Innocent, the Manga Recognized by Louvre Museum
French Revolution is a revolution which acted as a midwife to democracy. There are many Japanese manga titles depicting the revolution. The most famous among them should be The Rose of Versailles. We are taking this opportunity to introduce to you the manga Innocent, which is yet another great interpretation of the turbulent age of the revolution.
The story depicts the chekered life of Charles-Henri Sanson, who was born to a family of a royal executioner known as “Monsieur de Paris”, the target of public curse and hatred.
When decapitation was considered a public entertainment, executioners were treated as righteous officials, at least in theory. But they were actually despised by the general public because they were always associated with death.
Charles-Henri Sanson, the heir to the house of executioner, agonizes over his fate to succeed the unblessed family business.
He lives in a time when a turbulent passage from absolutism to democracy is just about to surface.
Foreboding a more enlightened age to come, Sanson swears to devote his life to the family business while he was secretly determined to achieve the abolition of the death penalty.
1. Charles-Henri Sanson
He is modelled after an actual historical figure.
Despite his timidity, he shows his inner fortitude at times and raises his discontent with the family business against his father, Charles-Jean-Baptiste Sanson, and defies the nobilities who undertake the job of execution for the sake of their own entertainment.
As a pious Christian, Sanson harbors a doubt for the job and becomes distressed with harsh treatment by the general public.
Later in the story, years of experience as an executioner and his self-consciousness as the fourth generation head of the Sansons make him more a stark realist and committed to the job.
2. Mary=Joseph Sanson
She comes to be called “the Provost of the Royal Residence,” which is the title given to executioners at Versailles.
Contrastingly against Charles, she is a strong-spirited woman and aspires to become an executioner.
Somewhat naturally for a woman of such personality, she doesn’t make much account of the death penalty and carries out executions even for her own pleasure.
3. Charles-Jean-Baptiste Sanson
He is diligently and cold-heartedly devoted to his job as an executioner.
He openly discusses with his son when the son confesses his discontent for the family business.
But he does have some concern about handing down the family business to his timid son. And probably out of such concern and bewilderment, he dares to torture his own son in the name of punishment.
He was actually married into the Sanson family and knew he had to be ready to take up the family business and become an executioner when he saw his wife (mother of Charles) tortured by the second family head of the Sansons.
But he suffers from brain infarction early in the story and gradually becomes incapable of his job.
With the detailed illustration and extremely fine pen stroke, the manga separates itself from many other manga titles whose artistic styles are largely affected by contemporary Japanese anime.
While the gekiga genre itself is not as popular as it used to be, the artistic quality of Innocent definitely belongs to the top tier in the genre.
The high quality illustration greatly contributes to the elaborate depiction of the dark and decadent atmosphere of the time and how the characters live in such a time with their agony and wretched state of mind.
There are 9 volumes from the series published in Japan and the sequel titled Innocent Rouge is now under production. Innocent is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of Japanese gekiga style manga with high quality artwork and story.