Gorgeous Carat 1Posted: April 2, 2011
You Higuri – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes
Oooh… it’s depressing to think this series came out 5 years ago. I am so old.
Anyway. I mentioned You Higuri is an artist I like to pick up whenever I can, since she really knocked my socks off with Ludwig II. Unfortunately, most of her work is a little disappointing. It’s always got lots of fun stuff in it, and I love her European settings… but they are never quite as interesting as I hope. Not bad, just not nearly as engrossing as, say, a series about Cesare Borgia being possessed by a demon should be.
There are a lot of You Higuri series I have yet to pick up that came out before I read Ludwig II, most of them BL titles like this one. Gorgeous Carat and Gakuen Heaven seem to be her biggest claims to fame. Fans may be happy to hear that a new Gakuen Heaven series started a month or so ago in Princess Gold, so there’s more where that came from.
So far, I’ll admit, I really like this one. Again, I like the way Higuri uses European settings, I love her art, and so far, this series focuses on only two characters, one of whom is a mysterious jewel thief. There’s a lot of things going for it there. I also appreciated the fact that, while Florian, the busted aristocrat, was sold off and tortured, at least he wasn’t raped. In fact, there was no sex in this volume, which is unheard of for a BLU manga.
The Phantom Thief Noir, aka Ray, is after the largest diamond in the world, the Flame of Mughal, and Florian Rochefort’s family has possession of it. Florian’s mother, an aristocrat on a downslide and with no hope for more income, still has her aristocratic pride but refuses to part with the diamond. Unfortunately, several parties know she has possession of it, and all of them conspire against the Rocheforts. Ray, in his rich aristocrat role, offers to purchase the diamond for a considerable sum that would put Florian’s mother back into the Paris social spotlight, but she refuses. As a backup, Ray then offers to buy her beautiful son Florian. After some hand-wringing, Florian agrees to go with Ray for the good of his mother. He is promptly tortured for his efforts, and all is for naught when his family’s mansion burns to the ground. Another story in the second half of the volume sees both sheltering Petit Noel, the son of the wealthiest banker in Paris and the keeper of two very rare double star sapphires.
It’s got a promising beginning so far, and both wimpy Florian and testy Noir are fairly easy to like. I appreciate that they haven’t jumped into bed together yet (I assume, being a famous BL title, that it will happen eventually), and I like the two Phantom Thief Noir stories that took place in this volume. There are some bizarre plot twists (particularly at the end of the Flame of Mughal story), and sometimes the stories feel a little messy and fast-paced, but they’re easy to like, and of a much higher quality than most BL stories. I feel pretty confident that things will snap into place within the next volume or so, and the Phantom Thief Noir plots will grow tighter while both Florian and Noir are fleshed out into even more likable characters.
Unfortunately, this is one of those series that went out of print and experienced a price spike (the second volume is hard to come by… yikes!), but it’s one of the most enjoyable Higuri titles I’ve picked up since Ludwig II, and it might be worth the scramble for three and four. There’s also a supplementary volume called Gorgeous Carat Galaxy published by June that is still floating around, although it also looks like its at the end of its publishing life cycle, and might be worth getting sooner rather than later.