From the back cover:
Leo Aoi looks like a crazy animal with wild eyes—and no one at his new high school will go near him! He does seem to have a special connection with animals, though, which intrigues overzealous animal lover Yuiko Kubozuka. In reality, Leo isn’t as frightening as he appears, but Yuiko finds out that he goes berserk whenever he sees blood! Will Yuiko be able to get through to Leo during these violent fits? Or will Leo’s ferocious side eventually devour her?
I initially didn’t expect much from Beast Master but, like other reviewers before me, I found it to be surprisingly adorable.
It’s the story of an enthusiastic animal lover named Yuiko Kubozuka whose attempts to hug and squeeze various furry friends all end in disaster. One rainy day, after her attentions have driven her pet cat up a tree, a bloodstained boy with wild eyes rescues the kitty then runs off. As always happens in shoujo manga, the boy, named Leo Aoi, turns up as a transfer student in her class the next day. The other students are all frightened of him, save Yuiko, and when some thugs arrive to seek retribution for a fight in which Leo thrashed several of their compatriots, it’s Yuiko who explains his circumstances and, with her natural ability to get along with anyone, handily converts the main thug, referred to simply as “Boss,” into a recurring ally and resource. She’s less successful in deflecting the violent intentions of another gang, though, and Leo ends up going into a berserker mode and nearly biting a classmate until Yuiko soothes him.
What follows from there is a series of chapters in which Yuiko is threatened and Leo’s bloodlust is triggered. Simultaneously, she uses her social skills to introduce him to others and show that he’s not really a bad guy, despite what his appearance may indicate. What makes this different than other series in which “heroine requires rescue” is a common theme is that sometimes Yuiko is able to take down the suspicious person herself, even if that person is actually Leo’s guardian, Toki. Sometimes, unfortunately, she’s a liiiiitle stupid, like when she decides that she’s capable of calming a violent stray dog despite much evidence to the contrary and a sincere warning from Leo. I found this lapse in reasoning especially disappointing, because up until then Yuiko had seemed competent and quick-thinking.
Leo himself is completely endearing, much more like a kitten than a wild beast and transparently overjoyed to have met a kind person who isn’t afraid of him. His plight actually reminds me a lot of Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke: he looks frightening until he smiles, at which point he’s utterly transformed. In fact, Leo in chibi mode bears a striking resemblance to Sawako in the same state; is this a case of long-lost manga siblings?! My very favorite moment in the volume comes in a rooftop scene when Leo, wanting to cheer up a depressed Yuiko, puts his arms around her so that birds will land on her like she’s always wanted. It’s very, very sweet.
Overall, Beast Master is adorable and, though it employs a few shoujo clichés, unique. It’s not quite a romance yet, but I have no doubt that the second and final volume will take care of that!
Review copy provided by the publisher.