GODCHILD by Kaori Yuki
Shojo Beat, 8-volume manga series
Anyone who knows anything at all about Kaori Yuki knows that, if you’re planning to pick up one of her manga, you’d better be prepared for the worst. And by the worst, I mean the best, most soul-crushing story you’ve ever read. Happy ending? You’re in the wrong aisle, my friend.
God forbid Kaori Yuki and CLAMP ever team up. I don’t even….
Of course, I had forgotten all of this in my race to read Godchild. I had never read the beginning of the Count Cain Saga, so I didn’t know what I was getting into. For that matter, I didn’t realize that Godchild was a continuation of the Cain Saga until I’d made it halfway through volume one. Luckily, Kaori Yuki does a remarkable job of giving you everything you need to know over the course of the current story. I never once felt lost.
Godchild takes place in Victorian London, and it is unmistakably Gothic in flavor. Cain has become head of the Hargreaves family at seventeen following the death of his father (if you want to call it that). He’s a charismatic but eccentric young man with an interest in studying and collecting poisons. His constant companions are his butler Riff and his half-sister Mary Weather, both of whom are interesting characters in their own rights.
The plot gets a little complicated, and to explain it, I would have to give away more than one or two major points. Suffice it to say that Cain finds himself opposed to a secret organization called Delilah. This group of largely amoral individuals is set on destroying the majority of London and bringing a new age upon the world. What the other members of Delilah do not know, however, is that this is not the ultimate goal of their leader, who has no reservation about destroying all of them to realize his true intentions.
This story is rife with every kind of abuse you can think to heap upon a set of characters. And when I say abuse, I mean that literally. Child abuse, psychological abuse, incest, madness, family curses, tragic destinies, guilt, jealousy, skewed love, betrayal, denial…. It’s all there and then some. In particular, the relationships that developed between Alexis Hargreaves and his sons are painful to read about, and it’s inevitable that you hope for Alexis to get his just deserts since he’s at the core of the madness.
Among the members of Delilah is Cain’s half-brother Jizabel Disraeli. He turned out to be one of my favorite characters. At least, given that he was insane and brutal to begin with, his story could only get better (well, I say better…). The revelation of Jizabel’s childhood is heart-wrenching, and if I hadn’t already hated Alexis for what happened with…a certain major character whom I will not name…I would have certainly despised him by the end of Jizabel’s story.
Of course, Jizabel isn’t the only one who has been badly treated. Cain is emotionally tormented beyond all reason in addition to the physical torture he endured as a child. Every character, at some point, experiences some kind of psychological if not outright betrayal, and by the last volume of Godchild, you’re not certain whether or not anyone is even going to come out of it alive. Luckily, Kaori Yuki doesn’t kill off the entire cast. But, for certain, no one gets away unscathed.
The ultimate truth of the story, which is held back until the very end, is somewhat surprising. Had I not been so distracted by the smorgasbord of darkness and dismay, I might have picked up on it more quickly. I had my suspicions, but there was so little evidence or indication that they were correct that I let them fall by the wayside. There’s also a small reveal about Mary Weather that I hadn’t foreseen, though given Alexis’ obsession with his children, I should have.
Overall, I rate Godchild as one of my favorite dark manga. You won’t want to read it if you prefer fluffy bunnies and happy endings, but if you like Gothic stories with a great big helping of despair, then this is the manga for you.