Manga-ka: You Higuri
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: September 2009
Synopsis: “The kingdom of Bavaria was absorbed into the German Empire during the latter half of the 19th century. The stunningly handsome king of Bavaria— who never married and who would have operas and plays privately staged for him—wandered between fantasy and reality, alone in his extravagant crystal palace, Neuschwanstein. “I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others,” Ludwig II once said, and now we reach the final act of his drama.”
Bringing to a close the tragic life of Ludwig II, You Higuri’s loosely-based historical take on the reign of Bavaria’s King continues to view his life from a personal perspective – following the sordid romance between Ludwig and his consort Hornrig while madness continues to nip at his majesty’s heels.
There were a lot of great moments in this second, and final, volume, ranging predominantly from Ludwig’s subtle-personality but eccentric lifestyle. He continues to distant himself from the dedicated Hornrig, and while his reasoning doesn’t always seem entirely justified, coming from someone like Ludwig readers likely won’t feel much loss from this. A beautiful but mysterious man also appears in Ludwig’s life, seducing him into further isolation with eerie connotations, while other men continue to weave in and out of the King’s service to prove short term fulfilment for his political, psychology and sexual needs. (On that note, there is a distinctive sex-scene in the book that barely fits in the 16+ rating.)
Hornrig unfortunately suffers from a loss of characterizing independence in this final volume, once a confused but strong young man with a growing admiration for Ludwig – now a weepy dedicated seeking only exclusive use at his King’s side. His steadfast love is admirable in a classic romance kind of way but also creates a sense of distain towards Ludwig who returns little of the selfless loyalty.
The book’s finale also marks the end of Ludwig’s life, as was foreshadowed in the series’ beginning. It leaves a melancholy feeling in its wake, one that balances relief, sadness and inevitability for both readers and characters. It is a bit awkwardly portrayed however, as are a few other moments in the book that utilize a similar story mechanic, showing first the end result before going back to fill-in what time led up to it.
The final moments of Ludwig’s life also seems to tie in an almost supernatural occurrence that seems a tad out of place, if only because it potentially proves some of Ludwig’s delusions which undermines the potency of his mental state during those final months. On the other hand, this could just as easily be intentional, giving readers a different angle in which to view the unconventional ruler in his last days.
As in volume one, I found myself occasionally under-whelmed by the politics and the actual affairs of the court, it’s finances and the royalists. These scenes, which can often get a little wordy, never prove as compelling as simply seeing the tension arise when Ludwig and Hornig were in the same room. While the inclusion of these elements, important as backdrop to Ludwig’s position, work well in balancing the angst of the series’ turmoiled romance, they still make for a few dull moments that distract from the overall personal tone of the book.
As a fan of You Higuri’s art, it was nice seeing the evolution of her style from the beginning of Ludwig II to the final pages here. The look is generally the same but there is some tightening up of the ink work and facial layouts that are more indicative of her current style. On the other hand, the redone covers (made especially for this edition) still stand out – beautiful yes, but in such a different style than the interior that Ludwig on the cover is more easily established by the clothes he wears than by he himself.
I was continuously impressed by Digital Manga’s publishing quality on this title, especially because of the high page count (coming in at around 300 pages). The book is pleasantly light in hand and the binding is strong, which makes reading the larger than normal book no noticeably harder on the wrists than any other. The included You Higuri after words prove a worthwhile read after the fact and shows a care in creating the books that promotes a positive outlook on the series as a whole when you’re done.
While Ludwig II suffers from some tedious moments, the twisting passion between Ludwig and Horning, and perhaps even more so the deteriorating mental state of Ludwig himself, makes it a purchase-worthy title for boys’ love fans with a pension for a romantically-inclined historical plot. It doesn’t prove as persuasive as the first volume but does little to slow the melancholic drama that proves the series most memorable achievement.