Tokyopop’s BLU line may be focused on prettyboy love, but that’s not the entirety of the yaoi manga line. Submitted for your approval: Kairi Shimotsuki’s Madness, a violent post-Apocalyptic yarn of tender love and bloody berserker rage, of pixelized penises and grisly swordplay. It’s a far cry from the gender playing romcom moves of a BLU Manga series like Liberty, Liberty!
Our central mismatched twosome is comprised of Izaya, a boyishly naïve priest, and Kyo, the handsome leader of a murderous gang called Madness. As the series opens, Kyo is imprisoned in the dungeon of a village church, suffering from amnesia and unaware of his murderous past. Young Izaya has been tending to the jailed Kyo, and though he knows of the amnesiac’s past, he believes that Kyo is at heart a gentle spirit. But when a former member of Madness runs amuck through the village of Philistine, searching for Kyo’s sword Siegfried, the smell of blood revives the prisoner’s memory in time for him to effect a Bugs Bunny-style escape and rescue Izaya.
Once he’s saved the day, though, Kyo’s anti-heroic nature fully re-emerges. He forces Izaya to leave with him, threatening to kill everybody in Philistine if he doesn’t come. The young priest learns he is something called a “Suppress,” which gives him the ability to somehow dampen Kyo’s berserker rages. (“I’ve got heads to collect,” the would-be bounty hunter says, “and I’ll need a Suppress with me.”) Izaya’s power is vaguely linked to the Suppress’ sexual attractiveness, and since every guy he meets seems to find the young priest dreamy (including a fat brothel owner who attempts to rape him), his Suppress abilities could be clearly formidable if he ever learned how to wield them.
As the twosome makes its way across the land, they meet up with two other former Madness members: a flamboyant bounty hunter named Oboro (“C’mon, can I get a ‘long time, no see’ fuck?” he flirtatiously asks Kyo) and Kyo’s former Suppress, a pneumatic albino swordswoman named Miyabil who apparently attempted to kill her former lover in the past. Why the big-breasted assassin-turned-prostitute tried to do in Kyo is a mystery left unanswered at the end of the first volume. It’s clear that she, like everybody else in the series, finds Izaya irresistible, though.
The first 272-page volume balances scenes of bloody carnage (somewhat murkily reproduced on some pages, unfortunately) with yearning lust-packed panels ‘tween Kyo and Izaya. The fullest sampling of the latter occurs near the end of the book, after Kyo has a vision of his childhood that rekindles the sensitive side Izaya knew back in that church dungeon. “In that jail cell you were everything to me,” Kyo says, but, of course, this moment is short-lived. Miyabil pops onto the scene with a great gaping sword wound in her side, and hard-ass Kyo — doubtless revived by the scent of blood — re-emerges. So much for that tender moment.
Madness’ translated dialog has its share of awkward moments, but the “Mature”-rated series also can be engagingly rowdy — particularly when Miyabil and the incorrigibly horny Oboro are on the scene. For all its violence, there is still an air of lightness to the series, writer/artist Shimotsuki remaining mindful of the general yaoi audience’s romantic sensibilities, no doubt.