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Manga Review: Godchild, Vol. 3

Posted by: Katherine Dacey on November 9, 2006 at 5:35 pm

Godchild, Vol. 3

By Kaori Yuki
Viz, 200 pp.
Rating: Mature

godchild_1.jpgBack in the summer of 2002, Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern earned my undying loyalty as a reader with a review of xXx. His article opened with a catalog of the film’s most egregious capitulations to action movie formula, from the villains’ faux-Russian accents to Vin Diesel’s seemingly endless supply of snappy one-liners. Having enumerated the film’s most obvious faults, I fully expected Morgenstern to pronounce xXx a loud, dull bore undeserving of my $10. But his next sentence floored me: despite the car chases and absurd gadgetry, he loved xXx in all its lowbrow glory.

Well, I’m having a Morgenstern moment of my own, courtesy of Kaori Yuki’s Godchild. My inner historian—the person who read Eric Hobsbawm’s The Invention of Tradition and The Age of Empire—is cringing in shame as I type this review. After all, Godchild’s premise is both ahistoric and just plain silly—think CSI: Victorian England with an impossibly handsome bad boy protagonist.

Each volume features several murder mysteries with a baroque twist: a youth serum that in fact is a horrific experiment in entomology, a pair of poisoned gloves, a strangely life-like doll that turns out to be an embalmed person, a coffin maker who drums up business with a blow dart gun. These horrid whodunits are the bailiwick of dashing Lord Cain, a character straight out of Goth shojo fantasy. He’s equal parts Johnny Depp, Robert Smith, Orlando Bloom, and Quincy MD, as is suggested by his perfectly tousled hair, neatly chiseled chin, soulful eyes, and wardrobe of top hats, capes, and poofy shirts strategically unbuttoned to the waist. (In a sidebar, Kaori Yuki cheerfully cops to omitting undershirts from Cain’s wardrobe to suit “the mood of the comic.”) Early in the series, we learn that Cain’s family has cultivated an interest in exotic poisons, knowledge that proves unusually handy given the number of elaborately plotted crimes plaguing Victorian London. Cain solves these mysteries while attempting to unravel his family’s legacy of violence and secrets that has pitted him against his father, Alexis, and half-brother, Dr. Jizabel Disraeli. (I know, I know… Hobsbawm would wince at that name, too.)

Having noted Godchild’s more obvious shortcomings, I confess that reading it was pure pleasure. Sure, this is the manga equivalent of Twizzlers, a tasty little confection with little or no nutritive value and nary a “real” ingredient in sight. But even the most Tezuka-laden diet needs the occasional palette cleanser. Kaori Yuki’s distinctive artwork and macabre sensibility make this overripe setup entertaining, even if the occasionally slangy dialogue and CSI-style forensics seem implausible in a Victorian London setting. You can bet I’ll be lining up to buy the next volume when Viz releases it in 2007… though I’ll probably be wearing some Groucho Marx glasses to conceal my identity.

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8 Responses to "Manga Review: Godchild, Vol. 3"

1 | Erin F.

November 9th, 2006 at 7:18 pm

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I read many of the chapters of Godchild they published in Shojo Beat magazine. Apparently they knew that couldn’t finish the run of the story because it was too violent (or maybe they just wanted to switch it out for fresh titles).

I couldn’t really get into it, though. I don’t like the whole crime-solving genre. And that pertains to television, Detective Conan, and mystery novels.

2 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

November 9th, 2006 at 9:09 pm

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Though the murders are gruesome, most of the violence is implied, nor does it match the goriness of stuff I’ve seen in recent Tokyopop horror titles like “Innocent W” and “Bloodsucker 2.” I’m curious to see what kind of scene Viz thinks is too violent for the pages of Shojo Beat. Guess I’ll just have to wait for the later volumes.

I appreciate your comment about genre. I may be the only person in the manga-sphere who doesn’t like “Nodame Cantabile.” All those years of playing in orchestras has made it virtually impossible for me to read any music-themed manga without finding fault.

3 | Mel

November 25th, 2006 at 1:59 am

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How many manga have you read that are based entirely upon historical fact? Is that what manga is all about? I think not. Manga is entertainment. Manga is there to be fun and engaging, not to be a history lesson. II saw Cain waltzing around Victorian England in an afro and bell-bottoms, I’d be a little worried, yes. However, he isn’t, and the atmosphere of the manga, I think, portrays the time period rather well (despite it’s actual historical shortcomings). I’m glad you’re going to continue with it,however; Kaori Yuki is one of my all time favorite manga artists and is a genius in her own right, but please, if you’re looking for a manga which closely adheres to actual events, I’m sure you’re going to be slightly disappointed as the pickings are slim.

4 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

November 25th, 2006 at 8:38 am

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Mel, we’re actually on the same page here: we both think of “Godchild” as atmospheric, entertaining, and elegantly illustrated. As someone with a degree in history, however, I happen to think that Kaori Yuki’s portrayal of Victorian London is pretty silly. I don’t mean that as an insult to the manga-ka, just a warning to readers who are sticklers for historical accuracy. I certainly don’t look to manga for history lessons about Victorian England (or Edo-era Japan, for that matter), but there are readers who care passionately about these kind of details. And it’s for those readers that I acknowledge some of the goofier elements of “Godchild.”

Thank you for reading the review and taking the time to post a comment. I share your admiration for Kaori Yuki’s work, and am looking forward to the next installment of “Godchild” as well.

5 | Hydeist

February 3rd, 2007 at 12:59 pm

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Godchild rocks and kaori yuki is a god. Enuff said.

6 | Amaya

September 9th, 2007 at 7:49 am

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omg, i love this series, it rocks, and its not all about crime solving, he has personal issues to…..

7 | Katherine Dacey-Tsuei

September 9th, 2007 at 8:59 am

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You’re right, Amaya! But the first few volumes emphasized the crime solving over Cain’s family issues, which is why I didn’t discuss them much in my review. Thanks for reading!

8 | Tsurara

July 13th, 2008 at 4:44 am

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See, the thing about Godchild is that the pure fascination of it is not the fact that it’s a bad shonen-ai gothic twist on sherlock holmes; the appeal comes from the very twistedness itself. (If twustedness is actually a word ^^) The messed-up family situations, the gore, the incest, the suicides, the murders, sado-masocism, loss, love, mental illness, control complexes, retribution, complete dispair and what it does to people- THAT’s what makes The Godchild a genius work of art… and I’m sooo calling in for a pair of those Groucho Marx glasses as well, cuz I can’t wait for the next volume! ^^



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