Rangetsu is out for revenge. She’s an ajin, a “beastlike” being. There are more humans than ajin in the world, and the humans restrict the lives of ajin and keep them second-class citizens. For instance, young ajin females are forced to become prostitutes, and ajin can’t gather in large groups. Sometimes ajin with special abilities become beast-servants for royalty, but it’s not their choice to do so.
Her twin brother Sogetsu is forced to become the beast-servant of the fourth prince, only to be murdered. Rumor is that the fourth prince killed Sogetsu himself. So Rangetsu disguises herself as a man and becomes the fourth prince’s new beast-servant, planning to kill him.
The fourth prince doesn’t come off as a terrible, murderous man. He seems kind and mild-mannered, more like a potential romantic interest in a manga than a dangerous villain. And he insists that he didn’t kill Sogetsu, and in fact wants to learn who did. This changes Rangetsu’s whole world view, and it appears the two of them together might be able to unravel political intrigue and figure out who the real culprit is.
So far The King’s Beast has a melancholy and beautiful feel to it. The melancholy is from the story, and the beauty is from the artwork, as author Rei Toma draws with delicate precision. The idea that Sogetsu was murdered in some kind of political plot forebodes potential twists and turns in future volumes, though in the first volume you can’t tell how complex it might get. The prejudice the ajin endure is also emotional and parallels the second-class citizenship that’s been foisted on many different groups in real life.
The King’s Beast takes places in the same world as Toma’s Dawn of the Arcana, but you don’t need to read that to enjoy this. After the first volume is over, it also offers an extra story from another of Toma’s series, The Water Dragon’s Bride. Fans of Rei Toma really ought to check this one out.
Story & Art: Rei Toma
Publisher: VIZ Media
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.