Kemono Friends returns to zoo where Grape-kun fell in love with his personal best girl.

Before its first episode aired, nobody expected Kemono Friends to be a hit. A late-night anime with some nice character designs but shoddy CG animation, the mobile game it was commissioned as a promotion for was already cancelled by the time the anime premiered, and the series could have ended up as nothing more than a low-budget weekly advertisement for a product you couldn’t buy even if you wanted to.

But despite the odds being stacked against it, Kemono Friends was filled with so much endearing charm, warm fuzzy feelings, and lingering mystery that it became one of the biggest success stories of the year. Not only did it win over human audiences, it earned an animal fan too, as Grape-kun, a Humboldt penguin at Tobu Zoo in Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama, fell in love with a cardboard cutout of Hululu, one of Kemono Friend’s anthropomorphized penguin girls, which was placed in his enclosure.

Sadly, Grape-kun became an otaku late in life, and last fall passed away from old age. However, we might soon see another animal enter the anime fan community, because Tobu Zoo and Kemono Friends are teaming up again for a new round of promotional events at the zoo which are set to start next month.

The third round of the tie-up (following previous festivities in spring and summer of last year) will feature a whopping 51 character art installations, more than ever before and including characters who weren’t part of the earlier events. The voice actresses of Kemono Friends’ in-anime five-member penguin idol group, PPP, plus their manager, will also be making a special appearance to promote their upcoming real-life debut album, titled Hola!. That means that Hululu’s voice actress Ikuko Chikuta will once again be visiting the zoo where her number-one fan spent his final days, just as she did before he passed away.

▼ The members of PPP, seen in the second row from the bottom

▼ Art panels from last years’ events

Finally, as a salute to Grape-kun, a new line of commemorative merchandise, featuring the dearly departed penguin frolicking with his Kemono Friends anime pals, will be on offer.

The collaboration kicks off on April 21 and runs until July 1, with PPP’s visit scheduled for May 6.

Related Tobu Zoo official website
Source: Tobu Zoo via Otakomu
Images: Tobu Zoo