If you haven't been keeping up with anime since Toonami went off the air, you'd be forgiven for not knowing about Kemono Friends, a hit media franchise from the creator of Sgt. Frog where a magical substance has turned animals in a zoo into (you guessed it) CUTE ANIME GIRLS. The series has spun-off into merchandise, anime, and a smartphone game that has become huge in Japan.  It makes perfect sense, what are two things the Internet can't get enough of? Pretty anime moe designs and adorable-yet-exotic animals (such as  Servals, Fennec Foxes, and Alpacas). 

kemono friends anime

It follows then that IRL zoos in Japan would want to cash in on the hottest trend by hosting special events and integrating the characters into their animal exhibits. If otaku and anime fans like the cartoon animals, why not see the real thing for themselves? One aspect of the cross-promotional effort took the form of simple cutouts that showcased the character in the enclosure of the animal that it was meant to represent. That's how we get to the fateful meeting of Grape-kun the Humboldt Penguin and Hululu, the anthropomorphic Humboldt Penguin Girl at the Tobu Zoo in the Saitama Prefecture.

penguin hululu
photo credit: @sisukaton

Images of the penguin staring longingly at his new cellmate went mega-viral on Japanese twitter, and visitors reported that the bird would not leave the cutout's side. For a nation that has grown accustomed (and sometimes celebrated) an individual's obsession with their favorite waifus and husbandos, the pairing was too incredible to ignore. So naturally, the otaku community did what they did best: make fanart:

kemono friends penguin art
via Toto Kichi


via monaca

humboldt penguin waifu
via mitsumotocs

BUT THE STORY GETS MORE DRAMATIC!  It appears that zookeepers were concerned for Grape-kun, who at age 20 (that's old for a penguin) was missing feedings because of his crush, a behavior  that could lead to malnutrition and eventual death. So they had to isolate him from the anime standee, as this heartbreaking photo illustrates


Now that the story has waddled  its way over to the Western Hemisphere, this bizarre tale of reverse furry-ism has people talking on the English-speaking side of twitter as well: 


All we can say about this is ganbatte, Grape-kun... GANBATTE!!!!