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Japanese zoo mourns death of penguin that fell in love with anime character

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 3:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 10:45pm

An elderly penguin that shot to fame in Japan after falling in love with a cardboard cut-out of a cartoon character has died, at the ripe old age of 21.

Officials at Tobu zoo in Saitama, north of Tokyo, said Grape died after a brief illness with the object of his desire right by his side. He would have been about 80 in human years.

Earlier this year, the Humboldt penguin became smitten with a cut-out of Hululu – a character from the Japanese anime “Kemono Friends” – after being dumped by his former mate, a female called Midori.

A lovesick Grape found solace in Hululu and would stare at her for hours on end.

The plight of the romantic penguin went viral, earning Grape millions of fans worldwide.

A steady stream of mourners has visited Tobu zoo’s penguin enclosure, many with flowers, since the news broke on Friday, while officials made a shrine to their fallen celebrity on Saturday.

“Little Grape had a wife called Midori but she left him and found herself a new husband,” Tobu zoo’s penguin caretaker Eri Nemoto told local media. “We put the cardboard panel next to him to comfort him to the very end.”

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Tributes flooded in on social media too under the trending hashtag “Grape-kun” (little grape), with several users posting elaborate hand-drawn pictures of Grape gazing longingly at Hululu.

“Goodnight sweet prince,” wrote one Twitter user, while another posted: “You charmed the world and made it a little brighter. See you, Space Cowboy.”