Archive for March 25th, 2010

Angel’s Coffin

Originally posted on Jan. 15, 2010 at LiveJournal.

TITLE: Angel’s Coffin
RATING: Older Teen (16+)
SCORE: 9 (Great)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: You Higuri (mangaka of Ludwig II, Crown, Cantarella, and Gorgeous Carat, among others). Le Chevalier d’Eon, Emma, historical fiction, romance, supernatural

This one-shot manga was quite the pleasant surprise, I must say. I bought it on a whim during a store-closing sale at my local Waldenbooks (*sniffle*), solely on the basis of the intriguing summary, the fact that it was a one-shot, and the gorgeous, drool-worthy bishounen on the cover. (What can I say? I love me some pretty boys.) Other than that, I didn’t know much about it, but, hey, it was 60% off retail, so even it if was terrible, it wouldn’t be a total waste of money.

Well, now that I’ve read it, I can say that I would have gladly paid retail and left completely satisfied with my purchase.

The aforementioned “gorgeous, drool-worthy bishounen” pictured on the cover is Seto, a former god. For centuries, he’s been trapped in an ancient book, sealed away by a Catholic monk, until one day a demon named Baphomet agrees to help set him free. In exchange, Seto must make the life of the first human he sees a living hell, as the demon feeds off the energy of souls in anguish.

The first person Seto happens to see after his release is pretty eighteen-year-old Baroness Marie Alexandrin Vetsera, a name that may be familiar to some history buffs out there, as the character is a fictionalized version of the real-life Marie Vetsera. Marie is head-over-heels in love with handsome Prince Rudolf of Austria (her real-life lover), but it is a love not meant to be as she is a lowly aristocrat and he is already married to Princess Stephanie of Belgium — not that his marriage stops him from having many affairs with the ladies of the court, mind you. As thanks for her breaking the seal, Seto offers to help Marie win the prince’s heart, knowing it can only lead to heartbreak for her, but along the way, he finds himself falling for her himself.

I think this story would really appeal to fans of the anime (and probably the manga, but I’ve never read it) of Le Chevalier d’Eon. Both stories take historical figures and events and reinvent them with a supernatural twist. They also both touch on royal politics. In the story, as in life, Prince Rudolf is much more liberal than his conservative father, Emperor Franz Joseph, and the two of them are at odds throughout the story. Rudolf even goes as far as to align himself with a group of radicals who want to dispose of (a.k.a assasinate) Franz Joseph and make Rudolf president of a new republic. However, at heart, Rudolf is simply a lonely man who longs to be loved: by his father, by his mother, by anyone, really.

It is that loneliness and depression that make Prince Rudolf a rather sympathetic character, in spite of his many extramarital affairs. I found him to be the most interesting character in the story. He’s quite a morbid person and keeps a human skull on display in his room, telling Marie he “fell in love with the pure white of [the] skull, it’s beautiful ‘nil’.”

For those who might expect that Marie’s love will show him the joy of living, cause him to change his playboy ways, divorce his wife and marry Marie… Well, it’s not that kind of story, which is one of this work’s greatest strengths. This is not a typical shoujo story in which a girl is conflicted between two men who love her, but in the end, everybody lives happily ever after. Despite Seto’s growing feelings for her, Marie doesn’t seem to have any sort of real romantic interest in him at all, as she is completely in love with Rudolf. Rudolf’s feelings for Marie, on the other hand, are less clear. He does seem to like her, but it’s up to reader interpretation whether he is truly in love with her, or if he just uses her to subdue his own feelings of loneliness.

The ending is truly tragic, as Rudolf, overcome by his feelings of depression, convinces Marie to commit double-suicide with him. This isn’t a spoiler, by the way, as it is stated on the third page of the story how it will end, not to mention being a historical fact. (Well, it is a historical fact that Marie and Rudolf were both found dead at Mayerling. It’s not completely known exactly what happened during what history now calls the “Mayerling incident”, but the two lovers committing double-suicide is one of the popular theories.) For fans of heart-breaking romance that ends in tragedy, this manga should be right up your alley.

On the technical side of things, You Higuri’s artwork is gorgeous, especially when she draws male characters. (Prince Rudolf is particularly yummy.) Backgrounds and clothes are beautifully detailed as well. It’s not quite up to Kaoru Mori (mangaka of Emma) standards, and it uses a lot of the typical shoujo style cues, but it is clear that Higuri did her research. Speaking of Emma, fans may also be interested in this story, as they take place roughly around the same period in history (the late 1800s). Just be warned that the characters in Angel’s Coffin have more of a modern feel to them, in contrast to the characters in Emma, who act mostly how you would expect people during the Victorian era to act.

One thing I want to point out is that I’m not quite sure why this manga was given such a high rating. There’s no nudity or sexual content, language is mild and practically non-existent, and the violence isn’t too bad, in my opinion. It does feature dark themes like suicide, but that’s the only thing I can think of that might require an OT+ rating, and even then, it seems a bit much. Also, for people who don’t care for BL (boys’ love), I would suggest you stop at the end of the main story and skip the short post-script story, revealing that Rudolf’s servant Loschek had feelings for the prince that went beyond loyalty toward his master. (Nothing explicit is shown.) For those who don’t mind, though, the extra story provides a little bit more insight into Prince Rudolf’s lonely life and is quite lovely.

If you’re in the mood for a tragic love story, then give Angel’s Coffin a try. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.

Add a comment March 25, 2010






March 2010

Posts by Month

Posts by Category