A Centaur’s Life is a “slice of life” manga set in a world where humans are genetically mixed with animals like cats and snakes, and mythological creatures such as centaurs, angels, dragons, and satyrs. Sweet, naïve Kimihara Himeno, known as Hime, is the titular centaur who must deal with issues like being the lead in the school play; what to do when a boy expresses interest in her; whether she enjoys kissing her female friend too much; and what a drag it is to practice ritual archery for the annual festival at the Centaur shrine. Familiar “slice of life” situations are altered to fit a fresh new type of fantasy world, a mix of genres that is designed to pique interest.
However, the series suffers from another kind of mixed message. The opening chapter of the first book differs so much in tone from the rest of the first and second volumes that it seems more like a one-off, aimed at an audience wanting a titillating schoolgirl story. Certainly, it deals with a real topic of concern: young people can feel nervous and wonder whether their genitals are supposed to look a certain way. For Hime, this fear is even more overwhelming because she has less access to her nether parts; she was frightened by a visit to a dairy farm and a view of a cow’s posterior. To alleviate her fears, Hime and her friends conclude that the solution is an equal-access group peek under everyone’s skirts. The chapter wobbles across the line from the sensitive portrayal of a real fear to a weird fanservice version of a girls’ sleepover.
To compound the mixed messages sent by the first volume, Seven Seas decided to put a preview of the hentai comic Monster Musume at the end of the book—specifically, a scene featuring a monster woman being pleasured, perhaps for no other reason than it was licensed in English at the same time as A Centaur’s Life. I don’t believe this accurately gauges the audience for this series, judging by the majority of its content. Hime and her friends are concerned about romance, dating, and puberty, but they are not written as vehicles for sexual storylines. Their adventures usually take on a sensual bent, which makes sense, as the series was originally written for a seinen manga magazine. Murayama’s character designs are adorably shoujo and only occasionally awkward, e.g. when a centaur is trying to sit on a bench.
Overall, A Centaur’s Life is a great example of worldbuilding, and a thoroughly entertaining mix of “slice of life” and fantasy genres. Various plot points allow Murayama to slip in facts about the genetics and other details of the world, such as the material that comprises the angels’ haloes and the differences between wings of each type of winged folk. The world design shows how cars are adapted for centaurs, what a mermaid school would look like, and there’s even a storyline about a dog with a human face. Where do these creatures fit into this world and how did they come to be? Further volumes will have a lot to explore.
A Centaur’s Life, vols. 1-2
by Kei Murayama
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781937867911
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781626920002
Seven Seas, 2013-2014
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)