Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: BLACK ROSE ALICE Volume 1


CARTOONIST: Setona Mizushiro
LETTERS: Evan Waldinger
ISBN: 978-1-4215-7160-7; paperback (August 2014); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
200pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN, £6.99 UK

Black Rose Alice is a dark supernatural romance from manga creator Setona Mizushiro.  Mizushiro made her professional debut with Winter Was Ending (Fuyu ga, Owarou Toshiteita), and she won the 1993 Shogakukan Manga New Author Award.  Her gender-bending psychological thriller, After School Nightmare (published by Go! Comi), was nominated for a 2007 Eisner Award (“Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Japan) and was also recognized by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) as a “Great Graphic Novel For Teens” in 2008.

Black Rose Alice, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 4) opens in early 1900s Vienna, where there is a new opera star.  It is Dimitri Lewandowski, the celebrated tenor and former understudy, whose breakthrough was the lead in Faust.  Then, Dimitri is killed in an accident, and his corpse is colonized by the seeds of a vampire master.

At first, Dimitri denies that anything has changed, even after the vampire Maximilian explains to him his new “life.”  Then, friends and other people around him start dying, and Dimitri is forced to accept the ghastly truth.  A century later, Azusa Kikukawa meets Dimitri in her dying dreams.  He makes her a diabolical proposal to save her lover's life, but at what cost?

First volumes can be tricky.  If they start off slowly, some readers may see that as bad sign for the rest of the series, although it may take the creator(s) a few volumes worth of material before a series really hits a stride.  Some first volumes are so surprisingly good that one can't help but wonder if the series can maintain such a high quality throughout their run.

The Black Rose Alice manga does not have such first-volume jitters.  After reading Black Rose Alice Volume 1, readers will either be excited and intrigued or will find the series' concept and traits to be laughable.  I am laughing, but not at this series because I hate it.  I really like the first volume, and I don't want to reveal too much about this novel spin on vampires.  Of course, “novel spin” is the way to handle vampire fiction these days.  There is so much out there that each vampire tale has to find its own take, either unique or rarely seen, on these bloodsuckers.

I want to read more.  Black Rose Alice is weird, bizarre, and surprisingly, fiercely romantic.  It is as if Vincent Price's horror movies have met Guillermo del Toro's films to create a kind of elegant cheesy B-movie vibe.  Like other manga creators, Setona Mizushiro is imaginative in unexpected ways.  Perhaps, she wants Black Rose Alice to be about the unexpected.  And it is.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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