Gorgeous Carat by You Higuri (amazon)
I enjoyed the first couple volumes of You Higuri’s series Cantarella, so I had a feeling that I’d also like this story about jewel thieves in turn of the century Paris. The story opens as the Paris nobility are besieged by a mysterious jewel thief named Noir. Florian is a member of the nobility, the only remaining heir to an impoverished family. His legacy is a house rapidly being emptied of all its furnishings by his mother, who is selling treasured family possessions to keep up the pretense of an aristocratic lifestyle. Although Florian offers to work, his mother will not allow him because she fears the loss of status. They have almost run out of money, and Florian suggests that she sell the giant 120 carat diamond that is the last treasure of the family. His mother refuses and tells him to dress well for the ball that she’s throwing that evening.
Noir attends the ball wearing an Arab coustume using the name Ray Courland. As soon as he arrives, he’s attracted by Florian’s jewel-like violet eyes. Florian is quite disturbed when learns from his Uncle Maurice that Ray is a distant relative and a usurer. He is even more disturbed when Ray comes to his house again and meets with his mother, promisising to give her a blank check if she entrusts Florian to him. If she won’t sell Florian, Ray will take the family diamond. Seeing his mother become distressed, Florian offers to go with Ray. Ray’s home has many servants, but he’s closest to a girl named Laila who frequently goes with him during his jewel heists and is utterly devoted to him. Ray sits down to a feast in his dining room with a petulant expression on his face because Florian has locked himself into his room and refuses to eat. Ray visits Florian and orders him to eat dinner, but Florian refuses, saying that he doesn’t take orders from “low-class swine”.
Ray’s solution to this problem is to chain Florian to a wall and torture him with a whip. He reveals that he’s actually Noir and demands that Florian tell him the location of the family diamond, but Florian refuses to talk. That evening, Florian’s house goes up in flames with his mother inside. Florian is a suspect in the murder, and he and Noir end up joining forces to track down the diamond and unravel the cause of the fire. Noir’s an interesting character. He’s obsessed with jewels and seems to keep shackles and whips around as handy house accessories, but even though he has a dominant personality occasionally he seems a bit immature. He’s actually a couple years younger than Florian, which adds another twist to their relationship. The first book features another story where Florian and Noir are placed in a situation where they need to unravel a mystery behind some other mysterious jewels, so I’d expect to see this type of story repeated in later volumes. In additon to the pretty men there’s plenty of action, adventure, and intrigue in Gorgeous Carat. You can take a look at the covers and plot summaries on Go Comi’s translation of Higuri’s web site.
You Yiguri’s art is lovely and expressive. Gorgeous Carat started coming out slightly before Cantarella, so it is one of her more recent works with her artistic style fully developed. She adeptly portrays Noir’s humor and cynicism, while Florian functions more as a quiet but strong moral compass. It’ll be interesting to see how their relationship develops and how many jewels will be added to Noir’s collection. You can see a few preview pages at Blu Manga’s web site.
Even though the first part of the 4 volume series is being released by Tokyopop’s Yaoi imprint Blu, it looks like the sequel to the series, Gorgeous Carat Galaxy, is going to be published by Digital Manga Publishing.
A couple manga links:
There’s an article on MTV news about Yaoi.
Irresponsible Pictures looks at the latest entries in Tokyopop’s rising stars of manga competition. Telophase also has two review posts. One of the series used Blade of the Immortal as source material for the art in a very blatant manner. Now, I think if you have to use reference material for something Blade of the Immortal has some exquisite art, but it seems really weird to submit something like that to a competition.