The Pickled Mushroom

A Love Letter to the Poisonous Earl and his Butler | May 17, 2009

Just last night I finally finished the last volume of Kaori Yuki’s God Child and I find, as so often after finishing something that leaves me emotionally very drained, that right now I’m not in the shape to read anything else just yet.

One day I’ll surely do a proper review of the series, but at the moment all I’m capable of is a long (!) rambling about my two favourite characters, Riff and Cain.

Spoilers ahead!

In the previous post, I mentioned God Child already, calling the relationship between Cain and Riff “wonderfully ambiguous”. Looking back at it now, I can no longer say it’s merely ambiguous, it is clearly a relationship of deep love, loyalty and mutual need. It is also one of the pivotal, maybe even the most important, relationship in the whole series. They are each other’s saviours – as Riff states in volume 13, “Because it was him that brought my dead soul back to life.” After Riff was created by Octavia to be a plaything for Cain for his father to take away again, his pure soul tried to kill himself and only then did he find a purpose again when he met Cain. Cain did not only take on an important place in it, Cain became his life.

Equally, it was Riff that enabled Cain to live on after his father’s supposed death. He was Cain’s lifeline, the only one around whom he could let go of his restraints, and I love it whenever Cain manages to actually admit to Riff how much he really needs him, and how he often hides it behind his “need” for a butler – “Who would choose my clothes?! Who will bring me tea? I drink only the tea you make! Who would tie my shoelaces?!”(volume 9) when it looks like Riff is about to die. Or how he brings him heather as a get-better-soon present. It’s just his slightly clumsy way of getting his feelings across. Oh, and of course, my favourite, volume 6: “You are the only one in this world that is allowed to touch these scars. Riff.” The whole scene is just so beautiful. To me, it marks another deepening of their bond early on in their relationship.

Their relationship also wholly satisfies my love of completely insane couples. Eleven years’ age difference, master/servant or rather, master/butler relationship. Cain is tormented by the Hargreaves’ curse, inbred as the incestuous child of his father and his aunt, unable to free himself from his father’s clutches, completely messed up, with an affinity for collecting rare poisons. Riff is basically dead before he even meets Cain, so here we’ve got a zombie with a split personality that’s been given to him to torment Cain even further and his hypnosis-induced gentle persona is the one that truly loves Cain and gains dominance over the true, cruel Riffuel in the end to save Cain and… Oh heavens, how good can it get? It’s so sick and twisted that I can’t even put into words how much I adore it.

Yes, Cain does have girlfriends, but apparently his choice there is pretty poor, one being his own half-sister, the other undead (but then, Riff is undead too, so maybe this is a bit harsh), and even though I do believe he loved them honestly, Riff is the one constant in his life that his love and loyalty have always been deeper for. After everything, he would always end up back in Riff’s arms, which is also the place of his death.

And their end is absolutely stunning. Although the whole “I would always find you” was a little clichéd I have to admit, I didn’t mind. I think the moment of their death (or is Cain dead? We see no wound or blood, but maybe he took poison after Riff died shielding him? Cantarella, even? I can just see him doing that, but would he really leave Merryweather behind like that?) is the only moment we really, truly see him smile. So there they are buried under the debris, in each other’s arms, Riff is finally disintegrating back into a skeleton, and still it is the moment that made Cain accept death with a gentle smile unlike any we have seen from him.

So whatever way you look at them, the whole loving, touchy-feely master/servant thing with the two of them is as pure a love as you will get in this series, and if you see it as platonic or romantic, it is in any case a love of immense depth. I’d like to finish the Riff/Cain part with one of my favourite quotes about them, coming from Jezebel Disraeli (volume 9):

“Besides it being disgusting… It’s completely incomprehensive to me. This fanatical will of self-sacrifice that even mortal fear cannot cloud. This emotion connecting the two of you… whose depth surpasses any fleshly connection and even blood ties. If one of you lost the other one… in what pretty way would he break apart?”

I have to admit to having a soft spot for Jezebel. I really couldn’t stand him in the beginning, but as his whole tragic past was revealed, I couldn’t help loving him. Yes, he is a psycho and completely sick and a ruthless killer, but still there is so much tragedy involved in how he became that way. And his relationship with Cassian? Pure love from my side. Again, I’m a sucker for tragedy, and I wish they had found a more merciful end. I wonder what became of Cassian afterwards…?

On a side note, there is one episode I will never get over: Castrato in volume 10, the one with Leroy. While I was happy about another episode with cross-dressing in it, I felt really sorry about the humiliation he had to go through. I really wished for him to get a better ending, but the last scene of him selling himself to a wealthy man honestly broke my heart. “Sir…? I don’t have a place to sleep… and I need money for drugs! I… would do anything! I know many ways… of pleasing you…!” I hoped for him to reappear so he could still get something better than that, but no such luck. Oh, Leroy… I wish it didn’t have to end like that. Why didn’t Cain or Merry find him and take him in or something? It’s just not fair… He could have been so happy.

After looking around on the internet, it saddens me to see the series has a rather small fandom. Where’s the love, people? There’s only 271 stories on, that’s not much for such an epic manga. And while I don’t like rabid yaoi fangirls that pair up everything moving that’s male, it disappoints me to hear some people say that Riff and Cain as a pairing are completely fan-based. A huge lot of pairings are merely fan-based, some are hinted at more or less subtly and left for personal interpretation (Kurogane and Fai from Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles, anyone?) and then there are those that have canonic evidence heaped upon them, which clearly goes for Riff and Cain. It’s up to everyone to decide for themselves to see them as lovers or not, but denying that a more than platonic relationship is offered for the reader to see is plain delusional. This is Kaori Yuki, after all – she does not go very much for fluffy, nice couples without a twist to them. The whole touchy-feeliness is very suggestive.

They will always have a very special place in my heart, because I just love these “loyal until the very end” relationships. And while the end is very sad, I think there could not have been a better one.


  1. I love Count Cain, Godchild ❤
    RiffxCain forever :3

    Comment by miku — May 27, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

    • Yay! RiffxCain fans unite! 😀

      Comment by kjesta — June 2, 2009 @ 11:13 am

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