What is this?
A young girl has resigned herself to being the next sacrificial meal for the Beast King…but the king is no mere monster! Love is more than skin-deep in this gorgeous fantasy manga.
Sacrificial Princess & the King of Beasts is based on Yu Tomofuji ‘s Sacrificial Princess & the King of Beasts (Niehime to Kemono no Ō) manga and streams on Crunchyroll on Wednesdays.
How was the first episode?
If I hadn’t gotten confused and thought this was coming out in July, I would have listed it as one of my two most anticipated titles. Based on a completed shoujo fantasy romance manga, The Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts is only a retelling of Beauty and the Beast on the surface; it’s closer to dragon bride legends than ATU425c. Sari is a human girl raised to be given to the beastfolks’ king as the required sacrifice to maintain peace between their peoples, and Leonhart, the eponymous king, is, in fact, beastly. But the expectation is that he’ll eat her rather than that she’ll subdue him, and when he makes a very different choice, it’s clear that the members of his court are not pleased.
Between Sari cheerily scampering around and snubbing Anubis and Leonhart opting not to eat her, it’s clear that both are messing with their folkloric tale. Playing with how things are “supposed” to be is upsetting to those who aren’t expecting it, and that concern has been at the forefront of Leonhart’s mind for most of his life. He always assumed that if his people knew the truth of his heritage (one that’s important for the series’ romance endgame), they’d reject him, and he’s taken great pains to hide it. When Sari learns his truth, she’s not the least upset and, in fact, praises him for being strong despite what he’s always thought of himself. If it looks like Leonhart is carrying her around like a stuffed animal for comfort, that’s not entirely wrong; Sari’s words do more effective beast-slaying than a thousand swords, and she’s done a number on his inner monsters.
This is the main takeaway from the episode and the series as a whole: Sari and Leonhart help make each other feel like they have a place to belong. Sari was raised to be the “extra,” a child her parents always intended as a sacrifice, and she’s looking for acceptance just as much as Leonhart is. They recognize each other as fellow lost souls, and if Sari is perkier than her beast, I have to say that that surprised me as a manga reader; I never expected a downtrodden vocal performance, but I also wasn’t expecting her to be so…bouncy. It’s not a bad choice, though, and it does help to make her appeal as a character evident early on. Now my only concern is that they’ll try to cram all fifteen volumes in too few episodes, but if it gets people to read the source manga, I’ll still be pretty happy with this adaptation.
It’s a shame this show got hit with such bad timing. Between the relatively late premiere, releasing next to the far more established The Ancient Magus’ Bride‘s new season, and following on the heels of the far less interesting The tale of outcasts from last season, all made it pretty easy for this one to slip through the cracks. Admittedly I didn’t have many expectations for it, yet within minutes of this episode starting, I was hooked.
Mostly that comes down to Sariphi. Maybe this was my fault. Everything I’d seen from promo material suggested she was a wilting flower who would charm her would-be executioner through sad puppy-dog eyes, but her very first line threw that notion out the window. Despite being quite literally raised as a sacrifice for the big old beast king, she proves nonchalant about the whole thing. There’s undoubtedly a sadness to her predicament, but that makes her unflappable, relentlessly casual banter with her captor all the more charming. She sees right through the bluster of his beastly countenance, but rather than mocking him, she appreciates that all his posturing is for maintaining peace. It’s a strong dynamic that immediately pulled me into the episode, and Sariphi is brought to life brilliantly by a measured and charismatic performance from Kana Hanazawa.
Leonhart, as he comes to be known, is a bit more stock but performs the “beast” half of Beauty and The Beast with enough nuance to complement Sariphi. While he is sometimes stern and even threatening, there’s never a sense of malice behind any of it. Instead, it’s clear that he understands the political power of intimidation and utilizes it as best he can to maintain his kingdom’s precarious peace. Even before we discover the twist to his nature, it’s clear that his fangs and fur are as much a part of his royal regalia as his cape. It’s just as clear that a vulnerable and compassionate personality is behind it all. Rather than the beast being “tamed,” this story is about him finding the support to step out from behind his defenses.
My one complaint about the premiere is that it moves a bit too fast for its own good, jumping from scene to scene without letting any moment’s lingering emotions breathe. That’s probably for getting to the new status quo at the end of the episode, but it left this premiere feeling a little too scattershot. Overall, it does an excellent job of establishing our leads as likable and well-rounded, giving them an endearing dynamic to follow. Much like Otaku Elf, this one has a lot to offer that isn’t readily apparent from the synopsis, and I definitely suggest giving it a try.