Night of the Beasts

March 23, 2010 dreamkaleidoscope
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Originally posted on Jan. 7, 2010 at Livejournal. Edited Mar. 23, 2010 to get rid some unnecessary possible spoilers. (This was my first attempt at writing a review, so I was still learning how to balance summary and commentary.)

TITLE: Night of the Beasts
AUTHOR/MANGAKA: Chika Shiomi
PUBLISHER: Go!Comi
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
CATEGORY: Shoujo
NUMBER OF VOLUMES: 6
SCORE: 8 (Very Good)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Chika Shiomi (mangaka of Yurara, Rasetsu, and Canon), Ceres: Celestial Legend, supernatural, violence, romance

I’ve recently become a fan of Chika Shiomi, thanks to Yurara and its spin-off Rasetsu. While Yurara and Rasetsu are supernatural dramedies (leaning more toward the comedic side), this earlier work is much more serious in tone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I enjoyed the humor in Yurara and Rasetsu, but I also liked the drama in Night of the Beasts, even in spite of how bloody and violent it could be at times. (It should be noted that the high rating is not due to nudity or explicit sexual content — of which there isn’t any — but the violence.)

The heroine of the story is 17-year-old Aria Yamaguchi, an orphaned girl who lives with her mother’s sister. Her mother died when she was thirteen, and she knows nothing about her father. Aria is a bit of deliquent, frequently skipping out on school and her job at her aunt’s cafe to hang out with her friends and have fun. She also gets in a lot of fights, defending girls from unwanted advances from guys.

There has been a series of grisly murders happening in Aria’s neighborhood, appearing to be the work of a dog who likes to eat humans. At the site of one of the attacks, Aria meets — well, more like crashes — into a handsome young man, who kisses her on the cheek, much to her irritation. They happen to meet again the next day, and he introduces himself as Sakura Kijima. (Yes, you read that right. He’s a guy named Sakura. I know, strange.)

Sakura turns out to be a distant, distant blood relation of Aria on her father’s side. He is possessed by the black demon Kagara, who has sworn to murder all four thousand descendents of the human woman Mikage who killed him over 400 years ago. He sought out Aria because of a prediction made by another blood relative who has the ability to see the future that revealed Aria has the ability to calm the demon inside of him. Sakura has managed to stop himself from killing any humans so far (the attacks in Aria’s neighborhood were the work of another black demon), but he’s afraid that once he does, he will be overtaken by the demon permanently, so he wants Aria to help him stay in control of the demon. Aria isn’t too keen on the idea at first, but she has a bit of a “saving people complex”, so she eventually agrees to help.

There are quite a few similarities between this story and one of my all-time favorite manga series, Ceres: Celestial Legend. Even the family founders in both stories are both named Mikage, although Mikage is a woman in NotB and a man in Ceres. What I found interesting is how the blood relatives in this story, who want to kill Sakura due to his demonic nature, are portrayed more sympathetically in NotB than in Ceres. I rather hated Aya’s family for trying to kill her because she was possessed by Ceres, but Shiomi made a point of showing just how frightened and terrified the blood relatives are of Kagara, and the reader can understand why they wantto kill Sakura. (It’ll be interesting to reread Ceres with this newfound perspective of things.) In fact, “kill, or be killed” is a major theme of the story, with several characters having to make that decision.

Like I mentioned perviously, this is a rather violent series. I’m not sure I would have bought it had I known just how bloody it would be — I’m not a fan of gore — but I’m glad I did, despite that. (Although reading this does make me a little hesitant to read Shiomi’s vampire manga Canon…) It’s action-packed with lots of drama/angst and has some great characters. My favorite is probably Shiro, Sakura’s older cousin who, unlike the rest of the family, is hoping to find a way to get rid of the demon without having to kill Sakura.

Personally, I would have liked to see Aria’s and Sakura’s relationship get a little more development before a certain event — obviously, they fall in love, although there’s very little actual romance shown — and the artwork (seeing as this is an earlier work from Shiomi, from the mid-90s) isn’t as good as her newer works — I could have sworn Aria’s short-haired girlfriend was a male the first time I saw her; the same with a mother character in one of the extra one-shots — but those are just minor complaints in an otherwise great series.

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