Black Rose Alice 4

January 17, 2016

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2015 – 6+ volumes

Hm.  There’s still a lot going on here, and I’m not sure what to make of it all.  Which is a good thing!  It keeps me guessing.  It’s pretty far from the shoujo vampire story it presents itself as.

One thing is that we’re four volumes in, and Dimitri and Alice are still not even close to liking each other.  In fact, this volume drives them further apart when Alice finds diaries kept by the daughter of the man who took the vampires into his home.  The daughter has a huge crush on Dimitri, but believes he has eyes for no one but the comatose body of his lover.  This leads Alice to believe that she only receives attention from him because she is animating said body, and she begins to act coldly.

Admittedly, this volume also doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of Dimitri.  Because he wants Maximilian to live on, we find out that he uses the feelings of the daughter of the house to ask her to propagate with Maximilian.  A death sentence for her, but, you know, Dimitri asked.  Later, we find out Leo propagated just before death, and the vampires need to look after the woman for the month it will take her to… seed.  Dimitri makes sure to do this in front of Alice, because it involves passing “sap” mouth to mouth, an obviously intimate activity.

Alice finally gives him his at the end of the book, when she accuses him of using an emotional moment to come on to her.  Never has a shoujo heroine figuratively slapped a dude in the face so hard.  I loved that she called him out on it.  The thing is, it’s impossible to tell what Dimitri is thinking.  Was he being sincere?  Was he really just preying on her emotional vulnerability?

I cannot recall if we know how close Dimitri is to death.  I need to re-read this series, actually, because we learn a lot more about the vampire biology here, and I feel like I need to brush up on what they’ve been doing.  I love how original their makeup is, but if I had one complaint, it’s that this is too weird to leave off explaining for so long, and we get a bit of an info dump here.

The twins are also around, and it’s implied there may be a new member joining at the beginning of next volume.  Hooray!  Again, though he is a major jerk, I’m still fairly curious where Dimitri and Alice’s relationship is going.  They’re making out on all the covers, so it has to be going somewhere, right?

I should be caught up by the time volume 6 comes out in… a few weeks?  December?  I’m not sure.  But let me say again how good it feels to be reading Setona Mizushiro in English again.  I love her dearly.

Black Rose Alice 3

October 19, 2015

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2015 – 6+ volumes

This series is hitting its stride, but I love that its disturbing, messed-up nature shows itself during what is, in the first half of the volume, some fairly standard shoujo fare.

The first half is Leo-centric.  Leo rings very false to me, in that he seems to be putting on more of a show, and assuming more of a persona, than the other characters.  Here, it doesn’t seem to matter to Alice, and he is very good to her.  They go on dates, and Leo continually pressures her to decide on him, whereas she insists she needs more time.  Meanwhile, Alice catches him mauling Dimitri, and when they sleep together at one point, she wakes up with his sustenance-giving tarantulas crawling all over the bed.  But not on her, which is what Leo promises.

Leo can also “read death” on the face of a young woman who comes to their restaurant.  He strikes a disturbing deal with her, where he gives her a tarantula and giant stag beetle to relieve her pain in exchange for some sort of dubious and terrible favor.  This doesn’t play out before the end of the volume, but I’d be curious to see if it comes back.

At one point, there’s a near-rape scene, but Leo stops after Alice makes herself clear.  It’s made somewhat less horrible when Alice tells him why she doesn’t want to have sex, or rather, why she doesn’t want him to initiate sex.

In the second half of the volume, we find out Leo’s deal, and something rather shocking happens.  I can’t go into it too much without spoiling it, but the story is obviously leading up to it, and it also explains why Leo is so fake.  Still, it was pretty terrible.

Though now, I suspect we’re all going to get the Dimitri attention we’ve been waiting for.

I always manage to stay one volume behind on this series (though it probably seems farther because I’m so far behind in posting my reviews).  4 is currently out, and I think it won’t be too much longer before 5 appears, too.

Black Rose Alice 2

July 5, 2015

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2014 – 6+ volumes

This… got better.  It’s difficult to describe, because it is so unlike other series.  I like that we got it in English because it’s a shoujo vampire story… but they’re not really vampires.  Dimitri describes them as “plants” that inhabit corpses and gather energy with bugs, and need Alice (the soul of the woman who died in the last volume grafted into the 100+-year-old corpse of Dimitri’s Viennese love) to bear a healthy vampire child.  This act will kill both the vampire she chooses and Alice, but it is apparently the only way they have to make new vampires.  Which is a little weird… because Dimitri wasn’t made that way?  Maybe he is different because he’s mostly the vessel for the soul of Maximillian… I should probably re-read volume one.

But this does lend itself to re-reads.  The first chapter or two were hard to read, because Azusa still hadn’t woken up in her new life, and she was dreaming of the lover she sacrificed herself to save.  That was some powerful stuff.  The vampires slowly acclimate her to life with them, and explain their way of life to her.  She accepts, and grows slowly used to them.  She gets to choose one of the men herself, and has to love them in order to bear a healthy child/vampire.  But she doubts whether she can fall in love again.

Dimitri isn’t one of the men she can choose, though he’s obviously the main character and, so far, the most interesting.  There’s a complication with one of the other men (Leo) later in the volume, that makes me think the clock might be ticking.

And it’s pretty.

There’s… a lot going on here.  I’ve talked about the plot, but some of the best things about it are the way Mizushiro isn’t rushing the unusual premise.  There is an information dump here, but it’s not too much.  I’d actually love to hear more, because everything here is so bizarre.  And Mizushiro is also taking her time to introduce the characters.  Their interactions are all similar to awkward strangers still, and I love that the reader is getting to know them the same way Alice is.

It’s excellent, and I am so so happy that we’ve got more Setona Mizushiro in English.  I would read anything by her.

Black Rose Alice 1

February 13, 2015

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2014 – 6 volumes

I love Setona Mizushiro pretty much unconditionally.  I would read anything she wrote, and she rarely disappoints me.  Little of her work makes it into English, though.  I’ve been expecting this one for years, as it goes with the vampire shoujo vibe that tends to be pretty popular, and it’s AWESOME.  I think its late arrival may have something to do with the fact it’s published by Akita.  Very little of their series make it into English anymore, and what little has made it out here is mostly incomplete.  I think Battle Royale is probably one of the bigger exceptions, but even that’s way out of print.

Black Rose Alice offers a slight twist to the vampire story.  Dimitri “dies” in Vienna in 1900, but his life is saved by the parasitic insect companion of a local vampire (this is difficult to explain well, it’s much smoother than that).  Dimitri basically wakes back up from the dead, but isn’t himself.  Turns out his profession kills people, and his personality is reverting to that of the master vampire that saved him.  He winds up turning against his friends/family, and seeking solace as the strongest vampire in the neighborhood.

Flash-forward to the present.  Azusa is a teacher in an ill-advised relationship with one of her students.  While trying to break it off, they are both killed.  Dimitri saves the soul of her young love in exchange for hers, who he puts into the body of his old lover.

This is some gothic, soapy stuff.  First rate.  But as I said, it also offers an alternate take on normal vampire powers.  These vampires use their powers through insect familiars.  The soul is saved, or stolen, using bugs.  Life energy tends to be what they feed on, and their methods for obtaining it are sometimes novel.  Also, they “propagate” using the insects, and once they do so, they will die.

Dimitri is a rather distant, hard character right now, and I’m curious to see how he’ll interact with the new woman in his former lover’s body.  He hasn’t shown much personality post-change.  I’m actually curious how everyone will react to this situation, because it’s a really weird one.

I’m definitely on board for this whole ride.