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Love Is Dead, and So Is the Penguin Who Fell for a Cardboard Cutout

"Thank you, Grape-kun, for all this time. Rest peacefully in heaven.“
October 13, 2017, 6:45pm
Photos by Flickr user K Lange and the Tobu Zoo/Twitter

As if this miserable week hasn't been depressing enough, here's some more bad news: That painfully adorable penguin who fell in love with a cardboard cutout of an anime character has passed out of this world, into the wintry heights of arctic bird heaven.

The Daily Mail reports that 20-year-old Grape-kun, a winged celebrity at Japan's Tobu Zoo, died Thursday. The tiny, flightless beast got famous after a female penguin he'd been seeing for a decade dumped him for a younger bird, BuzzFeed reports. Grape stalked the grounds of Tobu Zoo forlorn for weeks, refusing to do whatever his other penguin comrades were doing. Until Hululu came along.

Hululu is what RocketNews describes as an "anthropomorphic penguin," an anime character from the show Kemono Friends. The zoo staged a promotional collaboration with the show, scattering cardboard cutouts of the characters all throughout the penguin pen. And, according to the zookeepers, Grape fell in love.

Grape started spending hours gawking at the headphone-wearing cutout, leading zookeepers to leave her in the pen long after the promotion had ended. At one point, Grape even stuck out his stubby little wings and opened his beak for the piece of cardboard—apparently a sign he was trying to penguin-smang, according to the Daily Mail. Visitors to the zoo went nuts, and the unlikely lovers developed a cult following. Even the voice actor who plays Hululu came by to give the penguin an affectionate, if somewhat awkward, armpit lift.

But earlier this week, their love story ended the way so many others do—in tragedy and tears. Tobu Zoo announced Grape had fallen ill, and wouldn't be waddling around on display for a few days. On Thursday, they pronounced the 20-year-old maverick dead.

"The Humboldt penguin Grape-kun passed away yesterday," the zoo wrote on Twitter. "Sincere thanks to everyone for supporting him until now. Thank you also to Hululu, who watched over him until the very end. And thank you, Grape-kun, for all this time. Rest peacefully in heaven."

Fans of Grape seem to be taking his death pretty seriously, referring to him as a person, imagining his service as a soldier's funeral, even starting a petition begging the zoo to erect a statue of Grape and Hululu in his honor. It's already been signed more than 1,700 times.

So long, Grape-kun. May we all find someone who looks at us the way you looked at that cardboard cutout.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.