Nina moved to Ruberia to get a fresh start on her high school life. Living on a penitentiary island for werewolves is not the kind of change she was looking for!
Title: Beasts of Abigaile (Abigaile no Kemono Tachi)
Publisher: Akita Publishing Co (JP), Seven Seas (US)
Creator: Spica Aoki
Serialized in: Princess
Translation: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Original Release Date: June 27, 2017, October 17, 2017
Unlike American supernatural fiction where you can barely go five feet without running into a werewolf story, Japan is much cooler on these furry creatures and I’m honestly not sure if Beasts of Abigaile even counts as a werewolf tale.
After all, main character Nina isn’t a werewolf per-say. She’s a human girl who suddenly looks like a luga. The luga are the original, and now repressed, people of Nina’s new home, the fictional European country of Ruberia. The luga have a wolf-like appearance and abilities, and now Nina looks like one of them, complete with her own wolf ears and a tail. She moved to Ruberia to get a fresh start on her high school life, but living and going to school on a penitentiary island is not the kind of change she was looking for!
Overall I really enjoyed these first two volumes of Beasts of Abigaile and Nina is a big reason why. She’s a character type that I really enjoy having as a main character; she’s upbeat and cheerful but not relentlessly so. Nina was completely unnerved by her kidnapping and arrival at Abigaile and she’s immediately thinking up ways to escape and get back to her family. While this is traumatic, Nina has also gone through some rough times before, such as the bullying at her old school which forced her to move to Ruberia in the first place. I feel that having this previous experience gives Nina a backbone and strength that she wouldn’t have otherwise, which is especially useful since Nina doesn’t have the super strength or senses that real lugas do.
So far the story hasn’t even begun to address why Nina suddenly looks like a luga and yet clearly isn’t one (given both her human heritage and lack of luga abilities, like their amazing sense of smell) and hopefully the story will begin to touch on that soon. If Nina only became a “luga” because the story required her to be one then the story will have been built on a foundation as thin as its pages. But there are many routes that the story can take to integrate Nina’s transformation into the larger human-luga conflict at hand and that would most likely provide a more satisfying, and symbolic, reason for Nina’s story.
While I do like many of the background characters in Beasts of Abigaile, as Nina wins over her luga classmates easily so there’s no bullying of her here, the other major players left me cold. One problem is the matter of the other people in Nina’s “home” (pack), a group of characters who appear to be AMAB but have feminine characteristics in such inconsistent ways that I’m not sure if they are supposed to be read as gay, trans, or if manga-ka Spica Aoki even knows what the difference is (and since they appear to be AMAB characters who like men we can rule out “they are both gay and trans” as a possible answer). I may not be entirely sure what paper-thin stereotype the background characters in Nina’s home are based on but it’s still clearly offensive enough to irritate me. This is a shame since the most prominent member of Nina’s home, Dario, is an interesting, well-rounded character in their own right and easily the second most likable character in the story after Nina.
Which brings me to the other weak point in this story: the emerging love triangle. It’s clear from both the story and the volume covers that Nina will be in a love triangle with both Roy, the luga boy whose bite triggered Nina’s transformation into a luga, and Gilles, the student council member who helped settle Nina into Abigaile. Tropes dictate that bad-boy Roy will probably end up with Nina by the end of the story but he’s a thoroughly bad character, to the point where he seems to amplify the toxicity of the other members in his own home, and hasn’t shown a single good character point yet. Gilles doesn’t seem like he would be a much better partner for Nina either; while he’s certainly nicer and does seem to genuinely care for Nina, Gilles is clearly under the thrall of the alpha of his home (who doesn’t like Nina) and this is sure to set up conflicts later on between the two where I’m not sure Nina will “win.”
Despite some less-than-stellar characters, Beasts of Abigaile is off to a strong start with many mysteries to unravel and a plucky heroine at the center of it all with the gumption to carry it through. There are still plenty of places where the story could stumble further on but with proper character development and growth this could be a fine addition to Seven Seas small, but growing, collection of shojo titles.