Crimson Empire, Vol 1: Circumstances to Serve a Noble by QuinRose and Hazuki Futaba
I have a weakness for romance titles with ridiculously long titles in either manga or prose format. There’s something about the inherent ridiculousness of a title like “The Sicilian’s Ruthless Marriage Revenge” that makes me want to read it! If a romance title has five words or more, I’m usually entertained if I’m in the mood for some light reading. My decision to pick up Crimson Empire was largely due to the title, combined with the fact that it is another Quinrose title. I enjoyed the first Alice in the Country of Hearts manga adaptation well enough, so I was curious to see if I’d also like a different manga title from the brand without the literary connection.
Crimson Empire has a potentially amusing protagonist in Sheila the former assassin turned royal bodyguard and head maid, but the story in the first volume isn’t all that compelling as it mostly involves Sheila meeting an endless progression of handsome men. This is only what one could expect in a manga based on an otome game, but there were enough interesting elements that I would probably check out the second volume. This manga opens in a very dark way as one of the turning points of Sheila’s childhood is portrayed when her assassin trainers tell her to kill a random man. She does fulfill her duty, but not without a lot of trepidation. Years later Sheila is ready to accept her first official assignment, and she ends up as a bodyguard to the royal Prince, instead of joining the assassin league that has served as her foster family.
Prince Edvard is blond, charming, and the target of frequent assassination attempts which Sheila foils. He also might be a bit of a sociopath, as his outward personality masks an inner emptiness and pathological self-regard. Edvard’s older brother Justin is the tall, dark, handsome, and tsundere hero of many a female protagonist’s dreams. His outward hostility towards Sheila leads her to wonder if he’s behind all the attacks on his brother, but Justin always seems to be in the right place at the right time if Sheila needs a bit of help. There’s an almost too-large cast of supporting characters that Sheila meets as she goes about her duties. While the art is capably executed, it doesn’t have much of a distinct style. Fortunately the character designs are all very good, which helps the reader distinguish a little bit between the Brainy One, the Mischievous One, the Sorcerers One, the Demonic One, the Well-Dressed One, and the always essential Guy Wearing Glasses.I’m being a bit snarky, but overall I did like reading this manga, and I would follow the series if the next volume shows signs of a more interesting plot. If any more characters are introduced I might give up on the series because I can barely remember everybody! Fans of reverse harem manga would likely enjoy Crimson Empire, Vol 1: Circumstances to Serve a Noble, and at least Sheila’s bodyguarding duties give her a more interesting background than many of the heroines of the genre.