As a person who has watched anime in the past, it never occurred to me to read a manga, especially since a lot of those shows are based off of those Japanese graphic novels. Recently, I read my very first manga series, A Polar Bear in Love by Koromo, and it’s a cute story that’s great for beginner readers, but it’s best to take it with a grain of salt.
A Polar Bear in Love manga series is about Seal – a lost baby harp seal – who finds himself in the company of Polar Bear. Instead of eating it (like most polar bears would), the latter falls madly in love with the former. However, the fearful seal constantly misinterprets the polar bear’s romantic advances as a strong desire to eat him.
This is the main premise and the story for the first volume. The second one deals with them encountering rivals to each other’s affections like another polar bear and an adult female harp seal. The third introduces Kathy the penguin, who counsels Polar Bear and Seal on their relationship, and her “boyfriend” Orca. In the fourth and so far last one, Seal finally learns how to swim, but Polar Bear isn’t ready to say good-bye to him just yet. Orca also tells Polar Bear his own love story.
All of the volumes are a super quick read with super cute visual moments like when Polar Bear encounters Seal for the first time and the latter rapping about his gender (I know that’s weird, but in the world of cartoons, it could be more off-kilter). The black and white designs are very simple, but so expressive like all the times Polar Bear having a blank stare on his face and Seal fearing for his life. The only complaint is that there are times, in which I could not figure out who was talking, because I wasn’t sure where the bubble was pointing at. Nevertheless, the series is a great comforting contrast to something dark like Vita Nostra.
Another thing that I like about this manga is that the main romance is between two different species of the same gender. At first, Seal is concerned about this, but Polar Bear doesn’t mind because love is love regardless of whom one falls in love with. This is a very positive message, especially for those who are still exploring who they are and who they love.
Apart from the main characters, the supporting ones stand out too. Kathy the penguin, who is actually male, acts as a romance counselor for Polar Bear and Seal. She is head over heels for her “boyfriend” Orca, whom she calls sweetie. I only put boyfriend in quotation marks because he doesn’t feel the same way about her. He’s like Squidward, for he can be grumpy and relatable.
After I read the first volume, I looked at the reviews, and two common themes emerged: how creepy Polar Bear was in trying to get Seal to love him back and how the former didn’t understand how terrified the latter was. The whole series is about a predator falling in love with its prey, so understandably, Seal is terrified.
I’m going to be honest and say that I really didn’t pick up on the problematic elements of the plot when reading the first volume because I was so infatuated with its cuteness. Knowing this now, yes, I can see where people are coming from. During the first volume, Seal struggles to voice his concerns against Polar Bear. Luckily, during the second one, Seal speaks up more, and Polar Bear gets the hints more as they encounter rivals to each other’s affections. In the following volumes, Seal continues to speak up, but it seems like no one’s listening to him. Even in the fourth one, Orca asks Polar Bear if he has ever considered Seal’s feelings. But because the former is depicted as a grouch for a good chunk of it, it seems that readers are supposed to root for the latter.
The best way that I can describe this is like the song Boy in Luv by BTS, which is about a teenage boy falling in love externally (especially in the music video, in which the members show their affections towards a girl in forceful manners). If English readers are able to read Volume 5, I hope that Polar Bear considers Seal’s feelings more, and maybe his love for him would become more internal like how BTS’s Boy With Luv is. In a way, the series wants readers to think that his love is internal, but he fell in love with Seal after he spotted his white baby fur. I hope that Polar Bear will still be able to love Seal when the latter sheds his baby fur. In other words, the title may be A Polar Bear in Love, but the series would be more worth it if it evolved into A Polar Bear With Love.
All in all, A Polar Bear in Love by Koromo is a cute shoujo manga series (ones that aim at young female teens) that explores how love is love is love. The characters are memorable, and the designs are simple and effective while telling the story. It’s best to take the plot with a grain of salt as it’s still a continuing series. I hope the fifth volume comes out soon, but I’m not sure when that will happen. If one feels highly uncomfortable with it, then they have every right not to read it. For those who want to, I recommend it to those who love shoujo mangas and arctic/antarctic animals as well as those looking to get into the genre. It’s great for beginner manga readers.