The heartbreaking death of Grape, the Humboldt penguin in Tobu Zoo who loved a cardboard cutout of Hululu, an anthropomorphic penguin, from the popular anime series Kemono Friends, caused an outpouring of condolences and messages from fans around the world.

For some fans processing their grief, feelings of mourning turned to concrete plans to memorialize Grape. One such fan was Futoshi Funaba, a former F-15 pilot for the Japan Air Self-Defense Forces who, in addition to running his own online flight school and training business called E-Flight Academy, pioneered the field of ita-hikoki, airplanes covered in full wrap anime graphics.

After the success of his first project, a collaboration with the anime Eromanga Sensei, he set his sights on Kemono Friends. At the time of writing, his privately operated crowdfunding project, under his mascot character alter ego Sora Tobu Tanuki (The Flying Racoon Dog), has already reached nearly 60% of its 3 million JPY goal, already enough to guarantee that the expensive full-body decals will be printed and applied to Funaba's privately-owned Piper PA-46 Malibu and to support a tour of several airports throughout Japan.

Naturally, from the moment the project was announced, fans and contributors alike were all eager to see what the airplane would look like. Earlier this week when the artwork was revealed, however, in a corner of the wrap graphic design was an additional detail that had not been expected. Together with Hululu and the other members of the penguin idol group PPP, there was Grape-kun tagging along, his unmistakable purple identity band clipped onto his wing.

Here is a better look at the designs for Grape and Hululu which will be featured on the airplane:

In a fitting memorial to the lovestruck penguin who captured the hearts of so many fans around the world, Grape-kun will rise up into the sky, together with his beloved Hululu and the other members of Kemono Friends.

If you have plans to be in Japan on any of the following dates, you may have a chance to see the finished airplane and view the cockpit. (The events may be canceled for security reasons)

Public Viewing Schedule

  • November 5, Kobe Airport ("Sora no Hi" Event)
  • November 19, Konan Airpot, Okayama Prefecture
  • December 1-3, Nagoya Airport, Aichi Museum of Flight (Grand Opening Event)

Caravan flights are currently planned for Saga, Nagoya, Yachiyo, Konan, Kobe, Tokushima, Matsuyama, Shizuoka, Matsumoto, Noto, Kanazawa and Fukui, with Kita-Kyushu, Kumamoto and Takamatsu under consideration.


Although important milestones in the crowdfunding campaign have already been reached, it has not yet reached its final goal. If you would like to contribute on the project website, you can participate beginning at 5,000 JPY and upwards for rewards ranging from specially designed commemorative project and character stickers, key chain toys and T-shirts to having your name printed on the airplane, being able to take home posters and display graphics used at viewing events and even receiving parts of the actual decal from the airplane corresponding to individual characters of your choice. A limited number of seats are also available on the plane itself during the caravan flight.

Here's the commemorative project sticker:

Participants outside of Japan can contribute through PayPal, although you'll need to provide a Japanese address (available, for example, through a package forwarding service). Contributions can be made until the November 30 deadline.

If you find it hard to imagine what an ita-hikoki would even look like, here are some pictures from the Eromanga Sensei project airplane, to give you an idea:

By - Ben K.