Bestia Volume 1 is published in English by Yen Press and comes from mangaka Makoto Sanda. Living squarely in fantasy and action – with a load of fanservice thrown in, this manga aims to hit an older teen audience and connects with its target. I mean, what teen isn’t moved by magical beasts, government conspiracies, mommy issues, and of course a girl, named Edgar, who is really a dog but has the power to destroy any enemy?
Bestia’s protagonist is Asuka Tsukasa and his defining characteristic is that he has an irrational fear of animals, especially dogs. This makes studying abroad in London, a city of dog lovers, a bit of a challenge for him. On his first day there as he explores the city with friends of his family, he hopes to find a clue to his vanished mother’s whereabouts and to meet the mysterious smiling girl from his dreams. But life only gets harder for this zoophobe when he’s invited to join a secret organization that seeks to coexist with fantastical beasts and protect the world from the ones that go out of control. At least he gets to meet that girl – though she turns out to be a giant, magical dog, who wants nothing more than to tear him to shreds out of revenge for his mother’s actions.
To put it simply, Bestia is fun. While there are elements of emotion and moral choices of taking cryptids, the magical animals of Bestia, this isn’t the main focus. Instead, we’re thrown into a mystery to solve and action sequences to marvel at. But to be honest, the manga feels like to separate halves and while it transitions well, the naivete and fanservice, in the beginning, feels slightly disjointed with the battles and intrigue of the later chapters. While the two halves are tonally different, the volume ends strong.
Sanda’s writing is good, but their art is phenomenal. The way in which the cryptids are illustrated brings both fantasy and darkness when the situation calls for it. Beyond that too, the magical creatures, even the ones you know by name all look unique to this story. By relying on mythology from various cultures, Bestia creates a magical world that I’m excited to see grow.
Additionally, one of the best things about the volume is its translation notes. The notes not only dive into the cultural context for both London and mythology but also explain how word choices were made in regards to translating the manga into English. It’s the latter that adds more depth to the characters as well, but reminded me of how hard it is to convey some concepts from the original Japanese to English. This is particularly true with Edgar. The translation notes explain that she uses a masculine speech pattern, which helps assert dominance in her interactions with Asuka. But where this is apparent in Japanese, it isn’t noticeable in the English version. But with translation notes coming at the end of every chapter it helped inform the rest of my read-through.
Overall, Bestia Volume 1 is a fun read with a magical world that is intriguing, a premise that bridges humor and action, and gorgeous art. This one is a manga to pick up if you’re looking for a new read.
Bestia Volume 1 is available from booksellers now.
Bestia Volume 1 is a fun read with a magical world that is intriguing, a premise that bridges humor and action, and gorgeous art. This one is a manga to pick up if you’re looking for a new read.