Friday, April 26, 2019

Beauty and the Beast Girl's quality doesn't validate being released as a paperback (Manga Review)

Beauty and the Beast Girl - 5/10

I actively curate my manga collection, just like I actively curate my books, my guitars, my transformers, etc... it's part of the fun of collecting - deciding what to get rid of that doesn't rise to some, maybe arbitrary, standard.

With that said, I took a full series, a partial series, and a few random volumes of manga to a local store to trade in because they all were garbage - and not in just a "not very good" way, but they actively had subject matter I didn't want in my collection. My rule of thumb is: "If I die, and my family is boxing this stuff up and reads one, would I want them judging me on the contents of this story?" If the answer is "no" then I don't want it in my collection.

Some of the more recent volumes that went with the day's trade-in included "Mushroom Girls in Love" and "Transparent Light Blue" both of which I gave scathing reviews to. What I bought with the trade-in cash was "Beauty and the Beast Girl" (By Neji, published by Seven Seas). A manga volume, based on a PIXIV webcomic, that was low on my priority list, which meant it was perfect for unexpected cash.

Beauty and the Beast Girl tells the "story" (as minimal as it is) of a feminine monster who meets a blind girl in the forest one day. They fall in love, turns out they have a shared past that could drive them apart, but it works out in the end. Oh, spoiler alert. Wait, you didn't see that plot coming from the story title?

There really isn't much to this volume which is neither bad nor good in and of itself. It does have some value, especially the parts where Lily (the blind girl) talks about overcoming her blindness at a young age, about not wanting to have her personhood connected with her disability. I also liked the overall light weight of the line work in the art, but that's about as much praise for the otherwise bland art that I can muster. The two characters are likable if indistinct and they share some undeniably cute moments together. I'm a sucker for cute girls in love.

On the middling side, it isn't a very complex story at all, but that's not necessarily bad either. Sometimes you just want junk food and that's what this volume is. However, even junk food should be sugary, or salty, or spicy or something. This volume is like under-salted pretzels, they taste okay, but there's just something missing. If you like the idea of two cute girls flirting and setting up house together, and one happens to be a monster, then you'll be fine with this.  But sadly, it doesn't have nearly the depth of character or nuance that the recently reviewed anime Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid surprisingly had - similar-ish story, but much better execution.

There are some problematic aspects to the storytelling, if not the actual story itself. The writing is so wooden as to be nearly unreadable at times. This was most evident in the first chapter. It's hard to know whether the fault lies in the translation or in the original, but either way, it was pretty awful writing and dialogue. Further, the story moves so quickly into them being a couple, that we aren't given ample reason as to why they like each other, or much about their personalities at all. We're almost left to assume that they like each other only because no one has ever talked to either of them before, so they fall for the first nice person they meet. The relationship is treated as a foregone conclusion. That too would be okay if the remainder of the story went into any depth of what being a couple meant, but instead, it's a pretty minimal rescue the princess type situation with some snuggling.

And that rescue plot point leads to the monster's confrontation with Lily's father, which is handled so poorly as to be unbelievable. There is no way a person would act or react the way Lily's father does - which is a combination of not really caring about what the monster did, with not really caring about giving his daughter to a monster, with sorta being a bad-ass, but not really - he just comes off as nearly emotionless. It's just really really bad writing, as if the outcome was decided so it didn't matter how they got there. Nothing about the outcome feels like it comes organically from the interactions of the monster or the father. In fact, there's nothing about that interact that has any tension or emotion at all. More wooden writing.

The overall art is very simple, with minimal backgrounds, some shading, but also not much interest. Simple can be effective if it's evocative. This is just plain. I wonder how it read as a webcomic though? Maybe a printed medium just didn't work for it. In all, between the writing and the art, I wonder why it was picked up to be released in book form at all? Was it super popular on Pixiv?

It's a self-contained yuri story, which is a plus, we need more of those. But of the ones I've read recently, they just aren't very good - going from bland: "Now Loading," to inexcusably servicy and salacious: "Transparent Light Blue." Beauty and the Beast Girl is in the bland side, which is tolerable at least and I'll be keeping it, just like I kept "Now Loading." But I have to believe there are more interesting self-contained yuri stories out there to be told. I hope some get translated soon. Even the one-shots in Eclair were largely more interesting even if some weren't great and others problematic.

I'm giving Beauty and the Beast Girl a perfectly middle-of-the-road score of 5/10. There isn't really anything problematic, but there isn't really much that elevates it either. It's simple and predictable with basic art. Shrug.


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