by You Higuri
After spending centuries trapped in a book, the demon Seto is released by a hapless young girl named Marie. Seto’s freedom comes at a price, however; his master Baphomet feeds on the anguish of tortured souls, and it is Seto’s duty to ensure that Marie’s life is filled with suffering. Seto has plenty to work with: the teenage Marie is head over heels in love with the heir of the Habsburg monarchy, the Crown Prince Rudolf. Rudolf isn’t exactly available – the man is already married – but Seto encourages the relationship. As time passes, Seto falls in love with Marie. He wants to prevent the fate Baphomet has planned for her, but if he intervenes his master will destroy him. As the tragedy of the Mayerling Incident approaches, he struggles to decide whether to protect himself or the girl he loves…even though Baphomet claims that the future he has planned cannot be changed, even by a former god like Seto.
I don’t believe that the Mayerling Incident is particularly well-known to American audiences. I’ve heard it mentioned in passing once or twice, but the Habsburgs have never captured the public’s imagination like the Tudors or the Borgias. This graphic novel, written by the Japanese artist responsible for the series Cantarella, was an unusual approach to the twilight of Vienna and the decline of the Habsburg dynasty. (Rudolf was the uncle of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered World War I.)
If you’re looking for historical accuracy, this graphic novel will disappoint. I’m not talking about the main plot and the obvious supernatural characters, but the alteration of the characters themselves. The two romantic leads have been “prettified” for the manga reader, and bear virtually no resemblance to portraits of Prince Rudolf and Baroness Mary Vetsera. This stands out all the more because other historical figures, like Emperor Franz Joseph or Princess Stephanie of Belgium, are drawn to match portraits from the late 1880s. The personality of Rudolf is also changed to make him a more typical romantic lead. His liaisons with other women are tone down and/or removed – that sort of thing. To me, the simplification of the main characters to basic tropes made the story much less interesting than it could have been.
I wonder if You Higuri intended this story as the start of a series. The final pages set up rather nicely to continue the adventures of Seto and Baphomet through World War I, but the year after Angel’s Coffin was released Higuri began her long-running Cantarella series, leaving this comic a self-contained, single volume.
3 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Author Event: Philippa Gregory
2010: The Age of Comfort by Joan DeJean
2009: Guardian of the Flame by T. L. Higley
2008: Book Group Expo 2008: Day Two