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Manga / Count Cain

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Count Cain is a Shoujo manga written by Kaori Yuki. Set in a dark Victorianesque world, the series centers around a young earl, Cain Hargreaves. Cain is seventeen, apparently orphaned, rich and eccentric. Unfortunately, his family past will allow him no peace.

Everybody in Cain's family, we are told, has a habit of studying poisons, and Cain is no different. With the aid of his trusted manservant Riff, he uses his knowledge of poisons to seek justice for murder victims, usually by poisoning the murderer. Both halves of the series (see below) begin with murder mystery short stories that Cain investigates before launching into longer storylines concerning issues close to Cain himself.

Like any good Crime and Punishment Series, Count Cain brings up just about every kink under the sun. It has gothic sensibilities, as well as bad steampunk science. Abusive Parents, Incest, and Magnificent Bastards are a staple. Blood, death, tragedy, and madness also abound.

The series was originally published in Hana to Yume and split into two halves, as the creator took a break to work on another series, Angel Sanctuary. The first part consists of four arcs collected in five volumes, entitled Count Cain, which ran from 1991 to 1994. The second, done some years later, is eight volumes long and entitled Godchild, which ran from 2001 to 2003.

The series provides examples of

  • Ambiguous Ending: The ending has its open element, along with being bittersweet. Merryweather and Oscar are doing fine and Clehadol has fulfilled a promise he made to Cain. But the last we see of Cain is him embraced by Riff's decaying bones, but no blood on him or anything that implies he is injured. Was Cain actually dead already? Or unconscious, maybe asleep, and staying by Riff's side, as he said he would? Even Clehadol admits that he doesn't know if the promise Cain asked of him was real or his powers as a medium letting him hear Cain's words. Kaori Yuki has mentioned in her final notes that the last bit was done on purpose because she felt it was an appropriate Cain-esque ending.
  • And I Must Scream: The truth behind Rebecca's 'dolls'. They are dolls made to resemble people she knew and wanted as friends, with that person's nails, hair and bones worked into it. Which puts the person's soul into the doll.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Clehadol thinks so, based on what he went through. Averted for most of the aristocrats, though there are a few exceptions.
  • Arranged Marriage: The Mark of the Red Ram has Cain arranged to be married to Emelyne Lauderdale.
  • Art Evolution: After the fifth volume, Kaori Yuki took a break to dedicate her work on Angel Sanctuary. When she finished, the art had heavily evolved. She even makes a note of this in Godchild.
  • Artificial Humans: Delilah specializes in Deadly Dolls. Artificially created clones from dead people that survive on other people's organs and blood. The bodies are instable and fragile, requiring near-constant care. All the Deadly Dolls have some kind of supernatural power... though it's unclear how that came to be.
  • Asshole Victim: Quite a few here and there. Abigail from The Butterfly's Remains and George from Bloodberry Jam are noticeable examples.
  • Author Appeal: The manga is filled with sibling incest, Homoerotic Subtext and Foe Romance Subtext...
  • Ax-Crazy: Several characters turn out to be this. Baron Mayfield gets special mention for actually using an axe.
  • Babies Ever After: The final pages mention that Merryweather and Oscar are expecting a child.
  • Bastard Bastard: Jezebel was born out of wedlock and is a primary antagonist.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted in Scold's Bridle. The pretty ladies are all obviously meanspirited and shallow.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family
    • The Hargreaves are the prime example. Incest is abound, betrayal and usurping one's position are the norm. It's amazing that Merryweather is the only one that gets off ligtly. And that's because she's not actually related to them.
    • The Windsor family from Kafka. The previous lord sexually abused his daughter. In turn, she uses her brother's love for her to sleep with him and kill their father. Then there's the supposed vampire stuff going on.
  • Brother–Sister Incest
    • Between Alexis and Augusta, which resulted in Cain.
    • Kafka reveals that Devon has slept with his sister Justine.
  • Cain and Abel: Ironically enough, Cain is actually the Abel to Jezebel.
  • Cartwright Curse: Every woman who loves Cain or is loved by him suffers a horrible death. The only one to survive is Merryweather because he takes extreme measures to ensure her safety.
  • The Chessmaster: Alexis' specialty. On a bigger scale, Augusta.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Cain is aloof, but he genuinely wants to help people and is upset when he cannot save someone. Especially noticeable towards Devon from Kafka and Emile in The Butterfly's Remains.
  • Creepy Child: Emile and Rebecca, for their strange obsession with the occult and spiders or abundant collection of dolls, respectively.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Several characters, though Cain and Jezebel stand out.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Godless has three occurences. Jezebel in Cassian's arms and Alexis in Ida's. Played with for Cain and Riff, as the latter is holding Cain, but is the one dying.
  • Disguised in Drag
    • Jezebel was made to dress like a girl as a young child, to hide him from Alexis.
    • Cain had to crossdress to get information from Gloria, much to his dislike.
    • Leroy gets forced to crossdress for most of his appearance.
  • Doomed Appointment: In Zigeunerweisen, Neil sets out to meet Alexis. The meeting occurs, but the doom happens on the way back. Though Neil survives.
  • Driven to Suicide
    • Several characters eventually commit suicide.
    • Augusta threw herself out of a window when she saw Cain during a visit and mistook him for her brother, triggering memories of having been raped by Alexis. Augusta reveals that she did this on purpose, to further drive a wedge between father and son.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Most of the cast has issues.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Half of the female cast dresses this way.
  • Familial Cannibalism Surprise: Jezebel reveals in Misericorde that he was made to eat his beloved sheep, Shnark, after finishing his meal.
  • Freudian Excuse
    • Averted. Cain would be justified in invoking it, but he never does.
    • Also averted by Jezebel. His parental abuse isn't just a past event that spurs revenge, it is a plot point to the entire series and an on-going point of development for him.
  • Gender-Blender Name
    • Cassandra, Jezebel and Gloria are used for men.
    • In the opposite direction, Merryweather (or Meriwether) is tradtionally a boy's name.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Viola from Scold's Bridle has heavy scarring on her face and wears a mask to hide them.
  • In the Blood
    • There is a lot of discussion around the fact that the Hargreaves are a cursed bloodline, to what extent the curse may affect Cain and if Merryweather will manage to escape the bloodline's terrible fate. Since she isn't actually related by blood, she's fine.
    • Augusta Hargreaves claims that everything they have done, which included causing most of the internal strife of the latest Hargreaves generation, was because it was all part of their cursed bloodline.
  • Informed Deformity: Viola from Scold's Bridle insists the scars on her face are a birth deformity and she was shunned by her family because of them. They were actually caused when she tried to throw acid into her sister's face for stealing her fiancé, but Viola got splashed by the acid herself during the struggle. Though she was insane.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Several of the chapters are themed around Mother Goose rhymes.
  • Kill the Poor: Lord Gladstone, the high priest of Delilah, despises the working class, and masterminds the bombing of Crimone Gardens as they open to the public. The deed is intended as a mass Human Sacrifice, but he seems particularly pleased that the vast majority of the victims are poor people.
  • Kiss of Death: Forgotten Juliet has Suzette kiss the fiancé that betrayed her, with a mouth full of fast-acting poison.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: Cassian's prime method of attack. Justified, as he was sold to a circus and this was his performed act.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Merryweather is the Light to Mikaela's Dark.
  • Living Doll Collector: Rebecca in The Little Crooked House.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Riff is one to Cain. Which is why Cain becomes much more reckless and further off the deep end when Riff betrays and abandons him.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: Jezebel bets himself over to be a slave to Cassandra, if the latter can manage to actually beat Cain and Riff's close bond.
  • Lost in Translation: Merryweather turned to Mary Weather; primrose into prom rose; Baraba Company was supposed to be Barabba, named after the thief; Lucia was turned into Lukia...
  • Love Hurts: Most of the love portrayed in the series has a lot of pain to it.
  • Mad Love: All over the place.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Several characters, though Cain is the most prominent.
  • Mercy Kill: Cain performs one on Madeleine Russel when asked.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Cain Hargreaves, though a non-villainous example.
  • Offing the Offspring: Alexis convinced his mistress to kill their daughters for an experiment.
  • Ojou Ringlets: Found on plenty of aristocratic women.
  • Older Than They Look: Cassian is in his mid-thirties, but looks like a young teen.
  • Only Six Faces: Very noticeable on the younger boys that appear during the five Count Cain volumes. Though this becomes averted after the art evolution.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Cain wears a blond wig when infiltrating a house where Jezebel is, but is immediately figured out by him. And the next time he does this, all Cain does is wear glasses... again, nobody is fooled.
  • Pet the Dog: Jezebel's moments with animals. And some of his moments with Cassian.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Every single one that appears.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Gladstone in the "Castrato" arc is very vocal about his hatred for the lower classes.
  • Rape as Drama: Alexis' rape of Augusta is the most prominent example. Though it turns out that she was the one to purposefully instigate the seduction that led to the 'rape'.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Several of the Hargreaves.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Many characters.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Nobility, rather than royalty, but Cain is not idle.
  • Rule of Three: Godless features three occurences of a character dying in another's arm.
  • Shown Their Work: Kaori Yuki likes to point out that she often has done the research... and then decided to favor it into a more interested development.
  • Smug Snake: Look no further than Lord Cassandra Gladstone, the High Priest of Delilah.
  • Spell My Name With An S
    • Jizabel/Jezebel/Jezabel. Lucia/Rukia/Lukia and Emile/Emyle from The Butterfly's Remains. Merriweather/Merryweather/Merrywether. Emmeline/Emelyne/Emilyne from The Mark of the Red Ram.
    • Special mention to Drew from Scold's Bridle. When Merryweather recalls her during a later chapter, her name is suddenly spelled as Dolly... and then goes back to Drew during an even later chapter.
  • Tarot Motifs: Delilah runs on the tarot cards being the higher arcana, with the 'play cards' of diamond, spade, club and heart being the minor arcana. Sometimes they are used incorrectly, other times they are used correctly.
  • There Are No Therapists: Justified, as this is Victorian London. Their idea of mental health 'care' was not very caring.
  • Together in Death: All over the place.
  • True Companions: Cain with Oscar and, eventually, Clehadol. They still have shades of being Vitriolic Best Buds, but neither of them would leave the other alone when they are in need.
  • Victorian London: The story's setting.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Gladstone is widely known as a philanthropist. In private, he despises the poor and orders a bombing of the Crimone Gardens as they open to the public. At the end of the arc, he tries to pull this off again, killing the henchmen who carried out the deed and taking credit for uncovering the plot until Cain and Leroy expose him to the public.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Gladstone kills the gang he hired to bomb the Crimone Gardens on their opening night, then attempts to take credit for uncovering the plot.