Kodansha Comics has released the newest tale from the creator of Angel Sanctuary and Alice in Murderland, Kaori Yuki: Beauty and the Beast of Paradise Lost. What does this curious little title have in store for the manga-reading public?
According to the official description provided by Kodansha Comics:
Young and rambunctious Belle insists on going out to play in the forbidden woods, but her adventurous streak abruptly ends when her mother is spirited away by a beast known to kidnap beautiful women. Twisted by the loss of his wife, Belle’s father keeps his daughter, who has unusual, violet hair, locked away in an effort to “protect” her from prying eyes. Finally emerging after years of solitude, Belle ventures back into the woods where she lost her mother and encounters the beast once more…
The first volume of Beauty and the Beast of Paradise Lost is a solid start. The premise isn’t bad: A young girl named Belle is after the Beast who took/maybe killed her mother when she was young. Things get complicated when she meets the guy himself and is pulled into his world. She is determined to overcome her own fears and follow him to find out the truth. Everything gets off on the right foot, laying out the characters, premise, the aim of the series, some good mysteries, and even introducing the villain toward the end. This is what a first volume should be, even ending on a curious cliffhanger to keep you coming back.
The story itself isn’t a bad one so far, but it has a few issues. While the book does well at getting everything set up and established, it feels like it takes a little too long getting there. Maybe if a few plot points were trimmed or switched around, like the first beast or Belle’s father, things would’ve felt a little quicker. The book itself does feel as if it ends right as it is about to get going on that same token. Also, the storyline with Belle’s father and how that resolves was a bit… awkward, especially in Belle’s reaction to it. I understand the idea of it but it felt hollow, like the father should have shown more of his “good” side earlier.
Belle is our female lead and not a bad one. A girl with an unusual hair color that makes her an outcast in her village, she has lived a terrible life. Her mother disappears due to a beast encounter and ends up dead (maybe?), and in his own insanity and intense hatred, her father locks Belle up so no one can ever see her. The constant verbal and emotional abuse of the situation has left her broken and intensely self-loathing about her looks. It’s hard to read at times.
Yet, she is not fully broken. She is determined to figure out what happened to her mother, even if it puts her in harm’s way. She may not always be brave or able to say what she means, but she refuses to give up. She’s also quite observant and capable of picking up on little subtleties in some situations, which helps her out when she meets the Beast and his staff. She’s not a bad character at all and hopefully we’ll see her grow beyond her own doubts and misfortunes as time goes on.
Then there is Beast, who is just as beastly as you can imagine. He’s rude, arrogant, greedy, self-absorbed, and downright mean at times. It’s easy to understand why he got cursed in the first place if this manga is anything like the fable (or Disney movie) it’s inspired by.
But like any good Beast, there’s also some good in him. It’s a lot more subtle, but it’s there. It can be as quiet as his move to prevent Belle from eating his poisoned foot or it can be overt, like rescuing Belle multiple times even when expressing not wanting to. There seems to be a lot to him we don’t know, like him being hunted down or having had a previous love in his life, but that just adds to his mystery. As our titular Beast he works well and I look forward to learning more about him.
The artwork so far isn’t bad but does have a minor hiccup or two. For instance, early on there are some wonky layouts that make it a bit hard to follow and that are awkwardly paced. Sometimes it feels as if the story jumps around with no proper transition from point to point, making it come across as if you skipped over something. However, the layouts and panels do get better as time goes on. The characters are all decently drawn and are very expressive, especially Belle. The tone and mood come across excellently in the manga itself, capturing the tense and somber moments throughout.
Though the biggest praise is for the designs of the monsters and fantasy elements. While the true Beast looks a little silly (the design is like smashing a Heartless with a character from Revolutionary Girl Utena), everything looks great. Idoles are especially good for what seems like a simple design of a regular woman in a dress with an inked out face, but the way the eyes and teeth are drawn is so menacing. The first beast is delightfully creepy and the bird’s true form is just distinctly memorable. It really makes you want to see what else the creator can come up with.
Is It Good?
Beauty and the Beast of Paradise Lost Vol. 1 offers an intriguing beginning to a new take on an old classic. While it stumbles in a few spots and moves slower than it probably should, the first volume does everything a good series should do to hook the audience in right off the bat. I do look forward to seeing where the second volume leads us.
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