We all know the tale of Belle, a strong-willed, intelligent heroine who is held captive by an enchanted, spoiled prince turned beast. In previous adaptations of the story, Disney focused on Belle’s perspective-her emotional evolution from fear/anger to compassion, friendship and finally love. However, in their recent partnership with TokyoPop, Disney gives us a different take on the “tale as old as time.”
So what makes this project so special? For starters, it is a twin-companion set with one book focusing on Belle and the other introducing Beast’s point-of-view. “Beast’s Tale,” although not told before, was important in order to “demystify the beast in a personal and intimate way.” Much like “Beauty’s Tale,” the story of the beast uses internal dialogue, rather than song, to convey the character’s emotional growth (though lyrics from the feature-length animated film are included in the script and provoke mental sign-along). Each book recreates many of the same scenes, but with dialogue and perspective unique to that character. Another notable aspect is the original artistic style of the project.
TokyoPop worked closely with Disney to create a Shōjo manga version of the characters we know and love. Shōjo, meaning “young woman” in Japanese, is a type of manga aimed at teenage girls that often focuses on romantic themes and relationships. Even though the set is created in this style, Disney provided support and feedback to ensure the integrity of the original characters and scenery. Each book contains character sketches and concept art, as well as notes from the artist that reflect their conscientious effort to refer to original designs. The result is a beautiful collaboration that does not deviate far from the original, yet adds a sense of reality to the look of the characters. Much like the new motion picture, Belle seems more like a pretty girl next door without the bright red lipstick, The Beast’s animalistic traits are more convincing, and even Lumière looks more human than cartoony candlestick. This makes the idea of human enchantment more realistic.
TokyoPop’s retelling of the story stays incredibly true to the original: a punishment-a curse brought upon all inhabitants of the castle by a haggard, old beggar woman who is turned away by an indulged prince. She, of course, is actually a beautiful enchantress. However, this version closely resembles the live action movie where we learn that both Belle and The Beast lost their mothers at a young age. Belle was then raised by a loving, overly protective father, while the prince is subjected to his father’s bitterness and lack of affection. The prince seeks fulfillment in frivolous and superficial objects and people, while ultimately remaining empty and unhappy. This perspective helps humanize the prince and allows the reader to believe he is more than he appears. His enchantment also helps advance Belle’s story.
As part of his curse, the enchantress leaves Beast with a magical book that can transport the reader(s) to any location of their choice. It is a way for the prince to see every beautiful thing he desires that will not accept him, make him happy, or help him find true love. In this version of the tale, Beast has had a high quality education and is not only able to read, but also has the same passion for books as Belle. The enchanted book is later implemented so that Belle can discover what happened to her mother, thus drawing the couple closer together and providing a means for Belle to give her and her father closure.
At the end of each book, we are left with a beautiful moral for each character. We see where they started and what they’ve learned throughout the story. Belle states, “‘Happily ever after’ is a story, itself. It’s a choice, everyday, to be the best person you can be. To turn your anger into passion…to bring change, not destruction. To find beauty in love and understanding…and to find ‘home’ wherever you go.”
It is a story that affirms the important concepts of second chances, hope, and self-discovery. The recently released live-action movie has given “Beauty and The Beast” a renewed interest and it seems the perfect time to acknowledge Beast’s perspective, while integrating the look into the ever popular manga style. It takes a story to a new audience, and tells it in a way that hasn’t been done before. Is it necessary? Maybe not. But it’s never a bad thing to add a little Disney magic into your life.
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