Story & Art by Rei Toma
English Translation & Adaptation by JN Productions
Touch-Up Art & Lettering by Monaliza De Asis
Design by Joy Zhang
Edited Pancha Diaz
The King’s Beast takes place in a Chinese-inspired fantasy kingdom, where humanoid beasts known as Ajin are enslaved by the ruling human class. At a young age, a young ajin named Ko Rangetsu was separated from her brother Sougetsu, only to learn soon after that her brother was murdered while serving the imperial family. Distraught, Rangetsu seeks to avenge her brother, and joins the military as a man to find her brother’s killer.
What’s immediately striking about The King’s Beast is the disparity between the Ajin and humans. While the Ajin are considered to be the more powerful race, they’ve been forced into servitude due to the larger population of humans. As a result, they are stripped of their freedom from birth and placed on set paths that will benefit the humans. This discrimination is further depeened by humanity’s treatment of Ajin. To most humans, the Ajin are just tools to be used for their own protection and pleasure, and whether they live or die is of little consequence to them.
Rangetsu faces the adversities of being an Ajin, but also the strict gender roles that are forced upon her people. The humans have enslaved the Ajin in gendered roles, forcing male Ajin to enlist in the military, while female Ajin must serve as prostitutes and other lowly positions. When Sougetsu died, Rangestu realized how trapped she was in her current life. Rangetsu’s choice to join the military represents her drive to rebel against society’s expectations and choose for herself how she will live her life. Rangetsu will not let human society define her and will carve out a new path for herself.
The relationship between Rangetsu and her master Prince Tenyou is another focal point of this volume. Tenyou was originally Sougetsu’s master, which made Rangetsu suspect that the prince was responsible for her brother’s death. As Rangetsu soon learns, not only is Tenyou not responsible for Sougetsu’s death, but he also genuinely cared about him. Among the humans introduced in this volume, Tenyou appears to be the only one who values the lives of the Ajin. Despite Rangetsu’s desire to be used as a weapon, Tenyou doesn’t want to place her in needless danger, even chastising his attendants that believe otherwise. This places Rangetsu in a precarious position. She has spent her life despising humanity, but now she’s serving a human that contradicts her assumptions.
The central conflict of this volume revolves around the investigation of Sougetsu’s killer. Tenyou had previously narrowed down the assailant to being a fellow prince, but as he tried to investigate further, he was forced to stop due to pressure from the imperial family. Having now encountered Rangetsu, Tenyou is driven to re-open his investigation and bring the killer to light. There’s a clear tension within the royal family, with many of the princes appearing on friendly terms just for formality. This is also indicated by how the special ability of each prince’s beast-servant is kept a secret from other members of the family. The situation places Rangetsu and Tenyou at a clear disadvantage in their endeavor, as not only are they not aware of what the other princes are capable of, but Rangetsu is also the only beast-servant among the princes that lacks a special ability. This makes the stakes feel more dangerous, helping The King’s Beast be an even more engaging read.
It’s easy to tell that Rei Toma is an experienced artist, as the clean visuals and paneling of their manga is simply gorgeous. The manga’s heavy use of white and black backgrounds helps accentuate the expressions and gestures of the characters. This is particularly compelling during Rangetsu’s backstory, as you can see the visual cues of despair and frustration, as she grapples with her previous life. Toma’s artwork is also effective during the series’s action scenes. Rangestu’s fights in this volume rely very little on dialogue, emphasizing the movements of the characters between panels. As such, even the briefest of fights have a sense of weight, while also cohesive to the rest of the manga. This is a manga that will keep you glued to the page.
The first volume of The King’s Beast is a compelling read, establishing a solid foundation through exploring its protagonist and the mysteries of its premise. It’s easy to become invested in Rangestu and her uneasy alliance with Prince Tenyou will be interesting to follow as the series continues. This is one manga that’s fit for a king.