by Rebecca Silverman,

12 Beast

GN 1

12 Beast GN 1
Eita Touga is your basic high school nerd – he's much more invested in his video games than in pretty much anything else. He's always going to take the path of least resistance, whether that means prostrating himself in front of hulking first years or simply refusing to take over his grandfather's ninjutsu dojo. But when push comes to shove, he will get riled up enough to do what he has to...he'd just rather not, thanks. All of this adds up to one unhappy guy when Aero, a harpy, comes from the Re-Verse to recruit him to fight against the Gigas (robot monsters) who are destroying her people. Can't a guy just sit around and play a game?

From the pen and mind of Okayado, who brought you Monster Musume (also released by Seven Seas) comes the much more generic 12 Beast, a story about an ordinary guy who has to go to another world and save the day, as well as the busty ladies. Eita Touga is a second year in high school, is embarrassed to be a virgin, and really just wants to be left alone to play his video games. His older brother disappeared last year, and he honestly hasn't missed the guy much, since apparently he was a womanizing jerk. Now if only his grandfather, who runs the family ninja arts dojo, would get off his case, Eita would be perfectly happy. But of course that isn't going to happen, and big brother is making trouble for Eita from afar: one day a harpy from a parallel universe known as the Re-Verse shows up and tells Eita that his brother suggested that she ask him to help save her people. Eita tries to refuse, but because he's really such a nice guy underneath it all, he ends up defending the harpy, a girl named Aero, from the monster that followed her to his world. The next thing he knows, a tribe of not-quite-Native-American harpies and hawkmen expect him to save them all.

Surely we can all name at least two series with similar premises, but that isn't really the issue here: plenty of authors reuse common plots with great results. The real problem is that apart from using harpies/hawkmen (the masculine of harpies in Okayado's world), this is a very textbook story. Ordinary (yet strangely handsome) guy with hidden talents? Check. Bubbly female lead? Got it. Busty and ornery female who doubts the hero but kind of likes him? Absolutely. Mysterious threat? Done twice over with the Gigas and their dubious origins, which is the most interesting part of the book. The fact that the girls all have talons for hands and feet and random wings on their heads doesn't quite make up for the generic quality of the rest of the story.

That said, Okayado does have a way with monster girls, and 12 Beast is no exception. If Papy is your favorite of the Monster Musume ladies, this book may make you very happy, at least visually. All of the harpies look distinct up close, with different outfits, facial markings, and figures, as well as both shaded and white wings, making for a nice variety of harpy girls for the aficionado. The hawkmen are equally distinctive, although there are far fewer of them, and the pueblo city the tribe lives in is a nice change from more typical manga fantasy backgrounds and has some good details, like perches on all of the buildings' exteriors. The color page at the beginning of the book, as well as a mention of the Chinese zodiac later on, implies that there will be more than just harpies as the series goes on, and indeed a minotaur (cow?) girl is shown in the closing pages, so in that respect, this is another solid entry into Seven Seas' increasing line of monster girl manga.

The story is not without its humor as well. The harpies and hawkmen are all “bird brains” in that they have very little memory and attention span. That makes for some good jokes, as does Eita's compulsive gaming – his biggest concern at being whisked away to the Re-Verse is that he's going to miss out on getting an ultra-rare collector's edition of a new game. He even strategizes his battles as if he were playing an RPG, even as he expresses disbelief in the game-like features of the Re-Verse, such as the Gigas' weak points being where every game monster's weak point is. There is one very interesting game implication about the Gigas that comes in after Eita's major battle about three-quarters of the way through the book, and it does make us wonder about where the Re-Verse is and what Eita's brother may be up to now that he's left the harpies. Honestly, it's the most compelling part of the book for all that it is a mere half page in length.

That's the major problem with 12 Beast's first volume: it just isn't all that interesting or exciting. The joke about the harpies' love of ninjas wears out pretty quickly, and while there is fanservice, it is far lighter than in Okayado's other English-translated series. There isn't much to Eita as a character either, and while it's great that the author took the harpies' names from Classical literature and American history, they themselves are also very basic stock characters. If you really like this style of story and birdgirls, there's a lot more for you to enjoy than if you simply are looking for a good new fantasy title. 12 Beast is decent, but that's about it, and while it may very well improve as things go on, it doesn't do much to hold a reader's interest in getting to that point.

Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B-

+ Art is interesting and Okayado draws attractive characters. Some good jokes and an interesting implication about the world.
A few jokes wear thin, not much besides the use of harpies to distinguish this from the herd. Characters and plot all feel very textbook. Art relies on sound effects rather than showing action.

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Story & Art: OKAYADO

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