Butlers and maids have seen a popularity surge recently, especially with the release of series of "Black Butler". So it was only natural for Seven Sea...moreButlers and maids have seen a popularity surge recently, especially with the release of series of "Black Butler". So it was only natural for Seven Seas to get in on the action with "Crimson Empire: circumstances to Serve a Noble". Based on the hit video game, the manga is written by QuinRose with art by Hazuki Futaba. Following the story of Sheila, a young woman who appears as the head maid to Prince Edvard, Shelia has a dark past. Sold into slavery by her mother and brought into an assassination group, she is hired by the heir to the throne, Edvard, as a bodyguard under the guise of a maid. Learning to navigate friendships and love, Sheila discovers just how difficult it is to really serve a noble.
The art is gorgeous. Detailed, sometimes the length of bodies and faces don't always match or feel consistent. It can be off putting but it didn't completely detract from the story. Rather, it's something you only notice if you're looking for it. The backgrounds are detailed and the clothing is fun and historic. I've heard complaints about Sheila's outfit, but it's manga and I like it. Not everything has to be 'realistic' or the standard maid uniform.
The story has it's charm. Edvard is the heir to the kingdom but it's his older brother Justin that takes the scene and oozes romantic possibilities. Sheila is strong and tries to balance not needing a man to protect her and being a maid. Some have issues with her outfit, but it's manga, so Hazuki takes the opportunity to have some fun.
What I fail to see is the romance between her and Edvard. Reading the back, you expect Edvard to either: make his intentions with Sheila clear or for him to be revealing his inner thoughts about the girl clear. I fail to see a love triangle as described. What we do see is a budding relationship between Prince Justin and his brother's bodyguard. It's endearing however the final volume leaves the status of their relationship somewhat unanswered. I found myself wondering due to Sheila's final scenes. She states that she wants to remain by Edvard's side and in the final moments, she thinks how standing by Justin's side is a waste and how she can see him clearly from where she stands with the other maids, lamenting how if she were on his arm she wouldn't have a 'good view'. She continues to believe that being in a position where she can see 'something beautiful' without touching it and how she's truly happy there. Perhaps it's intentional, after all the original game has several of the characters as potential love interests and by giving her a solid love interest in the manga, it might isolate some fans.
Perhaps three volumes wasn't enough. The first volume felt rushed. Volume two begins to set her relationships with both Justin and the demon Faust. The final volume attempts to solidify Justin's relationship with Sheila, though is leaves more answers than questions. Rushed, the story relies a little on the fact that you've played the game or have knowledge of the world and it's characters, making assumptions as you go.
A fun read, if you're okay with some plot holes.(less)