Wednesday, 17 November 2010

M/M Challenge - Maiden Rose Volume 1 - Fusanosuke Inariya

I think Maiden Rose is possibly my favourite Yaoi series. I wouldn't recommend it for everybody due to the slightly disturbing nature of one of the sex scenes (basically a violation), so probably not recommended for your first yaoi. But I love the complex nature of the relationship between Taki and Claus, and the way it makes you think about the power differences in relationships.

Taki Reizen is a young aristocrat - the Maiden Rose of the title - in command of the 15th Army Division, Rozen Maiden. Whilst Claus von Wolfstadt was born into one of the nations that Taki's country is fighting against. But instead of fighting for his own country, Claus chooses to become Taki's knight and Taki's secret lover.

It's a multi-linear story, with at least three stories being told simulataneously. We have the events that are happening in the present which is probably the majority of the story. And then events which occur in Claus's memory - when he thinks back to his first meeting with Taki which occurred when Taki was much younger, and then Taki's days at the military academy where he meets up with Claus again. When Taki has to leave the military academy at the start of the war (because he is deported), it would mean leaving Claus behind. But Claus knows there is a way for him to go with Taki - if Taki makes him his knight.

Although knight sounds like an honoured position, most of the men refer to Claus as being a 'dog'. And to become a knight means...
One must give up his citizenship and renounce all rights...take a master, and become his property.
So Taki essentially owns Claus, the older man has nothing other than what Taki gives him. Whilst Claus thinks of Taki as being his flower.
There are people who're like flowers; We cannot defy their sweetness.
It's just a very complex relationship.

Indeed, what I find most interesting about the story are the power dynamics between Claus and Taki. Claus is older, physically stronger and the sexually dominant of the two. However, he is in enemy territory fighting on the side of an army that is not his own. In every real sense his safety is only guaranteed by Taki's patronage. At a word from Taki any member of the division would not hesitate to execute Claus. They would not ask for a reason they would just follow the command. So it's not as simple to say that Claus overpowers Taki and takes what he wants.

Taki is by no means a weak character. He's an incredibly eloquent speaker who inspires his men to fight. He has a quiet dignity but is very stubborn. To his men he's an ideal, 'a man who stands above others' that's a hard image to maintain. (It's explained later in the story that the reason Taki (who is barely twenty) is able to command 20,000 men is because he is a symbol of purity.) Being with Claus relieves him of that burden of expectation but it also means he's betraying the beliefs of the people he represents. And although he may want to be with Claus, he can never totally let himself relinquish his responsibilities.

Claus want him to be Taki; he wants him for himself, but there's also a feeling when you're reading the story that he could consume Taki. So in a way Taki's aloofness prevents that from happening. But it also means that Claus's desire is never fully satisfied. Claus 'speaks' through his actions. When he fights, he fights for Taki.
"Let me hear your voice. I'll turn it into a blade and repel all who stand in your way."
So there's a sense that somehow their communication with each other isn't working. Claus wants Taki to speak, but Taki cannot articulate what feelings he may have. It's like that's the one part of him that he can't let go of.

It is quite angsty and heavy. So it's nice that at the end there's a little 'cat's paws' story which reimagines the story with Taki (and the 15th division) as cats and Claus (and the opposing army as dogs (sorry Claus would say he's a wolf).

This is a book I can read over and over again. If the non-consent issue is not a problem for you, this is a yaoi that I highly recommend.


Kris said...

The non-con did get to me, but I was intrigued enough by the plot and the dynamics to pick up the second one. Needless to say that I'm well and truly hooked on the series now. :)

Terrific review, Lesley.

LesleyW said...

Kris - I saw the anime first and that scene is disturbing. So when I read the manga I was prepared for it, but it's still shocking. Because I think you're used (when you read yaoi) for the submissive to say no,no,no but it's part of the genre. Whereas here, there are much greater consequences.

I think one of the reasons Claus just submits to the interrogation at the end is because he knows he has gone too far.

My fingers are crossed that Volume 3 will have an English release. And that there is much more to come from Taki and Claus.

LesleyW said...

Glad you liked the review. :)