Cantarella Volume 4

Written by You Higuri
Illustrated by You Higuri
Go! Comi

The war on the land may be cooling off but the war for Cesare's soul begins to heat up again, as this relationship-heavy volume slows things down a bit from the frantic pace of plotting in the first three volumes.

We're still following a darker version of the history of the rein of Pope Alexander VI but I couldn't help but feel things were a bit sidetracked by the complex relationships of the characters. This volume was light on action and heavy on scenes of unconsummated love, with people from Cesare on down taking pages to explain their pining for each other.

That's something I can get anywhere and not what I'd come to like about this series. However, since it is a shojo manga, I guess there has to be some time spent going over relationship hurdles.

There are still some key moments in the drama that relate back to my favorite parts of the series. Cesare realizes his beloved sister will be nothing but a pawn in the influence game, for instance (and worse, one of his pawns may be in love with her!). He also sees that his position within the power structure still limits the amount of his power. That's not unlike his Pope father in this regard, which is an interesting parallel to be followed in subsequent volumes.

There's also some--but not enough--about the whole demonic possession subplot, particularly towards the end. I feel like that concept is taking a backseat to the more traditional shojo drama.

Higuri's artwork is still top notch. She brings more attention to characters' faces this time, enhancing their angst, but we still get a lot of period dress and settings. She even notes how hard all this research is, but I think it pays off.

I like this series a lot, despite wishing it had been a bit more on task. I'd still recommend this to anyone looking for a historical manga set outside Japan, and I want to see where Higuri goes with the plot.