Beast Master 2 by Kyousuke Motomi: A-

From the back cover:
Leo Aoi looks like a crazy animal with wild eyes, and he goes berserk whenever he feels threatened or sees blood. That doesn’t stop animal lover Yuiko Kubozuka from befriending him, however. In fact, Yuiko is the only person Leo will listen to when he has one of his violent fits…

Leo’s 18th birthday is around the corner, but celebrating seems impossible as someone is after Leo’s life! Can Leo overcome the dangers of his past? Or will this beast-like boy be separated from his beloved “master”… forever?

I suppose there’s not anything terribly original about these final three chapters of Beast Master. In the first, we get a little more information on Leo’s backstory, including the revelation that he’s worth billions and began living in the wild in the first place to avoid his murderous relations. In the second, Leo’s dad reenters the picture and, after another attempt on his son’s life puts him in the hospital, suggests a move overseas. Finally, Yuiko develops insecurities about how Leo feels about her upon seeing how popular he’s become with other girls.

What makes this series so special, then, is how truly sweet it is. Not some cloying and irritating approximation of sweetness, either, but something truly genuine and moving. After Yuiko witnesses Leo being hit by a car, it makes sense that she’d support his father’s plan to relocate him someplace safer, and the scene where she attempts to maintain a brave face as she bids him good-bye, only to break down as he drives off is perfectly painful. Although we, as readers, can expect him to return, Yuiko’s sadness is nicely portrayed, as she realizes that simply knowing he’s safer will not make her miss him any less.

The final chapter’s a nice spin on the “I don’t know how he feels about me” idea, too. It works here because Leo is so child-like, Yuiko has to wonder whether he even realizes that there are different levels of liking someone. He can “like” a girl classmate who loans him some CDs, but does he feel anything more than this for Yuiko? Well, of course he does, and his eventual shy confession is so adorable it made me sniffly.

Rounding out the volume is “Cactus Summer Surprise,” a short story about a body-swapping cactus. Yes, you read that right. In a nutshell, Akira is a cactus fan who once gave her prized plant to her middle-school crush, Kaito, who told her that he threw it away. They’ve been enemies ever since—though, of course, it’s obvious they really fancy each other—and through the machinations of a middle-aged female spirit who transitions from the cactus in which she resides into possessing Kaito’s body, they manage to patch things up. Again, like Beast Master, this story ends with a particularly adorable scene of a guy trying to get his feelings across.

When I finished this volume, my first thought was, “That was good! I’d like to read something longer by Kyousuke Motomi.” And my second thought was, “Oh yeah! Dengeki Daisy is coming in two months!” Thank you, VIZ!

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