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Black Rose Alice Vol. 1 Manga Review

Dimitri, a man born of drifters who was taken in by a high ranking social family due to his ability as a singer.  Over the coming years he has perfected his craft and has become one of the star Tenors in Vienna during the early 1900’s.  After a freak accident that ended his life, he comes to find out that he is now a vampire whom has been chosen as the vessel for the seed of a deceased vampire lord. 
 Finding out this new power and having the purity stolen from his beloved, how will he make of things?  What happens when Dimitri shows himself to a Tokyo-area school teacher in 2008 who is on the verge of watching her love die, only to offer her the ability to save him at the cost of her soul?  You can see if things are truly as interesting as they sound in my review for Black Rose Alice Vol. 1.

  Story & Plot Impressions  
The protagonist of this book is named Dimitri Lewandoski, a man who is currently a star tenor in Vienna, which is the capital and largest city of Austria, during the early 1900’s.  The whole beginning of the book gives the impression of nobility and aristocracy, that those around the main character are among the very top of this city’s social class.  Vampires, more likely than not, have been portrayed in roles that have noble or aristocratic affiliations in other literary works, this book also seems to carry that theme along with it.  It is clear that the author had this “elite” social environment in mind, yet it was not executed as well as I it could have been.
Despite Dimitri being very young, he seems to be able to do as he pleases without so much a care to his public standing, even being a womanizer to the point that he beds with whomever he wants, including married women.  I feel there should have been more rules to follow and a bit more emphasis placed on social standings, especially since that is the reason that Dimitri did not go after the woman he loved (Lady Agnieszka) in the first place.  I feel holding a mass social gathering (Not a birthday party, even if it could become an excuse to have a social gathering, one that bore more weight would have been more fitting), would have proven to be far more effective in showing the types of people we are reading about.
Currently the main conflict of the story is how Dimitri is not able to be with Agnieszka because she is betrothed to his best friend named Theodor, who he cannot be with due to her arranged marriage and being born an aristocrat.  Actually, Dimitri sleeps with a supposed “Dutchess”, so I guess at this point it is more-or-less about her being engaged to Theodor and his belief that Agnieszka is “pure”, him  even having told her once that she was an “angel”.  However, it is told well enough that it begins to peak your interest from all of the odd things that begin to transpire, you never know what odd thing is going to occur next because of his metamorphosis from human into vampire.

While not necessarily a “conflict’ per se, this story is slightly flawed because while Dimitri may be longing to be with his love, being with her body with another’s soul does not equal the same sum.  While you may not get what I am talking about right now, read the story and you will surely know, but I shall put it into these terms so you can get the gist of it.  Without someone’s soul, they can no longer be themselves, if someone took over your body they could not perfectly imitate you as your mind is still yours.  The only way I could see them solving this particular flaw is that Agnieszka’s body will have the same effect on the soul it was given just like the seed that implanted inside of Dimitri had an effect on his demeanor due to its previous owner.

To be perfectly honestly, I was expecting a lot more excitement out of this opening volume after reading the description on the back of the book (Which I did paraphrase in the description of this article.  Though, I do feel like the synopsis on the back of the book is too telling, but I will get to that later).  The feeling throughout this book is a bit monotone and lacking, but it does have its parts due to the sudden change in behavior from a few of the characters that breaks the grey to show colorful and unpredictable sequences.  I find that the book is getting more interesting as it goes along with the pinnacle happening at the very end of the book. This is not a bad storytelling mechanism as this could prove to be exactly what is needed to go “What happens next?! (I know I am asking this)” and promote further interest of the readers.  On the other hand, someone who feels this book is a bit boring may not even make it to the end of the book or feel that continuing is simply not worth it.
  Character Impressions & Development  

This is one of the first manga books I have read where there is probably not a whole lot in the way of character impressions and development.  There is a minuscule amount of each, but that also strongly suggest how much the plot could carry it later on down the road.  In all honesty, the only two people we really get to come in contact with is Dimitri Lewandoski and Azusa Kikukawa.  So this section is going to be mostly about these two characters, as it is shaping up that they will be the two primary protagonists of this story.  We have other side characters like Theodor and Agnieszka who serve their roles as a means to an end, but then you have people like Maximilian, Koya, and Leo who will undoubtedly be secondary characters yet are not shown enough to get a true grasp on their true intent.

Dimitri did not really evolve, so to speak.  I feel like he just had his desires drawn to the forefront by having that vampiric entity in him, which made him more straight forward and honest with his emotions.  Having undergone the transition from human into vampire, Dimitri notices his disposition changing and begins to slowly acknowledge he’s becoming a different person but even that is not very believable (Though they do try to make it apparent by making comparisons to how he tried to take Agnieszka by force and how Maximilian said that his Master named Bradley, “He always took what he wanted.  He was that kind of man”).  Seems he got control of his powers by the end of the book, but he never seems breaking from that monotone demeanor he carries about with him throughout the book.  Cover to cover I feel like he is the same person, only difference is he is more honest about what he wants and shows the ambition to take it by force, whatever or whomever that may be.

The secondary person is Azusa Kikukawa.  She seems to be someone whom is devoid of love and wanting, yet she appears to be torn between what she wants and the right thing to do…similar to Dimitri except that she had the will to press for what she wanted.  Not too much is really known about her, just the bits and pieces that we see with her school life, but ultimately she seems like an ordinary woman living with a massive dilemma on her shoulders.  This is the most complex character within this book because she has different levels of thinking, it is not so simple-minded that she has only wishes to play to her fantasies, rather she knows what reality is and does her best to stick by that ideal.  You can tell she is eaten up be the decision she has to make whether-or-not to be with her student, and you can tell the stern conviction within her heart to save his life due to her love being true.

Everyone introduced so far as served their role, with only Azusa Kikukawa being complex as she has multiple states of mind, having to decide between what is right and wrong, and the pressure of dealing with her new life whenever she wakes up to find out that her soul has inherited a new body.  I can see tons of mental anguish before her, especially if she runs back into Koya, the guy whom she sacrificed her soul to let live.  Honestly, if it were not for Azusa we would have a very mundane mix of one-dimensional characters on our hands, thankfully her performance saved the latter half of this book from the grips of mediocrity.

  Character Impressions & Development  

There are just a few things I want to address about this manga that did not fit in any other section.  A couple of them are fairly small things while the other could be seen a taboo and controversial here in the West.

One of the things is, on page 15 in the book, there are two rectangular speech bubbles on the bottom-most panel and to the right.  These are suppose to be of Dimitri practicing singing, and I can guess from the previous text of him singing, it was suppose to be in latin (Opera, most likely).  However, there is NOTHING there, despite him opening his mouth wide and obviously singing what is on the page from the book in his hand.  My guess is that they misprinted this book or did not catch this flaw, it may already be fixed but I figured I would address it anyway.

Another feature is this “Propagate”, in which vampires are able to spark a new generation of their breed by having sex with their one true love, dying afterward.  I find that this gives a humane way for vampires to continue to be born instead of the standard “Suck the blood of a virgin of the opposite sex” we normally see.  At the very same time, this means that there will never be an increase in the number of vampires, only the same number would remain constant (from what I can see).  While I am a fan of the older idea, I am a fan of this new mechanic as it gives a greater feeling of romanticism, which is very good for a Shoujo manga.

The last is how they have two different acts of having feeling for under-aged children as adults in this book, Dimitri and Agnieszka and Azusa and Koya.  The first instance of Dimitri and Agnieszka is understandable (rather, it is forgivable) because it happens during a time period where it was a common practice and not seen as taboo or illegal.  What makes it really bad is the fact that he actually develops feelings for Agnieszka (or what actually “sparked” his love for her) was when she kissed his cheek when she could not be anymore than 10 years old, if that.  Azusa and Koya’s case is interesting because they are teacher and student, all too often in modern times has this been something we have looked at, I dare say that it is an epidemic at this point.  While this may not seem like too big of a deal in the East, in the West this could be ripped limb-from-limb, so some people may find this a touchy subject which should not be glorified in a manga.

  The Verdict  

  STRENGTHS   – Interesting take on vampires, Very good cliffhanger, Plot has potential towards the end of the manga.
  WEAKNESSES   – Most characters are one-dimensional, First half of the manga is rather boring, Failed opportunities for better elaboration on the character’s surroundings.
My take on this story thus far is that it is becoming more interesting by the end of the book, unfortunately getting up to that point can be very boring and can easily cause readers to put the book down before it reaches that point.  We see get to see a fresh take on the way that vampires are perceived, yet a lot of the characters are without layers to to their personalities which take away from the experience.  Going forward, I feel like Black Rose Alice Vol. 2 has the ability to capitalize on the solid foundation created by the second half of the first manga while simultaneously crafting dialogue to give more meaning to the actions found in the first half of Vol.1.

While I cannot exactly recommend this book based on my theory it will pan out to be an excellent manga, it is also impossible for me to discard the idea that it is getting interesting and shows promise.  The best I can say is that it will boil down to what your individual tastes are.  If you do not mind a story that gets interesting but slow to start, then you may very well enjoy this manga, if you are someone who likes action and deep psychological suspense from the jump, you may lack the patience to successfully hope into this one.  Though, I am certain this book is only the first act to set up for the center stage.

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About The Author

RoK the Reaper
A serious gamer & hardcore otaku who loves anything gaming, anime, or manga! I hope to bring you the best content for these subjects I love in the form of news, reviews, interviews, and in-depth editorials! さよなら!

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