Released by Seven Seas Entertainment, Neji’s Beauty and the Beast Girl translates that tale as old as time into yuri form. The main character, a monstrous woman named Heath, spends her time away from others, as she’s met nothing but trauma in past interactions with humans. One day, however, a young woman named Lily happens into her territory. Lily is blind, and so Heath is able to feel more comfortable with her, opening up and quickly falling in love. But will the relationship work out when Lily learns Heath’s true nature?
I’m not going to hide this just for the sake of keeping spoilers away: of course Lily isn’t upset at Heath simply for being a monster-of-sorts. It doesn’t all work out with perfectly from there, however. A decade or two before the main story, Heath retaliated against the oppression she endured and burnt down a human town, an event which set her on the path to total seclusion. As in the story it borrows its name from, Lily’s situation shares similarities to this, but that’s much of what makes the story so good.
It’s fairly trite at this point for narratives about blind people to show the way in which they, in their lack of vision, can see the true natures of those around them. It’s an understandable concept, but it doesn’t have much to do with actual blindness, and is likely alienating to many blind people. I can’t say that element is absent, but it’s not the primary motivator for Lily’s interest in Heath. Rather than seeing the attractive, normal human that Heath is deep-down, as in Beauty and the Beast, Lily simply accepts Heath for who she is; there’s no transformation here, she’s simply a monster, and that’s a-okay.
In itself, that small subversion makes this story less played-out than it already could be. However, what really gives this manga weight is its broader handling of Lily’s blindness. At one point, she talks about how it’s affected her, noting that while she’d like her vision back, it’s hardly the end of the world if it’s not possible. Instead, the biggest issue has been the seclusion it’s caused; when she fails at something, she’s treated like a child, and when she succeeds in spite of her disability, many question if she’s actually even blind.
This idea—that disabled people doing anything right proves they’re not really disabled—is unfortunately quite widespread, and not something I expected in a manga like this, but it immediately shot its value through the roof. Given that Heath’s experiences have clearly caused some serious trauma for her, a large part of their attraction and connection to one another comes from their shared experience of disability, an effective writing move which works far better than simply having a monster girl as a stand-in for disability without anything building upon that.
Aside from all that weighty stuff though, it’s primarily a cute romance. Neji’s art is very nice, with the characters all looking soft and round while still packing a sharp punch, a trait emphasized by the fantastic line art. The only real issue with the release is that there just isn’t enough of it; hopefully, Neji’s Pixiv releases of other stories with this pair is released in book form. Beauty and the Beast Girl is a cute little yuri manga with a shocking amount of insight on disability, and it’s worth giving a shot.