Books (Manga): The King’s Beast by Rei Toma

Cover of the King's Beast volume 1 by Rei Toma
Cover of the King’s Beast volume 1 by Rei Toma

The King’s Beast
by Rei Toma
published by Viz (ongoing)
2021 –

This is the most beautiful monochrome manga. Toma’s art is INCREDIBLE. And her people, especially her men, are SO GORGEOUS!

I am 61 chapters into the story (!), and there are more to come, but I’m impatient to gush about it. (I also want to say that the ears on the Ajin characters are not some fetish thing, so read without fear.) Viz has lovely previews of each volume on their website, linked above.

The story: our hero(ine) is Rangetsu. She is one of the Ajin, an human-oppressed group of people who happen to have some animal features like furry ears and tails. Ajin women are forced into prostitution; Ajin men have limited options as exploited laborers, but the most accomplished among them can work for the Imperial Family as personal servants or soldiers.

Rangetsu is a young girl; her twin brother went to work for the Imperial family, and was brutally murdered. Rangetsu vows to avenge her twin, but the only way to access the Imperial palace and investigate his murder is to present as a boy, become physically powerful, compete for a job there as an imperial beast-servant, and win. Only then, after devoting years of her life to this purpose, will she have a chance to use her position to avenge herself against the likely culprit, Prince Tenyou.

Rangetsu is hired into the palace, only to find Prince Tenyou to be (a) crushed over her brother’s death, and (b) shockingly beautiful. Tenyou wants to help Rangetsu (who is successfully passing as a boy despite being really, really pretty) find out what happened. How awkward it is for Rangetsu that the prince is so tender toward [her]. How awkward it is that the other (also gorgeous, ofttimes bitchy) princes are so… handsy.

The scenery is beautiful.

The architecture is beautiful.

The characters are beautiful.

Single panel from Rei Toma's The King's Beast, showing the gorgeous characters being gorgeous.
Single panel from Rei Toma’s The King’s Beast, showing the gorgeous characters being gorgeous. (The conversation where this collection of character is being imagined made me laugh.)

I love the way Toma draws eyes. Many of her best eyes are subtle trapezoids, and the details in their irises are subtle washes. The main characters all have shapely eyebrows. Everyone of import also has good eyelashes, while their flowing hair goes on and on…

The story is high stakes – Rangetsu may be killed before she can discover who killed Sogetsu. And the other princes of the palace are shady. (Hot and shady.) Plus, the beast-servants of the other princes also have special powers, called arcana, making them extra-dangerous.

The vengeance story arc is a long one, but is very solid. This manga is a huge accomplishment, and is lovingly drawn. I’m looking forward to future issues.

Cross-dressing, palace intrigue, physical powers beyond those of humans, danger, Chinese palaces and gardens, eyes so deep you want to swim in them, confused longing, gorgeous men in flowing robes… Yes, I’m raving here: I highly recommend this manga.

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