Goodbye to two happy shows: Polar Bear’s Cafe and Tamako Market

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Maybe it was clear when Polar Bear’s Cafe screwed around with the cardboard figures routine, sticking it in the middle of the episode, and in London, that maybe it was time the show had a rest. So with little regret I watched episode 50 today. As you would expect, all the characters have a moment of facetime, except the giraffe, one more scene of penguins hawking their cards, another extreme closeup of mandrill’s face, Rei-Rei giggling over handsome Mr. Handa. To my relief, they didn’t feel obliged to get Sasako a boyfriend. But I preferred the first half more because it confronted two of the show’s biggest and most important mysteries: what does Penguin do for a living and how does he get up on that stool? And they answer neither. Why spoil the fun?

'Penguin-san Penguin san!'  'Nani, Panda-kun?'
‘Pengjuin-san Penguin san!’ ‘Nani, Panda-kun?’

I think a year run is enough for this series. As I said, the format was getting tired. But give them credit. The show was a low-key affair but they kept up their easy-going humor for fifty episodes, while other series can barely manage twelve. They could get laughs out of normal cafe conversation or through some peculiarity of a species, or simply with non-sequitors (like Sasako’s ancient statues), and they would move on to the next bit. Had it not been for Space Brother‘s Mutta, Polar Bear, with his great sense of fun and unflappable demeanor (plus, girls love him), would have been my 2012 male character of the year. Penguin-san was a superb straight man. Sasako, the most important human in the show, was absolutely charming even if she rarely had anything to do. As for Panda-kun … well, let’s not talk about him. Good job, people.

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I was going to write something about Tamako Market‘s ending, too, but I can’t think of much. It was one of the very few good new shows this season and showed you what production values and good direction mean to a show. It felt slicker and smarter than the other shows even though it had almost no plot at all and no real point that I could find. I am, however, grateful that they didn’t try to give each character in the mall a whole episode. And, well, KyoAni will probably come up with something just as good in a season or two…

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