Ludwig II 2
February 3, 2010
You Higuri – June – 2009 – 2 volumes
I’m not sure what took me so long to read this volume, I was completely taken by the first. The second was a little harder to get into at first since I let so much time elapse, but then I remembered what was so great. The ethereal atmosphere, the sense of danger surrounding Ludwig, his completely romantic nature contrasted with the dirty politics played around him, his strong desire to live only in a world of beauty and opulence as in a fairy tale, and his strange, strong bond with the head of the stables Hornig. It’s absolutely beautiful, the art is amazing, the story is well-told, and the characters are just… immortal, I suppose. It really is spectacular and romantic and everything a shoujo manga should be.
I still say its interesting that it was published as a June manga. While Ludwig is gay, and part of the plot is that Hornig is one of the few things that keeps him sane and connected to reality and part of his haphazard fantastic personality is bedding other men, the story has a great deal of tact regarding the latter, and we only see a handful of panels in flagrante and nothing graphic. The romance isn’t really the most important part of the story, and it’s negligible that he prefers men. But I suppose it doesn’t work as a DokiDoki title either, and the general DMP line seems like its more for shounen, so maybe June was just the best fit.
I need to take back part of what I said, since romance is a major part of the story. But unusually, it’s not romance between characters, but rather the romance surrounding Ludwig himself. His romance with Hornig is bittersweet and well-developed, but it’s Ludwig’s persona that makes this story worth telling. His relationships with others, even with Hornig, are secondary to what is happening to Ludwig in this volume.
One of my favorite devices was Ludwig’s drive to find a particular actor, only to realize that this person is a figment of his imagination. Ludwig calls this character “the embodiment of the age,” but it later comes to symbolize his developing madness. I thought that was one of the best devices I’ve ever seen, especially since Ludwig is never portrayed as particularly mad. People that dislike him mostly do it because he only cares for his opera and romantic fantasies and building beautiful castles. He does have a talent for ruling, but just prefers not to, and the wars and power struggles in Germany only make him sad.
The story is not without its weaknesses. A large caveat, and one that I can see bothering a lot of people, is that most of the dialogue is absorbed with developing the mystique surrounding Ludwig. There’s not really a plot, the story is mostly driven by his difficulties in expressing his feelings to Hornig and the random snatches of politics we get from time to time. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I can see how some people might be bothered by the frequent and lengthy descriptions of Ludwig’s fantasy world.
It really is lovely, but probably not for everyone. I would encourage fans of over-the-top dramatic romance to pick it up. It’s a real treat, and it’s made me a permanent fan of You Higuri. I’m surprised it’s such an early work of hers. She didn’t write Cantarella, but I’m looking forward to reading some of her other, later work now.