Kaori Yuki MMF: I Think I’ll Stick to the Victorian Goth Manga

Another Manga Movable Feast is rolling by this week and it’s about another mangaka (Kaori Yuki) whose seminal work I haven’t read in its entirety. Luckily, this time I’m prepared! I just happen to have bought all of Angel Sanctuary at last year’s Fanime and hadn’t read it yet.

Now I’ve read volumes 1-3 of Angel Sanctuary before, but after rereading those volumes and up to volume 5, I can see why I prefer the Cain Saga and Kaori Yuki’s less “modern” works. Here’s a list:

1. The Whole Setsuna/Sara Relationship is Creepy!

Abusive relationship? Why would you ever think that?

A potentially abusive relationship? Why would you ever think that?

This is the only mainstream manga where I’ve come across that’s featured incest so…romantically and NOBODY SEEMS TO MIND. Say what you want about Marmalade Boy, but at least those kids weren’t blood-related. Maybe I’m missing something here, maybe in the next 3/4ths of the series we discover that Sara and Setsuna aren’t actually related, but it’s still setting off all my icks. And anyone who opposes their True Love in the series is painted as an enemy. Um, hello? Incest is taboo for reasons other than sharing blood! 1) Your kids could have mental and physical health problems; 2) most incestuous relationships involve abuse of power, which brings us to: 3)most people in incestuous relationships are being raped or are the rapist. So I just don’t feel it’s entirely right to show such a relationship in such a completely romantic lens.

It also kills my suspension of disbelief when Setsuna calls Sara a bitch during a particularly spoiler-ific moment about three volumes in. That’s your True Love, dude. The one you spent most of the last three volumes pining over and fighting for. How could your True Love ever be a bitch to you, even if you’re mad at her? It’s like this moment of realness that happens in non-fictional relationships, except since Setsuna and Sara’s romance is so fictional the realness just makes it look even more fake.

2. The Angels in Nazi-like Uniforms Are Creepy Too.

All you need is an armband.

I wonder why everyone keeps mistaking me for an SS officer…

Perhaps this is just a visual cue to emphasize the dictatorship that the angels live under without saying it, and I’m just being too sensitive about this. But even if there are no swastikas shown, I get the feeling that Kaori Yuki has fetishized the style of the uniforms and that makes me uncomfortable. I’ve seen too many instances of Japanese pop culture creators forgetting the horrors that the Nazis brought upon the world and making their iconography, or even the Nazis themselves, into something cute or sexy. That’s just wrong.

But this is a very personal reason why I’m not fond of this series, though, so you are free to discount it if Nazi-esque uniforms don’t bug you.

3. So Many Characters, So Many Secrets!

Would you believe me if I told you this is *just* Team Setsuna?

Would you believe me if I told you this is *just* Team Setsuna?

One of the biggest downfalls of Angel Sanctuary, from a more objective standpoint, is that the manga introduces so many characters so quickly, that all of these characters are important, and that you will have to remember them and their motivations because they are relevant even if they’re dead.  Even worse, many of these characters have secrets or mysteries surrounding them, so you have to remember all that while new characters pop up. I’ve seen large ensemble casts in manga go well, but I’m already doubtful that this is going to be one of those manga. There is such a thing as too much political intrigue.

4. Setsuna is a Bit of a Gary Stu Sometimes.

I dare you to be more emo than me.

I dare you to be more emo than me.

I’m five volumes in and I don’t see much from Setsuna except massive amounts of angst-ing and convincing people that they shouldn’t get in the way of his incestuous relationship. Setsuna is surrounded by other people who either already love him, have just been persuaded to love him, or other mysterious people who are already on his side. These folks always save him from the scrapes he gets himself into. If he wasn’t saved by other people, he was saved by the secret reincarnated angel inside of him. By the way, that reincarnated angel is everyone’s savior. Setsuna would be Jesus reborn, if this manga was about Judeo-Christian mythology as a whole and not just the structures of Angelic society.

5. This Series May Be About Angels, But Enough with the Deux Ex Machina.

So far, the character of God has been asleep throughout the entirety of the series, so technically what’s happening isn’t necessarily Deux Ex Machina so much as Adam Kadamon Ex Machina.

It's cool Setsuna, I got your back.

It’s cool Setsuna, me and my bajillion different kinds of angel wings got your back.

Adam Kadamon, also called Seraphita, is the highest of the angels and a practitioner of lost magic that no other angel can perform (except Setsuna/Alexiel!) Of course, he mysteriously disappeared ages ago and no one’s seen him…UNTIL SETSUNA GETS HIMSELF IN TROUBLE. Then Adam Kadamon conveniently gets him out of trouble. Multiple times. Of course.

I like Kaori Yuki, she has her hits and her misses story-wise, but her artwork is so solidly gorgeous and fun to look at. However, it seems like she really dropped the ball when it came to writing Angel Sanctuary in ways that I can’t easily ignore.  There are just too many characters and not enough of them are fleshed out nicely to make the story compelling enough for me to collect this series, had I not already done so. But, I am only 1/4th of my way through the series. Things could change drastically in the next 15 volumes, and I fully expect that they will like they did in the first five volumes.

For more on the Kaori Yuki Manga Moveable Feast, you should visit Foxy Lady Ayame at The Beautiful World.

About Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

Daniella is a freelance manga editor and blogger. She likes collecting out of print manga and playing with her puppy. Yes, someone got her a puppy already.
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13 Responses to Kaori Yuki MMF: I Think I’ll Stick to the Victorian Goth Manga

  1. Pingback: Kaori Yuki MMF: Archive | the beautiful world

  2. Neko-kun says:

    I believe your opinion will be much more positive when you reach the end of the story. Especially when it comes to character development, this is, in my opinion, one of the best stories out there.

    p.s. To be honest, I had never thought of their uniforms as Nazi-like, but they sure are military style clothings.

    • I hope so because it would suck to read 20 volumes only to be disappointed the entire way through. If nothing else, I’d like Setsuna to stop being a Gary Stu.

      As for the uniforms, they’re definitely based on Nazi uniforms, but Kaori Yuki does draw them without the Nazi insignia. I’m not surprised that not everyone notices, but the environment that I grew up in (a Jewish one, if you’re curious) happened to be one where I regularly saw Nazi uniforms/symbols/etc. as part of my education.

      • Neko-kun says:

        I think it is a masterpiece. I think Setsuna is a good protagonist, one that does fit to his role. I have to say that the series was a bit slow in the first two volumes, but then it takes off. Just be a bi patient.

        As for the uniforms, I kinda guessed about it. To be honest I can understand why you feel this way, but I do not think it was the mangaka’s intention to give any apology to Nazis. I guess for Japan, that fought exclussively the United States during WWII, such things look like obscure objects, without ideological roots.

        • 5 1/2 volumes in and I still have to disagree so far. Setsuna’s at a pivotal moment in my reading right now and he’s still getting his ass saved, but talking big.
          And to be honest, I’ve never had a “masterpiece” take this long to get me hooked. So far it’s not even anywhere close to anything I’d recommend as a “must-read.” Right now, it’s a “not for everyone.”

          I don’t think the mangaka is giving the Nazis an apology here. I think she’s forgetting that the uniforms were a symbol of terror and death for millions. But I know she knows where those uniforms came from. It’s no secret that Kaori Yuki is interested in German history and mythology. So for her to make those symbols something sexy is inconsiderate of her. She may think she’s not being inconsiderate by removing the overt symbols like the swastika, but if she really wanted to do that she’d use military uniforms that don’t have such a negative connotation.

  3. I still have to read the manga, so I can only comment on this : “1) Your kids could have mental and physical health problems; 2) most incestuous relationships involve abuse of power, which brings us to: 3)most people in incestuous relationships are being raped or are the rapist”

    1) there are some magical things called condom and pills- you don’t really have to bring children to this world, 2) stats? and it’s this case we care not others (though I’ll admit that ‘bitch’ is a bad indication; still I can’t have a solid opinion since I haven’t touched the series), Plus being around the same age means the power relations aren’t necessarily bad as with an adult 3) when we talk about incestuous rape, there’s no relationship in a romantic sense -well most of the times in real life, children who get raped from relatives don’t love them back or sth after they’re treated like that. Again, do we see Sara getting raped or abused?

    Thanks for contributing! Also, please, the blog belongs to my dear Neko-kun as well, so add him to your post. I’m just easier to contact, that’s all.

    • You’re really going to make me justify myself on this? Forget Setsuna and Sara being in love for a second and think why people would object to their relationship in the first place.

      1) We know that rapists don’t always wear condoms and not all women are on the pill because thousands of pregnancies occur because of rape every single year. (If you want stats on that, go google them yourself.) So sure, those very, very few people out there who are in romantic, responsible incestuous relationships, that’s a great tip.

      2) Abuse of power does not mean that there is automatically a large age difference. Abusive relationships can happen between anyone, including two friends of the same gender, and are not easily defined. (Which I know since a friend of mine found herself in an abusive relationship with another friend who was the same age.) Abuse can be physical, verbal or mental, therefore it is not easy to give you stats on this. (In fact, abuse and rape are often not reported to the authorities.) But, I would theorize that it would not be impossible to find an actual abusive relationship between a brother and his twin sister.

      3) No, thank goodness we don’t see Sara getting raped or abused. That doesn’t mean the possibility isn’t there of an abusive relationship. We do see Setsuna pushing Sara around emotionally and demanding that she follow him. That the relationship is abusive is just what everyone who opposes their relationship in the manga is assuming because 73 percent of all rape victims are attacked by someone they know. And that’s just from the small number of people who have actually had the courage to report it.

      That list was NOT a list of why Setsuna and Sara are the exception to the rule. (Because their relationship is so ridiculously fictional anyway.) That is a list of perfectly legitimate reasons why people are against incestuous relationships. Most, if not all, incestuous relationships come from bad situations, not good ones. To romanticize something that is usually bad is just demeaning to the actual victims of it.

      • You’re clearly blinded by your absolute view, so you’ve misunderstood me. I’ve studied rape and even have a post about it, I do know that the rapist is highly likeable a relative or a boyfriend/husband…
        1) A brother and a sister in an incestuous but consensual relationship don’t need to have children, so problem solved… Check Tsumi ni Nureta Futari, where the couple does use condoms. Sex and love don’t necessarily have to do with reproduction after all.
        2) I asked of facts of abusive relationships between two consenting relatives, but you missed the point I was trying to make: a. what I said in 3) the first time (though you somehow made a comparison with an abusive relationship between friends) b. there are probably no stats on this since consenting people in an incestuous relationship wouldn’t go out and say things about a relationship which isn’t already accepted by society. So I was actually trying to say that you are making assumptions, by considering such relationships by malevolent default.

        “Plus being around the same age means the power relations aren’t necessarily bad as with an adult” – let’s clarify this; I didn’t mean it’s not possible to happen but rather that when a couple has age gap it’s easier for the youngest to get to follow or idealise the oldest partner.

        “We do see Setsuna pushing Sara around emotionally and demanding that she follow him.” If that’s the case, you’re right to freak out, but I can’t say yet, until I’ve read that myself. Other fans though -who do usually freak out with incest- told me that’s not true.

        • I’m sorry, but the original point that I think you might be missing was that there are legitimate reasons for the incest taboo. These reasons are grounded in reality, which is why Setsuna and Sara’s mom is motivated by them. Kaori Yuki paints her as the enemy because she wants the readers to buy into the Setsuna/Sara romance, but their mom is just being a realistic parent who wants to protect her children from harm.
          So if you re-read my original list with that in mind you’d see that:
          1) Their mom is afraid that Setsuna and Sara are going to have kids because…
          2) Their mom is worried that Sara is being manipulated by Setsuna and…
          3) Their mom is worried that Setsuna is trying to rape Sara. And if he’s manipulating her and raping her, then perhaps he doesn’t care about using condoms. (Bringing us back to #1.)
          Setsuna’s mom wants to protect Sara from the disgrace of being a victim of incest, and she’d like to prevent Setsuna from potentially becoming a rapist too. (Even if it’s only rape in the eyes of the law, and the laws of society.) But Setsuna and Sara give zero shits about all this because their love conquers all and is their sole motivation for everything.

          1) I agree with you here, but I’d agree with your point more if you were citing actual, consensual instances of incest where the couples have chosen to remain childless and not instances in manga. What I’m trying to say is: There may very well be such people out there, but prove it to me first.
          2) Basically, stats about abusive relationships are so under-reported that I think that they’re very unreliable. Some people don’t even realize that what they experienced was abuse because they think abusive relationships are only a thing between lovers or family. I was also trying to disprove your assertion that abuse of power is usually a matter of one party being much older than the other, which is why I cited my friends in the first place. Power and authority are not always a matter of age, it can be a matter of gender, occupation or even of having a more commanding personality.
          3) If you’ve studied rape, why do you need me to give you stats about it? That should mean you already know the stats on rape involving incest. However, I can’t find any stats about consensual incest. Since you seem to be arguing that consensual incest should not be gross to me, you should be providing me with proof that I’m wrong, not vice versa.

          You’re trying to tell me that I can’t be put off by incest when it’s consensual, but I have doubts about how consensual these relationships are in real life and in Angel Sanctuary. In Angel Sanctuary, however, I can point out moments that can be identified as an abusive relationship. (But how can I really? You haven’t read it.) In real life, however, it’s not as though people cannot lie or be manipulated without their knowledge, or that something like Stockholm Syndrome does not exist. I have legitimate reasons to doubt consensual incest until I have been proved wrong.

          So please, actually prove me wrong here.

          • yeah, like people in such relationships would shout out that not only they’re doing sth ‘wrong’ in the eyes of society, they’ll boast for not having children and using condoms and being respectful to each other… pleeeeeease. do I need to state this is irony? It’s almost the same thing with polyamory, coz you hear mostly the bad cases and not the good, coz it’s sth people don’t want to hear. Though, well, in the last case, no one can bring you before the law for what you’re doing in your bed- in contrast to sleeping with your sibling for example.

            Also, for the last time, coz I hate repeating myself, incest rape and incestuous *romantic* relationships are not one and the same; coz most girls who are raped by a relative, aren’t in an affair with their relative… As for the age gap, you skip reading that “not necessarily” part which does make a difference I strongly believe.

            That’s my opinion and that’s where I stop talking. Next time I might talk about it, is when I will have read all the AS volumes and it’s a promise that then I’ll make a post about this topic.

          • Sounds good. This whole debate is a little ridiculous. (P.S.- There seem to be plenty of people willing to admit to incest under the cloak of internet anonymity.)

  4. Katan says:

    I’m stepping in not to comment on your debate in whole, just to clarify some things:
    1) Setsuna and Sara BOTH had feelings for each other. And Setsuna was not fine with them as you can clearly see in the first volumes. He “bled” to stay way from his sister, and she insisted on staying close to him. Nobody was just “okay” with incest. They reached the “conclusion” of choosing their relationship after a lot of suffering and criticism.
    2)Setsuna’s mom is a bitch NOT for not wanting her kids to engage in a incestuous relationship but for the following reasons: a)she abandoned her son because he was different and called him a monster merely for not getting injured in accidents (!) and frankly, cause he reminded her of her unfaithful husband:P b) even though BOTH of her children had incestuous feelings for each other, she chose to put the blame on her son’s shoulders alone, making the poor daughter out to be the victim of his “vile intentions”.

    Also…what’s wrong with using military uniforms to depict a military system????

    I chose to address only some of the issues you mention above, because at the moment I lack the time to express my views on everything else. But anyway, if Angel Sanctuary is not your cup of tea, nothing can be done about it XD

    • 1) No. Please stop defending incest. Like I said: there are reasons why incest is taboo outside of any biblical arguments. I cannot buy completely into the whole “consensual incest” argument and if you see the earlier debate you will know why. The ONLY thing that will change it for me is finding out that Setsuna and Sara are not blood-related.
      2) Setsuna’s mom is totally a bitch on the matter of abandoning her son. No debate there. But I don’t think it is so black and white when it comes to blaming Setsuna for the incest thing. Sara’s feelings weren’t entirely clear at the beginning of all this, and when she did make them known it was at a point that it was easy for her mother to think that Sara had been manipulated by Setsuna. So what else is mom going to think? She only knew one side of things. Unfortunately, we’re never given the chance to see the mom as more than a one-dimensional hate-machine before they run away. She is just an obstacle in their path, not a conflict they must resolve. Sara and Setsuna were only ever meant to get over and away from their mother. This is sad because it wouldn’t take much to flesh her out and make her an interesting and poignant point in the story. I honestly think this is just another fault of Kaori Yuki’s writing in Angel Sanctuary.

      There’s nothing wrong with choosing military uniforms to depict a military system. The problem I have is with those particular uniforms because they have such a powerfully negative connotation. It’s entirely possible she chose those uniforms to make a sly reference to the state of affairs in Heaven, but I’m not entirely sure she did because a lot of what Kaori Yuki draws is heavy on style.

      It’s pretty clear to me that you’re a die-hard Angel Sanctuary fan, so you immediately disagree with a lot of what I say, but hear me out: I’m trying to look at this series objectively (as a reviewer) and subjectively (as a fan). I’m just not finding a lot that entices me…yet. I’m just not finding it to be the classic manga I thought it was. Either way, it is just one person’s opinion. You can disagree all you like and it doesn’t mean that either one of us is wrong.

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