Richard III. Henry VI. Duke of York. Joan of Arc. The War of the Roses. Hopefully at least one of those things interests you, for this is the story of young Richard III and the war for England’s throne. The Duke of York and his supporters are unsatisfied with the reign of Henry VI. The young, mad king is obsessed with his piety, and cares little for running the country. The House of Lancaster must fall for York to take his rightful place on the throne. Richard loves his father dearly, and would like nothing more than to fight at his side, but he is still too young. Instead, he stays home and dreams of the dangers his father will face. Unfortunately, while his father is off fighting the King, the King’s son, Edward, captures the family that remained behind, including Richard. In their cell, Richard finds a small tunnel, and escapes into a peaceful, wooded area. There he finds a shepherd who attempts to impart some wisdom regarding the value of a crown. Back in their cell, Cecily denounces her son as a demon, and this information is taken back to Prince Edward, who decides to discover the truth for himself. Not a demon, but something else, although he is interrupted when York’s forces claim the castle. Henry, tired of the fighting, willingly gives his throne up to the Duke of York, but the Queen refuses to allow this and gathers up the forces to reclaim it.
Alright. This, this right here? This is what I didn’t even know I needed. Mature. Unique. Shakespearean. Thank you, Viz Media. As of right now, I’m hooked, and I hope this title doesn’t disappoint me down the line. First of all, it’s hard to believe that this dark, twisted story is written by the same woman who created the cheerful shojo Otomen. It feels more like a Kaori Yuki creation (which is a compliment). It also feeds my love of British history, particularly the era prior to and throughout the Tudor period (Henry VII-Elizabeth I). Bonus: it draws a bit from Shakespeare’s Richard III and Henry VI. Note that I willingly took a course in college studying Shakespeare and his plays, and it was one of my favorite classes. Kanno even uses a line right out of Henry VI, right out of the gate: “To wit, an undigested and deformed lump.” Richard’s mother hates him and finds him demonic. If you read the passage that line comes from, Henry’s description of Richard’s birth is fairly horrific. Kanno frequently depicts Richard as a sort of hobgoblin, small, wrapped in a dark cloak, with wide round eyes. Though, of course, rather than a hump on the back, this Richard has a “deformity” on his chest. It’s an interesting twist, and hopefully Kanno will handle it appropriately, and not turn it into a gross plot device. Though, to be clear, it isn’t expressly mentioned if Richard believes himself to be male, or if he was simply raised that way to hide the birth of a daughter and still considers himself a female. I would love for it to be the first instance, for a transgender Richard, rather than just a secret princess. Richard certainly thinks of himself as a son, desperate to go to war with his father. What has me lost in thought here, is that Richard is haunted by the spirit of Joan of Arc, who, among other accusations, was executed for dressing and behaving like a man. There’s really just a lot of elements woven in that are so far creating a thoughtful story. The art is also pleasant to look at, with Richard frequently caricatured as a lump of darkness, or a spindly shadow. Those around him, particularly his older brother Edward and King Henry, have angelic appearances. Joan of Arc looks slightly elfen and demonic. Cecily and Margaret are crazed creatures, driven and obsessed. There is so much fantastic stuff going on visually in this book – Henry’s innocence and anguish, Richard’s ferocity, Cecily’s madness, Margaret’s ambition, York’s passion. Moments of complete peace near moments of horrific battle. I need this, you need this, the US manga industry needs this. Oh, manga gods, please let this be as good as I’m hoping.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.