Manga-ka: You Higuri
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: July 2006
Synopsis: “The trio decides to visit the castle of a distant relative known for its unique garden full of monstrous sculptures. However, these mysterious topiaries are more than mere decorations and hold secrets that could be deadly. When a mysterious figure begins to attack the houseguests and an unexpected blizzard keeps everyone confined to the grounds, this peaceful trip to the countryside soon becomes something out of a nightmare, full of mystery, intrigue and murder.”
Gorgeous Carat Galaxy, released by DMP, is a sequel to the BLU released series, Gorgeous Carat. The same cast of characters are back in this one-book sequel that continues off from where the last left of. Ray, the charismatic and charming thief-by-night; Florian, the beautiful astriocratic son sold by his family and Lila, Ray’s assistant, take a trip out to the country to visit a distant relative’s estate. Soon everyone there finds themselves trapped by a freak blizzard and at the mercy of someone out to get them!
The main trio are joined by a small cast of characters, including the beautiful but strange, Eleonora. It’s a mystery from start to finish: whose the culprit attacking the guests, what do they hope to accomplish and what connection they have to those there? When at times the story seems obvious, there will be surprises, and when things seem better, they’ll suddenly become chilling. All the characters get their time to shine, for better or worse, from Lila’s resourcefulness and dedication, to Florian’s damselly constitution. But all bring their own to the story and give it a rich feeling. Not only does the present-day story offer entertainment to readers, but this book also reveals some more about Florian’s childhood, of interest to readers of Gorgeous Carat.
An important thing to note about the series is though classified as a yaoi, and printed under Digital Manga Publishing’s June line-up, there isn’t much in the way of boys’ love here. Ray does make his feelings towards Florian known but that’s as far as it goes. Female characters also take important and central roles, something rarely found in a genre that’s obviously ruled by the opposite sex. Those who aren’t fans of yaoi can thus still enjoy this book, if they’re not turned off by the androgynous appearances and occasional ambiguity.
You Higuri is a well-known artist for many reasons; from her numerous mangas to her illustration work. She’s in top form here with gorgeous character designs, clean art and really nicely laid out panels that make for dramatic renderings of scenes. Her style is rich with detail but not enough to be heavily bogged down by it, just enough to allow the culture and era of the story shine through from the outfits and setting. Art bonuses in the book include a full colour opening page and attractive front and back illustrations (though in my opinion, I think a more suitable and eye-catching picture could’ve been chosen for the cover). If this book is anything, it’s certainly eye candy.
In the end, Gorgeous Carat Galaxy is a book that will appeal most to fans of the prequel series, but on its own is a strong standalone as a well-paced romantic drama with a pleasantly fat page count at 256. It’s a suspenseful mystery entrenched in the whys more than the hows and carried by the stunning artwork and passionate interactions between the cast, and not in the way you may automatically assume when referring to something called a yaoi. As a fan of period-dramas, mystery and You Higuri’s art, I loved reading this book and hope others can say the same.