Mangaka: Setona Mizushiro
Publisher: Viz / Shoujo Beat
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble
First Impressions: I've wanted to read this series for long time, but I've never had the patience to deal with Japanese because of the katakana for the non-Japanese names and the complicated story. I'm glad I waited because the name in the first half of the volume would have infuriated me. I had some inkling of the vampire mechanic in this series, but it's nice to finally read the details.
Artwork C+: All of the faces are typical Setona Mizushiro. In a way, the character designs feel recycled from past works. It's not a bad thing, but it did set character personality expectations based on past works for me. The cover isn't that interesting to me, but the artwork that is supposed to be in color are pretty. The backgrounds are serviceable but sparse. They don't really add much to the story and none of the story pages strike me as memorable. I guess overall the art work is just there.
Presentation B: As usual for Shojo Beat books, there are no color pages. Color pages would have been really nice since a lot of care went into those pages. Also as usual for Shojo Beat, the sound effects are all redone in English. I have a bone to pick with the fonts. The formality of the font used for narration and the informality of the font used for the sound effects is jarring. The lettering looks less "professional" than usual. However, the text is large enough and readable. I didn't have to squint or get out my magnifier to read any small text. The translation reads smoothly and the styles of speech are suitable for the two time periods in the story.
Story C: The story takes place during the early 20th century in the first half of the volume and then there's a time skip into the late 00's of the 21st century. The first half of the volume is a horror-romance. I'm not sure if I liked the story or the main character Dimitri, but the story is told well. My problem is that everyone seems to be polyamorous, so it's hard for me to accept "pure love" as the underlying basis of the series' love story. The second half the first volume is one of those sappy student-teacher age-gap love stories, but the teacher is female and the student is male. Both stories have that "star-crossed lovers" aspect and in a way parallel each other. None of the characters left a strong impression on me, but I feel like I need to read the next volume before declaring the characters uninteresting. The two stories also didn't leave a strong impression on me, but I'm want to give the series another chapter to see how the past and present come together. Only judging this first volume, I'm a little disappointed.
Overall C: This is nowhere as interesting as the other Setona Mizushiro series and oneshots that I've read. Not even vampirism as an insect infestation moved me. I hope this first volume is just a world introduction and that the story will start to pick up and get challenging in the second volume. I don't know whether I can recommend the series yet. I need to read volume 2 before I can make a judgment. However, if you can get your hands on a copy them, I highly recommend "After school Nightmare" and "X-Day". For those of you who can read Japanese, there are a bunch of other series and oneshot compilation to read. "Kyuuso wa Cheese no Yume o Miru" is a MUST (and one of the few yaoi series in general that I recommend). Also, please note that "Black Rose Alice" has been on hiatus for over 2 years. I'm a little hesitant get invested in the series until I know that there is going to be an ending. You may want to take that into consideration before beginning the series.