Cantarella Vol. 1
Cantarella is the fourth new release from manga newcomer Go! Comi, and it just might be the finest of the bunch. The other three series washing ashore in Go! Comi's first wave of releases are relatively easily sorted into specific genres. From the subject of familial romance in Crossroad, cross-dressing romance in Tenshi Ja Nai!!, or supernatural romance within the pages of Her Majesty's Dog, the books aren't exactly genre-breakers.
However, if you're looking for something different, then look no further than Cantarella. Inspired by the real-life story of Cesare Borgia, this Renaissance tale from You Higuri boasts political intrigue, religious controversy, and, thanks to the beauty of poetic license, a strong supernatural undercurrent. And yes, there's romance there, too, but what good story lacks romance?
Cesare is the bastard son of an ambitious Cardinal in the Catholic Church. His father, Rodrigo, made a pact with demons offering the soul of his son in exchange for far more power than he could attain naturally. The story begins in Italy in the 1400s, and from the looks of things, it will focus primarily on Cesare's life.
Though Cardinal Rodrigo's eyes are trained on the price of the Papacy, Cesare has the potential to conquer far more than only the Church. The first volume in the series deals with Cesare's childhood. He is depicted as a typical innocent boy, raised by his stepmother after the death of his true mom. However, events beyond his control soon start commanding his destiny. Cesare develops an unhealthy infatuation with his stepsister, but perhaps more telling of his future, he also eventually learns how to wield a sword with deadly skill.
There is far more to this story than what is revealed in the first book - some of which is known from history while other parts have been brilliantly conceived by Higuri.
The events that transpire in Cantarella leave little room for humor, and at times is feels more like a Shakespearean tragedy than a manga release. Though I'm only one volume into the tale, I can't say that I predict a happy ending for the series.
You Higuri's artwork is breathtakingly beautiful, with expressive characters populating her vision of Renaissance Italy. Though Cesare is a bit of a bishonen, it is only proper that someone destined for such a demonic future have a heavenly face. Contradictions make the world more interesting, you know. Action scenes are well-thought out, and while I'm no historical scholar, the costume designs and architecture evokes the era admirably. If artwork is all it takes to make you keen on picking up a book, then Cantarella should convince you with its pretty cover alone.
What makes this a bit more of a significant release than other titles out there is the fact that Audry Taylor, the author of the English adaptation, is in fact a close friend of You Higuri's. The two keep in regular contact with one another, ensuring that the author's original intent is conveyed as accurately as possible. I can't help but suspect that whenever I hear that changes have been made with "the author's approval" that the author didn't have much of a choice in the matter...but I trust Go! Comi.
It's not just because of the team that's behind the books, however - it's the first four releases they've produced. Each one is a solid work with respectable artwork. Each one has been well-translated. And they're not afraid to start off with more controversial titles such as Cantarella. Many publishers seem to exhibit a frustrating timidity when putting out English adaptations of Japanese works. It's brave to release a series aimed towards mature readers looking for some historical drama. Each one of Go! Comi's new series is rated for older teens - 16 and. From a business perspective this sort of age exclusion may seem foolish, it is perhaps the most promising trait of the company's launch.