Manga Review: Black Rose Alice Volume One

Black Rose Alice Volume 1 tells the story of what happens to a celebrated tenor named Dimitri Lewandoski during the early 1900s in Vienna.

Black Rose Alice Volume 1
Written by: Setona Mizushiro
Publisher: Akita Publishing Co., Ltd.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 5, 2014

Volume 1 starts out in Vienna in 1908 and introduces Dimitri Lewandoski, who turns out to be the main character of the series. We learn that he was sold into a family when he was younger, but that the family treated him well and helped him to improve on his musical talents. Early on in the volume, we see the dynamic between him and his adopted brother, Theodor, and how the two of them treat Theodor’s fiancée, Agnieszka.

But it’s ultimately the complicated dynamics between these characters that sets the main story in motion. When Dimitri becomes upset over something that Theodor says about his fiancée, he’s kicked by a horse and knocked down. When he comes to, everyone keeps commenting that they had been told that Dimitri had died. Dimitri later notices a black rose mark on the back of his neck, and he learns that people who had just been around him earlier have suddenly perished. At this point, the reader can tell that something unusual has happened to Dimitri, but it’s not entirely clear what it is at that point.

Dimitri encounters a man named Maximilian, who gives some much needed exposition to the reader: Dimitri had died, but was brought back to life and is now a vampire. Dimitri doesn’t believe Maximilian’s explanations at first, but as more unexpected deaths occur, he commits some very drastic actions that bring about the death of his adopted brother and a near death for Agnieszka. Maximilian is able to preserve Agnieszka’s body, but her soul has already fled. The storyline in 1908 ends with Dimitri teaming up with Maximilian and leaving the area, taking Agnieszka’s body with them.

The story suddenly jumps ahead 100 years and is now taking place in Japan. The focus shifts to two new characters: a high school student named Koya and his female teacher, Azusa. The two are in a relationship, but Azusa tries to call it off. They end up being involved in a car accident, and it appears that Koya won’t make it. Dimitri arrives and says that he can save Koya, for a price: Azusa’s soul. She agrees, and it’s shown near the end of the volume that Dimitri intends to use Azusa’s soul to revive Agnieszka.

Black Rose Alice Volume 1 does what any good first volume of a manga should do: establish the premise and concepts of the series, as well as introduce the important characters to the reader. But I have to admit to being a little confused at first when the story jumped ahead 100 years. I had initially thought that maybe Koya might have been Dimitri looking more modern at first, until I saw Dimitri show up after the accident. As soon as I saw Dimitri asking Azusa for her soul, I knew exactly why he would need it. Agnieszka doesn’t regain consciousness by the end of Volume 1, but I suspect she will return to the story sooner rather than later.

When it comes to the art, I thought that Mizushiro did a great job depicting Europe in the early 1900s. In a lot of ways, I thought more detail went into those drawings compared to most of the art depicting Japan in 2008. The main exception in the modern era storyline would be the drawings for Dimitri and Agnieszka, because the art style for their characters remained the same between the two eras. Hopefully the art style for the scenes that take place in modern day will improve in future volumes of the series.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of vampire stories, but I thought that Black Rose Alice presented an interesting enough story to help keep my interest in what I was reading. Black Rose Alice Volume 1 should appeal to shojo manga readers who enjoy stories featuring vampires that also include a setup that begins in a different time period. Fans of the Vampire Knight series, another shojo manga that features vampires and romance, might also find Black Rose Alice of interest.

The reviewer checked out a copy of this item through the King County Library System

Additional post about Black Rose Alice:

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