Hello, hello, hello! Yes, it is indeed time for another bout of Manga Madness! Today we’re going to take a gander at Kaori Yuki’s The Cain Saga and Godchild. So sit down, strap on your seatbelts, and let’s go!
Kaori Yuki’s most famous work is probably Angel Sanctuary, but this gothic, Victorian-era tale is just as well-known. The Cain Saga acts as a prequel to Godchild, and the majority of the stories are based on nursery rhymes. There are strong religious and supernatural themes running throughout each story, and each story focuses on a murder or strange incident that our protagonist gets involved in. Here’s a handy dandy visual guide of our main characters:
Other key figures include Uncle Neil (Cain’s guardian) and Delilah, a shadowy organization that performs experiments on the dead. They serve as the main antagonists of the series. The Cain Saga and Godchild were written about 6-7 years apart, and this time lapse is most obvious in the artwork. We start off with rounder designs in the earlier stories, but once Godchild comes around, the artwork takes on a distinctly angular look. The level of detail in the art is astonishing; you’re presented with fully fleshed-out scenes in every panel. If I were to take some Veritaserum, I would admit that sometimes this level of detail is overwhelming; the page looks cluttered because there’s no negative space, and it’s hard to know what to focus on. But overall, the art is sure to impress.
Plot-wise, we start off watching Cain go around solving various murders. Along the way we start to learn about his family history, but it’s not until we start to learn about Delilah’s involvement in these murders and Cain’s life that the plot really takes off. And that’s mostly because the relationships between the various main characters begin to develop in fascinating and, quite frankly, terrifying and heartbreaking ways.
Cain and Riff’s relationship is the most talked about among fans. Cain is generally unpleasant to everyone, but it’s clear that Riff is trusted by Cain trusts, and Riff is entirely devoted to him. Riff does everything for Cain – dresses him, cleans for him, protects him, goes along on murder-solving missions – and when Riff leaves at one point, you realize just how much Cain depends on him. Their closeness and extreme dedication to one another has led to much speculation that their master-servant relationship extends to the bedroom. There are definitely some moments that can be seen as slashy (and a simple Google image search asks if you meant to look for CainxRiff images), but the mangaka has said she doesn’t really see them that way. Ultimately, whether you view their relationship as romantic or not, their journey together will simply break your soul.
After that, the second most compelling relationship is between the various Hargreaves family members. Cain and Mary Weather get on really well; there’s not much turbulence there, and we get to see Cain take on responsibility by caring for his newly-found sister. Cain and Neil have a rocky relationship, but Cain does come to see that Neil really does care for him. Cain and Jizabel have a VERY interesting relationship – Jizabel is an illegitimate son, and he feels that Cain stole a happy childhood and life from him. Because of that, he’s constantly trying to hurt Cain by harming those closest to him. Jizabel comes across as unhinged, but when you see the ordeals he underwent as a child at the hands of his father and as a member of Delilah, you begin to understand why he directs his hatred towards Cain (it doesn’t excuse his actions, mind you). And of course, all of these problems stem from Cain’s father, a truly terrible person. He’s a manipulating man who does truly atrocious things to his family, and you’ll want to slap him from the moment you meet him.
As this is a Kaori Yuki series, you’ve probably guessed that there’s a lot of dark stuff in these stories. Well, you’re completely right! A few topics include murder, incest, child abuse, and suicide. All of it helps to explain the characters’ actions and motivations, but it might be a shock the first time you start reading. If the use of ‘Cain’ as a name didn’t tip you off (again, this series is full of Biblical references), you quickly understand that pretty much only bad things are in store for our characters. But hey, we all love tragedy, right?