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Saint Seiyais copyright Kurumada Masami and Toei.. No infringement or disrespect of the intellectual property rights held by the owners of existing copyrights in Saint Seiya or its derivative works is intended by this non-profit, non-commercial web page.

Summary

First of all: I'm acknowledging up front that I won't be able to do this justice.

Second: If you happened to have watched any of a series shown in the US as Knights of the Zodiac – well, just forget what you saw. In so many ways, in all the ways that count, that wasn't Saint Seiya.

The premise, in a very tiny over-generalized nutshell: Every 250 years or so, the god Hades (yes that Hades, from Greek mythology) and the goddess Athena are reincarnated as humans. Once they reach maturity they raise up their respective armies (bad guys called Spectres, good guys called Saints) and wage a Holy War for the fate of the earth and all the human beings upon it.

Like angels, Athena's Saints are ranked at several levels of power – at the bottom are the 72 Bronze Saints (the "Seiya" of the title is a Bronze), then 24 Silver Saints, and twelve Gold Saints. Each Saint is associated with a constellation; for example, Seiya with Pegasus, and other comrades for Draco and Cygus. The Gold Saints are associated with the twelve Hellenistic zodiac sun signs (Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Libra, etc.) .

The Gold Saints and Athena live in temples in a hidden area (called "Sanctuary") near the Acropolis. For day-to-day organization Saints are organized under the "Kyoko" (usually translated as Pope; I personally use the term Pontifex or Holy Father).

The particular armor that each Saint (and the gods and goddesses as well) wear is called a "Cloth". The Saints use the power of the universe ("cosmo") and their own spiritual focus to transcend the weakness of their human bodies and do truly superhuman things.

And if I don't stop there, you've going to get entirely buried in minutiae: this is a very well thought out universe. So let's go to ...

Why I love it

I'll say it up front: Saint Seiya is cheesy, melodramatic, at times badly drawn – and yet for 25 years has managed to remain one of the most popular anime ever made. (I've been told that it has been shown in syndication in parts of Latin and South America continuously since it was dubbed.) It's a wonderful example of the shonen genre, where the scrappy underdogs have so much spirit and heart and determination that not even 100 broken bones, losing 2/3 of the blood in their body, or being punched at the speed of light can stop them. It was the direct inspiration for Sailor Moon, and was one of the series that provided raw material for the earliest waves of doujinshika. If you love BL and shonen ai, Saint Seiya is one of the series you can thank for it.

Because what else are you going to get from a series where the female characters are so overwhelmingly outnumbered? Saint Seiya was unabashedly "bromantic" decades before that term was heard, chock-full of beautiful bishonen and biseinen wearing colorful latex, tossing waist-length hair of every color imaginable, and shedding manly man-tears over the heroic sacrifices of their fallen comrades.

The first few episodes are not that great; one might even say they're bad. But once you get to the fight between Seiya and Shiryu… well, you might find yourself falling under the spell, like I did back in 2003. (By episode 10, I was so hooked that I marathoned the remaining 104 episodes plus the newly-released first third of the Hades arc. All that solidified my love for the characters, and inspired what I still think are two of my best fanfictions, Intermezzo and Legacy.)

I'd like to note that the Saint Seiya material I used as canon back then was primarily the original manga, the fansubs of the first 73 episodes (Sanctuary arc) of the original series, plus the first 13 episodes of the Hades arc of 2002-2003. The universe has continued to expand since then: Lost Canvas manga and anime, the Soul of Gold OVA, the Legend of Sanctaury live action film, and yet more manga -- Episode G, Next Dimension. (Lost Canvas especially threw canon wenches into my previously canon-faithful fics, but I haven't gone back and tidied yet. :p)

What some people don't like about it (and my response)

"The original series looks dated."

Well, yes. it's old enough to be oldschool.

"The storylines are just .. ridiculous. and no one could survive the kinds of injuries they incur. And ..."

Pffffbt. If you can't get in the spirit of the series, watch something else.
 

Characters I write

Though there are literally dozens to choose from, there are 4 characters that have received most of my fanfic love.

 

Dragon Shiryu, one of the Bronze Saints that, along with Seiya, are considered the "main characters" of the original anime series. Shiryu is calm, respectful, physically powerful, and like all Athena's Saints entirely dedicated to his mission (almost to the point of masochism.) He has a dragon tattoo on his back that fades when his life force is low. He is the only Bronze Saint I write extensively, mostly because, in my universe, he is the recipient of an unrequited and mostly Platonic love from ...

 

…  Gold Saint Aries Mu. I admit that I was predisposed to like Mu, as his seiyuu in the original series was Kaneto Shiozawa. I adore Shiozawa's voice so much that watching whatever I could find that he had voiced guided most of my anime viewing for the first few years. (Iason Mink in Ai no Kusabi, Narsus in Arislan, Ageha in Basara, Shin Kazuma in Area 88, Shadi in series 1 YGO, D in the original Vampire Hunter D … I still continue to track down his more obscure performances.)

But even without that, Mu would have become a favorite. He gets one of the more interesting introductions and backstory – we find out that he had fled Sanctuary at the age of 7 when his Master, Aries Shion, was killed. (Shion had also been the Pontifex of Sanctuary; his killer impersonated him for many years until he was finally defeated by .. oops, shouldn't tell ya :p) Mu seems to have lived on his own in Tibet, perfecting the "Cloth Repair" skills that Shion had taught him, fending off assassins from the "false pope", and training his own apprentice, the rascally Kiki.

My only quibble (if you can call it that) with Mu is that he doesn't seem like a "traditional" fiery Aries.

 

We don't learn much about Gold Saint Aries Shion until the beginning of the Hades arc – and even then, for a long time the only things known about him were: a) he's like Kiki and Mu in appearance (a "dothead" – I'm not sure if it's fanon or canon that they're from Atlantis or Lemuria); b) he was one of the only two Saints to survive the Holy War of 1743 (the other was Libra Dohko); c) he was Mu's master, and d) the Kyoko of Sanctuary until he was killed.

Shion seems a bit more like a typical Aries in the Hades arc – his temper and emotions are more on display (although it's difficult to know how much of what he does in the Hades arc is an act.) He seems to have a dry, wry, almost sardonic wit (though this may be colored by his seiyuu, who is the same actor who voiced Akabane "Dr Jackal" Kurodo in GetBackers.)

Shion's goodbye scene with Dohko in the Hades arc – brief as it is – sealed Shion/Dohko as my Saint Seiya OTP. (Well, that and some gorgeous doujinshi :p)

As I have decided that the dotheads are a different race than humans, I've given them a physiology that essentially replaces pubic hair with a tough membrane covering the genitals (this membrane, the tegimen, thins sufficiently in the presence of the appropriate pheromone that the cuspis breaks through it) and an external nerve cluster meant for pleasurable sensations (the occasus).

 

Gold Saint Libra Dohko is known for most of the Saint Seiya series as a Roshi, a purple Yoda who trained Shiryu and who spends most of this time watching a waterfall in Rozan, China. ~ We find out a number of things about Dohko in the Hades arc: a) he's spent the time since the last Holy War guarding the prison of the 108 Specters of Hades army b) he's got a tiger tattoo on his back and c) he's not nearly as old as he looks.

 .

Go ahead, fire that canon at me:

So … back in 2004 when I was inspired to write Shion and Dohko and Mu develop a backstory for them, I teased out the few details in canon and studied their few appearances, and based on their voices and what I saw (Shion and Dohko were essentially personality opposites) I made Shion the fiery, impatient one and Dohko the calm, steady one. With the help of friends (and inspired by a fabulous French fanart) I invented names and nationalities for the rest of the gold Saints from 1743. ~ I took a lovely color panel of the two limping off after the end of the war and used that as the opening for both Intermezzo and Legacy.

And then, as I mentioned above, new works came out that shot that all to hell. Turns out that Kurumada meant Shion to be the quiet steady one, and Dohko to be the firebrand. (Well, that explains all the girly Shion uke fanart I've seen for so long :p) ~ I do still think my characterizations & stories stand on their own for the most part, as the stories are about the relationship more than big plotty tie-ins to canon.

Reading Seed

If you want to tackle Seed, my strange "erotic gothic yaoi drama with demons, Spectres, Silvers, Bronzes, love, angst, twincest, kink, violence, yuri, and WAFF" or one of the other Saint Seiya fics I haven't mentioned yet, then here are quick summaries of my takes on the other Gold Saints.

[]

Taurus Aldebaran, Mu's genial Brazilian neighbor. In my fics he's had a low-key crush on his best friend Mu since they were kids. Physically, he's a gentle giant – 6' 9".

[]

Gemini Saga – one of the bad boys. He was a candidate to succeed Shion until he lost patience and killed him instead: canon was sort of undecided whether it was his "evil side" or a possession by the god Ares (and to top that off, he later was revealed to have a "black sheep" evil twin named Kanon. I sort of rolled all that together in Chiaroscuro.) ~ Anime gave him cobalt blue long hair.

[]

Cancer Deathmask – in the original anime he comes across like a complete sadist – he throws women and old men down cliffs and has no problem attacking a blinded, cloth-less Shiryu until Mu intervenes. He decorates his temple with death masks of those he's killed (hence the name). I enjoy making him a swaggering, foul-mouthed prick.

Leo Aiolia – younger brother of the defamed Sagittarius Saint, Aiolia seems to be one of the noblest and purest Saints – to me he has a definite Galahad vibe. Short brown hair.

Virgo Shakais said to be the reincarnation of the Buddha. Often referred to as "The Man Closest to God," to me he's very difficult to write IC in a serious piece (his chapter in Seedtook me four months of revision.) He generally keeps his eyes closed unless he's getting ready to blast someone. In a comic piece, however, he's "golden," because he can be whatever you want. I like him prissy and sort of repressed (The Gold Hussy). Long long blond hair.

Scorpio Milo… ah, Milo. Fanon wise, he's the resident priapic sex god. Canon, he's a merciless, vindictive assassin if he feels he has right on his side. Pairing him with Camus has been done so often, for so long, that most people are sick of it, but it still works. (This is one of those cases where a small detail in the anime became the foundation for acres of slash.) Longish blue-violet hair, the index finger of his right hand acquires a long red fingernail/stinger when he's getting ready to use his "Scarlet Needle" attack.

[]

Sagittarius Aiolos – deceased. He was the older brother of Aiolia, the Leo saint. When Aiolos caught Saga trying to kill baby Athena, he saved the baby but was framed by Saga instead. He died getting the baby (who was raised as Saori Kiddo) to safety.

[]

Capricorn Shura gets kinda short shrift in my fics. I'm sorry, but there are just too many pretty boys, and too little time!

Aquarius Camus, my personal favorite for the sexiest Gold Saint, is a French Saint who trained in Siberia (and was the Master of Bronze Saint Cygnus Hyouga) has all ice-based attacks and a very cool, aloof manner. (His seiyuuis also in the goo-inducing range for me, so …) Plus, woo, Long Blue Hair!!

[]

Pisces Aphrodite – one of the Saints who is often mistaken as a woman. Fights with roses, beauty marks, and aqua hair. As in many doujinshi, I make him buddies with Deathmask just because … it's kinda cracky.

[]

Ophiuchus Shaina – a powerful Silver Saint, she (like all female Saints) wears a mask. To conceal her gender. (Because that's the only thing that would give it away, right? :p)

[]

Aquila Marin – another Silver Saint, she trained Seiya.

 

Where to get it: anime

(Apologies for covering just Region 1 here) There were two previous Region 1 releases. DiC (now Cookie Jar) released the 32 heavily edited episodes that had been shown on Cartoon network as Knights of the Zodiac. ADV released the first 2 seasons ( 60 episodes) uncut/unedited with dual audio.

According to wikipedia, "A DVD set entitled "Saint Seiya: Sanctuary Classic Complete Collection" will be released to DVD in the US on November 5, 2013 from New Video, containing 12 discs, and the English dub of the first 73 episodes (marking episodes 61-73's debut in English). However, it contains no Japanese audio."

Saint Seiya: Lost Canvas has been available to stream on Crunchyroll.  It covers the eighteenth-century war, and includes Shion and Dohko as major characters.

Additional links

[]

Wikipedia entry

 

One of the Saint Seiya wiki: http://saintseiya.wikia.com/wiki/Saint_Seiya_Wiki

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Written May 2009; edited 24 Dec 2015

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Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo is copyright Mahiro Maeda, GONZO / Media Factory, GDH, Geneon, and Funimation. No infringement or disrespect of owners of existing copyrights in Gankutsuou or its derivative works is intended by this non-profit, non-commercial web page.

Summary

In a 26 episode anime produced in 2004 (and 3 supplemental volumes of manga) Gankutsuou offers a visually stunning retelling of Dumas' classic novel of a man framed  for a crime by three of his friends, only to return 25 years later to take revenge.

Set in the year 5053, it shifts the focus of the novel to Albert de Morcerf, a naive young man who gets caught up in the Count's terrible plots of revenge.

Why it's good

It retains the "spirit" of the book and most of its cast, while folding in science fiction elements (there's a traditional duel – fought in mecha suits! there are carriages – drawn by robot horses!) and a number of unique twists to the characters and plot (such as Albert's fascination with (i.e., crush on) the Count) so seamlessly that it never felt tacked on. I hadn't read the novel, so I was amazed to talk to Dumas fans (most of which seem to love it) after I saw the series and hear just how many things had been changed while still staying true to so many of the original's themes.

But that's not all! Not only does it have a crackling good plot - it's gorgeous. I admit that many of my fandoms I love for their brains or heart more than their looks, but to me Gankutsuou has it all. Below are four of the caps I made while rewatching it for my fics. (The small, still pictures really don't do it justice – that dress Haydee is wearing in the upper left literally scintillates; in the other scenes colors pulse, candles flicker, and that freaky thing in the background of the upper right picture is an orrey that's in constant motion.)

Four screen captures from the anime series Gankutsuou

Toss in an often stunning soundtrack – the work of two different composers (one French, one Japanese), which complement both the sumptuous style and the futuristic setting, add intense emotion conveyed by wonderful seiyuu, and you have a true feast for the senses.

What people don't like (and why to stick with it)

The visuals – or more precisely, the way clothing (and less noticeably hair) is handled on the main characters drives some people nuts enough in the early episodes that they stop watching. It doesn't show as much in the still shots (and it's a bit hard to describe) but … see that jacket pattern in the lower right picture? Imagine that the fabric's pattern is a "background layer" which does not move when the character moves.

(I agree that it can be distracting, but honestly, you get used to it. Or learn to ignore it. Or accept it as a small flaw in an otherwise amazing work.)

The first few episodes can seem to be a little slow moving – I know my spouse found them so – but if you stick with it (and can get used to the visual style, which some people don't like) you'll find that it's all there for a purpose.

Characters

a series of screen captures of the character of the Count from the anime Gankutsuou

The Count, of course, is the center of the story. Mysterious, wealthy, worldly, he captivates Albert and Parisian society – all the while setting in motion the intricate traps that will disgrace and then destroy the three former friends who have since gone on to become prominent in politics, finance, and the law.

(I'm holding off on certain spoilers here, too.)

Appears in Etheloisa, Kyrie, Mainspring, Nurture, Poisons II, and Possibilities.

 

Albert de Morcerf is the main character. Telling the story from his POV allows the Count's machinations to remain hidden for a longer time. Albert's innocent trust encourages empathy, because for a while we are just as enthralled with the Count as he is. At the beginning of the story Albert is engaged to his childhood friend Eugénie de Danglars.

The dub tones down the exact nature of Albert's feelings for the Count, as the original anime pulls out all the crush tropes. Maeda, the anime's creator, does say in one of the commentaries that he considers Gankutsuou to include "a homosexual love story," though whether that's Count/Albert or Franz/Albert he didn't say. (Considering the promo art,I'd say it was the former.)

Appears in Choices, Etheloisa, Mainspring, and the two Hookah Monologues pieces, Possibilities and Nurture.

 

Le Baron Franz d'Epinay, Albert's best friend since childhood, is a little more of a cynic than Albert, and suspicious of the Count from the first. It's not clear how much he's motivated by jealousy, but whether it's friendship or unrequited love, he certainly wants to pry Albert away from the Count. He's engaged to Valentine de Villefort, but it was an arranged marriage and he doesn't have romantic feelings for her.

Appears in Choices, Etheloisa, and Hookah Monologues I: Possibilities.

 

Héloïse de Villefort, the second wife of Gérard de Villefort, Procureur-général, is a woman with no great love for her husband or stepdaugher Valentine. She's bitter because her own son, Edouard, won't inherit much from the Villefort estate. Her hobby is gardening.

Appears in Poisons, I and Poisons, II.

Bertuccio, the Count's major domo and right-hand man. He's in my fics mostly because his seiyuu(Kōji Ishii) has a great voice, and because I'm generally a sucker for sexy bald men. (Also I saw really, really amazing Bertuccio fanart years ago on a Japanese fansite, and it branded my brainmeats.)

Appears in Kyrie.

 

Marquis Andrea Cavalcanti, an "aristocrat" groomed by the Count as part of the destruction of the Danglars family. He replaces Albert as Eugénie's fiance, but being that he's a complete sociopath, he assaults her the night before their wedding when he catches her trying to run away.

Appears in Inheritance and Honor.

 

>

Eugénie de Danglars, Albert's fiancee. Best friends with Albert and Franz since childhood, she's also a gifted pianist and composer. She agrees to marry Andrea in obedience to her father.

Appears in Honor.

Other Characters

[]

Where to get it

The anime, originally released by Funimation in a gorgeous boxset, was out of print for a while, but has been picked up and reissued as a thinpak). Crunchyroll has subs (it's a pretty good dub, too as dubs go, but personally I prefer the the original.)

Additional links

Gankutsuou Wikipedia entry


written [] edited 6 September 2014

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Crimson Spell is copyright Ayano Yamane, Tokuma Shoten Publishing, Kitty Media, and SuBLime. No infringement or disrespect of the intellectual property rights held by the owners of existing copyrights in Crimson Spell or its derivative works is intended by this non-profit, non-commercial web page.

Overall series setting

Oh, what a fantasy! To save his kingdom from destruction, Prince Valdrigr takes up an invincible sword that contains the essence of a demon god – but the price of such power is a curse that turns the prince into a demon at night!

To break the spell, Prince Valdrigr seeks out Halvir, a powerful and somewhat arrogant sorcerer who lives alone in a forest. As they travel, Halvir calms and bonds with Vald's beast side at night (Crimson Spell is a yaoi manga, after all), but during the day he begins to fall for the noble Prince as well. ~ As Halvir and Vald seek to learn more about the curse, they pick up various other companions – and face increasingly powerful enemies intent on harnessing the power of the Prince's beast-form.

Why I love it

The setup for this series – yaoi fantasy romance – is so delicious I don't understand why there aren't tons of these, but Crimson Spell seems to be rather unique.

Yes, it is definitely a yaoi title—there is very hot, explicit sex (e.g., end of chapter 1)—but it's far from PWP. Often several chapters go by without any erotic encounters, and the romance feels genuine, developing gradually on both sides with the requisite snags and bumps.

And then there's the fantasy element! Yamane Ayano's art is wonderful even when creating short-haired men in suits, but is stunning when applied to knee-length hair (swoons), sumptuous robes, elaborate jewelry, fantastical creatures, and sword and magical fights.

Currently, at 40+ chapters and still going: 5 volumes published in Japan so far. (The first two were published in English several years ago but went OOP. SuBLime Manga picked up the license for vols 1-5 and they started releasing in Dec 2013). It seems likely the book will wrap up in volume 6 or 7 as a) we have finally met the Big Bad, b) the romance, after being derailed twice, is finally back on track and c) there are several unresolved plot points.

Oh, and did I mention there's humor, too?

I hope I've conveyed how very very much I love this manga! * hugs *
 

Characters I write for

Havi (Halvir Hroptr), 22, an orphan who was raised by the sorcerers of the magical city of Celeasdeile, he's initially presented as a mercenary loner. He's not the traditional cold seme, however: his feelings for Vald (both Prince and Beast) develop quickly and he's generally not hesitant to show them. Protectiveness and jealousy occasionally make him reckless—but seriously, who doesn't love to see that once in a while? ;p)

 

Vald (Prince Valdrigr of Alsvieth), 18, the cursed Prince, is noble, kind, and okay, at times less than patient. His developing feelings for Halvir confuse and distress him at first. ~ His demon-beast side (that's the tribal tattoo'd guy with the fangs and claws) has no such ambivalence, though – after the first encounter with Halvir (mildly dubcon-ish because the beast was on the frenzied side) he's not only eager for sex but very very protective of Halvir as well. At first only manifesting when Vald is asleep or unconscious, once Vald becomes aware of the beast (and once the Prince's feelings begin to parallel the Beast's) the two begin to merge. (Don't miss the spectacular side story, Black & White Labyrinth, in volume 4.)


 

Rulca (fan translation of this was Ruruka) — known as Liethregveel in his magical rabbit form – was released from captivity early in volume 1 by the Prince. Rulca is completely loyal to Vald. Although he can take bishonen form when needed, he spends a lot of time in rabbit form, curled around Vald's neck. Rulca does not approve of Havi's clandestine nighttime activities with the Beast and expresses his dislike of Halvir (who he calls "Habi") quite often, but as he sees how much Halvir truly cares for Vald the hostility gradually fades a little.

 

Marse, a swordsman fallen on hard times and forced into thieving.


Halrein  a former classmate of Halvir's still resentful of being in Halvir's shadow.

 

Other characters

Halceles, Halvir's teacher, and -- nope, that's a spoiler :p --- he's been trapped in a timeless dimension for some years.

Guile an adversary encountered early in the group's travels who sends his winged servant after our heroes.

Rimris a shy scholar rescued by Vald, he seems to have a hidden agenda.

Astadoule, a centuries-old sorcerer who was involved in the creation of the sword nad who seeks to recover its power.
 

Where to get it

Crimson Spell has been translated into a number of languages. The first two volumes were published in English  around 2005 (? check this) but went out of print. SuBLime acquired the title and has releasing it in English (first volume came out December 2013). Volumes can be ordered through links on the SuBLime manga website.

UPDATE: As of October 2016, Crimson Spell is available in digital format!!

Additional links

Most of the major manga sites have reviewed Crimson Spell.

Crimson Spell on Wikipedia

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Written 21 June 2010; edited 6 Sept 2014

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The Legend of Basara is copyright Yumi Tamura, Betsucomi / Flower Comics, KSS, and VIZ manga. No infringement or disrespect of the intellectual property rights held by the owners of existing copyrights in The Legend of Basara or its derivative works is intended by this non-profit, noncommercial web page, which is for information purposes only.

Summary

Basara, which ran from 1990–1998 and won the Shogakukan Manga Award for shoujo in 1992, is set in a postapocalyptic fantasy Japan (the emphasis more on the fantasy than the apocalypse). The country has been split onto 4 regions, each ruled by a different tyrannical King: King Ukon, the Black King and overall ruler, and his children the Blue, Red, and White Kings. ~ It is prophesied that a savior will unite the sacred sword of each region and lead the people out of repression.

Why it's good

Basara is my absolute favorite non-yaoi manga. Though it's a cliche to say so, it really does have a sweeping plot and literally dozens of memorable characters, major and minor, both male and female… and among them, my favorite manga character ever: Ageha of the Blue Nobles.

Basara has so many interesting motifs – gender identity, doubling (many of the main characters have secret or dual identities), the tension between being and becoming… There's drama, passion, angst, humor, a strong yet believable heroine (and a female pirate queen!), honorable enemies, not-so honorable friends, twists, heartbreaking reveals... yeah, Basara has just about everything.

What some people don't like about it (and my response)

Don't like the "old school" art.

No, it's not the prettiest -- and it varies sometimes -- but in my opinion story quickly trumps art.

Can't keep track of the plot and huge cast of characters! And there's a map every chapter!

I felt this too on first read, but each time I re-read it – and I do – I pick up more.

The central romance is between a man and a woman!  Yuck!

True, there's very little full throttle "gay" in this shoujo: for that I recommend Crimson Spell. On the other hand, there are many many close friendships that can be interpreted however you wish.

Characters I write for

Sarasa, the central character of Basara, is a teenaged girl who takes the identity of her twin brother Tatara – the "savior of the people" – when he is killed by the Red King's forces. She becomes the galvanizing center of the fledgling rebellion. (Since this is a shoujo manga, she also learns a lot about love, loss, sacrifice, and so on.) For most of the manga Ageha is her adviser and protector.

Appears in Roles and certain of the Swallowtail vignettes ("Clean Blanket").


 

Ageha. I have never loved a character so hard, so fast. (I don't now remember if I read the manga or saw the anime first, but the fact that he's yet another one of Kaneto Shiozawa's roles certainly doesn't hurt.) One of the last of the Blue Nobles, a desert people that was all but wiped out when Ageha was a child, he enters the manga in a dramatic way in the very first chapter when he seems to materialize out of the desert to off-handedly scold the teenaged Red King for threatening a young girl's life. He loses his left eye for his impertinence, and then walks back into the desert, refusing offers of help by saying that he'll lick his own wounds.

I wondered: Who IS this guy and what made him this way?

Description makes him sound like a stereotypical shojo biseinen: Aloof, soft-spoken ex-slave with waist length silver hair and a mandala tattoo on his back. Possessor of immense pride and resourcefulness, he becomes Sarasa's key confidant/mentor/substitute parent/man behind the scenes. He might be carrying a torch of very mixed feelings for Shido, the son of the man who enslaved him. Capable of extremely tough love ... and of complete self-sacrifice, he'll also joke that he's a bit of a masochist. His owl, Kagero, is the father of Sarasa's pet owlet Shinbashi.

One of the ways that Ageha is able to help Tatara/Sarasa is through his alter ego "Kicho," the cross-dressing star of the Madame Butterfly Dance Troupe. The dance troupe seems to travel quite freely, the performances are attended by the powerful and well-informed, and Kicho's ability to turn heads probably causes a number of those "she" comes in contact with to underestimate "her" (though most people do seem to know that Kicho is Ageha) and possibly talk more freely than they should.

Early in the series, before we see Kicho perform for the first time, Ageha and Sarasa go swimming. When Ageha removes his eyepatch, Sarasa tells him how sorry she is that he lost his eye because of her. His response is "Something that is imperfect can be more beautiful than something that is perfect." (That is also, when Sarasa sees Ageha without his shirt, that she learns that he's an ex-slave.) Later in that scene, Ageha refers to Sarasa as "my woman" – and though he seems to be joking at that point, by a later point in the manga it's clear that his feelings for her have become very deep. (When someone says, "Don't tell me you're in love with Sarasa/Tatara," Ageha's response is, "Okay, I won't tell you.")

Ageha's backstory is revealed slowly over several volumes – we don't get all of it until the manga is almost over. I'm telling you this because … well, my stories will spoil that aspect of surprise for you, as I generally use every scrap of Ageha backstory I can find. If you want his backstory sort of … chronologically, then read the two Chrysalisstories first – though the first one is told from the viewpoint of Ageha as an adult, it covers his childhood (as does the "Tenderness" vignette in Swallowtail.) Both drew on material from volume 16 of the manga. Restraint, which is set during Ageha's interrogation by Shido, has references to events that happened when he was 16; it's drawn from the side story in vol 23. Finally, That Sleep …is set during the Abashiri Prison arc of vols 11-13. It has no flashbacks, but knowing Ageha's backstory and psyche before you go into it should give the story extra depth.

(As I write all this, I realize that Ageha is … kind of a Gary Stu. But I can live with that.)

Appears in all my Basara stories.


 

Shirasu, who first appears in manga volume 11, says he's a fisherman imprisoned in Abashiri prison for years because of some unspecified defiance of the Black King. Shirasu has become the de facto leader of Cell Block A, and so Ageha offers to sleep with him if he'll ensure "Tatara's" safety. (Shirasu keeps the secret that "Tatara" is female.)

Shirasu often speaks in hackneyed proverbs and catchphrases, but he's no dummy: he has an extensive information network within the prison (making him handy for exposition) and it's clear he's been methodically working on a way to escape the inescapable prison. He appears to become attached to Ageha quite quickly (and who wouldn't?), even asking him, "Was your mind on me at all the entire time we were – ?" to which Ageha replies, "Of course. I like men with droopy eyes."

At the end of the arc, Shirasu expresses enthusiasm for getting back to "the real world, with real women." When some of the other prisoners react in surprise he says, "When there are women, I'll always take women," but adds, "Ageha is an exception."

Yes indeed.

Appears in That Sleep Which is the End of Each Day's Life  and the Swallowtail  vignette "Clean Blanket".


 

Shido, who is 26 (he says that he and Ageha are the same age, but that's not confirmed) was the son of the man who kept Ageha – known then simply as "Slave Number 31." Shido can be very gentle – he showed unusual compassion for his father's slaves, especially Ageha – but on the battlefield is absolutely ruthless. He's completely loyal to his younger cousin Shuri, the Red King, and will do whatever it takes to help Shuri. (Shido seems to be one of the few who see through Shuri's surface flaws to the idealistic and noble goals he holds deep down.)

Appears in Restraintand the Swallowtail vignette "Tenderness."


 

Shido's father (whose name I'm not sure was ever mentioned), has only a few pages in side stories in volumes 16 and 23. (The contents of the spoiler-text that follows are potentially triggering for abuse. Highlight to read.) (skip) He systematically beat and raped the child slave Ageha )known as "Number 31") for an unknown number of years, then tossed Ageha out into the desert to die when he saw him leaning over to give a chaste kiss to a sleeping Shido.

Appears in Chrysalis I, Chrysalis II,and the Swallowtailvignette "Tenderness."

 

Other characters

 

Because of a prophecy that he would kill his father, Shuri, son of King Ukon, was branded a slave and banished in childhood. He was raised in the household of his cousin Shido. He is the same age as Sarasa, and is Tatara's primary enemy for most of the manga.

So far he doesn't actually appear, but he's on everyone's mind.

Where to get it

Although the 27 volumes of the print edition have slowly been going out of print, Basara has recently been made available digitally by VIZ. You can read the entire first volume free here.

Additional links

There aren't many Basara websites in English. Fortunately, the one that's out there is great. Jump right to the major characters page, m'kay? - it covers a few of the many wonderful characters I haven't mentioned here – and click through to see the supporting and minor characters pages (and even then, many aren't covered!)

Basara on wikipedia

 
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written 19 September 2010; edited 6 Jan 2014

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... or: My heart is in pieces, let me tell you why

These are the fandoms I currently adore, the ones I'll use the flimsiest excuse to happily squee and babble about at length.


|:.. Adventure Time ..:| |:.. Basara ..:| |:.. Buffy the Vampire Slayer ..:| |:.. Crimson Spell ..:| |:.. Demon Knights ..:| |:.. Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 ..:|  |:.. Gankutsuou ..:| |:.. Greek Mythology ..:|  |:.. Mononoke (Ayakashi Bakeneko) ..:| |:.. New Girl ..:| |:.. Oglaf ..:|  |:.. Orphan Black ..:| |:.. Saint Seiya ..:| |:.. Silicon Valley ..:| |:.. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ..:| |:.. World of Warcraft ..:| |:.. Yuugiou: Duel Monsters ..:| 

Links will take you to pages giving an overview of the fandom, why I was drawn to it, my take on certain characters, and random relevant links. BEWARE: Pages will contain spoilers, opinionated rambling, and occasional fangirling.

Stories I have written (for these and other fandoms) are on Ao3 (Archive of Our Own) under the pen names Silverr and Animom. Some are also posted on Fanfiction.net, in communities on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, and in specialized communities such as A Teaspoon and an Open Mind.

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