Genres: Historical, Horror, Manga, Mystery, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Thriller
Earl Cain Hargreaves solves crimes and mysteries, particularly ones involving the macabre. With his valet, Riff, he investigates strange stories and murderous plots. In the first issue, a young woman's plan to run away with her lover goes awry, a man receives a letter from his dead daughter, and a friend of Cain's has been killed, and Cain means to find justice for his friend, by any means necessary.
It’s October and time for the scary, the spooky, and the macabre. To kick us off, I’m starting with The Cain Saga.
Originally published as Count Cain, and called Earl Cain, and eventually The Cain Saga, the series was written and illustrated by Kaori Yuki, and debuted in 1991 in Hana to Yume. A sequel series, titled Godchild debuted 10 years later, feature a major art-shift and development, but picking up where the original series had left off.
Before we go on, let’s have a look at the cover. We see a young man with golden-green eyes looking at us, his dark hair swept by the wind, and a background of dark, twisted trees. This is Cain C. Hargreaves, the protagonist of our series.
Now for the plot! This is spoiler-heavy, so be ready. And a warning for content, and very heavy subject matter. This series is for mature readers, only.
Earl (Count, in Japanese editions) Cain Hargreaves is the son of aristocrat Alexis Hargreaves. Alexis claimed him, but Cain is in fact a cursed and hated child. His father participated in an incestuous relationship with his elder sister, Augusta Hargreaves, and abused the son that had been born from the union. As she died, Augusta urged her son to murder her cruel brother, and Cain obeyed, but not before Alexis cursed his son to die alone and unloved.
Fast-forward to Cain’s adult-life. 17, and under his uncle’s scrutiny, Cain spends his wealth on collecting rare poisons, and solving crimes. His assistant in this is his valet, Riff Raffit, a former medical student indebted to Cain. The two share a strong bond, with Riff doing anything for Cain, and Cain being protective of his servant. In the first issue, Cain digs up the body of his cousin, Suzette. Suzette had attempted to re-enact the story of ‘Romeo and Juliette’ by faking her death that she may elope with her lover, using a poison called ‘Emerald Forest’. Cain supplied the poison, but came to fetch her after her lover failed to come for her. Driven mad by the poison, Suzette kills her step-mother, and nearly kills a flower-shop keeper. Cain revives the shop keeper but they are unable to save the shop keeper’s uncle, who is not only Suzette’s secret lover, but had also never planned to elope with her and was marrying another woman instead. Suzette murders her love, and then kills herself. After the funeral, Cain reveals that Suzette was in fact his half-sister, and that even with that, he had been in love with her, but never confessed. He believes his incestuous feelings are a mark of his mother’s insanity and his father’s evil curse.
The next story is about a man who receives a letter from his dead daughter, Madeline. Cain and Riff track down the girl, but find she is in fact a young woman named Bibi, or Beatrice, who works for a brothel under her mother’s orders. Cain buys Bibi to help her leave the brothel, and explains to her that she is in fact Madeline, but had been hypnotized by her mother to think she was Bibi. She escapes Cain’s house and proceeds to her father’s, where she enacts her mother’s evil plan: killing her father. Upon this, Madeline falls ill and begs Cain, who arrives too late, to kill her.
The third story entails Cain’s trip to visit the brother of an old friend. Cain’s friend, Cleo Dreyfus, recently died of a poisoning, and Cain suspects Orlando, Cleo’s brother. Orlando of course taunts Cain, telling him he won’t be able to prove it in any way, but after a cup of tea, Orlando discovers his cup has turned black. Believing that Cain had poisoned him with the same poison that Orlando had used on Cleo, the wicked brother tries to drive to a hospital, but drives off a cliff in his haste and fear. Cain reveals he never did use poison- but dropped ink into the tea to fool Orlando and force his hand. But justice has come, nevertheless.
If you can’t tell from just these stories, this series is heavy on a lot of subject matter. Incest, murder, death. One chapter in the future involves a pedophile who kills off children who witness his crime. There’s gore-a-plenty in both the original run and the reboot, and the characters and their connections grow ever convoluted as time moves on.
There’s shining lights in the story of course. And that’s the introduction of Mary Weather. Mary Weather appears later, as a fortune-teller on the street that Cain deduces as being his father’s illegitimate daughter, thus making her his half-sister. Finally finding someone in his family he’s not attracted to romantically, Cain adopts her as his sister, and brings her up. She even gets involved in some of the crime-solving. Mary’s smart, cheerful (for all the bad things that happen to her) and she’s glad to have a protective and truly caring older-brother. And there’s some subtlety in the implied ‘romance’ between Riff and Cain, as it is clear the two care for one another, but given the series is set in Victorian London, naturally homosexuality is considered as evil and forbidden as incest.
Though I admit to being baffled as to why the author left their relationship as just hinted and subtext, rather than being as graphic as the rest of the relationships that come in the story. But, well, that’s neither here nor there.
Over all, I liked the series, even with the subject matter. They made for interesting stories and arcs that made the whole of it intriguing and had genuine twists and turns that one wouldn’t have seen coming. I give the series four stars! If you can handle the heavy subject matter (and especially if you’re 18+), give it a read.