This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Playboy Beast. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to mentions of human experimentation, an inappropriate relationship between a student and an adult, drugging, prejudice, cheating, manipulation, dubcon, blood, nonconsenting porn, and blackmail/sextortion, as it appears in the manga.
The world has evolved. Through various human experimentation, a second species of human has been created through a mixture of animal and human DNA: demi-beasts. Unlike pure humans, demi-beasts undergo animalistic breeding periods known as heats once they reach puberty. Males long to impregnate females, while females want to be impregnated by males. Unfortunately, for panther demi-beast Riku, though he's long since passed the age of puberty, he's yet to have his first heat.
It's not that big of a deal, but as Riku gets older, it becomes more and more concerning, especially when female demi-beasts begin approaching him. Desperate to initiate a heat, Riku ends up dating a fox demi-beast female, hoping to coax out his sexual urges by going on dates with her, but no matter how hot she might be, he just doesn't feel compelled to go into heat. Things only become more complicated and frustrating when Riku's living situation changes. He ends up being roomed with an albino lion demi-beast named Touma.
While Touma initially appears to be a run-of-the-mill book nerd, he turns out to be a bit more of a delinquent. Touma sneaks off campus overnight and has a casual sexual relationship with the school nurse. He's everything Riku wishes he could be, or so he thinks. After Touma finds out about Riku's perpetual virginity, Touma is all too happy to toy with Riku's innocence and get Riku's heat started. As it turns out, Touma isn't everything Riku wants to be, but everything that Riku wants.
The art is fine. It's rather narrow, which isn't good or bad. It's just fine. It's very clean and nice to look at, which is all a person can really ask for. However, the matter of the ear designs is something worth discussing. I've read a good chunk of content featuring characters with animal ears. Usually, the ears always appear on the top of their heads, which isn't the case here (except for all of the side characters, which is an odd choice. I appreciate that they take into consideration the animal's ear and face structure when determining placement, but it's still a bit odd). Those works that choose to have the ears in place of where the human ears would be are usually so unfortunate looking. I admittedly hate it most of the time. In this case, I don't think it will be my favorite stylistic choice anytime soon, but I do like this much more than what I've seen in other publications. The ears are small and seem much more proportionate than what I would expect, which makes them much nicer to look at overall. I was thoroughly surprised by how much I liked it.
I find the way the heat manifests in Riku interesting. It seems to suggest that a demi-beast's heat is intrinsically tied to their sexuality, which isn't all that mind-blowing. But I like the idea that Riku's heat doesn't begin until he realizes that he isn't attracted to females but males instead. It's a unique way of expressing his sexual preferences, but that then poses an interesting question. Is that how everyone's heat works? Is heat exclusively tied to sexual preference awakening? It makes me desperately wish there was more of this. I hate that it's a single-volume work, as there is so much opportunity to explore more of this world.
Similarly, there are multiple instances where Riku mentions wanting to be bred by Touma or that he thinks he will get pregnant. It makes me wonder if, because of the way Riku's heat is affected by his sexuality, is his reproductive system also affected? He can apparently produce pheromones, something exclusive to females, which suggests he could possibly be intersex or able to be impregnated. We never get confirmation on whether or not it is possible for there to be mpreg, and it certainly could be some throwaway smut lines, but it made me so curious. Is it possible? As a lover of mpreg and all of its varieties, I desperately wanted some kind of exploration and maybe even confirmation of this point. I think the prospect of having a character be intersex is also so cool, and I would've loved to have seen that explored, but alas. So much world-building and character-building potential, but unexplored.
While I've been praising this, there are some things that really irk me. First off, the relationship between the adult nurse and Touma. ICK. I hate relationships between adults and high school students. I have to reiterate that I am fully aware this is fiction. I'm not here to police anyone's art and its right to exist but know that I am not a fan of age gaps between adults and high school students (even if the student in question is eighteen, a legal adult in my country). It is just super uncomfy. Granted, we rarely get a glimpse of this relationship in action, but it's still not fun knowing it exists. However, with this relationship being so insignificant, the revelation of the nurse being the main antagonist is so random and unbelievable. Her trying to attack Riku, screaming about how he's “taking her man,” is eye-roll worthy, to say the least. It was melodramatic and not well-developed. I think her prescribing heat inducers was fine narratively, though still a bit unbelievable, but that whole scene just took it to another level.
This was such a pleasant surprise. It's not ground-breaking or the best BL in the world, but it's fascinating. It took the standard tropes of beastmen, gave it its own spin, and ended up with something really nice. I desperately wish there was more in the best way. If something else came out in this universe, I would snap it up instantly. There's so much of this world I want to explore because the glimpse we get is just so much fun.
Have you read Playboy Beast? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!