In the manga industry, there are early-bloomers and then there are late-bloomers. Fuyumi Soryo [惣領冬実] was born in 1959, which makes her too young to have joined the company of the Year 24 Group, whose best works were published back in the 1970s and whose flow of creativity seems to have receded since. This year, she turns 57 and, along with her contemporaries Minako Narita [成田美名子] (born in 1960) and Reiko Shimizu [清水玲子] (born in 1963), are probably the oldest josei manga artists still active, and producing the best works of their lives at that.
Cesare – Il Creatore che ha distrutto [チェーザレ 破壊の創造者] is a work she began in 2005. As you may guess from the title, the protagonist of the story is none other than Cesare Borgia. The story began in 1491, at which time he was 16 years old and attending university at Pisa. All eleven volumes published since 2005 depict the events of his life within the space of approximately one year from 1491 to 1492.
Cesare is a mature historical drama with beautiful aesthetics. It is finely crafted, lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched. There are many fictional accounts of Cesare Borgia out there, but none has engaged me as much as this manga. The end of volume 11 marks the end of Cesare’s university days, from which political undercurrents had never been far away. It was the “et in Arcadia ego” setup, in contrast to the next story-arc which is supposed to take place in Rome, where the real power games begin.
Unfortunately, as of the writing of this post, Cesare has been on hiatus for nearly 2 years. Recent news from the Soryo-sensei’s website seems to indicate that she is working on a new story about Marie Antoinette. (Below is a sketch of that, and it looks to be breathtaking.)
Come what may – I can say with confidence that 50 years later Cesare as it is shall be recognized as one of the greatest historical series to have come out of the early 21st century, along with Historie [ヒストリエ] by Hitoshi Iwaaki [岩明均] (see my review here) and Innocent [イノサン] by Shinichi Sakamoto [坂本眞一] (about which I shall write later).