12 Beast, Vol. 1

By Okayado. Released in Japan by Fujimi Shobo, serialization ongoing in the magazine Dragon Age. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

When something sells, it makes perfect business sense to get 5 other things that are similar to that thing. This tends to irritate a certain type of reader, but it’s true. This is why I joke about the newest vampire manga being licensed all the time – vampire manga tend to sell. Even the really mediocre vampire manga. The same holds true for ‘real people end up in fantasy/game world and are forced to fight’. Oddly, it doesn’t really hold true for ninja manga – Naruto was a huge hit, but other attempts to bring ninjas over here haven’t quite caught on. And of course there’s the ever popular ‘lots of fanservice and suggestive sexual scenes with no actual sex’ manga genre. Add to this the realization that Monster Musume was a much bigger hit than expected (I think) and the desire to license something else by the same author, and 12 Beast is perhaps one of the least surprising licenses ever.

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Of course, the question is, what happens when you try to take multiple popular genres and cram them all into the same work? The answer is a bit of a mess, unfortunately. Our hero is the heir to a ninja school who would much rather spend his time playing games, and who is quite happy to humiliate himself in order to avoid any sort of trouble. Of course, this can’t possibly stand, so into his world comes Aero, who is a bird-woman demanding that Eita come and save her people with his amazing hero skills. He spends much of the volume trying to run away, or at least talk sense into the berserker bird-woman soldiers whose idea of attacking the enemy is ‘hit it till we die’. But naturally, when push comes to shove he gets to show off his awesome ninja skills and talent at battle analysis (via gaming, which we all know from other manga is a perfect preparation for real warfare). And of course he starts to amass a harem of bird-women who are falling for them, possibly as he keeps rubbing their wings, which are oh so sensitive.

If you imagine that last paragraph read out by me in a sort of flat monotone, you get my general impression of the book. I will give Seven Seas credit, the adaptation is excellent, and almost a reason to get the book on its own. It’s filled with humor and in-jokes from page 1, where we not only get a reference to No Game No Life (another SS series), but also a nostalgic reference to “attacking its weak point for massive damage”. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the manga itself, which, like its hero, is content to coast. Almost everything here has been done better somewhere else. Hell, even the blatant fanservice is not as blatant as it is in the author’s other title Monster Musume. Basically, if you’re looking for a hero coming to a fantasy kingdom and saving the day, amassing women as he does so, and want to collect the entire set of manga that feature this plot, pick this up. But I’d wait till the very last to get it.

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