Otaku USA Magazine
[Review] Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear

Sometimes you need to take a step back, relax, and read a manga that’s not all about sexy bodies, “pushing the boundaries of the medium,” or
ridiculous gags. When normal life is too chaotic already, I like to sit back and read something quiet like Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear.

Kuma Miko follows a young shrine maiden named Machi, who’s 14 years old and has spent most of her life in the Touhoku Mountains. Having been raised alongside a talking bear named Natsu, she’s not familiar with modern life. As she figures out the city and its many intricacies, we’re treated to tender, funny, and memorable moments between the young girl and her enormous bear. He’s threatening at times, but he’s still just as cuddly as you’d expect from a friendly talking bear. Natsu and Machi are the best of friends, and their interactions are engaging and honest.

The various situations this odd couple finds themselves in can be poignant in one panel and silly in the next, for instance sitting together fishing with a fishing pole (bears obviously fish with only their paws) and then the bear downing a beverage that’s too bitter for him. It’s different somehow from watching a human character that happens to have been turned into a bear, and it seems almost plausible that a young girl like Machi could actually be friends with a wild animal. It’s inviting, relatable, and even beautiful in its simplicity.

While the writing does an excellent job of establishing their relationship, the artwork takes it the rest of the way. The warm and friendly watercolor-esque colors on the cover lend a comfortable, cozy lilt to what could otherwise be construed as a silly little story with talking animals. The black and white interior artwork is detailed without being too overbearing, and while Natsu seems a little abstract in some panels, in others he’s back to looking like a regular bear. There’s a good sense of scale—how small Machi is and how large Natsu is—which communicates a sense of security, having this huge creature protecting this little girl.

That’s what this manga is really about: security. Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear offers a sense of happiness and warmth, and it’s easy to lose yourself in it. I’m eager to spend more time with both Machi and Natsu, and can’t wait to check out the next volume. Recommended.

publisher: One Peace Books

story and art: Masume Yoshimoto

rating: 13+