bland token female (unfortunately not token enough to appear in the beach episode)
  • Handa: Loser
  • Rin Rin: Best character by far

Polar Bear is one of the few animals that doesn’t exist to exploit a species-specific gimmick. Ironically, failing to be a stereotype actually makes him weaker as a character. Without polar bear gimmicks to fall back on, most of his lines are throwaway slice-of-life babble. The rest of his lines are spent being a second-rate troll to third-rate victims, all done with a voice that lacks any punch yet isn’t robotic enough to be deadpan. I don’t even consider Polar Bear the main character (it’s really Panda), which is probably for the best. If I considered him the main character just because others congregated around him despite his blandness, I’d be reducing him to a harem lead.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the best character on an animal show is a human. Rin Rin’s passion is something otaku can relate to, and he gives the author a self-insert character for fanboying about pandas. By pleasing both the author and the audience, any scene with Rin Rin is a win-win. (That’s how it’s pun.)

Who could possibly like this show?

  • Zoophiles
  • Hipsters

It’s fine to act empowered upon realizing you can still feel some childlike wonder when you see talking animals on a TV show. Just save it for a show that’s actually good.

Current Grade: ~

46 Replies to “Guess What I Think About Polar Bear’s Café”

  1. I’m glad you wrote this, as someone who routinely enjoys “slice-of-life” anime I found this series incredibly dull and boring but felt confused when I read other reviews gushing over how funny it is.

    • I doubt I would’ve written this post if the consensus blogger opinion were anything short of effusive praise. Aside from Scamp, I can’t recall any other bloggers being critical of it. I just feel sorry for the random Google searcher finding overwhelmingly positive reviews only to watch the show and discover how…un-brilliant it is.

        • Just when through Anime Nano for Polar Bear first impressions. Most reviews were positive. There were several that spewed the old “it’s not really for me but it might be for you” line. The only review I considered squarely critical was Avvesione’s. Imagine that, Avvesione being the third harshest blogger out there. The blogosphere has declined.

  2. I dropped this fairly early but there was one scene and one scene only that I will take away from the show: Polar Bear and co. go and view the cherry blossoms, sloth crawls away to get some more booze, comes back hours later, and Polar Bear is still there like a true pal.

    • I’d like to agree with you, but these kinds of scenes are where the “comedy doesn’t matter because it’s slice-of-life” excuses come from. Point to one or two non-comedic, heartfelt moments in the show and suddenly all the crappy jokes don’t matter.

  3. To think, I almost picked this up. Thank God I was too lazy to watch episode 1.

    Now you need to watch Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki. 3 minute episodes.

  4. And here I was, thinking that this could possibly be good. Are the jokes entirely “puns” or does the show actually give the viewer something else to chew on? Otherwise, I can’t really see why this is getting love from bloggers.

    • The main joke is that animals—get this—act like humans! But just when you’re getting used to that, the animals—get this—act like animals! The theory is that this is hilarious.

      The show gets love from contrarian hipster bloggers for the very reason that it’s not expected to.

  5. I liked it as dumb mindless entertainment, but I don’t hide the fact that I have low standards when it comes to comedy. I mean that little comic that was in this blog entry made me laugh.

    Although I think it would have been better as 13 episodes.

    • I had a feeling you’d like a comic about socks.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve actually liked the recent episodes more than the earlier episodes (which isn’t saying much).

  6. Now, pardon me if this rant isn’t entirely relevant, but…
    A lot of anime that get called “slice-of-life” are really just trying to get on the big old “Healing-type Anime” train, without actually understanding what that is.
    Something that I think represents a strong anime of that category is a general plot arc for the episode that presents the issue, and resolves it in an inoffensive, *graceful* manner. Bartender is an anime that I feel embodies this very well. Aria is also decent at this.
    The failing point that I see is when “Slice-of-Life” shows aim for that “relaxing show” and, missing the point, neglect to add this central interest, or any comedy to compensate.
    This creates a show that is hard-pressed to leave the viewer
    cheerier.
    Inferior.
    Misinterpretation or misrepresentation of 1976’s “selfish gene” theory.

    • Now, now, have I ever denied pardon to a potentially not-entirely-relevant rant?

      The role of plot in the healing-type anime is horribly undervalued. Bring up plot and most people think along the lines of a double agent fighting his long lost evil twin in a labyrinth underground the Olympic opening ceremonies. Doesn’t have to be complex. Does have to hold together an interesting sequence of events; otherwise you’re just staring at something shiny for 22 minutes, not that most “slice-of-life” fans seem to care.

      One of these days I’ll write a mega-post about plot. Right after I make that video I promised when I lost my bet against the Lakers in 2009.

  7. I’m still wondering how a show about talking animals is a slice-of-life. More like slice-of-the-writer’s-time-on-drugs. Wow, that actually makes sense with all the definitely-not-slice-of-life shows there are now.

  8. Carbon tetrachloride is tetrahedral in shape. In your picture, you got the 3-D rendering wrong. The angles between the bonds are not supposed to be 90 degrees.

    Edit: Oh never mind. I guess I can kind of see what you’re trying to get at.

      • Hipster -> Scamp

        Who could possibly like this show?

        – Scamp

        Polar Bear Café is on comedy power hour or something, and I’m me so I don’t know whether they like it seriously or hipster-ly. I did hear that the supposedly Canadian polar bear neither dwells in igloos nor imbibes maple syrup, and that did quite offend my national identity; in fact, I can’t bear it anymor

        P.S. c’mon no lists in comments? what is wrong with

  9. So out of this season’s shows, you watch Polar Bear Cafe? Really?

    Drop this show and pick up Kokoro Connect and Sword Art Online for the love of God.

    Or if you are watching all three, then I think we’d get a lot more out of hearing what you have to say about those two shows rather than this one.

      • That’s probably true. However, I have no idea when either of those shows will be ending so that you can marathon them. It’s alright though, because many of the episodes that have aired so far are self-contained for both series, and you just have to watch two or so in a row to complete that sequence of events. The only reason you want to marathon them is because you know that these are good shows, right? Knowing that they are good, then avoiding them, and then in turn writing about terrible shows… just seems like you are hunting for shows to bash. If that’s so, then so be it, I don’t judge. But aren’t you doing yourself the real disservice here? Unless you derive some strange entertainment from watching garbage, in which case, I can help you with that as well.

        • Other bloggers sincerely like this show, not that I trust their taste or anything, but this show seemed different enough to give a shot. Didn’t expect to like it, but it’s a chance you gotta take, like watching The Idolm@aster, or giving One Piece a fourth chance.

  10. I admit that Shirokuma’s puns are lame but I genuinely find parts of every episode pretty damn funny. But you’re right – many characters are pretty boring. What would you expect out of a children’s show?

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