Author: Kaori Yuki
Manga genre: Shojo/horror
Number of volumes: 8 (English edition).
Still in print? Yes.
Godchild is a direct sequel to one of Kaori Yuki’s earlier works, the Cain Saga. Several years had passed between the last of the Cain Saga chapters being published and the launch of Godchild, and Yuki’s art style also developed during the time spent away from the characters; so there really is a very different feel to the two series.
Godchild is a Gothic murder mystery set in a Victorian London where things most definitely go “bump” in the night. A serial killer stalks the streets in a bunny mask. A severed arm clutching a tarot card is delivered in a box of roses. In a bold stylistic move that the creator often repeats, gruesome murders are often juxtaposed with nursery rhymes that are, in some way, linked to the story. The art is beautiful and intricate, sprinkled with lace, corsets and all the standard trappings of Victoriana as seen through a Japanese lens.
The main character, Cain Hargreaves, is young, handsome and independently wealthy. He’s also an expert in poisons, and even collects them – which comes in handy, since the series features a veritable smorgasbord of them. Cain acts as a sort of freelance detective, solving mysteries for the aristocracy while also trying to unravel the secrets of his own past.
Godchild is a series that looks at the darker, more obsessive side of love – like incest, or suicide. Cain, whose parents were siblings, grew up horribly tormented by his father, who whipped him almost daily to make him “atone for his sin” of being born. So unsurprisingly, he has trust issues; but there are exactly
two people Cain allows himself to care about. They are his younger half-sister Merry, and his faithful servant Riff, and together, the three of them form the core of the series.
As a formal medical student, Riff is well equipped to doctor all the wounds Cain inevitably acquires throughout the story. He is the only person the cocksure Cain will show any weakness in front of. There are many subtle hints sprinkled throughout that Cain and Riff are in love with each other, though the mysteries usually take centre stage. Still, they seem to find any excuse to touch each other – from Cain resting his head on Riff’s shoulder, or reaching up to straighten Riff’s collar, to Riff always insisting on helping his master dress, even tying Cain’s shoelaces for him. A relationship between them would obviously have been very much a taboo in Victorian England, where homosexuality was illegal. But, there is also the class aspect creating a bit of a gulf between them – Cain is, after all, Riff’s employer. There is also the problem that Riff, who has served Cain since he was a little boy, knows far too much about his master, while Cain knows next to nothing about Riff and his background…
In the shadows, there is the secret organisation called Delilah, headed up by Cain’s half-brother (who is perfectly sane, of course, even though his hobby is collecting human eyeballs), and maybe even Cain’s supposedly dead father. They are often found to be the real puppeteers behind the crimes Cain investigates, and like to sabotage him whenever possible. Delilah, essentially, want to bring the dead back to life, transferring blood and organs from living people into the corpses of their chosen loved ones. The focus gradually shifts, and the plot becomes less “mystery of the week” as Cain’s struggle with Delilah becomes more central to the story. The body-count keeps rising, and Yuki doesn’t exactly ration her ketchup.
Try, if you can, to disregard the sometimes silly names. Not only is Cain’s half-sister called Merry, which is not an alternate spelling of Mary at all – it’s short for Merryweather. Also, Riff’s full name is apparently Riffuel Raffit. I guess that… sounded very English at the time?
You will notice that my volumes are purple, and have different numbers on the spine – that’s because they are in German. I picked up several of this Carlsen Manga edition at random in an airport bookshop in Hamburg, and as the series hadn’t been translated to English yet, I wound up reading the whole thing in German. The German edition treats the Cain saga as the first five volumes of the Godchild series, and publishes them all under the same name.
Like Godchild, the Cain Saga was also published in English by Viz. It’s currently out of print but is still commonly available very cheaply second-hand (or occasionally new from independent sellers.) Both series total 13 volumes and I’d recommend reading it too, since it delves more into Cain’s backstory. But, this sequel still stands well on it’s own.