REVIEW: ‘Penguin Gentlemen’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Penguin Gentlemen

I’m a simple manga reader, give me himbos, and there is a big chance I’ll be pleased. With Penguin Gentlemen, written and illustrated by Kishi Ueno, that’s just what readers get – only they’re anthropomorphic penguins. Published and localized in English by Yen Press, translated by Julie Goniwich, and features lettering by Bianca Pistillo.

As a short one-shot, Penguin Gentlemen excels. There isn’t so much a story as much as there are relationship dynamics, character building, and penguin fun facts – like how penguins carry eggs on their feet. If you’re unfamiliar with this manga, Penguin Gentlemen is all about the dapper staff of The Watering Hole.  They are always eager to serve their clientele with grace and charm, and the entire staff are attractive buff men who make the best servers. But little do the patrons know that these handsome gentlemen are actually penguins in disguise. Going by names derived from their species, the men are King, Emperor, Adelie, Gentoo, Chinstrap, and African. Add penguin to the end of each of those, and you have the penguins they’re modeled after in personality and slightly in appearance.

In the way of the story, these penguins have fallen in love with all that the human world offers. And that’s about it! The throughline is that they’re penguins in through small vignettes we get to know each of them and their species at the same time. Ueno’s artwork does two things to keep the reader engaged. The first is that Ueno’s ability to draw attractive men can’t be understated. Still, it’s ultimately how they drop them into the most adorable situations that ultimately make the one-shot work on a comedic level.

Ueno also keeps the audience’s attention by expertly timing when we see the men as humans and when we see them as penguins. The mixture of attractive men and adorable penguins is both hilarious and endearing. On top of that, Ueno weaves in penguin fun facts that detail anatomy, climate, and social dynamics. Plus, none of these penguin facts seem distracting. Instead, they lend to the overall charm of the book. This is because while they feel, in part, like a science lesson, the illustrations of the anthropomorphized penguins enacting the animal traits work. It’s an absurdity that has a grounding in an animal characteristic.

My favorite is the small vignette where King and Emporer are shopping. With their hands full, Emporer tries to get King to stop shopping, but the latter insists that they can still carry more – on their feet. You know, how they would carry their eggs. But, one thing, humans can’t do that. It was honestly that moment when I was fully bought into the one-shot.

Overall, the switch from full color to black and gray is pretty jarring, especially given that the one-shot is only available in hardcover. Because of that, it seems that going with the heavier-weight pages and full-color illustrations would have been an easy way to go. Instead, we get a split. Now that isn’t to say that Ueno’s work doesn’t work in black and gray. It does. But something is endearing about the full-color designs that stick with you.

That said, if you’re looking for a cute one-shot with himbos, Penguin Gentlemen is the manga for you. It’s cute, funny, endearing, and definitely fanservicey in the best ways.

Penguin Gentlemen is available now wherever books are sold.

Penguin Gentlemen
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TL;DR

That said, if you’re looking for a cute one-shot with himbos, Penguin Gentlemen is the manga for you. It’s cute, funny, endearing, and definitely fanservicey in the best ways.