Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"The Cain Saga" and "Godchild" - Gothic Mystery Mangas with a Misery-Laden Gay Love Affair

The Cain Saga is a prequel to the gothic mystery classic, Godchild. Since the two series go together, I’ll go ahead and cover them both. Surprise! This time, you get two reviews in one!





The Cain Saga and Godchild by Kaori Yuki

Godchild follows the young and emotionally-damaged Earl Cain Hargreaves as he unearths family secrets and solves gruesome crimes in the grim society of early-twentieth-century London. Always standing by his side with caring actions and consoling words is Riff, Cain’s loyal servant and soul mate. The road is winding and harsh for the two men, and their paths are haunted by heartbreak, betrayal, and tragedy. The Cain Saga contains short stories of Cain and Riff solving crimes before the events of Godchild. Their relationship is not as fleshed-out in this prequel series, but they still share moments of gentle connection and understanding as they try to bring justice to a fallen world.

Both series are incredibly depressing. I’m not kidding. The characters endure unthinkable abuse, rejection, deceit, and cruelty, and the stories delve deeper into human misery than many would like to ever go. But while they are certainly not happy, these manga are compelling and might be meaningful to the right reader. Underneath the intense emotional landscape runs an ongoing criticism of classist and sexist oppression in British society. These themes inspire us to fight these evils in our world today. In addition, the complex and thought-provoking characters could potentially expand one’s understanding of human nature. Cain acts like he doesn’t care about anyone, yet he is constantly doing his best to help others. So is he a sociopath or a hero? And with all that Cain and Riff have endured, can they ever find happiness together? Is their love strong enough to withstand the forces that would tear them apart?

My major objection to these works is that they tend to romanticize suicide. Many characters seek death to escape pain or humiliation, and they are sometimes aided by the story’s protagonist. Suicide is a tragic symptom of mental illness that results in heartbreak for those left behind. It is never the right answer to any problem. Each life is precious, and there is hope for those who suffer. Drinking Shakespearean poison may seem poignant and poetic but it isn’t. True beauty lies in facing one’s burdens with courage and seeking the help one needs to make it through another day.

The Cain Saga is eight volumes and Godchild is composed of five volumes.

This series takes the reader to places of terror and anguish. The manga contains grisly violence, sexual references, and all sorts of disturbing imagery. This content is relevant to the story and by no means a recipe for voyeuristic thrills, but I would not have felt comfortable reading this manga before being eighteen-years-old. In fact, it still kind of freaks me out at the age of twenty-six!

While the actual story panels are endlessly serious, the author, Kaori Yuki, fills her liner notes with fun references to American pop culture. Her sweet, humorous messages are a welcome relief from Cain’s agony. Learn more about her at her wikipedia page or here.


Review by Aaron Walsh.  Add your review of any of the issues or the series for "The Cain Saga" and "Godchild" in comments!

Remember, if you or anyone you know is in crisis and needs someone to talk to, The Trevor Project can help.  They have a toll-free lifeline, 866-488-7386 that's open 24 hours, every single day of the year.

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