The King’s Beast Volumes 1 and 2 Review

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The King's Beast Volume One cover

Aijin, or half-beast people, live only to serve others and Rangetsu’s life is no different in that regard. She will most likely live her entire life serving humans, but it may not be a very long life. Years ago, her twin brother Sogetsu displayed special abilities and was whisked off to the imperial palace to serve one of the princes and there he died soon after under mysterious circumstances. Rangetsu’s heart has never known peace since that day and now she too has worked her way into the imperial palace, determined to find her brother’s murderer.

The older I get, the more trouble I have buying into stories of gender-swapping/cross-dressing where a character is able to perfectly “pass” without suspicion. Don’t get me wrong, I still frequently enjoy the trope, but it always strikes me as strange when we have a situation with Rangetsu where the characters think “wow that is a beautiful man right there, no question about it.” Story-wise, female aijin without special powers, like Rangetsu, cannot enter the military so Rangetsu has been disguising her sex in order to join, move up the ranks, and eventually become so strong that she’s appointed to serve in the palace just like her late brother (and this is the only way an aijin could ever work in the palace).

But in effect, I think this element was added into the story strictly to add another level of difficulty into what I imagine will ultimately be a romantic relationship between Rangetsu and Prince Tenyou whom she serves. After two volumes Rangetsu’s heart has already thawed and she has gone from hating all humans indiscriminately to genuinely being willing to die for Tenyou; with that quick progression I can’t imagine that romance will be that far off.

The King's Beast example
The King's Beast Volume Two cover

I found Rangetsu’s character “growth” in that area to be rather frustrating. She has very legitimate reasons to dislike and distrust all humans and Tenyou most all, after all Sougetsu also served this particular prince and he died for it, yet she comes around to trusting him so fully very quickly. She’s written like a girl infatuated with a crush and it’s a bit jarring to see such a sudden shift in her outlook. I remember having a similar feeling when trying out one of Rei Toma’s other works, Dawn of the Arcana (which is set in the same world as this series but two different countries) where it seemed that she also struggled to balance romance with a serious dramatic plot.

It seems like this is still a weakness of hers and after two volumes here I’m simply not interested to see if her writing improves and manages to blend these dissonant tones more gracefully.

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