The King’s Beast, Vol 1

The King’s Beast Volume 1 by Rei Toma

I liked Dawn of the Arcana, but The Water Dragon’s Bride was a big step up for Rei Toma artistically. I was extremely curious to read The King’s Beast, which returns to the world of Dawn of the Arcana but with an interesting twist. I was more intrigued by this series when I realized that instead of the quasi-Medieval European setting of Dawn of the Arcana, The King’s Beast was set in a kingdom that resembled historical China. What both series do have in common is an uneasy societal structure where humans live aside Ajin, humanoids who have beast-like features and occasionally special abilities. Ajin are systematically subjugated and forced to serve humans. The manga opens with Rangetsu, a female Ajin who has disguised herself as a boy in order to become a servant prince Tenyou. Her twin brother Sogetsu died in the prince’s service when they were young and now she’s determined to get her revenge.

One of the strongest aspects of The Water Dragon’s Bride was Toma’s exploration of the darker side of humanity and the hope found despite the darkness. This also seems like a continuing theme in The King’s Beast, as the Ajin face severe discrimination, and Rangetsu’s desperation for revenge shows how much pain she’s faced in her life so far. I always enjoy the way Toma paces out her stories, and once Rangetsu is in place she quickly learns that Tenyou wasn’t responsible for her brother’s death, and actually mourns him. There’s plenty of palace intrigue in store as Rangetsu tries to figure out her place as the prince’s new Ajin servant and Tenyou starts realizing what Rangetsu’s motivations are. Toma illustrates her manga with a clear, delicate style but she also pulls of plenty of dynamic action scenes as Rangetsu’s fighting abilities are challenged. This volume did a great job at setting up the dynamic between the two main characters and the political intrigue to come seems like it will be plenty challenging. There’s also a great bonus story for The Water Dragon’s Bride fans included at the end of the volume.

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