One fateful day, Polar Bear encounters Lil’ Seal and it’s love at first sight. Smitten with Seal’s pristine white fur and perfect curves, he decides that they’re destined to be a couple and vows to protect him. Understandably freaked out, Seal is convinced Polar Bear’s whole deal is just a trick to lure him into a sense of safety (making him easier to eat), and later is weirded out that Polar Bear doesn’t seem to care that he’s… well, a he.
What follows is a really cute thread of misunderstandings as the two overcome their differences in species and upbringing to figure out what love and friendship really are. And thus, we have the bulk of A Polar Bear in Love, volume 1, written and illustrated by Koromo.
A Polar Bear in Love is a delightful story of rom-com tropes adapted for the animal kingdom. Instead of an interclass romance, it’s interspieces. The premise alone seems like the perfect setup for a 4-koma, but the story is structured in very short, episodic chapters with linear threads and themes that connect throughout the volume.
Even though the format might be unusual to longtime manga readers, the story arcs and reoccurring jokes are well organized. Volume 1 felt like a solid introduction to the series, and I finished it feeling like the story (and its starring characters) had progressed forward. It was a pleasant surprise, given the goofy nature of the premise!
And speaking of goofy: misunderstandings between the arctic beasties make a good number of these chapter chuckle-out-loud funny. Polar Bear and Seal don’t quite understand what it means to show healthy love and affection for someone, but in their struggle to understand where the other is coming from stumble across some surprisingly touching moments.
Many of these touching moments come from Polar Bear’s backstory as he extemporaneously tells Seal about himself. His memories are surprisingly tragic (for example: the two more important female animals in his life died, but not before they unconditionally offered themselves as food so that he could survive), but they shaped his understanding of love, leading him to grow up to be the sweetest of cinnamon rolls. His love for Seal, while a little extra, is so blindingly pure and strong that it doesn’t even faze him to learn that Seal is a guy. His kindness slowly changes Seal throughout the volume—to the point that Seal is willing to defend Polar Bear’s un-polar bear-like behavior to other animals who think it’s strange. It’s heartwarming to say the least, and presents unconditional love in a way that’s accessible to younger, elementary readers, too.
The art style is cute, compliments the storyline, and only helps to improve the punchlines. The bold and simple illustrations up the kawaii factor; minimalist backgrounds and thick lines make the characters stick out against the white tundra, while lots of shiver lines from Seal and happy, hopeful expressions from Polar Bear make up the bulk of the humor. I don’t usually talk about the cover art in these kinds of reviews, but in this case the cover is a good example of what to expect within the volume’s pages.
Overall, there is an innocence to this story that unexpectedly snowballs into lessons about life, love, friendship, and stereotypes, and I can’t wait to see what shenanigans Polar Bear and Lil’ Seal get up to in volume 2. This is one series that sure to warm even the coldest of arctic hearts!
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