Manga: Caste Heaven

This is a horrible start to NaBloPoMo, but I swear I’ll catch up! Just… after this post.

Here’s a Yaoi I read a few months back after reading part of Fujoshika’s blog post on it 🙂 She’s also nominated me for blog award that I’ll get done probably after NaBloPoMo is over.

Manga: Caste Heaven 「カーストヘヴン」

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Caste Heaven chp 1 cover

Caste Heaven is a Yaoi, school-life, drama by Ogawa Chise (a.k.a. Shigeyoshi Takagi, Ogawa Chiyo). It started publishing in March 2014 and is still ongoing with 9 chapters compiled into 1 tankobon volume so far.

“Everything is decided by the Caste Game.”

Ruled by a cruel and arbitrary ranking system, the school is a cesspool of jealousy, envy and lust. For a long time, Azusa has been the King of his class, but then he falls to the very bottom as the Joker. What now? [Blurb taken and edited from Baka-Updates Manga]

WARNING: Graphic depictions of guyxguy relationships. NSFW, but scenes are drawn (in this case, not drawn /winkwonk) such that things are censored and it’s not very explicit. Potentially disturbing and/or distressing situations — blackmail, rape, psychological abuse etc. Dark themes — betrayal, jealousy etc. Also vulgar and violent.

To be totally honest… Caste Heaven was a little disturbing. I mean, just look at all those warnings mentioned above. It’s quite a ‘cesspool of darkness’ alright. I take pride in being open to reading all sorts of manga, but non-consensual will always be a stain in my books. Caste Heaven was that and a lot more, but you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case, what I just told you above.

I must confess, considering all the dark situations in the context of the story though, Caste Heaven has been an intriguing read so far. I feel like these sort of ‘games’ and the depiction of corrupt societal systems are often written in a Shounen or Seinen context where your position and/or wrong moves can cost your life, but this is the first time I’ve read a situation like the Caste Game in the Yaoi genre. What if the stakes weren’t as high and a focus on yaoi romance was thrown in the mix? This different storytelling was something that really piqued my interest from the start.

Contributing to the interesting story is a cast of broken characters with their own twisted personalities. Throughout the series, you get to experience the story as seen from different character’s point of views, better understanding their characters as a whole and relationships with each other in the process. There are two sides to the same coin; Even with such messed up main characters, there’s not one that can be considered entirely evil. They’re fascinating characters in their own way.

cover      tumblr_inline_npfgerM2hu1rd9p4b_500

Caste Heaven vol 1 cover             Be x Boy April 2015 magazine issue cover

The manga is all about the characters driving the story and Ogawa-sensei’s art truly reflects that. Backgrounds are sparse and panels are set in the way that attention is drawn to the expressions of characters very often. Ogawa-sensei’s character style is simple, light and pretty; Slender, polished, unrealistic but good-looking characters with great expressions. The atmospheric tones and framing also play a huge part in evoking certain feelings and emotions in the reader, like discomfort and anxiety.

When I first read it, I kept wondering  just how this kind of story could have any sort of happy ending. It would honestly be pretty cool if it didn’t. But now that I’ve read until the latest available chapter, it seems like there’s a little bit of hope for something happy in this cesspool of darkness.

“We hide too many shadows under our masks.”

Caste Heaven is very dark — A twisted story for twisted characters and probably twisted readers as well. But with how well everything is portrayed, it’s an extremely addictive read.

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