Kiss of the Rose Princess
薔薇嬢のキス (Barajou no Kiss)
Shoujo – Comedy, fantasy, magical girl, mystery, romance, reverse harem
9 Volumes (complete)
Anise’s father has warned her she’d receive a terrible punishment if her choker was ever removed. That seemed impossible until a strange creature crashed into her! When a monster attacks, is that her punishment? Well, like it or not, help is on the way… with roses?!
Kiss of the Rose Princess is a nice manga to fill your shoujo fantasy void if you want a spunky heroine or, even more so, handsome heroes.
When you think of magical girl manga, chances are you think of a title that originated in the 90s like Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, and Tokyo Mew Mew. Sure, there have been some post-90s series like Shugo Chara!, but those are generally the exception, not the norm. Even now, there are very few new serializations about a teenage girl(s) fighting against an enemy using her newly-awakened powers… and finding love in the process. A lot of these series were then adapted into anime (and even got a recent revival), but most televised adaptations had one thing in common: filler. Not necessary pointless episodes but more battles — battles that show off the heroine and her companions’ characterization, powers, and struggles — both mental and physical.
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. Had it been the 90s, I’m sure it would have received one since it has several drama CDs with a good cast, hot guys, magic, a gorgeous visual theme, fun characters, hot guys… (Yes, I know I said that twice.)
Anise panics after somehow losing her seemingly indestructible choker despite her father’s warnings about something bad happening to her if it ever was removed. But one day, it just seemed to disappear after some strange little being crashed into her. While searching for her necklace, Anise spots a rampaging dragon and one of her teachers. He then advises her to kiss a tarot-shaped card. Confused, she does… and out pops her irritating classmate, Kaede, who calls himself a Rose Knight and her his Sovereign!
Kaede is not thrilled, and soon he’s joined by three others: the flamboyant school president, Mitsuru; quiet, stand-offish Mutsuki; and cute and sickly Seiran. While all four are hot guys who tend to attract a lot of attention (and Mitsuru even happens to be her crush), all Anise wants is to find her necklace before her father returns from overseas. But as she learns more about the Rose Knights’ mission — and her role as their Rose Princess — Anise eventually accepts and fights back against those who oppose their beliefs.
Where the whole anime adaptation would have helped is in the second phase of the manga, where Anise officially becomes the Rose Princess. The first arc introduces the four Knights and their personalities and abilities. Red Rose Kaede is tsundere. In battle, his hot-tempered personality comes in handy since he focuses on offense. White Rose Mitsuru is a bit of an enigma, but Anise quickly discovers he’s actually a rich masochist embarrassingly devoted to his Sovereign. This also allows his protective and restorative powers to come in handy. Mitsuru is revealed to be a Dark Stalker (aka vampire), and he inherits much of the fictional aloof vampire personality. The Black Rose specializes in finding and capturing things. The Blue Rose, Seiran, knows a lot about alchemy and making various mixtures. He’s caring and acts like a charming little brother — and has a dazzling smile that can continue even as he’s blowing up a door.
Then, after learning there were other Roses and the need to prevent a demon from reviving, Anise and her crew set out to search for Arcana Cards while also needing to level up the connection between Princess and Knights. Like a lot of the manga I mentioned earlier, an anime adaptation has a distinct advantage of spacing out new powers, to make new developments not as obvious or corny when they happen one right after the other. Here, Anise is given more cards than she finds. There are assumed to be 22 cards, but the number of hunts are fewer than the number of fingers on one hand. I mean, entering an idol audition and having someone crossdress is the most significant hunt. The second-to-final battle (or lead-up to the final battle, depending on how you want to call it) feels longer than this search, and that just seems bizarre from a narrative perspective. Just as how anime-Sakura had to capture a lot more Clow Cards than manga-Sakura, Anise and her team needed more time to find Arcana Cards, bond together to reach their full potential, and sniff out clues. Plus, one character’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.
At the same time, perhaps readers should have expected that considering the early chapters. Although I keep comparing this series to stuff like Cardcaptor Sakura, it’s not a traditional magical girl series. First of all, Anise herself is not really a fighter. She has some minor abilities like summoning a briar to command the Rose Knights, she generally needs to stay on the sidelines; her blood is what powers the Rose Knights’ abilities. Between this and her embarrassment at suddenly being surrounded by popular guys, Anise is resistant to being the Rose Princess, and most of the opening chapters are of Anise searching for her necklace and/or trying to hide their connection, often in a comedic way. Stories about Valentine’s Day and physical exams are primarily excuses to laugh at the characters, not to have random monsters attacking to show the heroes’ growing powers or the growing threat.
But this does prevent a lot of the repetitive “monster-of-the-day” plots that dominate the genre. But beyond that, for a lot of readers, they’ll be too invested in the reverse harem aspects to care much about anything else. And it definitely is a reverse harem. While Kaede has, of course, the initial advantage despite the cat-and-dog relationship he has with Anise, all of the Rose Knights care deeply for Anise. Even most of the supporting characters and antagonists are young men, and let’s just say even her father can attract attention. As the Rose Knights try to protect anise and power up their own abilities, Anise gets to experience many of the typical heart-pounding shoujo moments, whether it’s the guys showing off their bods or proclaiming they want to steal her away. These heart-pounding scenes are bound to make her (and readers) blush or squee in delight.
Anise will also gain a lot of fans. While most shoujo are presented as coming-of-age stories or one of accepting their destiny, Anise sees the situation a bit differently: an act of rebellion. At the start of the manga, she’s seen as a bit of a rulebreaker because of her necklace even though she’d rather not get such a label. But later, that choker serves as her reminder she’s not going to be anyone’s tool, that she’ll do what she wants to do and protect who she wants to protect. And despite her fashionable clothes, she does have a bit of that manga girl gangster vibe thanks to her tsundere personality, bossy/take-charge attitude, and not wanting to be seen as a girly girl. (Oh, and her physical ability.) That’s why she often clashes with Kaede: they are quite similar. Readers can tell Kaede is interested in Anise since before becoming her Knight, so it’s bit of a welcome change having the main love interest, not the heroine, trying to win the other over.
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 in the vein of Tezuka’s Star System. It’s hard to criticize her style, as the final product is gorgeous. Roses are aplenty here to match the manga’s theme, and they add a lot of beauty to the visuals. Despite Anise being accused of looking plain, she is actually quite cute. The guys, meanwhile, are gorgeous, and all lovers of handsome young men are going to have a favorite. 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 minimal text. It’s definitely, as the series was advertised in Japan, a “high-tension love comedy”, as there are plenty of tsukkomi comedy bits and shock SD faces. If you are in love with the art, these can be distracting. 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. Still, since Viz Media includes the opening color inserts and with plenty of drool-worthy images, grab a volume and enjoy the visual picnic.
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! The bonus funnies are generally puns that change a syllable, like 薔薇嬢のデス in place of 薔薇嬢のキス. In English, of course the first word in the fake title is completely replaced with its translation/English word.
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 could make the case for some different options. “[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? Who knows. But I’m guessing that if the drama CDs disregarded the furigana, then the English staff were also told just to translate the kanji directly.
Well, since I dove deep into those things, I really don’t have much to add. But “artificial life form” I believe is used in place of “homunculus”. I don’t remember it stating that the Rhode Knights’ cards are called the “Rosario Cards”, and Kaede’s sword is called “Rosario”.
As much as I complain about Kiss of the Rose Princess, it is an entertaining read, especially thanks to the art. 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 as long as you can handle the story feeling cramped and condensed in places, it’s a nice escapism manga.
Viz Media published Shouoto’s The Demon Prince of Momochi House while Yen Press released He’s My Only Vampire.