“La mort est le commencement de l'immortalité” – Maximilien de Robespierre
Death is the beginning of immortality – the immortality where everyone is even. And since only in the face of death we all are equal, the grim reaper will be the one to set us free from the inequity and prejudice called “life”.
Ignorance, greed and debauchery of aristocrats flourish, while poor folk keep on being humiliated, starved and treated like dogs. Fires of the French Revolution blaze brighter and brighter, painting the horizon of a new day with red, white and blue. Like fireworks on the Versailles balls – they plunge high into the sky
ready to explode with extreme crimson sparkles and change the world once and for all.
Sansons’ justice continues to roll through the masses of Paris like a shaft, obediently implementing the kings’ will and executing every public enemy with steady hand and coldblooded face Charles-Henri’s passionately trying to archive his lifetimes’ purpose – make the convicts’ last road as painless and swift as possible.
Innocent: Rouge – the continuation of Sakamoto Shinichi’s saga Innocent opens a new arc with younger sister of Charles – Marie-Joseph Sanson as a main protagonist. Monumental, egocentric and fearless feminist character who’s been seeking revenge on the murderer of her beloved Alain finally gets a leading role and draws eyes of the audience to her gory persona. The dam holding Seine is about to collapse flooding France with sea full of blood of innocents and martyrs of the upcoming storm, a storm that can not be weathered aside. Theatre-like manga style continues to astonish with its grandiosely contrasting scenes of heavenly beautiful and hellishly brutal Paris in the monarchic days of late XVIII century. Ominous gothic-baroque atmosphere interlaced with torturous slavish spirit of that period create unique story penetrating mind and soul with its magnificent plot development, brave, provocative and revolutionary ideas, characters’ heroic deeds and unexpected Deus Ex Machina effect making a whirlpool of events swing even faster pulling in everyone and everything in its path.
The heat of the plot grows as we come closer and closer to the edge of the events that fundamentally changed the worlds’ order. Like the opera culmination – the fastening pace of the orchestra peaks the tension leading you to the climax of joy and pleasure, and Sakamoto Shinichi, as a kapellmeister, runs the show. Such detailed and accurate vision of each aspect of life of prerevolutionary France: the architecture, the fashion, manner of speech and attitude, morality and ideals, religious views, the politics, the social structure, lifestyle and general spirit of nation – everything is in accordance with famous history books like Thomas Carlyle’s “The French Revolution: A History”(1837), Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” (1862). Sakamoto Shinichi himself, however, claims that he mostly referred to the Adachi Masakatsu’s book “The Executioner Sanson” (2003) as basis for his heroes’ portraying and their individualities’ development. And though the creator makes some changes and additions to the characters’ personalities and historical events, for example, altering the appearances of famous personas like Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, Robespierre, Charles-Henri Sanson by mixing their “nowadays type” hairdos, grotesque, even “circus alike” makeup style, still saving the key features of the post Renaissance period like dresses or jewelries (especially characters like Rose, Sabiss), making their plump bodies fit and faces thin, unlike on the portraits (same Marie-Antoinette), ejecting some key personalities like Iosif II – the king of Germany, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and brother of Marie-Antoinette, whose influence has pushed Louis XVI to having a phimosis surgery, or creating new, non existing, like Marie Sanson; adding an attempt of murder of Louis XVI to the “list of accomplishments” of famous gang “Les Enragés”(The Enraged Ones) and changing date of their first known activity from 1792-nd, to 1779-th, a decade before the revolution, or presenting Charles-Henri as an almighty superhuman with underworld powers who could’ve carried out all executions by himself, when historically up to 6 men helped him, until the guillotine was invented – all this only underlines the authors’ flexibility, persistence and efforts of trying to bring to the reader splendid and flawless novel the world has never seen before.
The writing is a pure existentialist emotion, historic ambition and sensual romanticism immersed in the black chocolate of creationism sprinkled with gothic gloom and modern impulsive sex scenes. Massive, tremendous and naked, the plot just can not get bigger than this one. Great people with great ideas on the most spectacular stage of the world, Paris, are trying to create a new bright future crawling out of darkness and void of Medievality. Versatile characters – dozens of well-known historic figures of the second half of the 18th century with less known ones, and new, created by the author, they swing in the majestic Waltz desperately trying to reach their own goals, whether its power, money and glory, love, revenge, or chaos, revolution and war, each hero dances his variation imposing tempo to others. Special attention deserves the main character and the puppeteer of this circus, endeavoring to carry out her vision of the future and, especially, the role of women in it, she’s willing to go against everyone. So unattainable, so alienated her mentality is, no wander the representatives of her profession become subjects of worshiping and ritual estrangement for ordinary people.
Epithetical metonymy, metaphorical comparisons, allegorical antithesis, sarcastic irony weaved in naturalistic, expressive, sometimes even barbaric context – the saga is full of such artistic techniques, scenes and more. Just think on these situations: prepared to cut off the head of the condemned, the executioner stands knee-deep in the blood with the sword raised high above his head – like a reaper, he is an empty soulless skeleton with no sympathy, no prayers or begging are going to help you as he’ll hand you over straight into death’s hands, or, he is a musician, whose blade is his violin, scaffold – his podium, crowd – his choir with the sharply rising buzz of which the violinist goes with the lead improvisation of “Jesus bleibet meine Freude” (Bach) and the last screams of the sentenced echo through the hall up to heavens where angels are already coming down for his martyred soul; mating process depicted as the fly (male) slowly and with caution approaches to a wonderful flower (female) charmed by her beauty and smell, hoping to consume the sweet nectar, instead to be the one consumed, as the flower turns out to be a flytrap (Drosera), a prison of lust, from which you can’t nor want to escape, or, just like taming of a wild horse – sex is natural, tempting, explosive, makes you exchange roles and be the conqueror and the conquered, dominant and submissive, hunter and prey. Such epithets and metaphors are everywhere, but you just can’t get enough of them and impatiently waiting for another one to occur – so gorgeously and melodiously they resonate through your subconscious. BRAVISSIMO!!!
Homo-lesbian kissing, lesbian sex, exhibitionism, bdsm, group rape, copulation with a smallpox person – all your dirty perverted expectations will be satisfied still keeping the sensual and romantic traits of that epoch. The author manifests an excellent knowledge of anatomy as main characters besides being official executioners have also been practicing medicine for generations by treating fewer, chill, scurvy, conducting complex operations like cesarean section or amputation of a body part and, digging in the corpses of their “ex-clients”. Sometimes the writer even makes historical references regarding some particulars of those times’ medical operations or less known facts about Medieval torture mechanisms (Spanish boot, Catherine wheel). Dismal spirit of Innocent is much alike to Claymore, Berserk and Attack on Titan series with a slight scent of French restrained charm, and though Innocent doesn’t have that much of massacre scenes as higher mentioned series do, it doesn’t weaken your impression about manga, vice versa, gore is dosed and is injected at the right time to underline whole improbability and rapture of the moment. You will see no “sound imitation” inscriptions that are expected to be in a novel with lots of smashed arms, broken legs and chopped off heads. Creator makes things work without unnecessary text and lets your own imagination create sounds directly in your brain.
It is understandable why Sakamoto Shinichi is in love with France so much. The Burbons’ dynasty fashion taste can’t be compared to anything before or after their reign, and, naturally, they dictated the vogue to the rest of the world. Amount of country’s budget spent on luxurious palaces, gardens, costumes, jewels, servants is beyond imagination of richest businessmen of our time. The debt of France in 1789th carried out around 12 billion livres, revolution was as inevitable as the fact that day comes after night, but the Burbons knew how to party as if “tomorrow never comes”.
Inspired with Innocent saga, a week after reading which, I went on a trip to Paris to witness all that greatness with my own eyes and to verify if the mangas’ arts where authentic. INNOCENT REALY IS THAT GOOD! The art style is something absolutely out of this universe and is about to create its own. Every single minim is being conveyed with absolute accuracy and passion: the Renaissance Revival style and every statues’ detail on of the city hall – Hôtel de Ville (Hotel de Ville), the French Baroque architecture style and the screaming grandeur of the exterior of the king’s residence – Château de Versailles (The Versailles Palace), each trifle of facade of Gothic, Neo Renaissance or Neoclassicism style constructions on the mangas’ frames background, and tiniest components of design of the Rococo movement dresses and interior decor. The arts’ incomparability doesn’t stop on architecture, the character design also deserves to be spoken about. Damn, heroes deserve even more than just mentioning, their guises appear to be more detailed and more worked out than the looks of real people you daily see. Starting with every flexion, contour, shade and pattern on their clothing and ending with individual lenses, lip gloss, eyelashes and eyebrows – the very definition of word “unique” increases hundredfold as every frame can be presented as the symbol of excellence and perfection. Innocent saga has no flaws in its art style, no flaws at all… and in this uniqueness, the artist reveals the true beauty of life and death in full-color palette. Combining so many aspects with such delicacy and care – you’ll find no analog to this masterpiece. No wander that Innocent was presented in Fukuoka Asian Art Museum on the days of Japanese art style exposure dedicated to French thematics ("Louvre No.9 – Manga, the 9th Art") organized by the Louvre Museum.
Nothing to add, nothing to take – its own magnitude can only be compared to its flawlessness. Innocent: Rouge – rightful follower, proudly and with high raised head carries on everything we loved the prequel for in a new crimson light of an upcoming revolution. Astonishing and noble, it will forever shine above all like Polaris in the night sky, and Sakamoto Shinichi, like a god, will always be unreachable for mere humans.
“… only doors stained with rouge, stained with blood, will beckon a dawn to a yet-unseen future.”
It is truly a pity that this masterpiece of a manga has so few ratings and reviews. Yes, I consider it a masterpiece because it is rare when you encounter such a work of art like this in your life. Innocent (and this sequel, Innocent Rouge) is the strange serendipity you didn't think it could exist, because everything in it is outstanding. Just try it, you will do yourself a favor. Everything from the story to the art is truly mind-boggling; once you start, you can't put it down, because it is so easy to read, although it may need some reflections for you to
truly understand everything the author wants to convey.