This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Midnight Stranger. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to religion, prejudice, self-deprecation, power imbalance, suicidal ideation, violence, stalking, death/dying, sexual assault, orphan, age gap, manipulation, kidnapping, incest, child abandonment, statutory rape/pedophilia, and eating disorders, as it appears in the manga.
Roi is a goat spirit born from the wants and desires of humans. While the purpose of his existence is to protect and heal humanity, his looks scare all of the people around him. Unwilling to trust in this being, the humans end up sacrificing Roi in a fire to the gods, hoping they will gain favor for their offering. Instead, they end up calling upon the god of fire, Xiu. Xiu is far from impressed by the human's offering, scaring them off with his power. Now that Roi has been sacrificed to Xiu, Xiu has no intentions of letting the goat spirit go, instead rebuilding his form into something cute for Xiu to enjoy.
Centuries pass, and the importance of gods in the modern world has faded. Xiu and Roi are still hanging out in the human realm, with Xiu becoming an idol to pay for their lifestyle among the humans. On the other hand, Roi continues to work for his master, Xiu, whom he cares for much more than a servant should. But as much as he loves Xiu and follows his every command, Roi can't help but still be drawn to the humans who betrayed him so long ago against Xiu's advice. So, during the night, in the cute goat form, Xiu made for him, Roi goes out to rid humans of illness and spirits.
While this is Roi's purpose for living, would he be able to live if Xiu found out he was still protecting humanity?
The art style isn't my favorite. The eyes look far too large for the faces, and their faces can just look very disproportionate. It gives me classic yaoi vibes, which isn't necessarily bad. It's just not my preference. The sex scenes have some of the best art, though. You can really tell they took their time in those panels, and for that, I am thankful. Of our two main characters, Roi is pretty good-looking most of the time, which I think is partly due to his smaller and narrower eyes, which just give him a more proportionate look as opposed to Xiu, who has the more oversized eye style and can appear much more inconsistent throughout the series.
Before we get into the story and what I think about that, I do want to talk about the content warnings. There are a lot of really questionable ones this time around, specifically the ‘incest' warning. The main story does not contain incest. However, within each of the two volumes of this series, a separate, unrelated story is included. The story in the first one is fine. It does have a questionable age gap and a power imbalance, but it, thankfully, does not have incest. However, the second extra story in the second volume is a true, blue incest story between an underage nephew and his adult uncle. As if that isn't bad enough, the uncle also essentially raised the nephew, so it might as well be a parent-child relationship. Ick, ick, ick. I get that this is fiction, and I am admittedly a fan of some pseudo-incest work (My Housemate comes to mind) as well as work with other questionable warnings such as dubcon and noncon, but incest is just one of those that truly grosses me out. Again, incest is not in the main story, but if you're reading the second volume of this series, be warned that the extra does have it.
With that out of the way, let's talk about the main story. Specifically, I want to talk about Roi's character. Roi is a sad boy, one of my favorite character types. He is very self-deprecating and has a low sense of self, which isn't helped by how domineering and self-righteous Xui is. This leads to some funny moments, with Xui being a bit of a tsundere while Roi is much more clueless. Roi doesn't believe he is worthy to be Xui's lover, while Xui doesn't believe anyone is worthy to be by his side except Roi. I love relationships like this. However, it is unfortunate how overpowered Roi can be emotionally due to Xui being his master. Having Roi crying and apologizing while having sex with Xui for the first time because he feels like he isn't worthy does hurt me deeply, though. It's adorable but very sad.
The overall story isn't bad. It's more of a collection of one-shots with the same characters, though it does have the underlying romance between Xui and Roi connecting them, minus the one with the side couple, that is. It feels a bit superficial because it doesn't have an overarching storyline. Still, one thing I really enjoyed about it is the inclusion of multiple gods, deities, and creatures from different cultures. I love the idea that all these beings interact, regardless of cultural or religious ties. Roi is a Tschaggatta, which is Swiss; Xui is Xiuhtecuhtli, the Aztec god of fire, and there is even a Peri from Persian folklore. It's so interesting to see all these entities interact and how they function together to keep balance in the human world. I hate that we only really scratch the surface of these deities, and I wish we could have learned more, but I was happy to hear about these entities all the same.
This is very ok. I don't know that I would recommend it because of how superficial it is. It feels like some smut tethered loosely together with a few snippets of random storylines. I would have preferred an overarching storyline, as I think it would have helped build out the world more and allowed for deeper moments. It does introduce us to some interesting folklore, but that, for me, was the most notable thing. The romance was fine, the story was meh, and the art just wasn't for me.
Have you read Midnight Stranger? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!