Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Monster And The Beast
Middle-aged merchant Liam is in the process of (potentially) being betrayed by the men he hired to help him travel through the forest when he is rescued by Cavo, a giant demon with a largely human body, the probable head of a beast, and exceptionally long hair. Cavo is surprised that Liam not only isn't afraid of him, but even offers to sleep with him, and while he rejects the offer, the two begin traveling together. But Liam is being hunted by mysterious forces and isn't about to change his hedonistic lifestyle to suit Cavo's sensibilities or avoid capture. Is there any hope for this oddest of couples?
Renji's Monster And The Beast is a story that, while interesting in its own right, caters to two very specific tastes. The first is that one of the romantic partners in this BL fantasy is somewhere around forty years old – not old per se, but definitely older than we typically see in a romance manga not by Natsume Ono. The other, perhaps more decisive factor in terms of whether or not you want to read this, is that the other romantic partner isn't human.
Cavo, the forest demon Liam meets on his travels, does have a fairly humanoid appearance – he's recognizably got a human male body, just on a much larger scale. (The book's cover gives you a good idea of how the two characters compare.) Apart from the claws on his hands, which certainly could be read as simply long fingernails, Cavo's least human feature is apparently his face, something we only get brief, shadowed glimpses of but appears to involve fangs. He's also got horns growing from his head and hair that would cause Rapunzel envy in many an eight-year-old child; for the first third of the book, that hair is all that's preserving his modesty. It's also a body that pansexual Liam is very interested in – he propositions Cavo a number of times throughout the volume, although Cavo seems very unsure of the offers. He is, however, jealous when Liam goes out for the night once they reach a town and comes home smelling like the men and women he's slept with.
All of this perhaps begs the question of who of these two characters is the “monster” and who is the “beast.” While the words appear similar at first glance, semantic differences can have the former meaning someone who looks “monstrous,” or frighteningly different from the norm, while the latter can be interpreted more in light of someone's behavior – they act “beastly,” which implies “like a beast,” and thus “not human.” Therefore we can see that Cavo is perhaps the eponymous monster for his looks while Liam and his hedonistic lifestyle and callous attitudes towards others is the beast. Of course, there's also the Beauty and the Beast aspect to consider, as the English title seems formatted to call that fairy tale to mind. This is a bit more interesting, as the outward beauty, Liam, is definitely no where near as beautiful as the monstrous Cavo, who has the greater inner beauty.
However you choose to read the title of the series, the story is a little difficult to really get into. Mostly this is because Liam is so clearly not an especially good guy. He's fairly upfront about that, right from the get-go – he tells Cavo that he's being pursued and that they men he was traveling with were getting paid in sex. He refuses to stop engaging in behavior in town that Cavo finds upsetting, telling him that if he doesn't like it, he can go back to the forest. Liam seems basically selfish, which is fine when he's on his own, but is more of an issue now that he's got Cavo with him. Although it wouldn't be right to expect him to change completely, he's largely uninterested in compromise, and while he did basically let Cavo know that that's what accompanying him would mean, his complete unwillingness to treat Cavo as anything but an interesting playing he might sleep with makes him a little hard to take as a romance protagonist.
This is, of course, only the first volume, and the book does have other things going for it that may make it worth continuing. Among these is Renji's art, which is versatile and attractive, balancing detailed backgrounds, simple character designs, and the occasional humorous sight gag. That Liam appears to be pansexual may be another draw for some readers; although the word is never used, he's clearly attracted to people (and monsters) regardless of their gender. Likewise Liam's influence on Cavo is interesting - Cavo feels no need to wear clothing until he meets Liam, which is either a sign of his loss of innocence (think Adam and Eve) or an awareness of his own sexuality, as Liam is more than ready to engage with him in that way.
While this isn't the first BL title I'd suggest if you were looking for a BL story set in a fantasy world, it isn't without its attractions. If you're looking for something within the genre that takes a different approach than most of what gets translated, this may be worth your time.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B
+ Nice art, interesting premise
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