Who needs a significant other when you’ve got significant animal friends?
As a kid, did you ever go on family road trips to your grandparents’ house? While their house wasn’t exactly the most fun place to be at, you only saw them once or twice a year because they lived across the state, and while you didn’t admit it out loud to anyone, you didn’t really mind the drive. You were able to get out of the house for once, was able to buy whatever snacks and drinks you wanted at the gas station, had an excuse to play your handheld for a good period of time, was able to horse around and shoot the breeze with your brother and/or sister, and frankly, the drive was scenic and quite pleasant at times.
Episode 12 of Shirokuma Cafe is like a road trip to your grandparents’ house, except for one difference: instead of ending up at grandpa and grandma’s, your parents surprise you by…arriving at Disneyland.
The episode starts off simple enough. Panda is complaining about how boring work has been recently because of the rainy season. Due to the rain, only a few visitors have been showing up at the zoo, which leads to Panda and Full-Time Panda with nothing to do but lay around all day. Penguin points out that that’s what Panda does with his life anyway, but according to Panda, lying around at work is different from lying around normally. Such a difficult life Panda leads.
“I want to try having nothing to do and lie around, too,” chimes Shirokuma. Same here, my white-furred friend.
It eventually leads to a good chunk of minutes showing Panda and FT Panda trying to pass the time at the zoo. They drink tea, read manga, have aimless conversations, play rock, paper, scissors, build robot figurines, play mahjong and do other random activities.
All the while their penchant for not doing real work constantly attracts the ire of Handa. I know, what a jerk, right? Still, whenever this occurs, Panda and FT Panda are able to change the subject and get Handa’s focus elsewhere (they have apparently become masters at this), and the episode transitions from lying around and doing nothing to…a Handa therapy session. That’s how you change the subject.
Handa’s lack of a love life has been the subject a couple of times during the series, and it once again becomes the focus in the second half of episode 12. He maintains that he doesn’t need a girlfriend and that all he really needs in his life are those at the zoo. But as Panda wisely explains, no matter how much he likes the animals, it’s hard to get married to them. So the two pandas inexplicably play love advisor to Handa, and they somehow get Handa to spill the beans on what he really wants. Handa wants a girlfriend but he’s at a point in his life where he wants the first girl he opens up to to eventually be his wife. Such old-fashioned, yet pure expectations. The pandas convince him that no matter how long it takes there’s someone out there who he’s destined to end up with.
Episode 12 does a great job of shifting the episode to Handa by starting at the lazy pandas narrative, and using it as a tool to get Handa’s love issues to the forefront and keeping it there once and for all. That alone makes the episode like a pleasant drive to grandpa and grandma’s…that is until you surprisingly end up at Disneyland. What I’m trying to say is that a nice episode results in something unexpected and more wonderful.
I’ve never really praised Shirokuma Cafe for its writing. Not saying that its writing is terrible, but the show is too simple, too random and too slice-of-life-y to be considered among the strong narratives belonging to shows like Uchuu Kyoudai, Sakamichi no Apollon, and Fate/zero, among others—at least for me. But episode 12 was well executed, and it discreetly was a culmination of Handa’s character that started to slowly build back in episode 7, the moteki episode.
With that said, the show has done a fantastic job of developing some characters, and its cast has surprisingly been one of the best this Spring. Whether it’s the main 3, side characters like Grizzly, Rin Rin, Handa, etc., each has had plenty of screen time and each have been extremely likable.
Take Handa in this episode, for example. You feel for a guy like him, a good person who dedicates his life to his work but doesn’t have the time to dedicate his life to love. He’s popular with animals but he’s unpopular with women. You can’t help but root for the guy, and when episode 12 concludes the way that it does, you can’t help but be happy for him.
12 was a good episode made better with a great ending.
GO Rating: 4/5
I ship this.