It begins, as so many things in life do, with a memory. An unfulfilled promise, talked about in hushed tones with regret, passing along a vague hope of one day setting things right. A memory of the scent of flowers..a scent that fuses with the ideal of that undefined promise, a scent that binds the soul of those pledged to follow. A memory that belongs to Claus von Wolfstadt, and a scent that he breathes in from Taki, the commander of the Maiden Rose. Daydreams and unfulfilled promises of idealistic destiny are one thing, but for Claus, the scent has awoken his soul. Abandoning his homeland as his country and Taki's face off again once more in war, he pledges his undying loyalty as a Knight to his beloved. Disliked by the officer cadre, he lies wounded in Taki's arms from the beating he suffered during questioning for being a suspected spy while Taki lie in the infirmary. But the war does not wait for petty disputes and posturing to be completed by the rank and file; enemies make their move. A third party has entered the war arena: an Eurotean train is barrelling down the track, about to cross the No-man's land and breach the border. No one has messaged ahead, and no one answers their hails. Top brass umm and ahh and decide nothing. Coming into Taki's sector, his officers know they MUST inform him of the impending intrusion. Entering the room, they are dismayed to see Claus lying like a faithful dog upon his master's lap, his head being tenderly caressed. Discomfort is evident, and distaste for the Mad Dog, but report they must. With so much hanging in the balance with HQ's hands off approach to queries and the ominous silence from the train, Taki knows he can only rely on his best two men to enter the train while in the unclean No man's land, and hopefully stop it before his troops are forced to blow the bridge. With his knight wounded and hiding a reliance on drugs to get him through the mission, and a somewhat personal combat inexperienced radioman their sole hope, Taki and his men are on edge. But other factions are out to play their hand, with a Eurotean internal squabble come to roost and vendetta by one of Taki's own officers, Claus has the cards stacked against him. When the drugs begin to wear off and Claus faces a former war enemy with the upper hand, he finds himself literally staring death in the face. But if Claus dies, how will his master respond to the death of his loyal Knight, the one known both as as Mad Dog and as Lycanthrope? Is it a reaction that those who witness it are prepared to fully understand, when the heart of their Maiden Rose weeps in angry anguish? Claus and Azusa had best return to their comrades, or the war will get VERY personal. Once more Inariya sensei weaves a complex tale of minutely nuanced emotions against a backdrop of war. It is the 1920s in this alternate world, and the details are simply staggering. I have ridden vintage trains in restored period passenger cars, and the detailed drawings of the exterior and interiors is simply incredible in likeness. Her attention to technical details that could make or break a plot thread is, as always, superb. Her characters wear their uniforms well and seem to stand and move naturally. The action scenes fairly burst across the page. Make no mistake about it, this is a well conceived war manga with a romance theme firmly woven into its fabric rather than a romance manga with war thrown in. Presentation wise, Digital Manga again came up trumps. The translation flows emotively, fluidly conveying the delicate undertones to what is said, and easily implying the unspoken implications with great ease. The art is clean, with no blurring or smudging from the editing process , nor is there any censorship to be scene. This is a VERY explicit graphic novel, with no holds barred when it comes to displays of war brutalities, combat, or sex, so it carries an 18+ rating. The reader should be prepared to be emotionally thrust into the maelstrom that envelopes our characters, as the tides of war and the pettiness of human emotion, threaten not just three nations, but the love of two people who complete each other. I look forward to volume three, and the next battle.
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