What else would you do with a polar bear but… chill?

I’m a big fan of many genres of anime, though I have in the past been characterized as someone who liked robots, or perhaps gratuitous violence. But one thing that rarely makes the cut for me is something chilled-out, relaxing, perhaps iyashikei. It’s not that I don’t care for that kind of stuff, it’s just that there isn’t a lot out there that’s really great. I find Aria to be that thing, and after discovering it, it got tough for me to find anything else that did it for me as well as that quirky little show. Aside from being mellow and largely without over-arching story, there’s a vibe to Aria that’s hard to deny. It’s contemplative, sure, but it’s also infectiously good-natured. Akari’s wonder at the beauty of the world is pretty catching, and it puts me in a great mood every time.

But… but it’s so slow! But nothing happens! There aren’t a lot of laughs, there’s no action, no fanservice, and its budget-minded visuals aren’t exactly eye-catching. Sure. But there’s that vibe, that unspoken something that just sets you right.

This season, a contender has finally come along. Sure, the denizens of Polar Bear’s cafe are sometimes loud, obnoxiously pun-driven, lazy, or in the case of Aardvark, downright combative. But episode two featured one of the finest moments I’ve seen in a while, a little scene of quiet brilliance. Of course I’m referring Sloth returning to the picnic spot, only to find everyone gone (off to take the drunken Penguin home).

I say it’s brilliant because it transforms a mild joke (“hehe Sloth is slow”) into a genuinely sad little moment where you feel sorry for the poor guy, and then twists around yet again with the appearance of Polar Bear carrying the six-pack. I’d bearly (oh sorry) realized that the scene had transformed from comic to maudlin before I was let down easy by the Brolar Bear.  I watched the episode with a normal, and even to her, confused about sweat drops and the like that we take for granted (my wife and I trying to explain the sweat drop was more difficult than I expected), it was an affecting scene.

Polar Bear’s Cafe is a bit like Cheers (Penguin is somewhere between Norm and Cliff, right?) — everyone knows your name, you feel welcome, and that’s mostly due to its punning polar proprietor. His soft-spoken ability to show up at the right time and fix your day is exactly why he’s one of my favorite parts of the season.

Fuck these (7) Comments.

  1. redball says:

    When I was in seventh grade we took a field trip to the Cincinnati zoo. We stayed the night. Part of this was being able to roam around the zoo after closing and before it opened the next day. You get to see a different side of animals then, because they’re active at different times and also due to the smaller crowds.

    I was walking around with a couple of friends and we stopped by the bears because the polar bear was making some weird noises. What was he doing? He was jerking off. Laying back, rubbing his thing with those meaty bear paws. Moaning like he was in seventh heaven. We gawked for a couple moments before we decided to let bro have his privacy.

    Having seen this, and it is enshrined in my memory, I can fully appreciate the different side of animals that Polar Bear Cafe tries to show. I’d be weary of some of the drinks, though. That bear has a twinkle in his eye.

  2. This scene was definitely very cute. I enjoyed it very much. Polar Bear-san seems to be the guy who makes sure your day goes well.

  3. Author says:

    Joke: A polar bear cub and his mother are in an ice cave on the floating ice sheet, as they wont to do in their life cycle. Snowstorm is above, ice is below. The cub asks: “By the way, Mom, have ever had a thing with a brown bear?” “No, why?” “No, nothing… Just feel cold for some reason…”.

  4. Balloon_Thief says:

    In hindsight, I wonder why the polar bear didn’t bring back a few Cokes instead of a six pack of beer.

  5. Yerocha says:

    I kept wondering how long it would take the poor sloth to get drunk, but at least that leaves more time to chat with Polar Bear. Somehow I imagine he doesn’t get that much time with people.

  6. kadian1364 says:

    Penguin voiced by Gilbert Gottfried. It is destiny.

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