Once Upon a Time

Tales of a Wayward Prince

Ludwig Revolution is a gothic manga of four volumes that was first serialized in various shoujo manga magazines (Melody, Hana to Yume Step, Hana to Yume, and Bessatsu Hana to Yume) between 1999 and 2007. Two more tales in four chapters were added in 2012 and 2013 respectively, which were subsequently collected into one volume under the name Ludwig Fantasia.

The titular Ludwig (Lui) is an arrogant, hedonistic and capricious prince whose handsome face and womanizing ways are widely known — and feared! — throughout the nation. Exasperated at his heir’s frivolous lifestyle, not to mention his questionable taste in women, the King exiles Lui until further notice, threatening with disinheritance lest he bring home a respectable bride. The story thus follows Lui and his devoted valet Wilhelm (Will) as they journey across the land in search of a suitable bride — preferably one with big breasts.

The bride candidates as well as several other characters the two adventurers meet on the way are all figures of classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, whose stories are retold in typically grim Kaori Yuki fashion. True to her trademark gothic fiction, she combines mystery, horror, death and romance — but also plenty of comedy. Albeit morbid at times, Ludwig Revolutions’ horror elements do not make it a horror manga, and the series becomes more and more light-hearted as it progresses. As it is largely told in an episodic fashion with no substantial overarching plot, it makes for a quick and casual read.

Kaori Yuki has penned many short stories over the course of her career, ranging from single chapters of varying length to standalone volumes. The first volume of Ludwig Revolution makes for a good starting point in that regard, as it introduces you to her style in more than one way. If you already have some familiarity with her works, and enjoyed Count Cain/God Child or Perfume Master, you may find a similar combination of mystery and cruelty here. Lui not rarely assumes the role of something akin to a detective, and has that same inclination to leave behind a trail of women — both traits that are particularly reminiscent of Cain.

(It would, however, be amiss to look for the same depth in Ludwig Revolution. As someone who has read the entirety of her work, I think that nothing even remotely comes close to Angel Sanctuary and Count Cain/God Child, which are both among my all-time favourite series. The thin characterization of the main characters in this case is not as detrimental as it could have been, given the nature of this short series, but is certainly not representative of what Kaori Yuki is capable of.)

Persons of Questionable Integrity


The vain casanova prince. He is always moving at his own pace, continuously on the lookout for big-breasted beauties. Sharp-witted with a sadistic streak.


Lui’s faithful attendant since childhood. He goes wherever his master goes, even as Lui’s antics are a constant source of trouble. Gullible and good-natured.


A buxom masochistic witch. She longs for nothing more than the taste of Lui’s whip and his sharp tongue. Willing to follow him to the ends of the earth.


A wanted assassin by the name of Red Riding Hood. A childhood friend of Will’s, she was cruelly tricked by Lui. Currently stalking him to get her revenge.

For more about my own impressions of the series, and a list of reinterpreted fairy tales along with my recommendations as to which are worth a read, click here to read on. Otherwise, proceed to the next chapter!

Words of Caution

As a series, Ludwig Revolution is not consistent. For one thing, the tales start out as self-contained short stories that wrap up in a single chapter. Any common elements (the point-of-view figure and the premise) are marginal. Starting from the third volume, however, the tales get considerably longer, and feature more recurring characters as the overarching plot moves into the foreground. To illustrate, the last two volumes only feature half as many fairy tales as the first two — four versus eight in total.

For another, the tales also vary in tone and ambition: Snow White, the very first tale, feels truest to Kaori Yuki’s usual stories in that it contains many dark and disturbing elements both in its retelling as well as in Lui’s characterization. It is, however, not representative of the work as a whole, and may even be read standalone. (As a matter of fact, Lui’s disturbing “preferences” revealed in that tale do not carry over to the rest.) As the series goes on, the tone grows considerably lighter, and more and more comedic — if not downright silly — elements are injected. Regrettably, this is not always for the best, as the absurdity usually comes at the cost of storytelling, pacing and characterization. I also discourage from reading the second half of the series; the attempt at a major plot that encompasses the individual tales is half-hearted at best. Its poor plot and clumsy execution certainly do not do anyone’s characterization any favours.

Ludwig Revolution is no doubt meant to be a parody of Grimms’ fairy tales, but where it once sought to retell them in a comical and thoughtful way, it gradually drifts off into entertainment void of substance. I was left with mixed feelings at the end, disappointed that the series could not find its own identity. More than that, I felt slightly bitter that it did not “keep” what it had promised in the first volume.

Even so, some of these discrepancies do not come as a surprise when viewed in the light of Ludwig Revolution’s genesis. Snow White was written almost a year before the second chapter. It took over another year for the next, and the bulk of the first volume was conceived as a oneshot with vague hopes of continuing Lui’s adventures at a later point. It would not be until five years later that the rest followed. (Imagine my surprise when I did eventually see the second volume in the bookstore years after purchasing the first! The lack of numbering on volume one and the vague afterword had made it seem unlikely to me that I would see a continuation.)

Aside from changing magazines multiple times during its conception, the series thus went through three different phases total, attempting to redefine itself every time. I for one have a soft spot for the first volume, and still fondly remember how fired up I was over it, and how much I wished for a sequel.

Chapter Overview

Highlighted titles are the chapters that I enjoyed and consider worth a read for one reason or another.

  • Volume One
  • Snow White
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • Little Briar Rose
  • Bluebeard
  • Volume Two
  • Rapunzel
  • Maid Maleen
  • The Frog King, or Iron Henry
  • The Goose Girl
  • Volume Three
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • Cinderella
  • Cinderella
  • Cinderella
  • Volume Four
  • The Salt Princess*
  • The Salt Princess*
  • The Salt Princess*
  • The Blue Light

*Based on the fairy tale The Goose-Girl at the Well. An alternate title was chosen to avoid confusion with The Goose Girl in volume two.

Snow White, Little Briar Rose, Maid Maleen and The Goose Girl are inspired retellings that all manage to establish an identity of their own, and are deeply in line with Kaori Yuki’s signature gothic romance. Reflecting on the motives of the titular characters was evidently key to her, especially where she felt that there was incongruity or bias in the original tales. She says as much in the volumes’ side columns and afterwords, commenting on the surprisingly cruel punishment of the Evil Queen coming from Snow White; the way female beauty and goodness on the one hand, and female ugliness and wickedness on the other hand are equated across different tales; the fact that fairy tales cut off at a convenient point, with many couples living happily ever after. I do quite appreciate how specific elements of certain fairy tales are rationalized or questioned in Kaori Yuki’s version, most of all whenever she plays with the reader’s expectations.

Little Red Riding Hood’s retelling, while of no appeal to me whatsoever, is a mandatory read because it is the closest the series gets to a shared backstory for Lui and Wilhelm. Its dark nature is in line with Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. In contrast, Little Briar Rose and The Frog King, or Iron Henry are quite sweet and show a different side of Lui.

Ludwig Fantasia takes Lui on a journey across the seas as he explores foreign lands, namely those of Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and the Japanese folk tale Princess Kaguya (also known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter). The former is light-hearted, whereas the latter is moved by melodramatic romance and yearning. These two retellings are actually quite enjoyable!