In 1944, Japan surrenders and members of the Sino-American Alliance take over. The Japanese rapidly become second-class citizens, and many have to turn to alternative lifestyles to keep from working menial jobs or joining the American or Chinese militaries. When former soldier Leo returns to Tokyo, he is shocked to find it so changed. While looking for work, he meets and subsequently rescues Rose, the proprietor of a club called Primavera. After helping her during a run-in with local gangster Alfred, Leo agrees to become a bodyguard for Primavera. Soon afterward, Alfred unleashes a plan to make Rose do exactly what he wants.
I was drawn to this manga because of the alternative history aspect, and Rose Guns Days delivers a compelling alternative post-war setting that is well-portrayed. Soichiro’s illustrations complement the words that explain how the downtrodden Japanese find themselves struggling to survive in a world where they will quickly become a dying breed. The art of Rose Guns Days is boldly drawn in black and white in a standard manga style, and distinctive character designs represent the personality of each player. However, the setting is what makes this volume of Rose Guns Days so interesting, as very little happens in the plot.
During the main action, we meet Leo, learning some of his backstory as we are introduced to the other Primavera employees. The Primavera cast are all distinct and, although they are not especially well-rounded thus far, they seem like a good crowd to follow. I was a little frustrated with the damsel role that Rose was given, and I hope the creators give her a more meaningful part to play in future volumes. Despite its slow start, the story has plenty of action to draw in readers and the setting itself points to some interesting directions the story could take.
At the beginning of each new section, the manga repeats the very last scene from the previous section. The repeated bit is usually drawn from a different angle with slightly different dialogue—it reminded me of the first couple seconds after a television show returns from a commercial break. I found this decision jarring from a pacing standpoint and it frequently pulled me out of the story. However, this storytelling decision did not completely detract from my interest. I am intrigued by the setting and curious to see how Leo and the Primavera club employees fare in future volumes.
Rose Guns Days will appeal to fans of underdog tales and alternative histories. The publisher rates Rose Guns Days for older teens ages sixteen and up; the few scantily-clad ladies from club Primavera and the sexual assault of the female protagonist caused this reviewer to agree with the publisher’s rating.
Rose Guns Days: Season 1, vol. 1
Art by Soichiro
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)