QuinRose / Soumei Hoshino – Yen Press – 2012 – 6 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 5-6

Gasp! These use the same translation and adaptation as the Tokyopop edition! How odd! That’s okay, because it was a pretty good one, as far as I can tell. So that means the stuff I picked up on in the second omnibus was just me understanding better after a re-read.

How was the ending? Well, I liked it. It wasn’t quite as mysterious and off-the-wall as I was hoping, but it still wrapped up all the loose ends very well. The only thing I really wasn’t happy with was Peter Rabbit’s true identity, which didn’t fit at all. I did guess what it was that Alice wasn’t supposed to remember in the real world, but unfortunately the story didn’t really go into it.

Also wondering about the hearts-into-clocks thing, ie the end of the series. So how does that work?

Vivaldi’s ball was still a fun little bit of story, and I loved seeing the Blood/Alice war carried out to its conclusion. Overall I was happy with the ending, and I am so glad that the series got a second chance. It took me forever to actually get here, but I’m glad my dissatisfaction with the first two volumes didn’t carry over into the rest of the series, too. It’s worth at least one re-read, then!

The best part is that there’s still a lot of mystery here, and a lot of things that weren’t properly explored, likely because this was an adaptation of a visual novel-type game. But there are a thousand spin-off manga, many of which have been translated into English. I intend to indulge in those books starting right now.

Eh. It’s not the best series in the world, but it definitely hit all the right buttons for me, and it’s different enough that I’m going to keep reading in the world. It is a rare opportunity among translated manga, after all. Only CLAMP offers us that opportunity, and quite frankly, I’m beginning to say “no thank you” to that. Hopefully this will treat me better.

QuinRose / Soumei Hoshino – Yen Press – 2012 – 6 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 3-4

Okay, I did have to write this up, because I enjoyed this volume a lot more. I think my impatience with the last omnibus had more to do with the fact I didn’t want to sit through the basics again. I knew about the clocks and about the value of life in the country of Hearts, and I knew all the characters and how much they loved Alice already.

This volume pointed more at the overall picture, though. There was more of Nightmare (which, to be fair, I read the volume 1 section some months before I started this recent marathon, but I don’t remember him being a big part of the plot before, and talking to Alice?), and there was more of the resistant fellows hinting at their attraction or fondness, creepy or otherwise. I still don’t know what Nightmare has to do with everything, or why it’s significant for him and Peter White that Peter was the one that drew Alice into the world.

I also think the mortality thing came across much better this time, although I’m not sure if it was the translation or the fact I was reading it through the second time. Originally it just seemed like a thing that Alice was destined to preach, whereas this time through it came across much better that residents of Bizarro World kill each other because they can be brought back to life, and it’s no big deal like it is to Alice. Granted, she’s got some converts now, but for the most part, she’s mostly just talking to herself.

Most importantly, I can read volume 6 now! I’m all excited to see how it ends now, and what the explanation for all of this is!

QuinRose / Soumei Hoshino – Yen Press – 2012 – 6 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-2

I was a big fan of this series as it was coming out from Tokyopop, much to my surprise. I was thrilled when Yen Press picked the license back up, which meant I could read volume 6. I bought all three omnibus volumes again, and I’ve been buying all the spinoff series that have appeared from Seven Seas and Yen Press both. I was so happy that all of this has made it here.

Aaaannd… then I didn’t read them. I resolved to clear out at least some of my Alice backlog while I was on vacation, so I tackled the first omnibus again to re-acquaint myself with the series.

I’ve already reviewed it here, so I’m not going to get into it again (and, in fact, I am going to skip the second omnibus review unless I have something constructive to add). I liked it because it took a very tired idea, basing a story off of Alice in Wonderland, and made it into a completely different kind of story. The characters are the same, but the plot and circumstances are completely different. There’s also a mess of new characters, some new… areas (for lack of a better term), and the pre-existing characters don’t act like they should. But the best part is that the whole thing is absolutely crazy, and doesn’t make any sense. But it’s clear it’s working on its own logic, and the whole series takes its time revealing little pieces of the puzzle. Why do the residents of Wonderland murder each other so frequently? Why is absolutely everyone falling into a creepy kind of love with Alice? What’s up with the clocks and faceless people? How can Alice get home? There’s lots of stuff going on, and I found it to be worth my time to investigate.

One of the reasons all the characters fall in love with Alice is because this is based on a visual novel-kind of game for women, where Alice winds up following the story path of the many eligible suitors. That only made me like this series more though, since manga adaptations of other media (but especially video games) is usually very weak.

The mystery aspect did make me eager to re-read it to see if I could fit the pieces together sooner, plus it had been a year or so since I last gave it a try. I started this volume right after it came out, then put it down. Then I tried again, and put it down. I was determined to finish it this time, so I did, but I have to admit, a bit of the love is gone. Now that I know most of the mysteries, it’s frustrating to wade through all the admiration for Alice to try and make it to a section of story I can’t remember. Turns out, my memory for this series was pretty good. I do like it a lot, but I have little patience for series with a ton of characters right out of the gate like this.

Part of my difficulty might also be that I’m forcing myself to read this before I can tackle volume six, or any of the spinoffs I do want to read. Perhaps its best not to punish myself like this, but man, I really did think I would like this after a re-read. Hopefully the second omnibus fares better.

QuinRose / Soumei Hoshino – Tokyopop – 2011 – 6 volumes

I read this some time ago, but I put off talking about it because I’m so utterly depressed that I will never get to read the last volume. THE LAST VOLUME! This was my favorite of the handful of series Tokyopop had started in the last couple years, and the one that made me more willing to try out some of the others in their line. I thought this one would be horrible, based on the description, but it’s a fascinating read, and every volume is maddening with the way it continues to deepen the mystery in the utterly fascinating world that’s been created. I’m dying to know how this whole thing was resolved in just one volume, and I was really hoping that the series was popular enough that Tokyopop would publish some of the numerous spin-offs. Maybe… maybe Vertical? Please?

For a harem series, I do like that the female characters tend to be fairly strong. When the harem focus is a male, it tends to be a wimpy guy that makes you wonder why all the women would bother. In this series, I like that all the affection towards Alice is unlooked-for and politely declined in most cases, and I like that Alice is a strong enough character to deal with the strangeness of all the men herself (who are, admittedly, much stranger than the usual harem manga cast), and that Vivaldi, the other female and a role model, is also strong enough to stand up to even the most difficult of the men and to be her own person. She’s supposed to be the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland, which makes her sorta dominant anyway, and she does slip into some rather unfortunate idiosyncracies (she hates on men in almost every other panel, for instance), she’s still an interesting character, and I like that she’s featured enough in this volume that Alice can look up to her.

I also liked that Alice confronted the only person who decided to hate her in the Country of Hearts, Blood Dupree. He mostly talks down to her and taunts her, accusing her of manipulating everybody into liking her, which she of course denies. She has it out with him, and after an interesting talk, they settle things. There’s nothing unusual or over-the-top about it, they simply settle their differences and start with a blank slate. Again, with a manga so unusual, I keep expecting situations like that to escalate. They…. never quite do, and I’m always a little pleased by the outcomes.

There’s other things going on in this volume, too. The Queen’s ball, for instance, and Peter lets on that he knows about Alice’s true nature, to which an outside entity remarks that Alice is nearly out of time. And again, Blood and Vivaldi discuss how they were “assigned roles” in the Country of Hearts. This makes me think the ultimate outcome is that Alice will wake up, with some characters corresponding to real life and others not (which would parallel the original book), or that she will somehow become part of the Country of Hearts.

But now we’ll never know. Seriously. This was one of the most interesting and unusual books that Tokyopop had published in the past couple years (well, this and Demon Sacred, but they’re different… er, beasts), and now I can’t read the last volume. It’s good though, worth picking up the five that are available if you can stomach the heartbreak.

QuinRose / Soumei Hoshino – Tokyopop – 2010 – 6+ volumes

Every volume gets me a little deeper into things here, and I am genuinely curious as to just what on earth is going on. People seem to switch moods at the drop of a hat sometimes, and formerly harmless characters are now out for blood. In the context of the series, there is no problem with this, but as of right now it feels like there’s still not a good way for me to get a handle on things.

This volume focuses on Boris and Julius, though plenty of others stick their noses in. Julius and Alice have a relatively serious conversation at the beginning of the volume, but Alice spends a lot of time with Boris, who reveals himself to be one of the most normal residents of the mysterious Country.

And… yeah, they do things. Go to the amusement park. Find out about a big party coming up. Have a serious talk about mortality with another character. The last chapter is kind of interesting, since weather conditions begin changing, and we find out about the Country of Joker.

Honestly, I was a little disappointed things didn’t move forward just a bit more here. I love the depth of the world, and I also love learning a little bit more about all the eccentric characters, but now that the novelty is beginning to wear off, I’m looking for either a little more explanation about why things are happening… or some sort of plot progression, which this series is not really equipped to do. I still like it an awful lot. I just hope that the next volume has something a little more meaty. The Ball For Everyone Including Enemies should be interesting, since it sounds like the type of thing everyone attends and debauches themselves. That should be a lot of fun with these characters.

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

I wrote this volume up for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there.

It was really hard to write that without using “curiouser and curiouser,” but that’s what it is. And now I’ve succumbed to temptation. This is probably my favorite current Tokyopop series. One of the few derivative manga I’ve read that’s been good, too, and I hope it continues.

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.