Kyousuke Motomi – Viz – 2010 – 2 volumes
I am easy to please when it comes to light shoujo, and I tend to be fond of the type of story that can be told in two volumes. Usually my expectation isn’t too high, and they have everything I’m looking for in a quick shoujo fix.
Beast Master isn’t quite as good as, say, Backstage Prince, but it still has a lot of fun stuff going on. I remember the first volume being somewhat episodic, but this one kicks the plot into high gear as we learn all the details of Leo’s background and learn that there’s a serious threat to his life afoot. Leo and Yuiko grow closer in the embarrassed shoujo manga way, things work out, and there’s even a little epilogue chapter that resolves any final doubts you may have had about their relationship. Leo beasts out one last time, and even gets Yuiko in on the act.
Yuiko’s “beast” moment was one of the highlights of the volume, since it was so unexpected coming from the nice, polite girl. The slap across the face was very welcome, honestly, and I was a little surprised to see such a variation in the character. I was also surprised by the attempts on Leo’s life. While the reason is pretty silly, the attempt is very serious-minded. Otherwise, everything pretty much maintains shoujo status quo. The characters remain a little silly and very likable, the romance is cute, there’s a great balance between humor, action, and love scenes, and the epilogue puts everything in a nice package for you. It was nothing spectacular, but it was fun all the same. I am looking forward to Dengeki Daisy, I’m curious to see what the author does with a longer format series. There are a lot of good things here, and I’d like to see them in a less restrictive form.
The last 80 pages is an unrelated story, and one that I liked better than the main story, for a change. The filler material in the back of shoujo manga volumes is usually unremarkable and often terrible, but not so here. The story was called “Cactus Summer Surprise,” and was about a pair of feuding childhood friends, a cactus, a ghost, and a nice story that brought all three of them together. I suppose I liked it better since it had all the things that made Beast Master great (likable characters, the right mix of good shoujo manga stuff) plus a premise that appealed to me slightly more. The length was good too, since it would be hard to stretch an idea like that out any longer.
In short, Beast Master wasn’t spectacular, but it was a cute short read with likable characters, and I even liked the filler story in the back. On to Dengeki Daisy!
Kyousuke Motomi – Viz – 2009 – 2 volumes
I think there’s an entire genre of shoujo manga that doesn’t come out in English that often that consists of a high school romance with something absurd thrown in that lasts for a volume or two. Light stuff. I can’t really think of a better way to explain it. I suspect we don’t often see them in English because they aren’t very good, but I think sometimes the gimmicks save them from oblivion. Reading this made me think of Kedamono Damono, another gimmick-y shoujo series without a plot that I enjoyed immensely despite the fact there wasn’t much to it.
Here’s the gimmick here: Yuiko loves animals, but they hate her since she tends to smother them with love when they let her close. A mysterious boy saves her cat from a tree during a lightning storm, and she finds the next day that he is a transfer student at her new school. He’s a really terrifying-looking boy, but Yuiko has no problems approaching him since he saved her cat. Turns out he’s nice. He was raised in the wild though (?), and will go feral when he gets scared and/or sees blood. Yuiko is the only one that can stop him when this happens.
That’s… well, that’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s not terribly deep. I really liked it, even though the shoujo plot devices were making me cringe. I think it helps a lot that both Yuiko and Leo are so goofy and have distinctive and likable personalities. They aren’t terribly deep, but both are pretty unique, and their relationship is one of friendship rather than a deep attraction, an approach I liked. Of course, by the end of the volume, more is hinted at, but I think the “taming of the beast” segments are more effective when Yuiko isn’t crying and screaming at her true love to stop. She just… tells him to stop. Very calmly. And he does.
One of the other things that I liked a lot was its sense of humor. At one point, while rumors are flying around the school that Leo is from L.A. and is involved with gangs, Yuiko catches three pretty stereotypical Japanese gang-types calling Leo out. She calls one of them “boss,” and then they very casually slip into a conversation where, apparently, these three stereotypical gang guys just wanted to meet Leo. They agree that he’s a nice guy, and then part amiacably. This joke is reused several times, and neither Yuiko or anyone else lets on that these guys really should be a gang, or scary, or something. They usually show up doing something that would be stereotypical of a gang, then turn out to be doing someone a favor. For instance, in one chapter they show up patrolling a neighborhood, but are, in fact, looking for someone’s lost dog. Later in the chapter, a stray, feral german shepard is adopted by the boss, who gets a really scary pose with it.
Yeah, the gang joke was the best, but there are a lot of other quirky things that are just passed off by the characters, which make lame jokes a lot funnier. It helped make reading the volume quite fun.
There’s a very short story at the end of the volume, and it cracked me up when the author admitted it was a debut work that finished in nearly last place in a reader survey. She said she wasn’t sure why it was being reprinted, other than it was hilariously bad. It wasn’t hilariously bad, but… yeah, it wasn’t good, either.
Beast Master… isn’t going to go down in shoujo hall of fame or anything. There’s no plot, and it’s pretty silly. But it’s good at what it does, and I wound up enjoying it far more than I should have. Since it’s only two volumes long, I’m definitely picking up the second.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.