Foreign exchange student Alyosha Stalina has been attending a Japanese high school for 3 months. She comes from the nation of Solessia but she is yet to fit in with the other students because of her unfriendly demeanor and cold personality. Rightfully so because Alyosha is a trained assassin that has been murdering people since she was 5 years old. Officials in Estolakia, a country devastated by the attacks from Solessia, found the orphaned Alyosha and trained her as a top notch assassin to work against Solessia.
Her most recent and soon to be last mission is to murder the president of Solessia who is to attend the high school she has infiltrated for 3 months. However, the mission is aborted and she is ordered to remain a student. The only thing Alyosha knows how to do is to be an assassin and has never learned how to be a normal teenage girl. Will Alyosha be able to complete her most difficult mission yet?
As one grows accustomed to their surroundings, it is only natural for one to gradually accept their surroundings. Whether this be from a humanistic need to conform or an unconditional surrender to one's current knowledge, those with an isolated background are at a complete disadvantage when it comes to tasks outside of their range of comfort. This isolation takes place in Alyosha, a story of a girl of the same name raised to be the ultimate assassin, only knowing a world of battle and wits. When her country suddenly cuts all ties with her, she's left with only one mission, a mission she's doomed to
fail: become a normal high school girl.
While the concept of a girl outside of her comfort zone is no rare thing, what stands out initially with this story is the lack of a central male character. Typically, manga like this try to incorporate a subtle romance aspect to the story in order to draw in people of all demographics, or use it as a placeholder if the author feels it necessary to uphold. Within the story of Alyosha, only one male character comes into play later on, but serves no interest to Alyosha as a romantic aspiration. This male character, Ryuunosuke, is basically a character to add for plot convenience, as this story truly loves to incorporate.
If Alyosha was to be compared to anything, it would feel most appropriate to compare it to a watermelon. The outer casing of Alyosha as a story is concrete, concealing the inner workings of the story to a bare minimum, as it's fragile inner core is easy to penetrate. The story presents itself as a high school comedy with an action/adventure twist; Alyosha must try to maintain her high school girl image while at the same time fighting off pursuers who want her head. This is the outer casing, as through words, the story seems legible enough to get by. However, as one digs deeper, the story begins to unwind. The foundation for the story's outer casing is only held by the facade of an indestructible fortress. Alyosha's story is quick to leave behind the trivial trials of a normal high school girl, becoming that of a typical action flick. The reason being could be its failure to produce a legitimate depiction of a normal high school girl's life. Alyosha as a character is capable of doing superhuman feats, while at the same time cannot be deterred by any event or trial, despite her background, which seems to be an advantage to her in any situation. Perhaps the author sensed this, therefore gradually shifting towards a more suitable scenario.
Without the use of a central male character, the story introduces a cast of characters well-endowed with their knowledge of mahou shoujo titles. Of the many characters introduced during the title's longevity, four are more or less obsessed with a particular anime series, complete with magical girls and limited edition merchandise. With this being said, it eludes to an unconscious acceptance of women (of all ages) to be fascinated with animation involving magic and the cute girls who wield them. This is the stereotype that most characters share in Alyosha. It is difficult to identify who is and isn't a major character, as their characters only hold importance during certain aspects of the story.
The two characters who seem to be of any importance for the majority of the series is Alyosha Stalina and Katie Lindberg. Alyosha, as stated earlier, is a trained assassin who is tasked with becoming a normal high school girl. Her superhuman feats make it easy for her to overcome any obstacle, but can't overcome the obstacle of the reader's speculation of legitimacy. Katie Lindberg is sixteen, "Amerian" (American), a super genius, works for the FBI, holds a big bust, and is a closet otaku. She is roughly thirteen stereotypes rolled into one, along with being an occasional fuel for fan service. Her trust in her friends, including one whose killed 283 people without as much as flinching, is uncanny, to say the least. Outside of the main two, but still important to a fault, Miru is the character left out of the loop for most of the story. Because of this, she is left to her own concerns, those that normal high school girls would concern themselves with. If the story of Alyosha was so concerned with the idea of presenting the escapades of typical high school life, Miru would be the central character. With her lack of knowledge of her surroundings, Miru becomes the damsel in distress of Alyosha, a role that perfectly suits her helpless demeanor and buoyant ambition. It's truly a shame that she wasn't focused on with as much care as, say, anyone else.
The artistic integrity of Alyosha's story is dependent on the context of the plot. With Alyosha's early focus on the slice of life, its art reflects the semi-relaxed nature of the story's direction. The character designs are unique, albeit slightly stereotypical, and their eye sockets are drawn in a slight shoujo-ish fashion, contrasting from the title's shounen undertones. As the story becomes more accustomed to its action/adventure genre, the art decides not to change. Because of this, the action scenes consist of a few panels of unbelievably flexible fight sequences. Overall, these sequences feel lazy in nature, almost as if the title doesn't care to let go of its original, carefree purpose. The art feels most natural in the most natural of settings, while the story of Alyosha only explores this setting sparingly.
This title is one of trial and error. It attempts to mix action with slice of life, soft visuals with severe situations, and analyzing the psychology of a girl raised to kill with the girl's inner innocence. Alyosha, to some, may not seem as a much of a grand story as it is the outline of a grand story in purgatory. What this title does provide is thought-provoking enough for all of the wrong reasons. The unrealistic feats for one so young is one of many things about the story that makes it more than fiction, but less than a fairy tale. Alyosha as a story is as confused about its destiny as those typically graduating out of high school, but the potential is there and so, too, is the value of experimentation.
How to review this... its hard... at least without spoilers.
The person who wrote this knows exactly how to pace a story without dragging out anything or even making it to fast paced. This isnt a story where someone starts weak and gets better over time, they are already at their best from the get go, and it is a VERY refreshing pace from the "i lost a battle, train, i win WOOT WOOT" that most manga tends to become. Hell, everything wraps up nicely too, another rare feat for any manga.
I personally can't recommend this more highly than I already am, but this
wont be for everyone, read the first 3 chapters, that will tell you quite competently how the rest of the seriese will go. Their identities don't remain hidden, there is no sudden twist, there is no several chapter long build ups. To say it again, this manga is masterfully paced, with a constant tone that doesn't change from chapter 1 till the end.