The Cain Saga Vol. 1: Forgotten Juliet (Viz Media/Shojo Beat)

cainheaderCain Hargreaves, the English earl with a penchant for poisons and a skill at solving murders, broke hearts in Godchild, but this 5-volume series shows how he got his start.


188 pgs B&W; $8.99

(W/A: Kaori Yuki)

Click here to read the PLAYBACK:stl review of the first two volumes of Kaori Yuki's Godchild.


American readers were first introduced to Earl Cain Hargreaves, the mysterious English nobleman with a penchant for poisons and a skill at solving mysteries, through Godchild, a Victorian horror series that added some much needed darkness to the otherwise bright and sunny anthology magazine Shojo Beat. Manga artist Kaori Yuki first brought life to the young earl several years earlier, however, in the five volume Count Cain series. Cain would rest for seven years while Yuki created her hit series Angel Sanctuary, and the long break results in differences between Godchild and its predecessor, finally reaching American shores as The Cain Saga, that couldn't be more striking.


The cover to Cain Saga Vol.1. Click thumbnail for a larger image.One of the more surprising differences is that despite his name in the title, Cain Hargreaves is anything but the center of attention in this first collection. He makes a few appearances in the first story, the "Forgotten Juliet" of the title, but for the most part Cain sticks to the background as the reader follows Ariel, a young gardener who gets tied up in the mystery of a young woman who died under mysterious circumstances only to disappear from her grave. The young earl finally takes centerstage in the second chapter, "Branded Bibi," where he helps his uncle uncover the truth behind a young girl claiming to be his long-dead daughter. Readers better enjoy his company while it lasts, however, as Yuki switches gears for a pair of tales that don't feature the series' titular hero at all.


The first of these stories, "The Boys Who Stopped Time," stars Rupert Godfrey, a boy of noble birth who was raised as a commoner. Already looked down upon by his classmates, he digs himself in deeper when he starts investigating the death of the school's previous maid. "Double" leaps even further away from the Victorian setting by not only jumping forward to (more or less) the modern day but also shifting from England to America, where a young man named Len travels to New York City to track down Emilio, his childhood friend who has since become a movie star. The two stories are certainly interesting, but with the radically different tone, setting, and cast of characters in these stories, they fail to connect as deeply. This is driven home by the brilliant final story, "The Death of Cleo Dreyfus." The shortest story in the collection (at 10 pages) but also the sweetest, the delectably macabre tale skips past all the mystery mumbo-jumbo to get right to the meat of the story: the villain's comeuppance. This final chapter is the first to feature Cain's more sadistic side, and seems a good sign that future volumes will grow to be even more like Godchild.


An interior page from The Cain Saga Vol. 1. Can you tell what order to read the words on this page? Yeah, me neither.One of the most fascinating things about reading this series after its successor is the chance to see Yuki's art while it's still in development. Her artwork on Godchild is striking, ornately detailed and with a distinctly European flair; in The Cain Saga, that look is still a ways off. While the costumes and settings are simplified, they still capture the Victorian era, but the characters themselves are in a more stereotypical manga style, looking surprisingly like Here Is Greenwood artist Yukie Nasu's work if she tried her hand at a period piece. The pages are also occasionally overcrowded with dialogue and narration, sometimes to the point where the order to read them is not readily apparent.


Readers looking to recreate the experience of reading Godchild or to dig up hints at Cain's mysterious past will likely walk away from The Cain Saga Vol. 1 wanting. Those willing to accept the learning curve and revel in the story's dark edge, stirring mysteries, and tragic murders, however, will find much to like in The Cain Saga.

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