Presenting to you the most outlandish love story in history and further. When two individuals fall in love, it’s pretty common and acceptable to our ears. But when a penguin falls for a cardboard cut-out, it’s quite strange. Grape-Kun was the greatest lover of all times and he fell in love with the cardboard cut-out of Hululu, an anime character from the Kemono Friends show. Grape-Kun was a Japanese Humboldt penguin who lived in Tobo Zoo, Japan. This little fellow suffered a major heartbreak and later fell heads over flippers for a promotional cutout of an anime character attired in a penguin costume. The entire internet, zoogoers, and everyone went crazy as this bittersweet amour captivated their hearts. This astonishing love story did not last for a long time as GrapeKun passed away in 2017, numbing the hearts of his admirers. We all know for a fact that penguins are adorable as they mate for life, love each other, and much more. Grape-Kun made himself even cuter by falling in somewhat misguided love which was weird but adorable. Where did he get this unique name from? Well, born in 1996 in Hamura Zoo in Tokyo, he was given a purple band somewhere on his wings as an identification mark. “Grape” came from the pretty purple color on his wings while “Kun” was suffixed out of affection. He mated with Midori and gave birth to Hanpen soon, who was later on shifted to some other zoo. They were a very happy family until this couple was moved to Tobu Zoo in 2007.
How was Grape-Kun left heartbroken?
Not only humans but even penguins suffer the loss of their loved ones. This is precisely what happened with Grape-Kun. When they were shifted to Tobu Zoo, our little lover fell ill and also their child was sent away from them. Illness, along with the loss of their chick, caused some major problems in their relationship. Grape- Kun was somewhat older than the others and was separated from them when he contracted his health in 2010. While he was away being treated for his illness, Denka who was a much younger male, became Midori’s, newfound love. After he recovered, the excited little fellow came back to disappointment when he witnessed the ignorance he experienced from Midori’s side. He felt excluded and was all alone for the first time in many years. Luckily, this friendlessness was not something that stayed for long. Grape-Kun was not his usual self after his mate left him to be all alone. His friends were giving him the cold shoulder and the new pair had a baby named Beer. Grape-Kun was disconcerted, abandoned, lost his hunger, and had to be fed by his handlers as he stopped eating and acted very discordantly. Things went this way until something magical happened. In April 2017, an anime show named Kemono Friends was being promoted everywhere, using cardboard cut-outs of different characters costumed in the attire of multiple zoo creatures.
What made Grape-Kun so famous and different from any other penguin?
So what happens next is what made him so popular and caught everyone’s attention. While most of the other animals were least bothered about these signs and cut-outs, Grape-Kun showed a newfangled inclination towards one of them. This cut-out of Hululu placed in his pen was his source of ultimate and unearthly attraction. This character was very appealing, cute, and was dressed in a dainty penguin cosplay outfit. Grape-Kun used to gaze at this cut-out for hours and eventually decreased the distance between them by shifting closer to his waifu: his special someone. His infatuation increased to a level where everyone could notice his changed behavior and his affection towards Hululu’s cut-out. Grape-Kun confirmed this suspicion on his own when one day, he stood facing the cut-out, opened his arms, leaned his head back, and opened his beak.
Though being unusually charming, this gesture had a more severe implication in the world of animals. Unknowingly, he was showing signs of courtship! Everyone was now certain about how he felt for Hululu. His various astonishing acts included climbing and snuggling up to Hululu, making different noises, continuously staring at her, and many more. This transformed behavior made it challenging for his handlers to control him and it was even more difficult to separate the two. Happiness can come even from the weirdest and unexpected things. This is what Grape-Kun taught us. Finally, his mood was lifted, his appetite improved, and he went back to playing and splashing in the pool. Love makes everyone happy! This strange reaction puzzled the animal behaviorists and most accepted the fact that he had actual feelings for Hululu. How was this unearthly love affecting him? This adorably strange behavior was, however, not healthy in all aspects. None of the other penguins interacted with Grape-Kun and even he stopped interacting with anyone but Hululu. His waifu was the only company he desired at any time of the day, be it eating or resting. He used to get gravely involved with the cut-out which resulted in skipping meals.
He was a much older penguin now and all this became more of a health concern for the zoo. Most Humboldt penguins live only up to the twenties and Grape-Kun was already in his teens by now. Concerned about his age, skipping of meals, and unsure mental health, Grape-Kun was separated from Hululu and was momentarily confined behind a fence until his eating habits returned to normal. This lover used to stare at the cut-out from behind the fence showing emotions of longingness. He soon jumped back to his usual eating habit and was reunited with Hululu. There was one another situation when he was sent away from Hululu and it was during the bad weather days to protect the cut-out from being ruined. Images captured during this period exhibited Grape-Kun’s grief and after Hululu was returned to him, his blissful nature was seen again! Boom! Grape-Kun’s everywhere on the internet! Until this episode, everything stayed inside the zoo, and post this; the internet got news about a penguin who fell in love with a cardboard cut-out! This weird but adorable fact was more than enough for him to go viral and remain trending on every social media site. Posts, fanfictions, fan arts, sketches, and what not began springing up everywhere and the audience went nuts for this adorably cute and weird couple. To celebrate this peculiar love story, the “GrapeKun Love Festival” was being talked about by everyone. The zoo noticed how profiting this love-affair could be and completely pulled off this opportunity. It was like a potential marketing gold mine. A drink based on Grape-Kun was produced, merchandise featuring him and his waifu was out in the market, and the zoo promoted themselves as the home of the anime-loving penguin. The zoo was now visited by people more than ever and Grape-Kun and his waifu were the centers of attraction.
Love Prevailed! Everything that begins has to come to an end, no matter how delayed the end is. This was the newfound concern of anyone who was connected to this pair. The anime promotion would eventually come to an end, which would mean the permanent separation of Grape-Kun and Hululu. As planned, these cut-outs would be re-used and re-located elsewhere for further promotions. Fans, animal behaviorists, and even the people who worked on the show Kemono Friends came forward and voiced their concerns about how this would affect the aging penguin. The zoo favored the penguin and decided to keep the Hululu cut-out either out of concern or because of the profitable business. Either way, this pretty little pair remained inseparable, or love prevailed. What all cute things could this unearthly couple do? Various suggestions about what these couples could do together started flooding in and the zoo decided to heed one of them. In May 2017, the voice actress of Hululu came down to Tobo Zoo to pay a visit to the mysterious lover. Ikuko Chikuta was permitted to enter GrapeKun’s pen, communicate, hold, and play with the penguin. Deeply in love with Hululu, the penguin showed a lack of interest in Ikuko which displayed him as a true otaku at heart and he gained more love and attention from everyone. Deterioration in Health and Death On October 9, 2017, Grape-Kun showed a hasty and rapid decline in his weight and he was immediately taken out of the enclosure for treatment. Hululu’s cut-out accompanied him so that her absence would not bother him. Soon his health deteriorated to a stage where he was not even able to stand and required an IV drip to get in some nutrients. On the sad evening of October 12, 2017, we lost him at the mature old age of twenty. Grape-Kun was spared the common painful way in which the penguins die due to respiratory issues and asphyxiation. He took his last breath peacefully beside his waifu, Hululu, and was reported to die a peaceful death. In the aftermath of the death and various tributes, he was mourned by many who admired him and his waifu. The entire online world was grief-stricken. Grape-Kun’s hashtags erupted and flooded every social media over the night and anime artists created memorials, and fans drew cartoons picturing the two together, finally. The zoo was concerned about every mourner out there and decided to put up a memorial wall where anyone could drop in their well-wishes and fond memories related to the couple. Tribute pictures, poems, sketches, articles, and much more were created in his memory.
There have also been talks about a statue of Grape-Kun and his waifu being created in the memory of Grape-Kun and his great love story. There were several tributes done to honor Grape-Kun and his magical idyll. Mine Yoshizaki, one of Kemono Friends manga artists, was deeply moved by the penguin’s sudden demise. He created an extremely happy color illustration of Hululu along with Grape-Kun by his side. Just like wedding rings symbolize marriage, both the characters in this illustration wore purple armbands, exactly like those that gave Grape-Kun his name. This illustration is placed in the form of a cut-out in the same place where Hululu’s cutout stood inside Grape-Kun’s pen. This story filled tears in my eyes, and I’m sure the same happened with all the readers. Let us pray that Grape-Kun rests in peace.