QuinRose / Riko Sakura – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 2 volumes

Ehh… eh.  This one’s only okay so far.  It doesn’t have a lot of story re-hash, which is good.  All that’s passed over pretty quickly.  It’s also another rare non-Fujimaru volume, and I really like Riko Sakura’s artwork.

It’s a fairly typical Blood story.  Peter White is acting crazy, and drives Alice out of Heart Castle.  After a brief stay at the Clock Tower, she stumbles across the Hatter Mansion and meets all the characters there for the first time (it’s been a long time since I read a Hearts story with a fresh start, so this was fairly novel).

From there, she starts falling for Blood, of course.  He’s a tease, and while he’s still harsh here, he’s not nearly as much of a jerk as he usually is, which is a huge plus.  Let’s see… I suppose the main conflict is that there is a very early, very heavily-but-not-explicitly-stated sexual relationship between Alice and Blood.  This is rare in these books, so I was a little taken aback.  There is a slight dodge, in that the scene is prefaced by a dream-meeting with Nightmare, who tells Alice if she’s dreaming, she should enjoy it more and dive a little deeper, at which point she promptly and unambiguously hooks up with Blood.  This could be a dream, but later it sounds like the two are somewhat involved, so I don’t think it is.

Alice wants their relationship to be casual (she doesn’t want to deal with falling in love), which Blood consents grudgingly to.  Later, she sees Blood in the rose garden with Vivaldi, thinks the two of them are involved, and begins to suspect that Blood is playing around with her.

And… this will be resolved next time.  Again, nothing too out-of-the-ordinary.  Pretty straightforward relationship drama, and I did like that Blood was nicer than usual.  I like it a lot better than most of the one-shots, and pretty much all the Blood stories I’ve read except for the 6-volume main storyline.  So that’s a big plus.  But I still like the Nightmare books the best.

Alice Love Fables: Toy Box

November 28, 2015

QuinRose / Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 1 volume

Hmm… I’m gonna put this in the Hearts category, because there are less stories in that one, but this has both Hearts and Clover shorts in it.  Along with Crimson Empire and Arabians Lost.

Arabians Lost was first, and was rather interesting, since we haven’t seen anything from this setting before.  But that’s kind of where the novelty stopped.  It’s like reading the Crimson Empire shorts, except worse, because at least I’ve read enough of those to have some sense of the characters.  These Arabians Lost stories are like walking into the middle of a love story that you know nothing about.  I did kinda like the characters, though.  Weirdly, it has some characters in common with Crimson Empire, which I did not expect.  The three stories focus on different love interests: a thief, a stubborn ally (possibly a diplomat?), and the guy that trained Sheila in Crimson Empire.

The Alice stories in both settings were a little… eh.  They’re pretty short (some only a handful of pages long), and are more reflections of Alice’s thoughts on the focus character than anything else.  Hearts has stories about Julius (an unusually emotional, spicy Julius story), Elliot, and the Bloody Twins (possibly the only Hearts story that features them, since they… uh, can’t turn into adults in Hearts).  Clover has Gray (the only Mamenosuke Fujimaru story I’ve seen that features him), the rare Peter White story, and a Blood story that does the best job I’ve seen of explaining how their relationship could possibly work, since Blood is an asshole.

Crimson Empire is three stories, the usual prince story, one featuring his older brother, and an unusual one that features the demon.  I need to read more of this series, I’m actually starting to like these.

Admittedly, I couldn’t really sink my teeth into this volume since the stories are so short, but the Alice ones were pretty unique.  I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to start, or even for someone who’s trying to go deeper into the series.  But, you know, I’ve read almost all the spin-offs at this point, and I don’t regret picking it up.  It’s a nice read for the end of my Alice journey.

QuinRose / Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 1 volume

UGH.  Why is Ace so creepy?!  This is one of the last spin-off volumes for me, and I’ve been putting it off because I just don’t like Ace.  He doesn’t try hard here.  He forces himself on Alice (although she doesn’t stop him, and it’s okay because “she loves him”), basically picks fights with everyone and gets really aggressive when she admits to liking him, and later, begins to strangle her for liking Julius, and she’s okay with him killing her.

So, yeah.  Ace is hard to like.  Interestingly, this is one of the naughtier books.  There is an unambiguous sex scene that cuts before and after, but can’t be anything else.  I enjoy this series’ fondness for cursing, or perhaps just Peter’s lewdness.  Here, he has a line that goes “No! My greatest fear!  That OOOOing Knight has OOOO my dear!” (censors not mine) which I enjoyed immensely, not only because it rhymed, but also because I rarely see sensical cursing in a manga.  The back cover has a “promise it won’t hurt” joke on its 4-panel gag strip.

There’s not really a plot, other than Ace being a creep and everyone warning Alice away.  Gray plays a larger role than normal, and is implied to be a competing romantic interest, but that doesn’t go anywhere.  So this is just Ace and Alice wandering around together, going through the Clover world transition, missing Julius, going to convention, and being awkward.

There is a pair of Crimson Empire short stories in the back.  I SWEAR I’ve read “Pregnancy Panic” before, but I don’t have it noted in my other reviews and I don’t have my volumes here with me right now.  I’ll have to check on that.  Anyway, that’s the rare Byron/Sheila story.  The other Crimson Empire story is the usual Edvard/Sheila story, called “Yes, Your Highness.”  I like Edvard best, so if we do get stuck with Crimson Empire stories, I’m glad they focus on him.  There was also an amusing gag comic at the end about a character getting “love gifts” (basically relationship boost items in the game), but getting ignored otherwise.  He feels strangely attracted to Sheila, but also unfulfilled.  It made me laugh.

So, yeah.  Ace isn’t my flavor, but this is one of the more “mature” volumes, if you’re into that.

QuinRose / Aoi Kurihara – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2014 – 1 volume

I was in the mood for one of these again, so I decided to tackle one of the older ones I hadn’t read yet.  The appeal in this one is the Hearts setting, which is rare.  As is a romantic focus on Julius.  Conversely, Julius is a little boring.  Nightmare is here to make things more interesting.

Julius more-or-less kicks Alice out of the Clock Tower when he realizes she could go back to her own world at any time.  Alice flees blindly and sprains her ankle.  When Ace points out to her she is basically defenseless and hopeless, and Alice laments that Julius will never come help her, Nightmare decides to test Julius by “stealing” Alice’s consciousness and sealing it in a tower, guarded by monsters (to keep Ace busy) and a wall of thorns.  Alice and Julius both have to make some mental leaps to bring down the wall of thorns.

Pretty straightforward love story.  I do like Julius a little for being one of the less grope-y guys, and this story points out he and Alice have similar personalities.  They just… don’t really have a lot of chemistry here.  But it’s still a cute story.

This is also one of the rare books not illustrated by Mamenosuke Fujimaru.  Aoi Kurihara has nice-looking art, but Fujimaru’s is a bit more ornate.  I always feel bad when I read a book drawn by someone else, because it’s hard to be better than Fujimaru, as far as a one-off license book like this goes.

Nightmare’s still my favorite, though.

QuinRose / Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 1 volume

Eh, I should have read Love Labyrinth of Thorns first (the other Julius spinoff), but this one was on top.  I bought it in a Barnes and Noble the other day.  Gasp!  How novel!

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Hearts-series book.  Julius doesn’t appear in any of the other worlds (edit: except Joker, which is special), so he has to be in Hearts… if I’m not mistaken, the only spinoff books in English so far that are set in the Hearts world are the two Julius books, the Mad Hatter’s Late Night Tea Party, and My Fanatic Rabbit.  Clover tends to be the setting du jour.

Julius is one of the more likable characters in the series… which makes for a cute, non-creepy book, on the one hand.  On the other, the wackiness tends to be what makes these fun, so the straight-up love story here is a little uncharacteristic of the Alice series.  It is cute, though.  Alice hangs out a lot with Julius, and winds up storming out of Heart Castle after Peter is being a creep, and lives with Julius.

She finds out he doesn’t actually ever sleep or stop working, mainly because there is only one bed, and while they are meant to sleep in shifts (not actually sharing the bed), he never takes his.  Odd that there’s only one bed… I thought Alice stayed in the clock tower in the main series.  I could be wrong, I don’t have it with me to check and confirm.

The only conflict deals with Alice finding out what the clocks are for in the Country of Hearts, and how that affects her opinion of Julius.  I’m reading these too fast (I LOVE THEM TOO MUCH), because that one seems a little weak compared to some of the others.  Then again, it’s also very normal, which is nice.

There are Crimson Empire short stories in the back.  I wasn’t expecting that!  I’m disappointed, because I know nothing about Crimson Empire.  Seven Seas does a great job of putting character profiles and explanations before the story (these are possibly in the original book, I guess, I’m not sure), which helps, but it’s still hard to read a side story to a series I don’t know the main story of.  Having said that, both short stories (Tactics and Stay Here) were pretty great.  I didn’t realize Seven Seas also published Crimson Empire, so I just ordered all three volumes of that as well.  I’m having a QuinRose binge at the moment.

I hope the Peter Pan QuinRose books show up in English eventually… Peter Pan is my favorite.

QuinRose / Psyche Delico – Yen Press – 2013 – 2 volumes

My impression pretty much stayed the same through volume 2.  Cute love story, but I wish they hadn’t condensed the story from the main series into two volumes to tell alongside it.  I know it’s a weird, alien story if you don’t have the details (and still is, even if you do), but it’s also not meant to be told in two volumes.

In this volume, Alice is still trying to reconcile herself to the fact life means nothing to the Heart-landers, she learns the deal with the clocks, etc.  Elliot tries to check himself, although loses control once again when she sees Alice walking with Julius.  We continue on to a conclusion from there.

Again, if you’re familiar with the series, you know where these books are going.  There’s not a lot of surprises.  This one’s okay, but I’ve liked a couple of the other spinoffs better.

I was excited to read this one, because I liked Psyche Delico’s art in the BL books I’ve read by her.  The character designs are a little weird (maybe not quite suited to this series), but I still like her a lot.  She uses a lot of beautiful pattern and detail that make certain scenes quite lovely.

SLIGHT SPOILER:  There’s a scene at the end where Alice is trying to decide whether or not to leave, and Nightmare shows her an illusion of Elliot killing herself when he realizes she’s gone.  This strikes me as horrifyingly manipulative, although not necessarily out-of-character.  There’s a few intense scenes with Elliot in this volume, actually, which surprised me.  Slightly more intense and violent than your usual shoujo manga, and I tend to like books that shake things up like that.  But the suicide was a little too much for me.

QuinRose/Psyche Delico – Yen Press – 2012 – 2 volumes

I was a little excited about this one, since I’d read and enjoyed Psyche Delico’s books before (she does BL… Love Full of Scars was awesome, and I’ve purchased but not read Pure Love’s Sexy Time on eManga).  Also, I like the Alice series, so there’s that too.

This was one of the first of the Alice spinoffs that came out, but I was not at all excited about reading it.  I thought “My Fanatic Rabbit” would be about Peter White, who creeps me out badly.  I had forgotten about Elliot though, the March Hare.  Though Peter is in the second half of the book, this series seems to focus on Alice and Elliot, which is fine.

One of the main conflicts is that Alice is living with the Hatter Gang, a collection of bad guys, in a world where death doesn’t really mean that much.  So they’re pretty violent guys, and kill a lot of people.  Alice can’t reconcile this with Elliot’s pleasant and goofy demeanor, and when he makes a disturbing offhanded comment towards the end of the book, it drives Alice away and into the arms of Peter White and the Queen of Hearts.

Alice is cute, and Elliot is cute, but there’s not a whole lot more to this book.  I wasn’t really getting into either, though I expect things to pick up in the second volume, since there is a situation at Heart Castle here.  One of the big downsides is that the book takes the time to explain the world and situations to the reader, which IS necessary if you aren’t familiar with the story… but if you are, it’s a bummer they waste so much time with that, to the detriment of the characters.

Oh well.  Elliot and Alice are cute, and he will probably rush in and save her heroically in the second volume.

I am also just going to put these series in categories by their “world,” so any Hearts series are going with this and the main volumes, Clover series are going in with Bloody Twins and Cheshire Cat Waltz, Diamond goes by itself, et cetera.  There are a LOT of these.