Grape-kun, the anime girl-loving penguin, dies; fans mourn loss of a comrade
Tobu Zoo in Saitama, Japan recently announced on their Twitter account the passing of animal internet celebrity Grape-kun. The Humboldt penguin apparently passed away Oct. 11.
Their tweet reads, “Humboldt Penguin Grape-kun passed away yesterday. For all who supported us, thank you very much. We also wish to thank everyone who followed Grape-kun until the end. And of course thank you Grape-kun, we’ll always love you. May you rest well in heaven.”
Fans of the penguin mourned the loss of an otaku comrade. Due to the outpouring of people paying their respects, Tobu Zoo recently set up a small makeshift shrine dedicated to Grape-kun.
A netizen saw Nemoto-san, the zookeeper in charge of the penguin enclosure, leave this message on the dedication board. “You were the most famous Humboldt penguin in the world! It’s all thanks to you that so many people came to see the penguins and have an interest in them. Thanks for all the hours of happy smiles you gave me. I hope you find a devoted bride in heaven. I love you!”
News of Grape-kun’s death quickly circulated the anime and game communities. Even English-speaking groups on Facebook mourned the loss.
A petition was also created to build a memorial statue of Grape-kun and Hululu.
Last Oct. 9, Tobu Zoo announced plans for a Grape-kun Festival, scheduled on Nov. 11. However, another tweet was posted the following day, stating Grape-kun was in bad health. Exhibits were suspended due to his physical condition.
Grape-kun gained internet fame earlier in the year when zookeepers found him obsessing over a cardboard cutout of an anime girl. The character was named Hululu the Humboldt penguin. She was part of a hit anime TV show called “Kemono Friends” which featured animals anthropomorphized as anime girls. The cutout was placed in Grape-kun’s enclosure as part of a campaign to help visitors learn more about the animals in the zoo.
Even after the promo campaign ended, zookeepers decided to keep the Hululu cutout inside the penguin enclosure for Grape-kun.
Grape-kun even got to meet the voice actress Chikuta Ikuko. She lent her voice to Hululu for the “Kemono Friends” anime.
Artist and netizen Mitsumoto (@mitsumotocs) drew two pieces of artwork inspired by Grape-kun. One was shared via tweet when the penguin broke into internet fame, and one as a dedication to his passing.
Even Kemono Friends manga artist Mine Yoshizaki drew up a special illustration of Hululu with Grape-kun. In the illustration, they wear matching purple bands as if these were wedding rings.
A cardboard cutout of the artwork has been placed inside the penguin enclosure where Grape-kun once lived with his anime girl waifu. JB
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