If I said that a really good comedy for the past year was a show about a Penguin and a Panda walking into a bar, would you believe me?
Polar Bear Cafe is an interesting beast here. Series that combine slice of life with comedy are nothing new, but this series does it in a way that has not been done often before. For one, its characters stand apart in their simplicity,and how they try to stay away from often used cliches. One, by being a bunch of talking animals, and two, by focusing not on teenagers, but on the working class adults.
Most humour in anime is energetic. Polar Bear Cafe though, is all about deadpan. If you enjoy that kind of humour, then you should give this show a chance, because on one hand, it contains really every day conversations between its characters, and on the other hand it is really creative in how it delivers its jokes. It constantly pokes fun at itself and its silly concept and contains more running jokes than you can shake a stick at. The self-referential humour is what I liked best about this series: it spends so much time carefully creating its setting, yet at the same it’s also constantly breaking it down and poking fun at it.
50 episodes is long, but I have to say: during the best episodes I really fell off my chair laughing. For me, they were the Penko episode, and the Bar MC episode. Beyond that this series also made me laugh numerous times, but there were unfortunately also plenty of episodes that failed to raise a laugh, or that were just plain dull. Like I said, 50 episodes is long.
It’s a bit of a dilemma for this series. Ideally its length would be at 39 episodes, but the long length does lead to some really good character building. At the end of the series, you really feel like you know these characters. The “people” you see hanging around in bars, cafes that you sometimes talk to and hang out with. The ones who are constantly trolling each other, who don’t try to get others to like them, yet get their charms from that.
One-Sentence Review: Random slice of life combined with deadpan comedy: that’s what makes this show work although it is too long with 50 episodes; plus Polar Bear is a great character.
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