Polar Bear in Love was a recent pick-up from one of my recent comic book runs. I’ve seen it pop up on twitter before, and apparently there’s a collection of online-only anime shorts being created for it. All the more reason for me to pick up the manga and check out what all the fuss is about. Be prepared though, if you wind up deciding to pick this up, you’ll get hit with a wave of cute as soon as you open the manga. It’s something I would consider an all-ages manga since I haven’t seen anything yet that makes me think there will be any older-level content, but it does have an undercurrent of boys love since both main characters are male. I would definitely say the manga is entertaining and does lend itself well to short-form animations, but it also may be too lacking in substance to keep me hooked in the future.
The basis of the manga centers around a young polar bear and a baby seal, both male, who meet each other while the seal is waiting for his mother to come back up through hole in the ice. Despite being natural enemies, Polar Bear falls in love with Seal. It’s love at first sight, but Seal still can’t forget that he is Polar Bear’s favorite meal. Seal can’t escape from Polar Bears advances though, and winds up staying with the amorous bear at least until his mother comes back. Written and created by Koromo and originally published on Pixiv, the English manga release was picked up by Yen Press.
The story is interesting in the way that it seems to be playing with some boys love tropes. Particularly, the concept of the seme and uke characters and personalities. Polar Bear’s relentless professions of love towards his much smaller counterpart makes him a more benign and innocent representation of a seme character. And Seal, constantly questioning the motivations of Polar Bear’s love and resisting at every turn, only to come to some sort of realization later on that he actually does like Polar Bear, would be the uke character. It makes for a pretty innocent and adorable love story with a bit of comedy thrown in as Seal’s natural fear of Polar Bears makes a stand-in for the more traditional romance story misunderstandings.
You can see this pretty well in the first chapter with the mangaka’s play on the traditional “kabe-don” (translated to “wall bang”). In this scene, Seal is trying to run away from Polar Bear while he’s sleeping. Polar Bear winds up waking up and runs after him, slipping and inadvertently creating a kabe-don scenario against a wall of ice. The kabe-don is often seen in romance manga and anime, and as Wotakoi likes to point out, is a feature of many boys love creating the ideal Seme/Uke scene. It was even animated as a special feature for the shorts, entitled “Ice Wall Slam”.
It’s in these moments as well that I notice the quality of the art of the manga. Koromo’s art is fairly simple throughout, but does have a few scenes like the one above that add a sense of excitement to the panels. Otherwise, their art is fairly simplified, which in itself isn’t a bad thing for this kind of series. The character designs are cute and do have a certain expressive style to them that helps their personalities come across fairly well. But being set in the arctic also means there’s little opportunity for backgrounds or other ways to add interest to the panels. Most of the time its just the characters on white backgrounds. For a story this simple, I would say that’s not a major issue, but it’s certainly not an upside either. It draws all your attention to the characters, who are also all white on a white background. I think the only time we see a bit more variety is when Polar Bear meets a blue whale and when Seal’s mother shows up. Maybe if it was in color this wouldn’t be as much of an issue since the first few color pages of the manga are pretty good and have a bunch of different hues to the snowy backgrounds.
For a simple love story between two animals, I did think it was pretty cute. It’s definitely worthy of being a fluffy read if I want to get away from some of the more serious manga and anime stories for awhile. It’s story of a relationship between two animals who are mortal enemies of one another but wind up putting aside their differences could become a good allegory for always looking beneath the skin to find the character of a person. It almost rings like a Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers story except that Seal wants no part of Polar Bear’s love for most of the volume. It honestly works pretty well as a kid’s or young adult story, offering lessons on love and friendship with cute animal characters and some comedy thrown in without the danger of it stepping into more mature or serious territory.
I would say that if you’re looking for a good fluffy read in between your more serious manga or animes, or if you’re looking for something cute to give someone younger to read, you could pick this manga up and be pretty satisfied. I don’t think it has the kind of substance to keep me wanting for more volumes or to go out specifically to buy new volumes, but if given the chance, I would probably enjoy reading more.
Let me know what you all think in the comments below! Did you pick up a volume yet. I would definitely suggest checking out the shorts if you do one thing for this series though. They are adorable.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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