Manga Spotlight: Black Rose Alice

Black Rose Alice is currently a six volume manga written by Setona Mizushiro. The series was put on hold in Japan in 2011, and as of this writing, has not continued. The six volumes that were released in Japan were published in North America by VIZ Media.

Black Rose Alice
Written by: Setona Mizushiro
Publisher: Akita Publishing Co., Ltd.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Dates: August 5, 2014-November 3, 2015

The series begins 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 Volume 1, 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.

When Azusa’s soul enters into Agnieszka’s body, she sleeps. When she wakes up, she finds she has been taken to a house where Dimitri and three other vampires live: Leo, Kai, and Reiji. The four vampires want her to choose the best vampire of the four of them for propagation. She takes on the name of Alice, and she begins observing the vampires.

Over the course of the remaining volumes, Alice interacts with the vampires and has various experiences. During the story that’s been told so far, Alice has to deal with death, secrets, and betrayal. Since this is a shojo manga, it becomes clear that by the end of the series, Alice has made up her mind which vampire she wants to be with, but there are complications that keep this expected couple from becoming a reality for most of the series.

Unfortunately, with the situation of the manga having been put on hold, it’s obvious at the end of Volume 6 that the story isn’t over yet. It doesn’t help that there’s an “afterword” panel that has the characters saying that this is the end of “Part One.” As a reader, I found it frustrating that I got to the final volume that’s been released for the series right now, but that there really is no ending to the story. While VIZ Media had no control over this situation, I still found it rather frustrating that I invested the time I did into reading the series, and ultimately have no resolution to show for it. If, for some reason, the manga were to ever resume in Japan and VIZ Media were to license the new material, I might be tempted to read it just to find out where the story goes next.

At the end of it all, Black Rose Alice was a decent enough manga series, but I wouldn’t rank it among my favorite manga. To be honest, I would only recommend this series to readers who enjoy shojo manga that features vampires, and don’t mind the fact that the series doesn’t truly have an end. If you prefer to read manga that have a definite conclusion to them, then I wouldn’t recommend Black Rose Alice.

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