First Impressions: Innocent (Manga)

 

I hardly expected to like Shinichi Sakamoto’s Innocent when I first spotted it on my Tumblr feed, but I’m now so morbidly fascinated that it’s not even funny.

The story revolves around Charles-Henri Sanson, the Royal Executioner during the time of King Louis XVI. As a young man, Charles-Henri hated his family’s line of work, but was forced into taking up his father’s position as Monsieur de Paris by his father and grandmother. The manga revolves around his life and his work as an executioner, as well as the career of his youngest sister, Marie-Joseph Sanson.

innocent volume 1 cover

WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

Sakamoto’s art style is absolutely stunning and it does a fantastic job of conveying the characters’ emotions and the setting’s atmosphere. The artwork also makes the gory parts all the more disturbing, but it’s just so well executed (no pun intended) that sometimes you just can’t bear to look away.

This is one of the "tamer" frames.
This is one of the “tamer” frames.

While I do appreciate beautiful manga art, sometimes I actually hate how everyone and everything in the series is just too pretty, especially when everyone is falling in love with everyone else because “My god, he/she is just so beautiful I can’t even.”

innocent manga scan 3

innocent manga scan 2

The story and character development can also get a bit weird, especially when it comes to Charles-Henri. While I do realize this is a coming-of-age story where he evolves from an emotionally fragile teenager into a responsible adult, his personality can get so inconsistent that I have difficulty sympathizing with him.

The guy gets laid ONCE, and suddenly he's channeling his psycho dad. Great.
The guy gets laid ONCE, and suddenly he’s channeling his psycho dad. Great.

I’m not particularly fond of his sister either, but at least she seems to be more consistent in terms of personality, and her cold, cynical nature makes her an effective foil to her morally-upright brother.

Probably the cheesiest, most ham-handed way to illustrate the contrast between two characters, but at least the art is pretty.
Probably the cheesiest, most ham-handed way to illustrate the contrast between two characters, but at least the art is pretty?

I’m not even sure what it is about the manga that fascinates me. The writing tends to be hammy and cliche, so maybe it’s the artwork, or the history behind the story itself? Or maybe I’m just a sucker for the beautiful and macabre? I don’t know. All I know is I’ve been reading the damn series non-stop, so it has that certain something.

I’m on Volume 7 of the series now, and I’ll probably keep reading all the way to the end (Volume 9). Oddly enough, while the manga has not been officially published in English, it has been published in French. I have to wonder what French readers or anyone more familiar with French history think of this whole thing…

Images taken from MangaFox.

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