Back in March 2021, Square Enix Manga released the first volume of Beauty and the Feast in the West. Thanks to the worsening shortage of paper and other problems within the printing industry, we’ve been waiting quite a while for Volume 2, but now it’s finally here and we can find out if the series continues to be an entertaining one.
In Volume 1 we met protagonist Shuko Yakumo, who struck up a friendship with neighbour Shohei Yamato when she offered to cook dinner for him. This friendship has continued undisturbed, with the two growing more comfortable with one another but never encroaching on the other’s life beyond the meal times they share.
Now that we’re in Volume 2, the pattern of these days is starting to change, starting with Shuko attending one of Shohei’s baseball games. Since Shohei always comes straight to her place after club practices, Shuko has found herself interested in learning more about the game and luckily for her, Shohei’s friend and classmate Rui is more than happy to lecture her on the sport when she attends Shohei’s match.
Shohei is happy to see Shuko come to his game and the chapters told from his perspective shows that he wants to grow closer to and help her more. This is both to repay her kindness in feeding him and because he’s genuinely crushing on her, which I find myself conflicted by, given the big age gap in play here.
For now, Shuko remains oblivious to Shohei’s feelings and sees herself as an older sibling. This is a feeling only reinforced when Shohei saves her from a cockroach and talks about how he used to help his little sister whenever she saw one in the house. There is also a chapter about Shuko catching a cold and Shohei coming over to make her a simple meal and make sure she’s okay, which Shuko sees as brotherly but Shohei sees as making sure his crush is okay.
The problem here is that while Shuko’s dialogue and intentions speak to her not having feelings for Shohei, author Satomi U goes out of their way to set up situations for fan service and Shohei to become even more attached to his neighbour. For example, one chapter sees Shuko put on a teacher’s outfit as she helps Shohei study, which is very stimulating for him, due to it being just a little bit too small a size for Shuko.
What I was hoping to find in Volume 2 is that we’d see more of Shohei’s life away from Shuko and in that department, it hasn’t been delivered outside of the baseball game. I was also hoping to see more of Rui, but likewise, she’s in the baseball chapter and never seen otherwise which is a shame since she’s an interesting character in her own right. The preview for Volume 3 mentions Shohei’s little sister coming to visit, so that should offer something new in the character department.
I think the problem for me is that there is a disconnect between how enjoyable these chapters are and me knowing it’s probably leading to a romance. I don’t mind a well done age-gap romcom, but in this situation, Shuko feels like someone Shohei should be able to move on from when all is said and done, rather than becoming his partner. The way the manga is presenting itself certainly doesn’t make me believe it will go in that direction though and in the meantime, it’s just not selling me on the idea that this blossoming relationship is a good idea.
As previously mentioned, Beauty and the Feast Volume 2 comes to the West thanks to Square Enix Manga and continues to be translated by Sheldon Drzka. The translation reads well with no issues to note. Volume 3 is currently scheduled for an English release in June, so not too long to wait for more of the series.
Overall, Beauty and the Feast continues to offer a sweet read but I’m not particularly fond of the trajectory the story is taking, especially when the romance angle seems at odds with the otherwise cute slice-of-life tale it’s trying to tell. I can only hope this improves going forward.