Crimson Empire: Circumstances to Serve a Noble, Vol. 1

By Quin Rose and Hazuki Futaba, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan by Ichijinsha, serialized in the magazine Zero-Sum Ward. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Seven Seas has very helpfully noted this is from the creator of the Alice in the Country of series on the cover, and indeed fans of that series will find a lot to like here. There’s a greater depth to the heroines, lots of hot guys with major personality defects, and a feeling that the entire world is just slightly broken. That said, it sure was helpful having Lewis Carroll’s template for the Alice books, because without that, things in Crimson Empire get awfully muddled awfully fast.


That said, the volume opens awfully well. Our heroine is a street rat somewhere in Anime Arabia, who sells her soul to a demon (who notes she has quite a future ahead of her – though good or bad, he can’t say)and becomes an assassin-cum-bodyguard, defending Prince Edvard from the many and varied people trying to kill him – including Justin, his own half-brother. Oh, and of COURSE, she has to dress up as Head Maid. After all, this is the aristocracy, and we can’t just have women walking around in suits.

I made this sound a bit more fetishy than it actually is, to be honest. The fanservice is nil, and this is definitely a josei title. Sheila is quite similar to Alice, though a bit stronger and more broken (she’s been through a bit more), and as with Alice, the various men around her are Otome Game types, where the player can choose to interact with their favorite. In terms of manga plot (vs. game plot), the first volume is quite simple. Sheila prevents people from murdering Edvard, Edvard snarks and acts nice on the outside but evil on the inside, Justin is the opposite, etc.

The difficulty here is, even with a ‘Cast of Characters’ page at the start, there’s simply too many people introduced too fast. Things aren’t helped by the fact that this is a semi-sequel to another Otome Game, Arabians Lost, which introduces a few characters from that series and mentions the Queen, who was the player character. Moreover, Sheila seems to have past relationships with several of them, which don’t come off as “Well, the manga will catch me up on their shared history” as much as “I feel I missed something, I should go buy the previous game this is clearly meant to be pimping out.”

From a manga perspective, the plot simply meanders. Given there’s less of a desire to see who Sheila will end up with (she’s sold her soul, so it’s sort of irrelevant, as she’ll end up with the demon one way or another), the need to read this likely hinges on how much you enjoy seeing Sheila interact with the characters around her. This isn’t helped by Sheila being, so far, the most interesting character. I also can’t help but compare the guys to the Alice series – Meissen, for one, is clearly Ace with the serial numbers filed off.

This is only three volumes, so I do recommend it if you like the Alice series in general and are a fan of this sort of josei “girl surrounded by pretty boys” series. But plotwise, it really needs to sort itself out. More scenes like the bleak opening, which was excellent.

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