Rose of the Rhine

April 25, 2011

Megumu Minami – Kitty Media – 2007 – 1 volume

As I’ve said before, my luck with Kitty Media has been fairly hit-and-miss over the years, and I decided some time ago that they just didn’t publish my flavor of BL. But I picked up Sense and Sexuality recently, which is good enough to forgive them almost anything, and I went back through their catalog to see if I’d missed other great books.

This jumped out at me. It’s set in Europe, and is based on the legends in the Niebelungenlied. Fantasy-themed middle-age Europe is not a setting you see often in manga, unfortunately, and to have the Germanic legends as a theme is very intriguing. So how do you turn the legends of Lord Dietrich (separate from the Niebelungenlied, but with some of the same characters) into a BL plot? Well, how about you make Dietrich and Hildebrand, his adviser, lovers?

As awesome as that sounds, and as well-researched as this mangaka obviously is on the subject (she has lengthy summaries in the back about the plots of the legends and how she used the characters), it’s unfortunately a dull book. Mostly because it’s clear that these characters have pre-established personalities that aren’t well-explained in the stories themselves, plus they are being forced to do things that don’t really seem to come naturally to them… namely, the relationship between Dietrich and Hildebrand. The love between them is a little forced, and Hildebrand makes for an awful, awful submissive character. It’s clearly a BL book, with an emphasis on romance, but the romance isn’t very good, and the best thing about it is all the neat fights and situations that Dietrich finds himself in (particularly the second story, which has a really fun fight scene and shows off just how powerful he is). And we just don’t really get to see enough of those fights. But then I find myself in the position of wishing a more complex plot on a BL book, and that’s not really the point of these, is it?

There’s an unrelated story in the back which has a better plot and characters. It’s not nearly as flashy and unique as the Germanic legend stories that dominate the book, and its not an outstanding story in itself (it’s about a master/servant relationship where the two fall in love, but it’s revealed that the servant carries a grudge against the master’s family), but it’s a really solid story with a well-developed relationship.

While I didn’t enjoy it that much, taking in the book as a whole make me realize that Megumu Minami is probably a really good mangaka, but her ideas just aren’t gelling here. She’s also a decent artist, with a lot more detail than what you usually see in a BL book. She’s got one other book available in English, Pleasure Dome, also published by Kitty Media. I think most people will want to give this book a pass, but I’m willing to bet her later work is pretty fantastic.

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