Manga Village

Alice is having a nap n her garden when suddenly before her there appears a young man with rabbit ears! He whisks her away to a fantastic (but dangerous) world that seems straight out of a fairy tale, but one where every resident brandishes a weapon… Will Alice ever find her way back home?

Story by QuinRose; Art by Soumei Hoshino
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $18.99

Alice in the Country of Hearts started out as a otome visual novel, a romance game for girls based loosely on Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. It isn’t the first series to come out based on this type of game. Viz Media has released two other titles based on otome game/visual novels, and I liked those. This title was a surprise hit for Tokyopop, who originally released it a few years ago, so I thought I would like this one as well. While I found the mystery introduced interesting, I also found many of the characters difficult to like, and really couldn’t imagine myself in Alice’s place, which is the secret to the success of these titles.

It’s not like Alice is an annoying or ignorant character. She is straightforward and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She values life and will step in to try and help anyone who needs it, even stepping into the line of fire to stop it. Alice is far from perfect though. She is jealous of her older sister for both her looks and hr love, and my have a subconscious desire to be loved by everyone around her. I really can’t say why she rubbed me the wrong way, she just did. I think part of it is her character design. I really don’t like the bow in her hair or her striped socks. It might seem a petty thing, but first impressions do make a difference.

I also had a hard time with Alice’s “suitors.” While it’s not all men that fall for Alice, Vivaldi, the Queen of Hearts, declares she could fall for Alice as well, it is the men that she interacts with the most. In the insanity of Wonderland, Alice comes off as the only sane person, as the people there think nothing of dying or death, and brandish weapons with ease. Their non-nonchalant attitudes border on disturbing, and that is what I found so bothersome about them. Ace with his smile and jovial air as he kills anyone that gets in his way of collecting clocks. Peter, whose desire for Alice borders on stalker, is just as bloodthirsty. and Dee and Dum, the twins that guard the Hatter’s gate are just creepy. The two characters I did like were Elliot March, the Hatter’s right hand man, and Julius Monrey, the clock maker. They are like polar opposites, with Elliot being more happy and easy-going, while Julius is more subdued and dark. But they’re interactions with Alice seem the most honest, which made them more appealing to me.

Along side all the interactions with the suitors is a mystery that is slowly revealed. Whenever someone in Wonderland is killed, their body disappears and leaves only a clock. This secondary plot isn’t developed until the second half of the volume. Alice learns the truth of Julius’ job, and why she is so different from the people of Wonderland. Elliot’s story though is the most compelling and most intriguing reason I didn’t write off this series. If I had read only the first volume, with its miniscule hints, I wouldn’t have wanted to continue reading. Elliot’s position seems to reinforce Alice’s strong value on life, which, unfortunately for her, also ends up with getting another suitor, Boris, the Cheshire cat-boy.

Alice in the Country of Hearts didn’t start out as an interesting read, but managed to slowly pull me in enough to want to check out the next volume. I have no complaints about the art, other than Alice’s design. Everyone is appropriately bishi, and even though I’m a big cat person, I liked Elliot’s design the best. He is very cute, rabbit ears and all. This title is definitely suited for someone who is more into the romance and fun of meeting different people, but it’s the mystery that I enjoyed more. I am looking forward to see how it develops. And if Alice finds her love, and/or her way home, well, all the better.

Review copy provided by publisher.


About the author

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

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