Taking place in the same world as Dawn of the Arcana, The King’s Beast Vol. 1 is a shoujo manga that tells the story of a beast girl who becomes a beast-servant of one of the princes in a fantasy land inspired by Ancient China. Its first volume is a simple but focused one, introducing the harsh reality of her life, important characters, and the lay of the land.
Ko Rangetsu is a young beast girl who decided to give up on her femininity and become a warrior so she could have revenge for something that happened in the past. In a cruel world in which her kind is treated as a subhuman species, she learned early that life is a hellish experience of being abused by those with power.
The beast folks, also known as ajin, are usually kept in lower social positions. Still, some of them even develop mysterious powers, making them interesting subjects for personal bodyguards and servants. Faking to be a man, Rangetsu becomes one of the most substantial figures in the army, eventually recognized by the nickname “the high commander,” and is assigned as the princes’ beast-servant.
This is all but one step of her revenge, as she learns more of the events of the past and tries to figure out who is her real enemy. Volume 1 doesn’t really go in-depth about it yet but takes its time to flesh out the worldbuilding, explain social norms and hint at potential court intrigue. That makes it feel short and unsubstantial, but it’s also a good grounding for the next volumes to build upon.
The main character’s thirst for revenge is already well established, and her personality is really broken due to her tragic worldview. But there’s room for it to change shape. Though it may eventually consume her whole, she could also find another meaning for her life as her relationship with other characters grow deeper.
Visually speaking, the Chinese inspiration is apparent in the motifs, clothing, buildings, and flowers. More often than not, the framings are focused on character expressions, reinforcing the sadness and tragedy. There are a few battles with good sequencing, but they are also too short and don’t really give any sense of stakes yet.
After the three chapters, there’s also a short one based on another of Rei Toma’s works, The Water Dragon’s Bride. It has no real relation to the rest of the manga and feels a little out of place, but its lightheartedness is also an excellent counterbalance to the rest of the content.
Overall, I’m really intrigued to see how Rangetsu’s tale develops in the next books. The first volume is a good introduction to how tragic being an ajin is in this fantasy society, even if other elements of the tale are still underdeveloped.
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