Story and art: You Higuri
Publisher: Go! Comi; 200 pages
For ages 16+
CESARE Borgia (pronounced Che-zar-ay Bor-ja) is tall, dark, handsome and oh yes, possessed by demons. Need I say more? You Higuri’s supernatural-slash-historical shojo manga is flawless. There is mystery, intrigue, extreme love triangles and intensity so electric it crackles. Throw in a serving of dark hatred and a scoop of tasty angst and voila, you get Cantarella!
Born as the illegitimate child of the Cardinal Rodrigo, Cesare was cursed from the day he came into life. His soul was given to the devil in exchange for his father getting the papal throne. Denied by his father, and plagued by the darkness that threatens to consume him, Cesare fights to keep his humanity and protect his beloved younger sister Lucrezia.
His life takes a turn when the assassin Michelotto is hired to kill him. What starts as an attempted assassination turns out to be the start of a relationship bound by fate and sealed by the continuing battle between the good and evil. Cesare will bring about the cataclysmic revolution that will end in bloodshed; his powerful destiny demands it.
Also, add to the drama a moth-cum-sorcerer (yes, I said moth) and the simmering hatred between him and his brother, Juan. In this fifth volume, the hatred finally boils over. Will it end in death? Will Cesare fight the demons who fight for his soul?
Twists and turns are great, but the crowning glory of this manga is the superb artwork. It is simply stunning: the striking trademark ink lines by Higuri-sensei, the clean, flowing details, the intricate attention paid to the background, and the beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Cesare Borgia.
Complex and layered plots. Gorgeous artwork. It gets better, dear readers, for there are characters more complicated than a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and detailed references to the history of the actual Borgia family (dramatised in this manga, of course). The manga’s title is actually a reference to the sweet-smelling yet deadly poison Cantarella, which the Borgia family was famous for using to “remove” their enemies.
I found it difficult to follow the various places and histories mentioned in the manga. Until now I have no idea what the exact timeline this story takes place in. I suspect it starts sometime in the early 15th century and goes on from there. But this is not to say that it is confusing, I simply spent too much time drooling over the art. The research poured into this manga is definitely praiseworthy.
Beware, however, dear readers. This is rated OT, which means it’s for older teens from the ages 16 and up. There is nothing explicit or offensive, but the darkness and intensity of this manga must be kept away from younger readers.
Also, keep in mind that this is a shojo manga. Fans of high-tension action and gunfights will be sorely disappointed.
All in all, this is a breathtaking manga thanks to its magnificent artwork and complex plot. And oh yes, the hot bishie.