Alice in the Country of Hearts 2

April 23, 2010

Soumei Hoshino / QuinRose – Tokyopop – 2010 – 4+ volumes

I reviewed this (along with the first volume) over at Manga Recon, so you can check out my review over there.

If you already know my brief thoughts from the first volume, basically things stay interesting here and it doesn’t lose any steam.  The mystery builds, and I’m rather anxious to get my hands on more.  Good stuff, and surprising too since I didn’t think I’d like it.

Since Popcultureshock went down, my review is copied below:

Everyone knows and loves the story of Alice in Wonderland: a girl is taken to magical place by white rabbit and runs into all sorts of strange creatures in a set order before waking up and finding it was all a dream. After a blatant reference to a character reading the original book, Alice falls asleep and is sucked into a “game” that vaguely resembles the usual Wonderland. Neither Alice nor the reader has any idea what is going on, but all the traditional characters are replaced with hot bishounen that all love Alice. But the story goes deeper than that, and Alice finds herself becoming more and more involved with whatever game the white rabbit (Peter White) has forced her into…

I’ll admit, I set out thinking I wouldn’t enjoy this series much. I do like to read different interpretations of Alice in Wonderland, but I think it’s an overused story idea, and rarely do the adaptations do anything interesting. But Alice in the Country of Hearts is different. It starts as an offbeat retelling, but it becomes apparent very quickly that the story is way more out there than even the original set out to be, and that there’s a method to the characters’ madness, and maybe even one or two people that know what’s going on.

The interesting thing about this series is that it’s entirely driven by its Wonderland setting. As of volume two, the “game” Alice is being forced into still hasn’t been explained, and the characters are still speaking in too many riddles and have only vaguely defined personalities. The Wonderland is divided into three areas (the Hatter’s mansion, the Queen of Hearts’ castle, and Gowland’s amusement park), and in the middle of all these are the clockmaker’s tower, where Alice stays with a man named Julius. Frequently, the setting and the time of day will change as characters or events will drive Alice from one place to another and into a different bizarre situation, but one that usually sheds just a little more light on the way the Wonderland works and what the meaning of Alice being there is. Notably, Alice is the only character that’s not “in” on whatever’s going on. Also notable is the fact that Alice is a strong character that frequently leaves situations calmly and with the upper hand, something that’s very different from the norm.

Wonderland’s a violent place, and there are a lot of gunfights since all the characters are in love with Alice. Far from the usual shojo heroine obsession, nobody has exhibited an ounce of romantic tendencies, and their “love” is more a decision they make that causes them to fight amongst themselves. Which they do anyway, since each area of Wonderland is at constant war with one another. Violence and death are the strangest things of all, since no characters seem to think anything of it. The strange mechanics of death are explained in volume two.

On one hand, it’s a little frustrating to not quite know where the story is going, especially after two volumes, but on the other, the setting is so quirky and interesting that I hardly minded. Plenty of hints about the plot are dropped, but nothing is connecting as of yet. This is such a weird series, it’s hard not to get drawn in once you get started. I was suspicious at first because of the theme and because Wonderland was stocked with boys that love Alice, but there’s really a lot more to it than that, and I’m very much looking forward to more volumes of the series.

Volumes one and two of Alice in the Country of Hearts are available now.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

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