Black Rose Alice, Vol 1

Black Rose Alice Volume 1 by Setona Mizushiro

I am always happy to read silly paranormal shoujo series, as evidenced by my affection for series like Midnight Secretary and Demon Love Spell. But it is also nice to read some supernatural shoujo that is genuinely creepy, so I’m excited to see the addition of Black Rose Alice to the Shojo Beat lineup. North American readers may already be familiar with Setona Mizushiro through the series After School Nightmare, which was a very surreal series I’ve always regretted not finishing. The first volume of Black Rose Alice shows a unique and visually arresting take on the vampire genre.

The manga starts off by telling the story of Dimitri, an up and coming tenor in 1900s Vienna. He’s been taken in by a wealthy family and given the benefits of education and training that allows him to live in upperclass circles, but he’s still held apart from his adopted family in many ways. Dimitri is in love with Agnieska, the fiancee of his Theodor. Seething with unexpressed emotions, Dimitri gets trampled by a horse and almost dies. A butterfly alights on his prone body. Shortly after he wakes up he sings in a rehearsal, and shortly thereafter all the other musicians start dying in a series of improbable incidents. Dimitri notices a strange rose mark appear on the back of his neck, and a strange man names Maximillian greets Dimitri, telling him “You don’t appear to have noticed…but you are a vampire.”

Vampires in the world of Black Rose Alice are a bit like plants, as the seed of a vampire master implants itself on the fresh corpse of a handsome young man. Maximillian warns Dimitri that he may start exhibiting the personality traits and attitudes of the previous vampire that is now using Dimiri as a vessel. Dimitri scoffs at Maximilian’s advice and later sings a few bars to one of his lovers, who promptly throws herself off a balcony. As Black Rose Alice progresses, the effects of vampirism become more visually arresting. Mizushiro has a great talent for portraying horrific scenes in a surreal and yet oddly delicate way. Dimitri’s transition soon starts to have a terrible impact on the people who surround him. The concluding half of the volume flashes forward to Japan in the year 2008, where a fully vampiric Dimitri entangled himself in the lives of a high school student and his teacher for his own evil vampire reasons.

Black Rose Alice does a great job setting up an intriguing mystery through the contrast between 1900s and 2000s Dimitri, he’s innocent and tormented at first and the cold and dispassionate personalty he exhibits later in the volume represents a stark change. Mizushiro’s art does a great job portraying Dimitri’s personality shift, as well as the elements of visual horror that make the feeding habits of vampires in the world of Black Rose Alice extremely disturbing. Vampires as plants is an unusual twist on the genre, and I would recommend this manga to anyone looking for a unique supernatural shoujo series.

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