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Alice in the Country of Hearts Vol. #01 Manga Review

4 min read
The characters are all attractive, Alice herself is a likable lead, and the setting is a more mature version of Wonderland that manages to give me creeps the same way that the book did when I was younger.

A reverse harem set in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland, this adaptation of a dating sim works far better than you might think thanks to its down-to-earth heroine and mildly creepy tone.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Quinrose and Soumei Hoshino
Translation: Beni Axia Conrad
Adaptation: Lianne Sentar

What They Say
In this inventive retelling of the “Alice in Wonderland” story – manga-style – Alice wakes up to find a white rabbit wearing clothes. The rabbit forcefully drags Alice into the rabbit hole, where he turns into a young man with rabbit ears and leads her into a frightful world, where the fairytale-like citizens wield dangerous weapons for an insidious cause…Unable to return home, will she be able to happiness in a world full of danger and beautiful young men?

The Review:
Content:
It’s not surprising, given the basic plot, that Alice in the Country of Hearts (known as Heart no Kuni no Alice in Japan) is based off a dating sim game.  A fairly average girl, one who doesn’t quite fit in with the people around her, is whisked away to a different world within the first dozen pages and promptly surrounded by a bevy of good-looking men that all show signs of interest in her.  However, this series isn’t based off a run-of-the-mill dating sim.  It’s loosely based around Lewis Carroll’s young adult novels, which means that Alice’s group of admirers is made up of some very strange individuals, including an anthropomorphic White Rabbit and Chesire Cat.  Even stranger is that the overall unsettling “mood” of Wonderland has been transferred into this adaptation very well.  Blood Dupre, the character who bears a striking resemblance to someone from Alice’s past, is the head of the mafia organization known as the “Hatters,” which is at war with Gowland’s amusement park and the Queen of Hearts’ castle.  The story is surprisingly focused for a dating sim adaptation; though it’s early on, there are no signs that the story is following any particular romantic path–and that’s probably a good thing given the nature of the romantic options.

Every character, from the Alice-obsessed Peter White (the white rabbit) to the outwardly cheerful but very sinister Ace (the Red Knight) is the opposite of what you’d expect from this sort of series.  In short, they’re all pretty evil.  Some are more obvious than others, such as violent Mafia Boss Blood, but at the moment, I’d be genuinely disturbed if Alice became romantically linked with any of them–which almost seems to be the point.  The story has also taken a unique approach to solving the problem of having half a dozen attractive men throw themselves at a very average heroine, and does it without giving her any special powers.  After all, this is Alice’s dream, even if it’s one governed by strange rules she can’t escape from, so if the various guys like her, then it’s her own imagination.  Or, at the least, that’s the concept that she struggles with in the latter half of the volume.  Alice is incredibly self-aware about this, which brings a lot of charm to the character.  Despite being thrown into this bizarre world, she is determined to do what she must to get out of it, and adapts to the strange dream logic that surrounds her.  It’s a good thing, too, because her character offers the grounding, outsider presence needed to remind us just how strange this Wonderland is.
In Summary:
Alice in the Country of Hearts is Tokyopop’s new big hit, and it’s easy to see why.  The characters are all attractive, Alice herself is a likable lead, and the setting is a more mature version of Wonderland that manages to give me creeps the same way that the book did when I was younger.  It fits into several sub-genres well–reverse harem, romance, fantasy, and suspense, to name a few–but also finds clever ways to subvert them at the same time.  It’s not a book that’s easy to recommend to a certain “type” of reader, but shoujo fans looking for something different but who still want to look at some pretty boys should give this one a try.  It’s certainly a unique, quirky addition to the genre.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B-

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: February 2nd, 2010
MSRP: $10.99

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