From birth, Cesare Borgia is surrounded by hellish shadows that threaten to consume him. Damned by his own father, hated by his closest brother, separated from the sister who loves him, and driven by the demons of Hell itself, he sets out on a quest for power that threatens to set the world of Renaissance Italy ablaze. Will he find salvation in Michelotto, a mysterious assassin bent on saving Cesare's soul... even if it means slaying his demon-possessed body? Or will all Italy be seduced by the tragic eyes of the infamous murderer known as Cesare Borgia?
Renaissance Italy, beautiful boys, intrigue, evil, murderous plots, flawless art...sound good? You might want to check out Cantarella.
The artwork alone is truly reason enough to buy the entire series. I confess to being a Yuu Higuri art fanatic and this series had me swooning. Higuri did her research and the clothes, scenery and background art is as authentic as you could ever hope to expect from a manga. (As far as I can tell, having not lived in Renaissance Italy, or modern Italy for that matter.) The clothes are never-ending, the gowns, the puffy-sleeved shirts, the jewelery, the elaborate hairstyles, capes and shoes! Always changing, always beautiful. The artwork, mirroring the setting it depicts, is pure opulence. Concerning character design, well, this is a shoujo title, so expect plenty of beautiful men and big eyed women, still, I never had a problem confusing characters with one another. Either the facial features or hair of each character is distinct enough to keep them all looking just like themselves.
As well as being beautiful eye candy, the art is there to tell a story and tell a story is does, brilliantly so. The panels flow smoothly, the characters are suitably expressive and the pacing is perfect. Higuri has it all down to an art.
Now, to get down to business.
Cantarella is a fantasy very loosely based on Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois, a Spanish-Italian condottiero, lord, politician, and cardinal. Thank you, wikipedia. Rather in the style of Higuri's Ludwig II, she borrows freely from history but puts plenty of her own twist on the tale, so don't plan on referencing this for an upcoming history exam.
The three main characters are simply perfect for the story and all it's twists. Cesare, our hero, or anti-hero, is sacrificed by his father for the papal crown as a baby. Basically, his soul is sold. Nice dad. So we get to watch the sweet, innocent boy at the start of our tale grow into a twisted, evil being slowly losing hold of humanity. And Higuri sure takes her time, it's a slow process that is so delicious to watch unfold. His sister, Lucrezia, has quite the brother complex and adores her brother...more than she should. Chiaro, who has sworn to kill Cesare should the demons ever take over him completely (but will he be able to?), is Cesare's friend and very possibly much more than that to Cesare.
Being quite the yaoi fangirl I was slightly disappointed to find that there really is no actual boy x boy love, it's definately touched upon and there is a kiss (sort of), but it's mostly left up to the imagination.
For some reason, Higuri's weak point is, as always, the female characters. All of her girls are mostly one-sided creatures, revolving completely and entirely around their love interests, whoever they may be. It's interesting to watch Lucrezia being tossed about here and there as nothing more than a political pawn, but it's hard to feel that much sympathy for her, since there isn't much to her. Cesare's...um...love buddy? is the same, her character revolves simply around her obsession with Cesare.
And yet Higuri IS capable of deep and complex characters; Chiaro, Cesare, Juan, and more. If they're male you can be sure that they are multi-faceted, interesting and very human. If they're female...they'll be swooning over some guy.
The story is long and epic, going through all the stages of Cesare's rise to power and his subsequent fall into madness, his friendship with Chiaro and his power struggles with his father, the loves and lives and betrayals of those surrounding him and the effect that all of this has on the rest of the world.
Cantarella is a solidly good work, featuring great storytelling, brilliant, brilliant art and a cast of colorful and intriguing characters that are sure to catch your interest. Whether you're a long term fan of Higuri or a newcomer to her work, I'm sure you'll find something in it for you. Highly recommended.read more
Cantarella should get a lot of love from its fans; its characters and illustration seem to have that kind of attraction towards them. This story to me deserves a lot more than its getting.
Back to the topic at hand, as the summary already mentioned this story is a 'good vs. evil' kind of story, the Vatican comes under question (which happens quite frequently in reality too) and Italy is on the brink of war; so there is a lot of hate going around and since this story is in a 'good vs. evil' style; the writer seems to love using loads and loads of contrasts within their story. For example, at one point the main character becomes a man of the church however within the plot, he is supposedly evil. Which puts the church under question (again), who is truly evil? The church or the main character since the church is following his corrupt orders.
To anyone, the main character could be seen as many negative things at face-value only.
In my eyes he seems to be a tragic fellow that gains little and loses much though he has little to begin with. At times, the characters do get on your nerves and I think why I didn't give this story a higher rating was because of the limited twists within the story.
Yes, the story itself is a big twist,
BUT it is a prolonged twist.
Not that the idea is bad but never, the writer should have never, stopped adding twists, a twist creates suspense, is a change of scene and is like a new wave; a breath of fresh air.
That was what the story was missing.
The illustration kept its quality, and is historically-accurate, as I see it. The illustrations do have their charm and are acceptable, and had little change during the story. Surprisingly, the illustrator got all the body parts in proportion; something they should be basked in glory about since the almost impossibility of finding a story which gets ALL the body parts in proportion.
This story has the ability to make readers: fans. Its story isn't 'wow', its illustration isn't 'wow', but it definitely has its charm.read more
Giving this series a 10/10 for everything- story, art, character, enjoyment.
Its a story full of angst, forbidden relationships and unrequited love. Each character is doomed to suffer emotionally for life. And the protagonist Cesare has the worst share of them all.
Story: The story is well woven with historical facts (can't say how much percentage though) + heavy dose of supernatural elements to it, similar to how the Hakuouki anime series has been made. It gave me a vague idea of what kind of struggles must have taken place between France and Italy which was really interesting to read, since I haven't really read much about their history. And Hetalia series has ruined me XD. Alexander VI's ascension to the seat of the pope, the internal struggle and grudges between the cardinals, scheming and manipulation by Cesare for avoiding French to capture Naples and finally pull the strings to unite Italy under the jurisdiction of the pope- all are very well written. The only thing I felt was a rushed ending. After vol 10, I was expecting that I'd get to read more of Cesare's prowess on the battlefield. But sadly that doesn't happen.
Art: The art is simply gorgeous!!! Cesare and Chiaro are so so so handsome!! Expressions of all characters are very well drawn to convey their intentions. The buildings of the era have been drawn superbly with fine details in most pictures. Battle scenes have been aptly drawn.
Characters: The strongest point of the series. Most characters have a distinct and a very strong personality. It was sort of horrifying most of the times to read how much twisted, selfish and greedy each person in the story is, and the things they do to get what they want. But then again, since the goals have been reached via impure intentions and methods none of them get to enjoy their victories. I especially felt bad reading how the women in the story have been used as mere tools for political reasons. Cesare has an angelic face but is the darkest of all of the characters. The cursed circumstances under which he is brought into the world render him doomed to be hated by his family. He is trapped in a complex forbidden emotional situation involving his own sister and later his best friend. The one person's heart he seeks doesn't reciprocate to his feelings. Lucrezia is manipulated to be married for political reasons. She has feelings for her brother which she tries to conceal. But probably never succeeds completely. Her affair with Chiaro finally makes her happy again but the happiness doesn't last long. Cesare's father has done all he can to gain power. But when he finally ascends to the seat of the Pope, he is forced to be a mere puppet of Cesare. Similar misfortune has be portrayed for all other characters in the story. And its mostly the unsatisfied emotions of all the characters that drives the story towards its tragic finale.
Enjoyment and Overall: The story is very tragic and dark. Heavily political, the story is well paced except for the abrupt ending. The character development is very well done. If you like reading tragedies, then this story is a must read.read more