Beast Children 001-003 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Blood, guts and glory! Give it your all on the rugby field! (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
If you’re looking for a shonen manga that hits all the typical beats, but happens to focus on Rugby, Beast Children nails that to a T. Three chapters in and Beast Children is an utterly safe sports manga, filling the pages with typical tropes and characters that make it feel similar to long running titles like Haikyuu, but hardly a unique title in and of itself.
The series focuses on two boys. First is Sakura, a bright, excitable, little guy obsessed with Rugby. It all starts after he sees a match involving famous Japanese player, Onotora Ikki, and inadvertently ends up meeting him face to face. This inspires Sakura, who practices every day, despite his Middle School lacking a Rugby team. This leads to a chance encounter with destined rival, Yukito, who thinks Sakura doesn’t have what it takes to be a true Rugby player. Despite Sakura proving himself, Yukito still doesn’t like little Sakura, believing him to lack the ‘bite’ to be a Rugby player, but is eventually forced to recognize the kid, and send him down the path of advancement. Oh, and Yukito is also the son of, now deceased, famous player Onotora Ikki, though that seems to matter little at this point in the story. Honestly I think you could take it out and little would change.
Anyway Sakura and Yukito’s rivalry is poorly defined. Sakura clearly has the passion for the sport, but Yukito still refuses to recognize him. It’s not obvious as to why until late in Chapter 2, where the manga finally reveals Yukito’s dislike for Sakura, something that felt lacking at the start. This is the one place where Yukito’s parentage comes into play, as he disliked his father’s cavalier attitude toward the violent nature of the sport, something Sakura shares. This would feel more powerful if we’d spent a bit more time defining the late Onotora Ikki, and his relationship with his son. In fact, Yukito’s attitude towards Rugby in general actually begs the question of why he wants anything to do with the sport, seeing as he abhors the violence it brings out.
There’s also the issue of Sakura’s size. He’s a small guy, as classic sports leads usually are, making him too small to be a proper Rugby player. It’s a tired trope, especially seeing as Shonen Jump has two currently running titles in its line up (Haikyuu! and Hinomaru Sumo, although we don’t get this one localized) that already make use of this element. Perhaps that’s why Beast Children doesn’t harp on it, and only really talks about Sakura’s small stature in Chapter 3, trying to downplay the inclusion of said trope. I actually wonder if this was an editorial note, because the first thing you notice about Sakura is just how puny he is compared to everyone else. It might also explain why Chapter 2 feels a bit thin when it comes to Yukito’s dislike for Sakura.
Ultimately there isn’t too much left to say. Beast Children is a shockingly safe, by the books, manga. It offers little that deviates from the formula. Even when Sakura meets his new teammates we get the same scrappy group of characters one might expect from any Shonen Sports title, just a tad more ‘violent.’ In fact the idea that the team isn’t particularly amazing, except when they come together, rears its head here, really making it feel like Beast Children has nothing unique to say. Focus on Rugby isn’t exactly new to manga, although it is rarer, and maybe that means a title like this needs to do less to win over potential readers, besides introduce them to the sport. Even from that angle Beast Children is slow going, explaining little of Rugby’s rules besides the heavy tackling component. So far Beast Children is very middle of the road, perfect for readers who love typical sports shonen formula and want a Rugby centered story, but lacks what it will need to stand out once the shine of Rugby wears off for readers. Maybe it can turn that around in the next few chapters and I think it’ll have to if it wants to stick around.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Beast Children in the comments below!
Beast Children is published as part of Shonen Jump.