The Cain Saga
written by Kaori Yuki
Prequels are generally intended to be read after an original work, despite taking place at an earlier time. In the case of Kaori Yuki’s The Cain Saga, it makes quite a bit of sense to read it before its predecessor, Godchild. Godchild makes references to the main character’s past, including secrets about his family, the death of his fiancée, and even his own birth. So much of that is explained in The Cain Saga that it makes reading Godchild feel even more satisfying.
Tormented by his horrific birthright and his father’s love for nightly whippings, Cain Hargreaves lives a sheltered albeit privileged life of English nobility. As a child, Cain’s father Alexis would often coerce Cain to bond with a person or animal before ripping it out of his life. When he notices the family’s new manservant, Riffael, bonding with his son, Alexis plans to tear them apart just to watch Cain suffer. Having raised a shrewd son, his plan backfires, setting Cain and Riff down a path filled with darkness and mystery.
It may seem confusing upon opening volume one and recalling that this series is a prequel to anything, for only the first and last stories are actually about Cain Hargreaves. The three middle stories, Branded Bibi, The Boys Who Stopped Time, and Double, are about different characters and take place in different time periods. None of them have to do with the main storyline, so just enjoy them as short samples of Yuki’s work.
Part of the fun in reading The Cain Saga comes from the basic concept. Each tale is inspired by nursery rhymes and children’s stories, then spun into twisted tales of murder. At first, the mysteries appear to have supernatural qualities, but in a Sherlock Holmes-like manor, everything is explained through science, logic, and psychology. The tales of horror are usually peppered with the sad reality of death and loss, which adds depth to help the reader bond with the cast. Yuki also masters the art of creating a mystery. Nothing is quite what it seems, the unfolding plots will keep the reader guessing, and each chapter or story has a satisfying ending that ties everything together in a way that makes sense.
Yuki’s work is expertly drawn with fine attention to detail and aesthetics, especially because the story is rooted in a Victorian setting where beauty and fashion matter. Since the stories contained within The Cain Saga are tales of murder, there is quite a bit of blood and even some gore. Yet oddly enough, the artwork does not have a grotesque feel to it at all. Yuki wants readers to be moved emotionally by the horror of a bloody scene, not moved to lose their lunches.
The Cain Saga is for the type of reader who enjoys shōjo art styles, gothic horror, and a mentally stimulating storyline. These elements make the manga accessible to a wide age group. Although it is aimed at a predominantly female audience, this is a series that males could enjoy as well. Additionally, those who enjoy The Cain Saga also have the option to read Godchild and her most famous earlier work, Angel Sanctuary.-- Courtney Kraft