“Alice in the Country of Hearts” volumes 1 to 3

16 11 2009

Hello!  This is Laserwolf.  Don’t be fooled by the S following Laserwolf.  There are no other Laserwolfs.  Just like the Highlander, there can be only one.

I love reading and the occasional video game, but lately I have been reading more manga than anything else.  Manga is a wonderful study tool; I live in Japan and I want to improve my Japanese but I have no patience for textbooks.  My favorite manga genre is monster/vampire/werewolf/etc.  Because I often get too engrossed in manga to stop and look up words I don’t know, there is a slight chance I have misunderstood things in Japanese.  However, I will not post anything I feel I have not fully understood.  I have a penchant for reading manga that is not available in English yet.  For this, I am sorry for you non-Japanese readers, but please try to look at it this way – I am introducing you to new things, which you can look forward to reading in English in the future.

alice in the country of the heart

Medium: manga

Title: ハートの国のアリス Haato no Kuni no Arisu.  (Official English title will be Alice in the Country of Hearts.  Other possible translations are: Alice in Heart Country, Alice in the Country of the Heart, Alice in Heart Land).

Copyright QuinRose, manga created by QuinRose and Soumei Hoshino.

Based on: Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland.  Also based on a series of “dating simulation” games by the company QuinRose.  The first of these games shares the same title as the manga.

Official QuinRose site (Japanese site): quinrose.com

Genre: reverse harem, romance, fantasy

Number of volumes: 3 currently released and a 4th to be released in December, 2009.  Total number of future volumes unknown.

Availability: Published (in Japanese) by Blade Comics Avarus.  English version to be released by Tokyopop starting in February, 2010.

Characters / Summary:

Alice is sitting outside with her sister on a boring day, struggling not to sleep.  When her sister decides to leave to get some playing cards, Alice is visited by a mysterious white rabbit.  The white rabbit, Peter White, frustrated that Alice will not chase him down the rabbit hole, carries Alice there against her will.  Thus the famous Alice story begins, with a twist: kidnapping!

The story continues to get “curiouser and curiouser”, and deviates quite a bit from the classic book.  Alice decides to spend the duration of her stay in Wonderland (or in this case, Heart Land) with the clockmaker Yuriasu (Julius), who is occasionally helped in his work by Eesu (Ace).  Alice also befriends the Queen of Hearts AKA Vivarudi (Vivaldi), Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum AKA “the Bloody Twins”, the Mad Hatter AKA Burado (Blood), the March Hare AKA Eriotto (Elliot), the Cheshire Cat AKA Borisu (Boris), and Merii Goorando.  (I have seen this last one translated as Mary Gowland.  He – yes, HE – is the owner of an amusement park.)  There is also a mysterious character named Nightmare, who appears to Alice during her dreams.

While many characters share appearance and certain attributes with their origins in Lewis Carroll’s book, there are quite a few differences.  Vivaldi is still a spoiled queen, but the Mad Hatter is actually a mafia boss.  The Bloody Twins guard the gates to the Hatter’s mansion.  The March Hare refuses to admit that he is just as much of a rabbit as Peter is, because he does not like carrots, but likes “dishes made with carrots”.  Mary is a master at creating guns that look like musical instruments, such as violins, and horrible at making music with them.  Boris is always sneaking into the castle grounds and getting into fights.

The biggest differences between this story and the original is that in this version, all of the characters in Wonderland (except Vivaldi) are handsome men, and that these men are incredibly violent.  Almost all of them can’t help but fall in love with Alice.  One of the characters explains that she is so magnetic to them because she has a heart that beats, whereas all of them have hearts made of pocket watches.

My honest opinion:

I am a big fan of Alice in Wonderland (though not the Disney movie) and that is what caused me to pick up this manga in the first place, along with the quality artwork.  The story is basically official “fan fiction” in comic form.  One thing I really like about this manga is the fact that it deviates enough from the original in such a creative way that it becomes something completely new in and of itself.  Alice is not a helpless girl crying in every situation, but the strong girl who is determined to return to her own world in order to spend time with the only person she really cares about – her sister.  I enjoy the fact that Alice is so reasonable in most situations.  I also enjoy the humor spread throughout.  The plot, while not fast-paced, slowly reveals itself, and promises to go somewhere.  I find the story quite interesting.  I have never played the videogame, nor am I sure I would like playing a romantic adventure game, but reading the manga makes me curious enough to want to play it.

My rating: 3.5/5

Why is it worth reading?  (Some spoilers included!)

Although Alice is constantly being flirted with by so many men, she seems uninterested in anything but friendship with them.  Peter White especially seems to believe that Alice is destined to be with him, which is why he kidnapped her in the first place, but she refuses all of his advances.  In fact, she seems to dislike him more than any other man in the whole place.  In order to change her mind, Peter shamelessly manipulates her by taking on a more cute rabbit form (starting in volume three).  Even if Alice won’t listen to him as a man, when he becomes a rabbit, she is helpless to refuse.  This is really amusing to read.

Alice finally has some depth.  In the original story, not much was said about her home life.  In this version, she has survived deep family tragedy, which makes her sister all the more precious to her, which makes her all the more determined to return to her own world.  Not only this, but people in the story, namely Blood, bare strong resemblances to people in her life back home.  The way she interacts with these people is affected by this resemblance.

Because their hearts are made of pocket watches, even after a person dies, their watch is able to be fixed by Julius.  However, as a direct result of this, all of the male characters are absolutely reckless with their lives.  It is considered a horrible crime to destroy someone’s watch beyond repair, but some people long for this, because they are so tired of living.  To Alice, an outsider, it is incomprehensible why her friends are constantly dueling with each other.  Her view that life is precious is refreshing enough to cause many characters, such as Boris, to rethink their reckless behavior… at least a little bit.  Because Julius and Ace are associated with this work, they are viewed with disdain (perhaps as if they were undertakers) and everyone is constantly trying to convince Alice to leave the clock tower (though they may just be trying to get her to move in with them instead, since they all love her so much).  However, she thinks that Julius’ work is an amazing gift of life and second chances, and desires to continue living there and help in any way she can.

To me, the whole pocket watch scenario is fascinating.  The characters are not “real” and they long for Alice’s reality.  They resent Julius.  My first thought after discovering the true purpose of the clocks was, “if someone were to kill Julius, no one would ever be able to be revived again”.  This is probably why he’s so reclusive and never participates in the ridiculous dueling that the other characters indulge in so much.  My other thought was, “If my life was worth so little, I might take those kind of risks myself.”  The characters lack the beating heart that Alice was born with, and as a result, their lives have no meaning, and they are all willing to throw their lives away.  To me, it resembles the state of the world a great deal.  Many people seem to be lacking that beating heart.  They chase after things (and/or other people) trying to find what they are missing, without ever finding it.

I am curious to read more of this manga and will undoubtedly purchase volume four when it is released next month.



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