Author: Jun Mochizuki
Publisher: Yen Press
May Contain Spoilers
Claudia is the Rose Witch, and she is part of the Crimson-Shell, a special division of the Red Rose. The goal of the Red Rose is to capture the Black Roses, results of deadly experiments created by a mad scientist. Infected with the seed of the “Premier Rose,” poison from the Black Roses turn humans into insane killing machines. When it appears that Claudia’s friend and protector, Xeno, has betrayed the organization, will she be able to prove that her friend isn’t a traitor?
I found Crimson-Shell a very uneven read, which was jammed with random plot twists and not enough pages. While single volume titles are usually appreciated, this one has a ton of potential that isn’t developed. The manga is Jun Mochizuki’s debut work, and the pacing and story-telling are both very inconsistent. I was hooked at the beginning, but many of the key plot points seemed to come from left field, dropping bomb shells with the grace of an elephant lobbing pumpkins in the backyard. Despite its flaws, I am looking forward to checking out the artist’s longer series, Pandora Hearts. I think that if Crimson-Shell had been given another 200 pages, some of the kinks would have been worked out in a more graceful and thought provoking way.
Things start off with a bang as Claudia and her comrades fend off a monster invasion, battling it out with unimaginatively named “Victims.” “Victims” are humans who have been infected with the poison from the Black Roses, and they quickly lose their minds and become murder machines. Claudia is reunited with Xeno, her close friend who has been away on a secret mission. Events take a turn for the worse when Xeno betrays the Red Rose organization, stealing data that will assist the Black Roses. He says some harsh and painful things to Claudia, and causes her to lose control of her powers. He escapes, but two other members of the organization don’t, and they are killed by Claudia’s berserk roses.
All of this happens in the blink of an eye, and then Claudia and her friends spend the rest of the book trying to prove that Xeno isn’t a traitor, even though it certainly looks like he has betrayed everything he once stood for. The basic premise had me interested, but the execution soon lost me. There are too many characters and events that occur in rapid succession that don’t really move the plot along, and instead only muddy up the waters. The whole jumble left me confused at times, though there were enough action scenes that I was kept entertained by all of the fighting.
The art is a high point of the book, featuring crisp, clean illustrations. There is a lot of white space, which highlights the fine lines and makes the action very easy to follow. There is also a great deal of attention paid to details in the background, especially when introducing a change in location. Facial expressions reveal every emotion the characters are feeling. There are a couple of panels where the artwork looks smeared and quickly jotted on the paper, but I can’t tell if this is the result of a printing issue or an artist’s rushed deadline. The two pages this occurs looks jarringly out of place.
Overall, Crimson-Shell was disappointing, but it has whetted my appetite for Pandora Hearts. The art is top notch, but the pacing and plot construction needs work. Hopefully Jun Mochizuki can iron out these wrinkles going forward, and craft a story that reads as good as it looks.
Review copy provided by Yen Press