How much more can I say about this series without covering the same ground as I did before? I guess the key point for Book Three is that wow, the story just does not stop. Takemiya is not kidding around here. More often than I’d like, a manga series will settle in the middle, almost like taking a little break before getting back into the action that will finish the whole thing off. And to be honest, I was expecting that from Kaze since you know, Books One and Two were already pretty intense, and covered a lot of ground, so it seemed natural that Book Three would have a bit more of the ho-hum daily grind to it. But no!
This one is Gilbert from start to finish, mostly from the perspective of his uncle (and other things to be touched on later in the spoiler section; I’ll warn you) Auguste Beau. This is where we learn all about Gilbert’s tragic past, the things that presumably made him into the beautiful tempter of all young men that we met in the first book. Here is a fun fact that is likely not surprising at this point: His past is tragic! And full of a *lot* of very messed up people. Including, but not limited to, his own parents.
The volume starts with a tiny Gilbert, only five years old, and Takemiya pours on the innocent beauty in the artwork. Lots of quivering, full lips, wide angelic eyes that win over even his deeply bitter uncle. But he is almost feral, befriending animals in the forest, running wild, smashing things wherever he goes. Takemiya leads us through the next five years of his life and the many changes those five years bring. And here ends the relatively spoiler-free area. If you don’t want to find out some serious stuff, look away now while you still have the chance! (No, for real! Don’t read the next two paragraphs if you have not read this series and you would some day like to!) (Also, there could be some triggering stuff here, although I’m not discussing any details. But still a general discussion of an assault ahead.)
Uncle Auguste tries to make Gilbert his perfect pet and also to punish him for even existing since Gilbert’s birth is the reason Auguste lost the only woman he ever loved, Anne, who also happens to be Gilbert’s mother who was married to Auguste’s stepbrother, but Auguste sort of dipped his fingers in that pudding. (You saw that coming, right?) So you know, a bit more than an uncle to our young hero. He’s also, um, attracted to Gilbert. In a special mommies and daddies kind of way. But he heroically restrains himself until his sculptor friend Bonnard comes to visit and whisks Gilbert away with the help of a chloroform-soaked rag. This ends up being the turning point for Gilbert, and for Auguste and their relationship. Because yes, the giant, ridiculously-coiffed Bonnard also likes little boys in a special mommies and daddies kind of way. And unlike Auguste, he has no self-restraint.
And this part of the book is spectacular. The way Takemiya portrays this is at once devastating and gorgeous. The close-up on Gilbert’s face when he realizes that this is really happening is so exactly right, and as the reader, you feel his young horror. And the clock hands tick excruciatingly slowly while the door recedes from his outstretched hand, until there is a final shuddering forearm reaching upwards alone against a black background. All this with diagonal panels all over the place, perfect for capturing his terror.
This is topped off when Gilbert is returned to Auguste, catatonic, and Takemiya gives a full page to a silhouetted scene of Auguste climbing into bed with Gilbert. I cannot stop turning back to this. It’s just so incredibly filled with emotion, and so much of the story is captured in this single mostly black image. Yes, this is the part where I rave again about Takemiya’s ability to combine art and story in a way that enhances both. Because wow, she just knocks my socks off.
The story just gets more and more debauched. I have no idea where she’s planning to take it, since it is already more crazy and messed up than I could have expected and this is only the third book in a series of many. I assume at least one of those books is going to start climbing back up from the bottom that we are headed towards, but still, it would seem like that bottom is still a long ways off. What is already clear, however, is that, according to Takemiya, the men in nineteenth-century France were very interested in beautiful little boys. And that some of those men wore ponchos and had unspeakably crazy hair.