Dark Drawings: The Gothic Side of the Manga world [ARTICLE]

Both Japanese manga and Korean manhwa have had a big success from all over the world, capturing thousands of young ( and less young) readers with beautiful stories, unforgettable characters and awesome illustrations.

Many Japanese manga also have been transformed in anime with great international success of public and still today the manga and anime production is more alive than ever.

Even if the most well-known manga have an action, adventure or sentimental style, there are also many manga ( and manhwa) that have given much space to Gothic tales and dark and macabre characters and they also have had a big success: we’re talking of works such as Black Butler, God Child, Horror Collector and so on.

In this field, the queen of the gothic tales is with no doubt the Japanese mangaka Kaori Yuki, well-knowed for her dark-fantasy manga “Angel Sanctuary” but also author of the unforgettable Gothic manga God Child and other beautiful Gothic stories.

If you’ve never read anything from her, you’d surely have to start with “Cruel Fairy Tales”, one of the first Yuki’s collections of short stories, in which you already can see the characters that make her famous : the stories in this book are all shades of Gothic horror and you can see some mysterious and disturbing elements , which make engaging stories .

Cruel Fairy Tales

” Cruel Fairy Tales” tells the story of the two aristocrats Allcot brothers , Sheridan and Cecil , separated from each other when they were still children. Brought up in terror to believe that their mother was a witch, the two infants decide to run away from home and venture out into the woods adjacent to the house. At night, in a clearing , they discover the bodies of lifeless lovers of his father, probably all brutally killed by their mother. Frightened, Cecil escapes , while Sheridan, still more terrified, remains motionless on the ground. Will be found in a state of shock five days after the end of her strength and almost died of starvation. Eleven years later, three girls go to the residence of Allcot , when they learn that Sheridan has not yet lost hope of finding her sister , now fifteen, alive. That among these girls is hiding the real Cecil ? Meanwhile , strange and heinous acts of violence occurring in the castle Allcot …

From the same author we also have the notable Ludwig manga, a dark version of the Snow White story.

Ludwig Manga.

Blanche of this story , except for the name and the white skin , has nothing in common with the character of the traditional fairy tale . ” His heart is as black as the darkness ” so much so that, in addition to sleeping regularly with his father, uses her beauty to seduce the lover of his mother. The queen believed that her daughter has subtracted the beauty hates it more and more . The story of Blanche is destined to intersect with that of Ludwig , self-centered prince lifestyle somewhat questionable.

But we also have to remember Kaori Yuki’s manga, The Orchestre Royal des Guignols, concerning a contagious disease who turns people into dolls, spreading terror .

The “unofficial” court orchestra, consisting of a group of strange musicians, runs from town to town singing songs and melodies that seem to have a power over the dolls. Nostalgic and sad notes so heartbreaking …There also will be a song that can save the world?

Orchestre Royal

Orchestre Royal is a gothic tale where the music takes the form of a deadly weapon that can redeem us and bring salvation . On this basis , the author creates fascinating band of musicians ” damned ” who bring their music anti-guignols around the world in search of his own redemption, but above all of a melody can heal the world suffering from the syndrome Galatea , a horrible disease that turns people into bloodthirsty dolls .

However , the protagonists must confront not only with the power games of those who seek to exploit the tragedy , but also with their past , with their own selfish desires and queen cruel and desperate that seems to hold in their hands the leader of the group: Lucille .

Humans from rigid movements , with expressionless faces and helpless , and especially with the will guided by the morbid and deep desires : these are the Guignols , the ” Creeping Dolls ” in which humans are transformed after being infected by the ” syndrome of Galatea”. Recommended reading for those who want to know the author , and of course those who like the Gothic style , in a story where the fairy tale , music and nightmares come together in a beautiful and successful mix .

But the most famous Yuki’s goth manga is without doubt, God Child, about the dark adventures of Count Cain .

God Child chronicles Count Cain.

Set in nineteenth-century London , ” God Child ” chronicles the adventures of the young disturbing Cain , called by many ” the Count of poisons .” Being born to a father’s illegitimate relationship with his sister , the young count has grown hated by all his family , especially by his stepmother , who even attempts to kill him. Strangely, at that time he will be saved by his father , who then turns out to be the one that more hates him . Fortunately one day a new butler will knock on his door, Riff , who will soon become his best friend (or rather , his only friend). After the latest attempt of Count Alexis to poison his son, Cain decides to take revenge by using his passion for poisons.He will then become the one and only Count Hargreaves . After this macabre introduction, the course of the story will focus on situations bordering on the absurd in which the boy will be involved and on how he will try to solve them.

With ‘ God Child ‘ , the teacher of the Gothic manga fully reveals the personal story of his characters such as interesting as the young Count is finally forced to grow up and face his fears .

From beginning to end , the story is kept alive , and full of twists and turns, even the most unexpected (in the true sense of the word) .

One of the strengths definitely influential is certainly made by the characters: they come with a well-defined character and absolutely realistic for how little plausibility can sometimes find themselves in situations in which it is developed (well, it is not easy to find a child born from incest between his father and his aunt and put in terrible awe by the parent ) , and it must be said that it is perhaps typical of most of the Gothic works , one can not recognize that it is ‘ human ‘ . There is good and there is evil. Neither black nor white, but gray : the same Cain is by no means the hero par excellence : it is capable of such cruel acts of his father, and to defend his world , do not hesitate to provoke bloodshed without flinching.

And – maybe – it is the ‘ creatures ‘ of Yuki to create history as a natural consequence of their personality : maybe that’s why the story is so nice .

One side of ‘ good ‘ we are often revealed in figures that many could judge incapable of any positive emotion , as in the case of Jezebel .

Indoors dark , psychologically complex characters , religious references , the sense of the macabre , are hallmarks of the style of Kaori Yuki who invariably find in her best work : “God child” . The narrative of the saga of Count Cain starts already in some cars conclusive volumes; ” Juliet “, ” Sounds “, ” Kafka “, and “The Seal of the Red Ram .” So for those who want to read “God child” is absolutely recommended first read these books , because they are such fundamental things about the past of Cain.

God Child remind so much another famous gothic manga about a tormented noble child with a bad past and his mysterious butler, settled in the Victorian London and with many similar elements such as jack the Ripper, the fire of London etc. We’re talking about Black Butler, manga written and illustrated by Dayana Toboso which debuted in 2006.

Black Butler.

In Victorian England , Ciel Phantomhive is a twelve years old Child belonging to the noble house of the same name , whose task is to investigate , on behalf of the English crown (in this case , for the Queen Victoria ) , on a mysterious and insoluble problems , an activity that applies to the Phantomhive family the name of “Watchdog of the Queen ” . Ciel is the only survivor of the family after his parents are killed in a mysterious fire. The same Ciel is about to be sacrificed when invoking a demon with whom he formed a Faustian bargain to be able to find out the reasons that led to the destruction of his family.

The demon , who takes office in the Phantomhive mansion in the form of a butler by the name of Sebastian Michaelis , protect him and help him to get revenge. In exchange, will be entitled to the soul of Ciel .

Evidence of this covenant is visible on the Ciel ‘s right eye, perpetually covered by a bandage, which is represented by a pentagram with the name in the demon Sebastian .

The culture and Christian spirituality is fused with traditional Japanese spirituality , creating a world in which coexist demons , angels and shinigami .

We also find many references to British culture and real people who have been part of English history , as , for example, Edward V and his brother Richard III, Jack the Ripper , Queen Victoria or Scotland Yard.

And the shinigami of Black Butler take us directly to one of the most famous manga of the last years, Death Note, by Tsugumi Ōba and Takeshi Obata.

Death Note

Not exactly a Gothic story ( it soon becomes a spy-story) but with some Gothic elements in the first part such as the shinigami, in fact, and the sense of justice, life and death.

It’s the story of Light Yagami, a model student bored by his lifestyle and tired of being surrounded by a society of crime and corruption. His life is turned upside down by the arrival of the Shinigami Ryuk, owner of the Death Note. He soon discovers that that is not a simple object, but rather a divine instrument with which the Shinigami subtracts years of life to humans, killing them in order to add them to their own to remain immortal. Thus begins a crusade of Light, who decides with this tool to purge the world from every individual evil and corrupt, proclaiming himself as “justice.”

From here on, the story loses its gothic attitude and it becomes a spy story, with the police who tries to catch the mysterious murderer, which in turn uses the book to avoid being caught. All the stories rotate around the antagonism between Ligth and Elle , among the surveys that are revealed and new clues, as if it were a real game of chess where those who anticipate more moves of their opponent winning. To all this we add new characters, such as the beautiful Misa Amane , new notebooks of death, and many people lose their lives.

An incredible duel of intelligence full of twists and turns until the unforgettable final.

But not only Japanese manga have given a tribute to the world of gothic fairy-tales, we also have some beautiful Gothic tales directly from the Korean world of the manhwa, especially Horror Collector and Model, both of them from Lee So Young.

Of course the style of a manhwa is very different from the manga style, but they also are very appreciated from many fans from all over the world.

Horror Collector is a chilling Gothic tale which is set in Europe , including curses, and forbidden love .

Horror Collector

A spiral of tragic events and complex feelings for the path trod by the two collectors Eblis ( who collects objects that are cursed) , Sin ( preferring instead the objects of torture or murder ) and a doll Elisabeth Bathory , these three strange actors are linked by a triangle of riddles and lies.

This is a particularly intricate story , with visionaries and blasphemous tones , in which the plan of dreaming and reality are deeply intertwined.

Eblis is a collector of cursed objects , including an exquisite porcelain doll that preserves the soul of the woman who became known as the ” Blood Countess ” Elizabeth Bathory . Sin also is a collector, but prefers the instruments of torture and can not stand the Eblis’ doll .

In the course of the story we discover that collectors are both demonic creatures , who still suffer the punishment inflicted on them by the Almighty . Eblis and Sin were lovers, but the first one was hit centuries ago by the beauty and grace of Elizabeth and fell in love causing jealousy and anger of Sin . The result is a ménage à trois with deeply sensual and somehow perverse tones , culminating in the fifth volume , with the choice that has to make the demon Eblis of which, between the spirit of Sin and that of Elizabeth, will reside in a body of flesh and bones and then to be loved completely.

Lee So Young is able to give the best of himself in telling stories through images set in a gothic atmosphere in which love, damnation and beauty go hand in hand with its sumptuous stretch , deliberately unnatural and idealized proportions and type of physical that outline .

For those who appreciate the style of the author this comic is a real feast for the eyes . There are wonderful pages occupied entirely by close-ups of the characters, where you can see the delicacy and accuracy of the pencil of their creator . The story , however, also has its dark and melancholy charm.

And then “Model”, another stunning and unforgettable Gothic tale from Lee So Young.


The protagonists are Jiye , a young Korean artist who studies in Europe , and Muriel , a vampire who ends up at her house because of her friend Melissa . Fascinated by Muriel , Jiye agrees to move into his house to study a portrait, in exchange for donating his blood . There she meets other characters in the comic: Eva , a former famous model who has mysteriously decided to spend the rest of his life as ruler of the vampire, and Ken , the son of Eva and Muriel . In fact, you will find out later , Ken – who believes that the woman is not his mother – is the son of Eva and Adrian , a ghost who is in love with Eva . For this reason, the troubled boy has no soul: he and his mother share a single spirit , and his fate is sealed from imminent death ( provided that Eva pushes Muriel to ask to make immortal Ken transforming into a vampire ) . Model is a work of introspective nature especially if Jiye is a curious girl and strong ( but will have to deal with the love he feels for Muriel ) , Ken is a particularly interesting mainly for his desperate need to have a father (who desperately seeks in the vampire ) . Muriel , however, is a figure first cold, but that gradually reveals many sides of his humanity (although it is no longer a human ), and many of its weaknesses, in spite of his immortality . Eva , finally, is a mysterious woman who hides a lot of pain and whose psychology is therefore worthy of attention .

From the first pages Model turns out to be very intriguing and fascinating with atmospheres typically dark . The reading is very smooth and the mysterious events of the protagonists do immediately grip the reader. Lee So -Young has been adept at proposing new nuances to the legendary figure of the vampire , through a story Gothic and antique flavor. The main characters are well characterized .

Model is a beautiful comic, an original work and great personality that deserves to be taken into account by all lovers of mysterious stories .

Concluding this brief excursion through the main Gothic manga and mahnwa, I invite you again to read and gradually discover this dark and fascinating world, made of stunning stories who maintain until the end the initial atmosphere of sophistication and charm , between bats and Gothic castles , crosses and candles stylized , ancient and impossible love , immortal beauty and fevers of the blood, and all this perhaps gives us a means happy ending.

Mariarita Cupersito

Author: Mariarita Cupersito

Mariarita Cupersito is an Italian gothic writer. She collects Venetian masks, reads lots of books, comics and manga. She loves music, all Tim Burton's movies, and, sometimes, she tries extreme sports.

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