Title: Penguin Gentlemen
Author: Kishi Ueno
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Yen Press
When I first saw Penguin Gentlemen among the Yen Press catalog, I didn’t know what to think of it as it seemed to be a very peculiar work. Written and drawn by Kishi Ueno, this manga runs on only one volume. If I to describe it in one sentence, I’d say it effectively tells the story of a group of anthropomorphic penguins and their daily lives.
Penguin Gentlemen’s concept has a straightforward and clear origin: penguins look like birds in a tuxedo. Given this formal appearance, the author decided to draw one as a waiter. Then Kishi made a full manga based on that concept.
While the manga can be boiled down to a slice-of-life about penguins who live as men in our society, its main focus is trivia about the birds. This makes the book a more educational affair, though its representation of them as burly men may also bring other publics.
Each chapter tells multiple stories, some of which only last for a page or two. Most of them are about how to tell the species apart and their behaviors. Besides appearance and physiological functions, concepts such as territoriality, usual habitats, aggressive personalities, and mating practices are discussed.
It attempts to make them feel like natural discussions of daily lives and them getting to understand each other. Sometimes it works well, making for compelling gags. However, the storytelling is a little too blatant, shoving the scientific research the author had to do on the reader instead.
As a result, the book is frankly boring for a general read unless the reader is deeply fascinated by penguins. It’s a “penguin otaku” book for “penguin otaku” readers, but the flow of the narrative is uneven, and it could have been more engaging.
Visually speaking, it’s interesting to see the designs of the characters. There are many little nods to their original appearance, which are explained through the whole volume, and it alternates between their burly human look and the birds. These are often used for comic relief and also to illustrate what the current topic is talking about.
Though most pages are black and white, there’s a good amount of colored panels, totaling 27 + character descriptions and menus, as usual for mangas. They’re all at the beginning of the volume, and their palette is impressive.
Penguin Gentlemen is a work for people who are deeply in love with these cute birds and want to see an interpretation of how they might act like people. It’s sometimes a little too educational, which makes the read drag a little, but it’s not without its charm.
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