Review: ‘Sacrificial Princess and The King of The Beasts’ Vol. 1
Sacrificial Princess and The King of The Beasts, vol. 1
Writer/artist: Yu Tomofuji
Yen Press; $13
Yet another riff on the story of Beauty and the Beast, manga-ka Yu Tomofuji’s Sacrificial Princess and The King of The Beasts features a beast with more than a passing resemblance to the Disney one. In fact, this horned leonine noble in a fancy coat bears a pair of long fangs like those of a saber-toothed cat, and they prove somewhat limiting to his range of expression, but no doubt serve a more important function—they help differentiate him from his more famous predecessor in previous retellings of the fairy tale.
When it comes to adaptations of oft-adapted stories, however, it is usually the differences that are more important than the similarities. And Sacrificial Princess and The King of The Beasts has plenty of differences from all previous versions. The setting is a world where human beings live next door to a large and prosperous country of beasts, anthropomorphic animal people, and there are incredible tensions between the two races. To help keep the peace, the human beings occasionally send a young, female sacrifice to their neighbors, and the beast king devours her.
That king, a nameless, chimerical creature referred to only as “your majesty,” has a secret that he keeps from all of his fellow beasts, even (and especially) from his main adviser Anubis. It is a secret guessed at and then ultimately revealed to the title’s sacrificial princess, Sariphi, who stands out from all previous sacrifices by her unwillingness to put up with the rudeness of the beasts or to beg for mercy from their seemingly cruel king.
Given the inspiration, it’s not exactly a spoiler to reveal that his majesty has another form, that of a very handsome young human, but here the curse works much differently than usual, as the beast-form is the original shape of Leonhart—as Sariphi later names him—and his human shape is the curse he must keep hidden. Further turning the story on its head, because the story is set almost exclusively on the beast side of the human/beast border, it is Sariphi who stands out as a freak, despised by the populace.
Because she was adopted and raised by her parents specifically to be a sacrifice—fearing their daughter might be the one from their village picked to be sacrificed, they got themselves a stand-in they could send in her place—Sariphi has nowhere to go when Leonhart opts not eat her, so he decides to marry her. Within the first few chapters, then, the series’ main conflict resolves itself. The two share an immediate and deep kinship with one another, despite the world trying to keep them apart: Leonhart has to protect Sariphi from the machinations of his court and people, while she tries to ease the lonely burden of his position and help him become a better ruler. It is perhaps worth noting that aside form the occasional kiss on the snout, their relationship is far closer to a friendship than anything romantic—in fact, to this Beast’s chagrin, his Beauty sometimes treats him more like an adored pet than a monarch.
He might be quite dreamy—and always shirtless—when in human form, but he is usually depicted as he is on the cover, and while Sariphi’s age is never revealed, she looks and acts quite young, an object of affection rather than attraction. (In fact, everyone other than the king and her guards-turned-confederates Cy and Clops think she’s a grotesque and repulsive monster.)
Their relationship as it stands at the end of the first volume can, and likely will, grow into something more as the series progresses, but because they have already formed a two-of-them-against-the-worlds alliance of sorts, the series’ main source of drama comes from the way they meet and overcome challenges to their tenuous status quo.
Beauty and the Beast may be a tale as old as time, but part of the reason it’s remained compelling for so long is that it is so often refreshed by new and different takes. Yu Tomofuji’s version is as new and different as they come.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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