Sex, power, and abuse.
Art & Story: Asumiko Nakamura
Translator: Lisa Coffman
Letterer: Abigail Blackman
What They Say
Though the attempt on Dao’s life was thwarted by the king’s intervention, salvation has come at a price. He was ready to acquiesce to whatever was demanded of him in return for his life, but nothing could have prepared Dao for what he would encounter in the king’s private chamber— or what service he would be asked to perform. A king and his attendant, each haunted by painful memories of the past, each with a role to play in the future of the kingdom…
Content Warning (Rape):
There are many different directions that Dao’s story could have gone to explain the actions he took against the king he serves. Yet none of what I imagined could have prepared me for the utter strangeness of the reality of it. Had the king simply wanted to take Dao as a sidepiece that would have been enough, what with the rape Dao already suffered being trauma enough to dredge back up.
No, what the King does to him is still rape, but also forcing Dao into an even more fucked up sexual situation. Is it the cuckoldry, the hapless queen, or the entire fucked-up situation that pushes Dao into poisoning the King? I’m gonna guess it’s everything that Dao has dealt with. He is the poster child for why masculinity can be toxic.
Dao’s extremely tragic story comes to a screeching halt in this volume as we jump backward in time. At least, I believe that’s what is happening as it’s not overtly spelled out. The arrival of the prime minister, who calls the King brother, is a warning about the shift in focus about to come. Yes, the King is not the only one in charge apparently… and just like that, we’re introduced to Margave, half-brother of the prince.
We launch into the backstory of the King as just one of many princes in line for the throne. The king is ill, and presumably dying, but I have to wonder if his son was poisoning him. It’s the only thing that makes sense since we see how the king treated the concubine who was the first Prince’s mother. It’s not pretty, and it fucks the prince up pretty badly.
Margave is the good son, whose mother is forced to send him to the palace and exile herself because of the nature of her relationship. He is bookish and immediately a target of the first Prince, but stands up for himself and doesn’t let the first Prince push him around. Yet his appointed handmaid is a tool of his brother, a woman who likely contributed to the first Prince’s fucked up view of sex.
This volume continues to walk the fine line between what’s porn and what’s erotica. Lots of fluids, lots of detailed breasts and Babie-doll women, and suggestions of where fingers are going. The author is known for her BL works and it shows in how she draws sex, even for a seinen audience. It’s a little more artsy and less raw, truly aiming for erotic. It’s the dead eyes of the women that are going to remind the audience that this is a passionless, broken act by broken people.
This series asks a lot from its reader. How much you enjoy its sordid tales of tragedy will depend on how much nonconsensual sex you can stomach. Nakamura’s artwork remains beautiful, but the actual content of this series is a tough read. This volume launches into a third tale of brothers, sex, and sin, with the difference being that I believe this new arc is a prequel to Dao’s tragic story. The unnamed king is a highly unlikeable character who is completely inscrutable and his past doesn’t absolve him of how he treats those around him. Perhaps what would be best for this kingdom would be if its monarchy ceased to exist.
Content Grade: C +
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A +
Text/Translation Grade: A –
Age Rating: 18+ Mature
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 18, 2023
MSRP: $18.00 US / $22.50 CAN