Gorgeous Carat 2

October 9, 2011

You Higuri – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes

Again, though this series is published by Blu, it’s fairly light on the BL. It’s basically non-existent in this volume, actually, aside from some compliments and possessive comments. But the phantom thief elements ramp way up in this volume.

I’ll be honest and admit I read the last three volumes of this, along with the Galaxy volume, all together. I began to wonder if Higuri had been inspired by From Eroica With Love, but it’s the later volumes that strike me as a cross between that series and Indiana Jones. In theory, that makes Gorgeous Carat one of the best series ever, but I’ll get to that another time.

There are two stories in this volume. The first is the resolution to the Noel storyline from the first volume. The Black Hand organization are still after the jewels hidden in young Noel’s teddy bear, Betty Deux. They capture Florian as he tries to save Noel, and Noir winds up having to swoop in and save the day. It’s a fairly classy, if low-impact story. Afterwards, I felt like there were slightly too many characters running around for me to keep tabs on. But Noel is a cute kid who sticks around, and the Florian/Noir escape at the end was worth waiting for.

The second story is the beginning of The Blue Devil of Maghreb, which lasts through the end of volume four. It starts with a scene revealing that Florian is eventually hooked on opium, then cuts back to a letter that Noir gets from Azura, an old friend. Noir’s gang of merry men set forth to Morocco, where flashes of Noir’s past are interspersed with the city streets, some gang violence, and the group’s entrance to Azura’s mansion.

Azura requests Noir’s help in decoding a treasure map from the Knights Templar. Noir is more than happy to help him do it, as Azura is something like a big brother from Noir’s time as an orphan in Morocco. Meanwhile, Laila becomes increasingly jealous of the attention that Florian gets from Noir, and there’s tension among the group members. But while Noir is reminiscing and trying to decode the treasure map, Florian stumbles into some rather shady dealings that Azura has with Paris gangs. To cover it up without killing an acquaintance of Noir’s, Azura forces Florian to smoke opium and become his lover. Florian tries to take his troubles to Ray, but Ray doesn’t believe that Azura could really double-cross him, so Florian is drawn deeper and deeper into addiction.

The volume ends with Noir captured, Florian possibly dead, and everything in a pretty bad place.

This new Azura story arc has all the makings of the classic, highly enjoyable romantic action comic. There’s the childhood friend who’s set up to double cross, a strained relationship between Florian and Noir (that is still unacknowledged by either of them, but since this is a BLU manga I think it’s safe to assume), an exotic location, a fabulous treasure as the goal, and eventually, a lot of international espionage as well. There’s a lot to like here, and again, Higuri’s art always adds a lot to period stories like this. Her Morocco is rendered beautifully, the costumes are just right, and all the new characters are beautiful and highly individual. I like the plot, but I love her artwork.

There was just enough going on that was exactly to my taste that I kept reading. I actually read the last three volumes of this series in one sitting. The forward momentum is a wonderful motivator in this case. Since the volumes still aren’t very expensive, it would be worth tracking down if you are at all inclined.

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