I’ll confess, I have a weak spot for Kaori Yuki. Angel Sanctuary was the first manga that I ever read, and she got me hooked. Yuki has a very distinctive style, with lots of character detail and busy panels, with sound effects and balloons filling in the space. Just like how you can tell a manga is from CLAMP, you can tell this is a Kaori Yuki book.
During my early days of obsessing over Angel Sanctuary, I learned about Yuki’s other major series, Count Cain. At the time, I was all about the incestuous angelic love and journeying through Hell, so I didn’t check out the scanslations of Count Cain. After all, Angel Sanctuary wasn’t licensed in the US, and probably wouldn’t ever be due to its strong religious and incest themes.
I’m happy that I was wrong about that.
Godchild, the sequel/second half of Count Cain, was one of the debut titles in Shojo Beat when VIZ Media brought the popular monthly magazine manga anthology to the US. VIZ Media also released Angel Sanctuary in volume format, so it was only a matter of time before they would release the original adventures of Cain.
Entitled The Cain Saga, this series tells the early history of Earl Cain Hargreaves, eccentric wealthy genius, poison collector and sleuth, and the murder and mayhem that accompanies him wherever he goes. It also introduces readers to the reoccurring secondary characters in Godchild. Thus, if you’ve been following Godchild, it’s only natural for you to pick up this series as well. (Godchild is no longer running in Shojo Beat, but it is still being released in collected volumes.) However, The Cain Saga is a great point to jump onto this story, as this is actually the beginning of the entire story.
For a fan of Kaori Yuki, this series is interesting to read purely from an artistic point of view. As the first volume was originally released in 1990, her style evolves thorough the volumes, from almost stereotypical shojo character designs to angular faces and wavy hair influenced by her work on Angel Sanctuary at the time. VIZ Media has included Yuki’s sidebar comments and afterword, giving the reader a connection to the creator as she often looks back at her own work.
The excellent plot raises The Cain Saga to the highest grade. The volume immediately thrusts you into a murder mystery in Victorian England, where Earl Cain is introduced originally as a secondary character, a family member who collects poisons and is rather antisocial and disobedient of societal law. Soon, the focus shifts entirely to the nobleman, tainted by his family’s dark secrets, which are slowly revealed during Cain’s mystery investigations.
Yuki keeps mainly to a “one murder mystery per chapter” format early on, before starting on the metaplot of Cain’s background and his adversary Jizabel and the Delilah Secret Society, which plays a larger role in the later volumes. However, Yuki’s love for Victorian culture and sublime murder mysteries (think CSI with an emphasis on gore and tainted family relations; hell, just think CSI during the May Sweeps) shines thorough the stories, making each chapter equally strong and engaging. I’m not ashamed to admit that I read the first four volumes all in one sitting.
The first three volumes are stand-alone stories, while the fourth, “The Seal of the Red Ram, Part 1” opens a larger arc involving Jack the Ripper and Delilah involved in swapping body parts in the name of mad science. I suppose this is a good place as any to address the explicit content warning label prominently displayed on the cover of this series. The Cain Saga features implied incestuous sex and on-screen kissing between a brother and sister. Bodies are displayed everywhere, from vague dark pools to a graphic mauling and a hanging. While The Cain Saga doesn’t have the raw violence of say, Battle Royale, it does contain a lot of mature material that would be rather disturbing for most minors. I wouldn’t see a high school senior having much trouble with the content, as it isn’t much worse than Shakespeare or the actual Sherlock Holmes novels. However, it’s one thing to read about a murder and another to see it visually displayed.If you enjoy Victorian era dark murder mysteries, or tales of the sublime that drive people to madness, or just beautiful artwork, The Cain Saga is an excellent series for you.