Sunday, June 19, 2022


The history of BL manga in the US begins in the early 2000s.  The first company to try their hand at it was Central Park Media, as part of their ill-fated Be Beautiful imprint, so how does its first release hold up nearly 20 years later?

GOLDEN CAIN (Kin no Cain), by You Asagiri.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2004.


When a concert goes wrong, Shun is stunned when a handsome blonde stranger saves him from the crowd.  He turns out to be Cain, a mysterious new model with a connection to Shun's older brother Keiichi.  Shun is overwhelmed by Cain and his intense beauty, but can Cain save Shun from the overwhelming guilt he feels  and a stalker set on blackmailing them both?


I feel a little betrayed by Golden Cain.  The book's own blurb leads you to expect a more tender story about grief and overcoming abuse.  Maybe it would be like the better bits of Loveless!  I should have known better, though.  Instead what you get is an incredibly uneven drama with a lot of leaps of logic, an unnecessary amount of sexual assault, and much nonsense to be found.

I knew things were doing downhill about 30 pages into the book.  At this point, Cain has swooped in to save Shun from a rowdy rock concert where he was about to be offered up as a 'virgin sacrifice' (with an emphasis on 'virgin').  No sooner does Shun recognize Cain as a celebrity than Cain starts sexually assaulting him.  Shun make a token protest before giving in as Cain declares that Shun is going to be "his bitch."

And they say romance is dead.

This scene pretty much sets the tone for their relationship from that point forward.  Shun regards Cain as a savior and dazzling, exotic beauty but he also refuses to confide in Cain, even in the face of danger.  Honestly, Shun needs therapy more than he needs a boyfriend, considering that he's suffering from survivor's guilt and a bunch of emotional abuse from his parents, both of them stemming from his brother's accident.  Meanwhile, all Cain can offer when Shun is distressed is sweet nothings spoken in Vietnamese and lots of sex, and Cain's idea of pillow talk is to tell Shun how he's going to corrupt him.  He's also very cagey with his own history, as well as his previous relationship with Keiichi.

Cain is also kind of a stalker?  I mean, he was willing to go so far as to hunt down his friend's hot brother, show up at his school, and generally follow him around in case Shun happens to stumble into danger despite being a fabulously wealthy and famous dude in a foreign country.  I'm just saying.

The final third of this book is taken up with one complete ass-pull after another.  These plot twists not only defy belief, but they manage to undermine much of the pathos of Shun's backstory.  I didn't think that Golden Cain could find a way to get worse but BL (much like life) finds a way.  So much happens in this story, but so little of it pays off.


I was kind of surprised to learn that Golden Cain dated from the early 2000s.  Looking at it, I would have easily pegged it as a manga from the 90s.  A lot of that has to do with Asagiri's character designs, which feature the narrow pointed faces, heavy (yet translucent) bangs, and baggy fashion of that time.  She's a decent artist, but even in 2003 this would have looked kind of dated.

I find it funny how many "EXPLICIT CONTENT! NOT FOR THOSE UNDER 18! EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK IS OVER 19,  WE SWEAR!" warnings can be found in this book because it's not really all that explicit.  Asagiri goes out of her way to avoid showing a single dick until the very end, and the sex scenes are fairly brief and to the point.  At least she's not so much of a coward as to not draw nipples on Cain whenever he's shirtless.  It's definitely less cowardly than the adaptation staff's hilarious attempts to pretend that Shun isn't a high school student.  It truly was a different time.


Don't let the blurb fool you - Golden Cain is just as trashy and melodramatic as its peers.  It's absolutely the sort of things that fujoshi ate up during the manga boom of the early 2000s,  but time has not been kind to its clumsy storytelling and awkward notions of romance.

This book is currently published by SuBLime, and previously by Central Park Media.  The physical volume is out of print but is currently available digitally through SuBLime.

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