The artist who created the penguin’s 2-D anime crush has even left a beautiful illustration in honour of their memory.

Yesterday, people in Japan and across the world were wiping away tears after it was announced that Grape-kun, the Humboldt penguin who fell in love with a cardboard cutout of an anthropomorphised penguin from the hit anime series Kemono Friends, had passed away.

The 20-year-old penguin had begun courting the cardboard cutout of the character Hululu in April, after it was placed in the penguin enclosure at Tobu Zoo in Saitama Prefecture as part of a promotional event for the anime series. Grape-kun had previously been partnered up with a real-life penguin called Midori, but after she left him for a younger male, Hululu’s arrival immediately sparked Grape-kun’s interest, and the enamoured penguin was soon spotted staring up at her for hours on end, refusing to leave her side to such an extent that he even forgot to feed for a period of time.

Grape-kun’s dedication to the anime cutout melted hearts everywhere, with people travelling from around the country to see the animal and his 2-D partner in real-life. However, on 10 October, zookeepers noticed a change in Grape-kun’s physical condition, prompting them to move him out of the enclosure. Though Hululu was also moved to be with him during this time, the penguin, who would’ve been about 80 years old in human years, passed away on 12 October.

After the zoo made the sad announcement of Grape-kun’s passing, online tributes started pouring in from around the world, with thousands of people sharing messages and fan art to express their sorrow at the sad turn of events.

Following this outpouring of grief online, the zoo today created a makeshift memorial in honour of Grape-kun, so that visitors could pay their respects and leave tributes to the penguin who stole everyone’s hearts.

Flowers, photos, and even a bottle of red wine are some of the offerings that visitors have been leaving at the makeshift memorial.

The zoo also set up a miniature cutout of Hululu next to a photo of Grape-kun, as a touching acknowledgement of their special relationship.

Inside the display board is a memento bringing tears to people’s eyes: the tiny purple band worn by Grape-kun.

Amongst the many tributes received is this illustration from Mine Yoshizaki. As the artist and concept designer of Kemono Friends, Yoshizaki is the person who created Grape-kun’s 2-D partner Hululu, and in honour of their relationship, he’s immortalised the two penguins together in a touching scene.

▼ Hululu and Grape-kun wear matching purple bands like wedding rings.

Along with gifts and tributes, visitors have also been leaving personal notes on signboards which have been set up with the message “Grape-kun, thank you.

One of the most poignant messages on the board was written by a keeper in charge of the penguin enclosure, Nemoto-san, who goes by the name NMT online.

The above message from Nemoto-san (NMT), pictured on the left, reads:

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!!”

While Tobu Zoo is yet to reveal whether they have any plans for a more permanent memorial in the works, fans of Grape-kun are currently raising funds to purchase a statue of Hululu and the penguin to donate to the zoo.

Grape-kun’s story of devotion is one that has struck a chord with people around the nation, in much the same way that Japan’s beloved faithful dog Hachiko did in the 30s, when a statue was first unveiled in his honour. Here’s hoping the zoo decides to immortalise Grape-kun and Hululu in a similar way, with a statue that can retell their story for generations to come.

Source: My Game News Flash
Featured image: Twitter/@sissyo40