Cantarella Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Go! Comi
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 0-9768957-0-6
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Cantarella Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     December 08, 2005
Release Date: October 19, 2005


Cantarella Vol.#01
© Go! Comi


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:You Higuri
Translated by:Kayoko Dietsche
Adapted by:

What They Say
Drink from the Cup of Borgias…If You Dare!
From birth, Cesare Borgia is surrounded by shadows. Damned by his own father, hated by his closest brother, separated from the sister who loves him, and driven by the demons of Hell itself, his quest for power threatens to set the world of Renaissance Italy ablaze -- unless one innocent person can drive away the poisonous shadows ravaging him!

Enter the world of the Borgias. A world of unspeakable conspiracies and forbidden desires. A family whose murderous intrigues would make them infamous throughout history. A history written in blood…and a poison called Cantarella.

The Review
A romantic adventure of historical proportions.

Packaging:
Cantarella represents the first of Go! Comi's "Signature Edition" titles. Go! Comi has apparently worked very closely with You Higuri to essentially recreate this book for an English audience and includes special bonus features. The cover art is lavish and beautiful, featuring a stunning picture of Cesare and Chiaro/Michelotto on the front and Cesare on the back. The fanciful logo is also complimentary to the original.

The print quality inside is beautiful, among the best on the market, although for the extra distinction given this title over Go! Comi’s other initial releases, I'd expected to see color pages included. In addition to a new introduction by Higuri, this book includes her original postscript as well as extensive notes about the historical figure of Cesare Borgia. A discussion of the methods of production (translation, SFX, art reproduction, etc) and ads for other Go! Comi titles close up the volume.

Artwork:
Higuri's characters are absolutely beautiful and meticulously drawn. I love the consistency of the work overall and how everything looks so clean. Linework is thin but always distinct. I do think her faces tend to look very similar but I really like how well she uses the eyes to convey expression and the tones and shading look great. The story is set in Renaissance Italy so there are many elaborately detailed costumes. Backgrounds look good when present, but I don't miss them when they aren't -- the pages and layout are generally pretty busy and there is often quite a bit of text worked in throughout the panels. My only criticism (and it's rather small) is that the action sequences sometimes feel kind of static. The panel layout helps a lot, but once in awhile things just feel clumsy. The art reproduction is terrific as well, having been struck from the original Japanese film.

SFX/Text:
The text and translation look great here. The translation reads wonderfully and is free from errors. As mentioned in translation notes, Higuri was consulted during the adaptation process to ensure an accurate portrayal of the text. SFX are subtitled or overlaid depending on their placement in the panel and the graphic intentions of the artist. No matter how one likes their SFX handled, it's clear every effort has been made to carefully translate in a manner that best suits the panel. Go! Comi has the right idea, to treat them on a case-by-case basis, and will surely please many fans in this manner.

Contents:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Cesare Borgia, the illegitimate son of Cardinal Rodrigo (future Pope Alexander VI), was born under inauspicious signs. Forced into early labor by unholy forces, Cesare's mother sees that her newborn son is surrounded by evil. She even tries to take his life but the demonic forces that surround her tiny son protect him and she is killed instead. Cesare is then placed in the care of the widow Vanozza, yet another of his father's lovers, and she somehow has the power to keep the demons at bay. Despite Vanozza's love however, Cesare endures a difficult youth, tortured by his father's apathy and his brother's hatred. Vanozza and his sister Lucrezia represent his only happiness.

When Vanozza is forced to marry and leave her children behind, Cesare falls into great despair, feeling abandoned and unloved once again. With his brother Juan at the Spanish Court, Cesare and Lucrezia are sent to live with their shrewd, unkind relatives, the Orsini family. It isn't long before even Lucrezia is separated from him and his benefactors turn on him, out of spite for his father, the Cardinal. One evening after bearing witness to his father's corrupt and lecherous ways, Cesare vows that he will become stronger, so that he will be able to stand on his own and fear no one.

Cesare begins sword training under the skilled guardsman Marrone and quickly develops a bond with him. Cesare is a quick study and his ability astonishing. One night, a passing sorcerer shows Cesare a vision of his future -- one bathed in a river of blood, with Cesare dealing death with his own hands. He tells Cesare that the evil ones are drawn to his luring aura and are clinging to his very soul. The sorcerer also warns Cesare not to trust his father. Shaken up by this ominous visit, Cesare goes to cool his head and accidentally happens upon Marrone and Lady Orsini, who are plotting to kill his father.

When Rodrigo visits, Cesare interferes with their murderous plans but is unsurprisingly shunned by his father again. Marrone seeks out Cesare a short time later, but rather than agree to Cesare's pleas to escape with him, Marrone attempts to silence the boy. The evil spirits that surround Cesare once again keep him from harm and Cesare kills Marrone. With feelings of betrayal and sadness so intense, Cesare's vows he will never shed tears again and instead accept whatever dark fate Heaven has in store for him.

We are next introduced to a mysterious young man named Chiaro who, like others of his family before him, has an alter ego: the legendary assassin Michelotto. Cardinal Rovere, a rival of Cesare's father, is revealed to be the mastermind behind the plot to kill Rodrigo, and tasks Michelotto with eliminating Cesare. Attacked while en route to a seminary in Perugia, Cesare is shocked to find that the assassin harbors the same power to purify the evil around him as Vanozza had. Cherishing this warmth, he vows to give his life to Chiaro should he wish it, but refuses to be killed for the sake of someone else's orders. He takes Chiaro's mask, the symbol of his role as Michelotto, and rides off issuing a challenge to Chiaro.

Cesare manages to fend off subsequent attacks by Chiaro in Perugia but soon receives news that sends him journeying back to Rome to claim lands that should be rightfully his. In the meantime Juan has returned to Rome as well, where he is received unsatisfactorily by his sister. Chiaro, also on his way to Rome in hopes of intercepting Cesare, comes upon Juan bullying Lucrezia out in the woods and rescues her. The two appear to be quite taken with one another. Juan's got more on his agenda than his sister though and he convinces his father to confide in him the reason he treats Cesare so badly. Upon his return to Rome Cesare runs into Juan, who has some shocking revelations to share with his brother.

Comments
For better or worse this is primarily a book of laying foundations; a ton of information setting up the characters and their motivations is jammed into this initial volume. As such the story moves briskly, and while I don’t feel that it is poorly written, it does suffer from a bit of choppiness. In her introduction Higuri admits she initially planned this story to run about five volumes, but its popularity with fans has kept it running to this day, at ten books and counting. Using this context I think the somewhat packed beginnings of Cesare's tale can be forgiven and instead one should view this as a great tale unfolding -- one that starts at the beginning and nurtures a promise of so much more to come.

Cantarella’s story has a fascinating premise that blends historical fiction, religious-political intrigue and supernatural doom set in the culturally significant landscape of 15th century Italy. Had there been more time to develop these earlier chapters, the characters and events may have been more deftly fleshed out (as the story is ripe with historical figures and there's the making of quite a lot of angst), but still, Higuri did a decent job of cultivating sympathy for Cesare (and those he’ll grow to care for) by illustrating various betrayals, hatred and conspiratorial evils that surrounded and shaped his developing years. And while the details of everyone’s emotionally manipulated beginnings may be a little on the light side, Cesare remains, as written here, one of the more interesting characters I've come across in manga (certainly due, in part, to his real-life infamy). I look forward to watching him battle his dark fate as his lust for true power manifests.

As noted in the postscript pages, Higuri did a lot of research into the history of Cesare Borgia and has created a character that blends together the various visions of him – fact, fiction, and even her own romanticized version. This story is a labor of love for Higuri, and it shows. It's nice to see a story whose roots stem from somewhere more unique than the average drama and I'm really glad Go! Comi has made Cantarella available to English readers. It's a strong fan-favorite for their initial launch and worth checking out.

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