By Yu Tomofuji. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Paul Starr.
I’ve been reading manga for quite some time now, and it’s long enough that I’m starting to see the new generation that grew up reading the old manga classics that I was reading a good twenty years ago. Japanese manga artists are not afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve, and the readers seem far more forgiving of it than Western readers might (hi, Black Clover), especially if it’s simply influenced by and not straight up copying. I mention this because, while the story and characters are not really the same, there are moments at the start of Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts where I read a scene and thought “yeah, I loved that scene in Fruits Basket as well”. This isn’t a criticism – it felt almost like a musical quotation that the guitar player would insert in the song, something that makes the reader nostalgic (well, as much as a reader wants to be nostalgic for one of the most abusive families in Furuba). Does the rest of the book hold up? For the most part, yes.
As you may have gathered, there’s a lot of Beauty and the Beast involved here as well. Our heroine is Sariphi, a girl of indeterminate age (more on that later) who is the latest human to be selected as a sacrifice to the King of Beasts, who rules over a land that is composed mostly of beastmen and women, with humans in a minority. Unlike most sacrifices, however, Sariphi is not terrified or furious, but rather endlessly curious and rather sweet – again, if you’re thinking of Tohru, you’re not far off. As with many Hakusensha series, the resolution of this dilemma is resolved in one chapter, then, when the series gets picked up, we get more chapters, as Sariphi and “Leanhart”, as she dubs the Beast King, learn more about each other and deal with the troublesome kingdom, which is very much anti-human and would rather Sariphi be sacrificed and the Beast King take a real queen. Oh yes, the Beast King wants to make Sariphi his Queen.
Let’s just say up front that Sariphi looks pretty damn young. That’s not exactly a red card by itself – Japanese manga is filled with heroines who look far younger than their actual age. But I’d like to hear what the actual age is, as this is a sweet romance between an adult Beast man (who changes into a hot bishie human every so often, of course) and our sacrificial protagonist, and a lot of my enjoyment of it will be dependent on her not being as much of a child as she looks. Of course, this is a Hana to Yume title, so any romance we get is not going to go further than the occasional kiss, but you know what I mean. Apart from that, I found this series to be a very good start. I like how most of the kingdom is not immediately won over by the power of Sariphi’s shininess – Anubis, the King’s servant, is looking to shape up to be a difficult antagonist, and I look forward to seeing how he will eventually fall in the face of that bright, innocent smile.
So to sum up: good new shoujo series, sweet girl and gruff but likeable beast man. If you liked Fruits Basket or Kamisama Kiss this might be up your alley.