From mangka Rei Toma comes a new series, The King’s Beast! Returning to an older series of hers, Dawn of the Arcana, she has created a new tale in this particular universe. It is The King’s Beast, released here in America for the first time. Is it good?
According to the official description provided by Viz Media:
Ajin boys who show signs of special abilities are conscripted to serve in the imperial palace as beast-servants—status symbols and shields for their royal masters, to be kept or discarded on a whim. When they were children, Rangetsu’s twin brother Sogetsu was ripped from her arms and sent to the palace to attend Prince Tenyou as a beast-servant, where he quickly fell victim to bloody dynastic intrigues. Now in a world that promises only bitterness, Rangetsu’s one hope at avenging her brother is to disguise herself as a man and find a way into the palace!
Prince Tenyou is not what Rangetsu expected, and the political currents in the palace run deep and strange. Does Rangetsu have any chance of finding justice for her brother, or will she become just another Ajin casualty in the game of kings?
The newest addition to the Shojo Beat imprint is a decent, if slow start. The first volume provides a very solid foundation for which the story and its characters can be explored and developed. With only three chapters in the book itself, the manga is able to establish its premise, character backstory and motivation, and the running mystery very well. Everything is given just enough focus and attention to leave the book fulfilling enough to hook readers in for the next volume.
However, besides establishing its characters and setup, the first volume felt a bit lacking. It is all about the setup and explaining its main two characters, but not a lot more. A few side characters are introduced, but not much character is given to them. There’s not much exploration outside of the castle walls other than flashbacks to the world. There’s some action, but it is limited and weakly drawn in some parts. Its story pace also comes across as slow with how little is going on. It feels like the book would have benefited from having one more chapter in it.
On a minor note, The King’s Beast taking place within the world of Dawn of the Arcana is not an issue for newcomers. This is a very new reader friendly series, exploring all the important terms and ideas one needs naturally throughout the story. Whatever ties there are to Arcana are not obvious, so there is no complex continuity to worry about. If the premise sounds interesting to you, you should be able to jump right in without issue.
The main character is Ko Rangestu, who has a strong backstory and motivation. An Ajin (beast person) whose twin brother’s died in servitude to the imperial family, she sheds her female identity in order to get close to her brother’s master, Prince Tenyou, believing him to be the culprit. Her character journey has just begun, but it is filled with potential. Her thirst for revenge, her dark past filled with the bodies of human and Ajin alike, and the developing bond with Tenyou are all engrossing, giving you just little tastes here enticing enough to want to see how it all plays out. She’s a good character that hopefully the rest of the manga is able to do justice for.
Then there is Prince Tenyou, the odd man out in his family. In a world where humanity treat Ajin as nothing but props and possessions to use, Tenyou has remarkable empathy for them. Whether it is because of Rangestu’s brother or something else, the prince does care deeply and wants to figure out what happened to his slain friend, even when the rest of society tells him to move on. This care does seem genuine, but he has to keep it unwrapped from the rest of his hateful family, who are all looking to move up in the world. He works as an interesting counterpart to Rangestu and their relationship should be interesting to see play out.
The artwork for the series is perfectly fine, but not without its flaws. Characters are drawn well, each distinct in their looks and design. The page and panel layouts are decent, allowing for the story to flow from beat to beat without issue. It all functionally works, though is a bit on the weak side for two reasons. The action is hit and miss, flowing well in one part but being stilted and awkward in another. The other issue is that manga occasionally goes for chibi/minimalistic designs in its more comedic or casual moments. They end up clashing with the more serious tone of the book, leaving the experience inconsistent and awkward.
The King’s Beast Vol. 1 is a manga that lays down a solid foundation of political intrigue, classism, and revenge with two strong leads. It is intriguing, but also lacking just that little extra punch to make it a book that you must jump on right away. Give this series a look when the second volume drops later this year.
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