Kiss of the Rose Princess
薔薇嬢のキス (Barajou no Kiss)
Shoujo – Magical girl, reverse harem, fantasy, romance, comedy, mystery
9 Volumes (complete)
Anise’s father has always warned her a terrible punishment would await her if her choker was ever removed. She’s never been able to take it off until a strange creature crashes into her. Anise then discovers she’s the Rose Princess who can summon four Rose Knights with a kiss of their card. And they’re all students from her school?! Is this her punishment?
Kiss of the Rose Princess is a nice manga to fill the shoujo fantasy void without just being a “transform and defeat the monster”-type story.
When I read Kiss of the Rose Princess, I am surprised it didn’t get an anime adaptation. It released several drama CDs with a good cast, has hot guys, magic, a gorgeous visual theme, fun characters, hot guys… (Yes, I know I said that twice.) This is the kind of series that easily could have gone the Cardcaptor Sakura, Shugo Chara!, or St. Tail route: keep the basic plot progression but add fillers/more battles. While fans will debate until the end of time about filler, a good adaptation doesn’t necessarily need to be panel-by-panel or even chapter-by-chapter. You can keep the spirit of the original despite introducing new plotlines.
So what is my point? My point is that Kiss of the Rose Princess feels like it’s a manga designed to have additions to it, like in an anime. Anise becomes the Rose Princess but doesn’t really want to be. A few volumes later, she accepts her role as she and her knights search for Arcana Cards. This is exactly the sort of open plot that would work well in an anime. The manga has only a few battles for the cards, plus the Knights have to level up several times over the course of the series. An anime would have had more cards (and battles), and this would likely have spaced out all the level ups. There is also quite a cast in Kiss of the Rose Princess with room for more, providing additional storylines for writers. I’m not saying Kiss of the Rose Princess is terrible; I am just surprised no studio saw an opportunity to make this series a sort-of magical girl anime.
Why “sort-of”? Well, when we think of most magical girl series nowadays, the heroine fights. In Kiss of the Rose Princess, Anise doesn’t really battle. She has the ability to summon a briar (rose thorns), but that’s not really used as a weapon. The guys do the battling in true J-RPG format: Kaede focuses on attacks, Mitsuru heals and defends the group, Mutsuki can search over long distances, and Seiran can mix up a variety of potions like Final Fantasy‘s Mix command. They cannot spam their attacks, however, as their MP is Anise’s blood (strength).
The group’s ultimate goal, is, of course, to save the world, but the story isn’t devoted to fighting. Here’s where filler from an anime could come in handy: as written, the story seems to take a couple of random turns. Anise and the knights spend a lot of time in the early volumes doing “normal” events like the school festival or physical exams. Later they…enter an idol competition? The final battle takes up most of the final volumes, and the big search for the Arcana cards is mostly skipped. I really like the overall plot of Kiss of the Rose Princess, but the execution isn’t always top-notch. Sometimes the plot just moves too fast, and the battles are over with too quickly. On the bright side, it prevents a lot of repetitive “monster-of-the-episode” plots.
Of course, in between the group’s missions, we can’t have a reverse harem without some romcom antics. The comedy parts can be pretty funny. Scenes like accidentally hiding under a dress or ditching hugging your best friend to embrace the girl are bound to put a smile on your face. Anise also gets quite a few heart-pounding moments that make her (and readers) blush. The Rose Princess and her Knights also encounter quite a few antagonists and enemies, but the length of the manga means they always don’t get a lot of moments to shine. Anise’s friend Mikage’s backstory left me a bit confused, as it was told in a quick children’s book format. I wish it could have been hinted at more and explained.
One strength of this manga is Anise. In a couple of ways, she reminds me of Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club. While Anise is definitely more violent, a tsundere, and more of a leader, they both can relate to being surrounded by annoying senpai, getting mixed up in events they’re not really interested in, and are not crybabies. But once Anise decides to do something, she goes all out. This is why she often clashes with Kaede: they are quite similar. They both get embarrassed easily and are frustrated by their roles. Readers can tell Kaede is interested in early in the story, so it’s bit of a change not having the main love interest, not the heroine, trying to win the other over. He has quite a few rivals for Anise’s heart. First there’s the princely Mitsuru who plays a major role throughout the manga. He is much an enigma despite his devotion to Anise. Mutsuki is almost assuredly a fan-favorite: he’s aloof and thinks he’s above the mutt Kaede. Seiran is my personal favorite: a sweet boy who can blow up a door with an innocent smile on his face. Other guys are introduced, but Anise is focused on two things: a) hiding from her father the fact she lost her choker and b) restoring the seal to prevent the big bad from escaping.
Shouoto’s male characters from different series tend to look similar. Mutsuki is basically the same person as some of her other vampire-look-alikes. Again, think of Tezuka’s Star System. It’s hard to criticize her style, as the final art is gorgeous. Roses are aplenty here to match the manga’s theme, and they add a lot of beauty to the manga. Despite Anise being accused of looking plain, she is actually quite cute. The guys, meanwhile, are gorgeous. Even Anise’s father is quite a handsome man. However, characters’ ahoges (hair antennas) look extremely odd and have a tendency to move around their heads. Anise’s especially looks terrible, as if a boomerang or feather just landed on her head. An ahoge should look as if it is sprouting from the scalp, but Shouoto’s style makes it look artificial. Seiran (and, to a lesser extent, Anise) also looks like he matures over the course of the series, but the series doesn’t take place over a long period of time. Shouoto’s chapters are quite busy, but readers can still follow the action. Don’t expect a lot of slow-paced monologues or two-page spreads. It’s definitely, as the series was advertised in Japan, a “high-tension love comedy”. The action scenes can be a bit hard to follow, especially when roses dominate the images. They’re also pretty short, so you won’t have much time to dwell on the actual dynamics. Viz Media includes color inserts, so open up a volume and drool over the pictures.
No honorifics are used. The only translation notes included is a brief sentence explaining the puns for the different one-page drawings. So it’s up to you, the reader, to get references to Doraemon and get the lily/yuri pun. The manga has a couple mistakes like spelling Anise’s dad’s name as both “Schwarz” and “Schwartz”. One time, they spell it both ways in two facing pages!
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start with the heroine’s title. Anise is called “sovereign” here. In Japanese, it’s 支配者 （ドミニオン）, shihaisha (dominion). “Shihaisha” is generally “ruler”, so “sovereign” is a good translation, but, as I’ll discuss in a minute, the reading of “dominion” is ignored.
Now, on to her knights. Their title in Japanese is 薔薇の騎士（ロードナイト）, bara no kishi (roodonaito). Firstly, any basic Japanese student knows sometimes the reading doesn’t match the kanji. This really presents a conundrum though. “Bara no kishi” would translate literally to “Knights of the Rose”, aka “Rose Knights”, which is what Viz Media uses. But what about ロードナイト? Well, it may seem logical that the latter part means “knight” since, well, they’re protectors. But “rose” in katakana would be ローズ. ロード can be road, load, lord, rhode, and probably a few other homonyms. However, note that Japanese often separates words for clarity, but there is no dot here. So it could be one word, as ロードナイト means “rhodonite”, a stone. And if you go back to the kanji, 薔薇の騎士 is also the Japanese name for the opera Der Rosenkavalier, which, according to Wikipedia, translates back to The Knight of the Rose or The Rose-Bearer.
So… yeah. You can make a case for quite a few different names. “Der Rosenkavalier” might have been an interesting choice for the knights considering the series brings up German here. Still, then the rhodonite pun kind of loses its edge, which is why some people thought it should be “Rhode Knight”. I’m assuming they checked with Shouoto and/or Kadokawa Shoten about the correct romanization. In addition, the drama CDs seem to ignore both kanji’s readings (as well as the reading of “order” for the word “meirei”, which is replaced with “command” in certain Viz Media volumes) and just go with the kanji pronunciation. Why? I have no clue. Someone explain it to me. Why have a reading of “dominion” and not use it? Why does the adaptation here go back and forth here between “command” and “order”? Why?!
Well, since I dove deep into those things, I really don’t have much to add.
As much as I complain about Kiss of the Rose Princess, it is a very entertaining read. In the hands of a talented team, this could have been an even better anime. Alas, this will likely be the only visual version of the story we’ll ever get, so pick this up if you’re looking for a spunky heroine in a fantasy manga.
As I mentioned, several drama CDs were made.
Viz Media is publishing Shouoto’s The Demon Prince of Momochi House while Yen Press is releasing He’s My Only Vampire.