Sakura Gari is a Taishou Era romantic story by Yuu Watase, ten years in the making. Its nine chapters were published in the Rinka magazine from 2007 to 2008, then recopilated in three volumes.It centers around the 16 year old Tagami Masataka, the eldest son of a library owner from a small village, as he goes to Tokyo to try finding his place in life. While getting ready to take the entrance exams for the then-Teikoku daigaku or Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo aka Toudai), he encounters Saiki Souma, the 25-year-old son of the distinguished Saiki Koushyaku family, and becomes part of the Saiki household as a mix of boarding student and servant. The Saiki household and Souma himself, however, are hiding some very dark secrets, and Masataka unwittingly starts getting involved... and it's even worse when Masataka starts finding out about Souma's own dark and troubled mindset.This manga is a rather explicit entry in the Boys Love genere, and is a departure from Yuu Watase's usual work in Shoujo romantic series, with a high quotient of explicit sex scenes and very dark themes (rape, abuse, etc.).This series has examples of:
And I Must Scream - Souma's childhood is... there's actually not a word to describe how horrible and torturous his childhood was. It was just... being molested, raped, and tortured daily, isolated, lonely and ostracised, with all the adults turning a blind eye to how horrifically he is being treated. Rape As BackstoryUp to Eleven He has a very good Freudian Excuse for his behaviour (though it does NOT double as an justification for the shit he pulls - and Souma acknowledges that as well, though the fandom does NOT). In fact, considering what happened to him, it's actually surprising that he is able to function as well as he does. This extends beyond Break the Cutie and through the Trauma Conga Line; each new hit keeps breaking him.
Aristocrats Are Evil - Most of the nobles and aristocrats are shown being very snooty and insufferable. Even Souma and his family, although not shown being snooty, are certainly very messed up.
Arranged Marriage - Kanako's father wants to engage her to Souma as soon as she graduates from her women's college. Souma refuses at first, saying he's too troubled to get married, but later he accepts as Viscount Kawamori says he actually wants Souma to marry Kanako so he can be his succesor, rather than for the Saiki's money and prestige. Nothing happens in the end, though, as he's stabbed by Katou in the last pages of the manga and it's not clear if he makes it or not.
Similarly, Lord and Lady Saiki were in one of these too. In fact, Abigail was supposed to be a mere one-night stand for the then young Saiki, but he got unexpectedly hung up on her even despite having married the lady and siring kids witrh her. Which explains a LOT about his behavior.
Ass Shove - A not-comedic example — one of Katsuragi's torture methods against Masataka included him forcibly shoving a household object up the guy's anus right after having raped him.
The Atoner - Souma's father tries to pass himself off as one. Souma's mother Abigail was a woman he had an affair with in England, but he had to go back to Japan to marry his fiancee; Abigail was already pregnant with Souma at the time, and she died at childbirth. His way of making amends to her? Have Souma dress up as Abigail and continually apologize to him. Yeah, he's messed up.
Attempted Rape - Subverted: it's believed that Terashima went into the warehouse Sakurako was locked in to rape her, as revenge against Souma; later we learn that she had called him up voluntarily, then crushed his hand and pushed him down the stairs.
Berserk Button - DON'T touch Masataka. Souma will fucking KILL you, and he will not make it painless.
And do NOT attract Souma's attention to yourself. Either Katsuragi or Sakurako will catch and torture you, and neither will make their punishments easier.
Beware the Nice Ones - Souma is gentle, kind, caring and generally submissive, allowing anyone to screw him if he can get by in life. But you touch Masataka and you've crossed the line.
Big Brother Instinct - Subverted and followed in different instances. Masataka and his blood-related big brother Takafumi, although they don't look like they get along, are actually very close (with Masataka always having felt guilty about his older brother suffering while working under a different family). Masataka and his younger brother Mitsugu, however, are a different story - Mitsugu is clingy and Masataka is actually cold and mean to him. And then there's Souma and Sakurako, where their relationship actually goes into Brother-Sister Incest.
Big Fancy House - There are two of these in the lands of the Saiki family. One is a Western mansion that seems to be pretty recent, the other is a traditional and abandoned Japanese one used as a warehouse (almost surely the original home). This is very plot important, as Sakurako was locked away for nine years in the latter, and many things happen there afterwards. And in the second-to-last chapter, Sakurako burns it down to kill Souma and Masataka.
Katsuragi also lives in a traditional Japanese house. Which gets burned down, with him inside.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing - Katsuragi seems to be a normal, efficient and handsome doctor at first. Then we see him having sex with Souma, but he still looks like a shady but not openly evil man, even supporting Masataka when he deals a What the Hell, Hero? to a nobleman during the ball. Later, we see that Sakurako has told him to slowly kill her father via poison. And later, there's both his abuse of hiswife and what he did to Masataka (read: raping and torturing him out of jealousy.). And then get to find out what he did to Souma himself...
Bi the Way - Souma doesn't really make gender distinctions.
Break the Cutie - First, we see Masataka getting horribly and painfully broken in the Saiki household as time passes. Then we learn Souma that became so broken by the end of his childhood that he grew into an Empty ShellStepford Smiler who allowed anyone to screw him if he could get by in life in return. And then we see other characters being very broken, like Asayo and the unnamed maid Honestly, the base premise of the entire series is this trope.
Broken Ace - Souma. He's handome, affable, rich, intelligent, a skilled businessman. . . and horrifyingly screwed up.
Broken Bird - Katsuragi's wife Asayo, utterly broken for his abuse. She ends up killing him.
Souma is one of the rare male cases of this trope.
Brother-Sister Incest - Zig-zagged interestingly through the story. First we see that Souma and Sakurako are the Half-siblings version, with the latter being very obsessed with the first. Then we see that Sakurako happens to be Youya, his brother., who became a Creepy Crossdresser to cope with the trauma of his mother's death. And THEN it's further subverted when we find out that Youya is in fact the product of Kato and the wife of Souma's father (the one he left Souma's mother for), and hence Souma and Youya are actually not related at ALL.
Cannot Spit It Out - Souma can't bring himself to tell Masataka that he loves him and instead rapes him repeatedly, and then gives him an index of poems to describe his feelings. A straight-out confession would have been much less psychologically scarring.
The Casanova - Souma is the King of this... except that that he's not seducing anyone. Everyone else just wants to screw him and he lets them.
Celibate Hero - Masataka for the majority of the beginning, claiming that he has no interest in things like love, and that love is simply for people's self-satisfaction. (In fact, once he has a wet dream and goes take a cold bath in the nearest well, extremely ashamed). Which also brings him a bunch of internal conflict when he starts feeling attracted to Sakurako and Souma
Cherry Blossoms - A constant theme in the manga. I.e., Sakurako was locked away because of her behavior in a cherry blossom watching party among other things, Mitsugu makes many paper cherry blossoms as charms to wish Masataka good luck in his studies, and later Katou snaps and stabs Souma, who then collapses under the blossoming cherries.
Chick Magnet - Souma is shown attracting many, many female suitors.
Child by Rape - Masataka, who knows it well. He refers to himself as a "dirty child" because of that. That's also the reason why his birth mom gave him away to the Tagami family
Also, what Sakurako does to almost every single lover that Souma has among the household staff, and takes pictures of each abuse session. The most notorious cases are: Masataka (tied up, force fed a meal with glass shards hidden inside, threatened), Terashima (crushes his drawing hand, throws him down a flight of stairs), and an unnamed maid (Bound and Gagged, savagely beaten up — causing her to lose Souma's baby that she was pregnant with.) In the culprit's own words:
Sakurako: "That night, I called him (read: Terashima) deliberately... like with all the persons who had a relationship with Oniisama... It's so intresting! Just by punishing them for one night and taking pictures, all of them got scared and became strange..."
Deal with the Devil - metaphorical. Souma, after passing over the Despair Event Horizon the first time when he is broken by his stepmother's physical and sexual abuse, and completely isolated and alone because all the adults turn a blind eye to it, turns to Katsuragi for support. He tells him half-heartedly that if Katsuragi kills Sakurako, he'll let him have him. Wasn't the most wise decision.
Downer Ending - Souma forces Masataka out of the house, bars him from ever returning or seeing him again, in hopes to have him live his own life freely. Masataka is depressed, but decides to follow his advice and leave so he will fulfill such a wish. And then Souma sequentially gets stabbed by Katou on his way out. Points to anyone who can figure out why, after Katou confessing that he is Youya's father, and that Youya wouldn't want his brother, Souma, to be harmed, he then goes and stabs him. Cue allegorical image of the Sakura tree in bloom.
Depraved Bisexual - A big reason why Souma is depicted as being messed up and depraved is because he sleeps with women and men (ignoring later implications that he causes their death).
Sakurako came real close as a little kid, when she walks on Katsuragi forcing Souma to kill her mother (Becoming a Creepy Child and then being confined to the old household grounds doesn't help). She finally goes right over when she thought she had killed Souma.
De Terminator - Despite all of the trauma he goes through, when Masataka pulls himself together, he can come up with impressive bravery. Like when he throws the boiling tea on Katsuragi's face so he can escape his torture or saves himself and a pretty much suicidal Souma from dying in a fire.
Driven to Suicide - Masataka (almost cuts off his throat with a dagger), Souma (slits his wrists open and puts his bleeding arm inside the full bath tub), and Sakurako (slits her wrists open too, then drowns self in a freezing lake). Only the latter dies from it though.
Also subverted. Many outsiders believe that Sakurako's mother killed herself by wrist cutting, but Katsuragi killed her by poison and then forced Souma help him make it look like a suicide. This further leads to the start of Souma becoming a suicidal Empty Shell from both guilt and the heavy trauma he experiences when Katsuragi rapes him the night after this event and continues to sexually abuse him for the remainder of his childhood. Wait, wait, wait, we're not finished yet. Then things go From Badto Worse. No, really. Truth is... Katsuragi claims that Souma entered into a deal with him, when Souma, desperate and already broken from being abused, off-handedly says that he'll let Katsuragi have him if he kills Sakurako. Unfortunately, Katsuragi takes him at his word, and holds this over Souma's head for years, continuously reinforcing the idea that they killed her together, and driving him further beyond the Despair Event Horizon into true suicidal territory and making it impossible for him to ever return to a state even resembling psychological stability.
Dysfunction Junction - Between Souma's childhood, being raped and tortured DAILY, silently and lonely while everyone pretends it doesn't happen, Matasaka's childhood as a lonely and psychologically abused Child by Rape, and the entire situation with Youya, and Souma's stepmother, you have Up to Eleven extremes that just keep on climbing.
Eye Scream - Katsuragi rapes and tortures Masataka, and his last action is putting the other's hand in a pot of boiling water. To free himself, Masataka throws the pot on Katsuragi's face, injuring his eyes and badly scarring his face.
Fan Disservice - for all of the Fetish Fuel and Fanservice in the series, there's quite a bit of this too. Like Masataka removing his shirt and jacket in front of Souma to show him the massive scars that came from Katsuragi whipping him, the sex scenes between Masataka and Souma when the first has to Work Off The Debt to the second, all the times a 12-year-old Souma gets touched and groped against his will and/or downright raped, or when a pretty and half-naked girl is seen Bound and Gagged in a mix of Unwilling Suspension and shibari after having been savagely tortured and phoographed by Sakurako.
Fingore - Sakurako crushes Terashima's hand before pushing him down the stairs.
And Katsuragi puts Masataka's hand in boiling water.
Forbidden Fruit - The one person Souma finds himself truly falling in love with is the only person who has absolutely no romantic interest in him. As a matter of fact, it's addressed that the main reason he fell in love with Masataka was because Masataka was "different from the others." And Souma, of course, unaccustomed to not getting sex from someone he wants, proceeds to tie Masataka up and rape him repeatedly.
From a different angle, this borders on a strange inversion/distortion of I Love You Because I Can't Control You, where everyone wants to control and screw Souma, treating him like a possession, a "doll", but Souma loves Masataka because Masataka doesn't try to control or possess him (i.e. Masataka's affection is pure (read: not bound by sexual possessiveness)).
Force Feeding - In chapter 6 Sakurako tries to literally force Masataka to eat some of the food she made for him. He's reluctant to do so because the last time she fed him something she had secretly snuck in some glass.
Not to mention, the very kind Masataka never really gets "good sex" since he's raped by both Souma and Katsuragi... until the end of the manga, where his and Souma's Intimate Psychotherapy session is very gentle and loving.
High Class Call Guy: Souma will let anyone fuck him as long as there is something for him to gain from them in return. One of the detectives even remarks on it, saying that even back when they were investigating his step-mother's suicide, he had the eyes of a prostitute.
Horrible Judge of Character - Masataka. Honestly, there are all these horrible rumors about Souma, Souma himself acts really weird, strange events keep occurring, and... he just thinks Souma is a nice master. Right.
If I Cant Have You - Everyone does this over Souma. And then Souma in turn does this to Masataka.
Ill Boy - Masataka's younger brother, Mitsugu. First, he has a weak heart. Then he gets Spanish influenza (the same one that killed thousands of people in that same decade) and barely survives. Finally, he catches pneumonia. Yikes.
Also, the reason why Souma leads the Saiki clan is because of his father's very frail health.
Important Haircut - Masataka gives one to Souma to signify Abigail's definitive passing and his father's acceptance of such a fact.
Incorruptible Pure Pureness - how Souma sees Masataka. What is interesting is that originally Masataka is seen as pure because he's inexperienced and "untouched", however, conversely the more horrible things he goes through, the more and more he approaches The Messiah archetypenote No, not Messianic Archetype, gaining a compassion and ability to forgive love that is almost supra-human, so much so that by the end this becomes his default personality. One interpretation of this is that in the end he swaps one kind of superficial purity for a deeper psychological one. note It's worth noting that this is one of those cases where this trope is cultivated and deconstructed gradually over the entire series, and isn't used to invoke a Purity Sue as Masataka is very pure, but also very flawed (His self-esteem issues are really, really serious).
Intimate Psychotherapy: Sorta invoked at the end. When Souma and Masataka finally have a sexual encounter not involving anything non-con/dub-con, it's as catharsis after their ordeals.
Souma wishes this on his step-mother, and then Katsuragi steps in to replace her in the abuse-and-daily-rape detail after forcing Souma to be complicit. Let's just say, Souma does not have a good history with this trope.
Karmic Death - Katsuragi was using drugs to slowly kill the already ill Lord Saiki. Souma forcefeeds him a high dose of the same drug through a kiss, as punishment for torturing Masataka and abusing Asayo, then deals a brutal"The Reason You Suck" Speech to the immobilized and poisoned Katsuragi before walking away. And after Souma leaves, Asayo (who has finally snapped after all of her husband's abuse) sets him on fire..
Kick the Dog - So not only is Katsuragi a disgusting pedophile, he rapes and tortures Masataka because of his jealousyand he beats his poor wife.
Sakurako's mother and Souma join in with the kicking as well
Love Triangle - There is initially a love triangle between Souma, Masataka, and Sakurako. With Souma pining after Masataka, who is attracted to Sakurako, who is a Yandere for her brother Souma. The attraction pretty much ends when she starts force-feeding him glass, though.
Loving a Shadow - Souma's father, since he heavily idealized his long-lost love Abigail.
Madwoman in the Attic - Sakurako, who has been locked in an old warehouse near the Saiki mansion for nine years after her mother died. Everyone else outside the household believes that she died of illness few after Lady Saiki died. After Terashima's "fiery" death, though, she's allowed to return to the main house.
Never Suicide - Because Souma hated his stepmother Sakurako for abusing and raping him, Katsuragi takes his words literally and forces a reluctant, young Souma to kill her.
It's worse than that - because Sakurako was daily abusing and raping Souma, one day he got fed up and casually mentioned to Katsuragi that if he killed Sakurako, he'd let him "have" him. Cue Katsuragi killing her with poison, and then pulling a shocked and horrified young Souma into the room to slit her wrists to make it look like a suicide. Of course, that night Katsuragi starts raping and abusing Souma. You have to wonder which was worse: Katsuragi or Sakurako?
If you account for Katsuragi and Sakurako's actions, the only person in the entire series who was actually confirmed to actually attempt suicide was Souma - although Masataka got close to attempting at one point too. And then Youya/Sakurako kills themself.
Old Retainer - Several, though Ohatsu and Katou are the ones who fill in the most.
The Ophelia - The young maid who actually survived to Sakurako's torture/murder of Souma's lovers, but lost the baby of Souma's that she was pregnant with. The poor girl appears to be a pale and softspoken Shrinking Violet at first, but when she sees Sakurako not too far from her while she's attempting to ask Masataka about his experiences, she has a massive screaming meltdown and a policeman has to calm her down. And it's only later that we find out why.
Rags to Riches: Katsuragi is implied to come from a low-middle class family, and now he works both in a famous hospital and is the persona doctors of the Saikis.
Souma, too. His Missing Mom was an Impoverished Patrician and his Princess In Rags maternal grandma made him work in the streets. Then he was found by the Saikis and, since he was the most qualified to be the prospect heir (Youya was much younger and from an unhappy marriage), they took him in...
Manages to just scrape through on a subversion in that Masataka was turned on when Souma hit on him in the library back in the very first chapter, indicating at least some kind of attraction before that point, but it still swerves close enough to this trope played straight to be a little uncomfortable. The fact that their relationship before this point was rather more pure and platonic with serious Ho Yay subtext could also be seen as another way this trope was subverted. It's still not a nice outcome for the poor boy, though.
Souma on the other hand, has this trope played rather more straight, where he was raped and used for sex by so many people that he eventually came to just not distinguish between genders and would sleep with men or women.
Rape as Drama - Masataka getting raped by Souma and later by Katsuragi. Oh, and Soumabeing raped by his stepmom Sakurako and Katsuragi and pretty much any person who finds him attractive, but that's more because he feels he has to indulge everyone's desires.
And Masataka's birth mother.
Really Gets Around - Souma. Almost everyone knows that a huge defining trait about him is that he's willing to sleep with anyone.
Another is the Old Retainer maid, Ohatsu, who witnessed Souma's abuse at the hands of Sakurako's mother, but didn't say anything because it would involve too many problems for the whole household.
And Souma witnessed Sakurako's murder of Terashima, but kept his mouth shut since he blamed himself for it.
Also, Asayo overheard the noises coming from Katsuragi raping Masataka but didn't say anything because, well, Katsuragi would beat her.
Selective Obliviousness - Yes, Souma, we're sure that the reason why all your lovers keep dying in suspicious circumstances is because you break up with them. This stretches into Too Dumb to Live territory eventually. No, literally, he never realises that Youya was killing off all his lovers and that he would eventually try to kill him despite him threatening to do so, and he seems to just not take into account the fact that Katsuragi has a thing for torturing, raping and killing people and making it look like suicides.
Self-Made Orphan - Sakurako told Katsuragi to slowly poison Lord Saiki to death, apparently as revenge for her abandonment. Souma found out and used the same poison in Katsuragi's fatal Humiliation Conga.
Sensitive Guy and Manly Man - Respectively: Masataka and Souma, Masataka and Takafumi, Mitsugu and Masataka, Souma and Katsuragi, Youya and Masataka..
Stalker with a Crush - It's mentioned several times that anyone who starts having a relationship with Souma ends up becoming this. Souma, in turn, starts acting this way towards Masataka.
Staircase Tumble - Subverted: Sakurako pushes Terashima down the stairs after crushing his hand, but that's not what kills him. Catching fire is what gets him done.
Stockholm Syndrome - Masataka developing feelings for Souma after being forced to stay with him after being blackmailed with his brother's debt. Lampshaded by Masataka himself when he wonders why does he keep coming back to the Saikis, even after all that has happened.
Lima Syndrome — Souma, in return, develops genuine feelings for Masataka as time passes.