Alice in the Country of Hearts: Has a Certain Appeal

>> Monday, March 19, 2012

Given I'm still reading yaoi rather exclusively, it's hard to go back and fill in the blanks for my "Has a Certain Appeal" mangas. Not because they're bad, but because I don't read them over and over so they don't have dedicated spots in my brain. Or come to mind that often. This is particularly true of Alice in the Country of Hearts by QuinRose and Hoshino Soumei which was left stranded when Tokyopop went belly up with a single volume yet to publish (of six total). Ouch. Very hard to convince oneself to invest in the first five if the last one will never materialize.

Pity, too, because, though not a "favorite," ACH was imaginative, has charm, is just six volumes long (so easily read in a day or two) and had a satisfactory ending, which is not always the case. There's also a thread of satire, which I always like to see, and some humor. I know the ending worked for me because, though the books are no longer in print, the scanlation is available. Apparently, there is also an anime movie (in Japanese). It's another rather brave launch from the Alice in Wonderland concept that takes it in an entirely different direction without really leaving behind the underlying premise.

Anime? Yes Volumes of manga: 6 Status: Complete but not available in print form here in the states. Any more.

My rating: Has a certain appeal

Age range/taboos: I don't see an issue with any teenager reading this. No nudity or sex. However, there was some violence, made surreal through the particular characteristics of the players in "Wonderland" and threats of violence. There was also a bit of sexual innuendo.

Premise: Alice, nursing a bruised heart when her beau galloped off with another gal, naps and can't bring herself to chase the white rabbit when it appears. No worries, he changes into a "mostly" human form and scoops her up, force feeding her a potion that effectively traps her in "Wonderland." Except for cast members, that's about the last we hear of the original story. Alice's world is, of course, confusing, more confusing for us because it's completely unlike the other wonderland except we have characters named similarly, even if their characters are...whacked. It very much reads like a convoluted dream. Alice is lusted after or threatened with violence by almost every other character in the story, sometimes on the same page. The key exception, Julius the clock repairman, become an ally rather than a love interest.

What works: It's imaginative. The many male characters are appealing. Alice is less so mostly because what she does often doesn't make any sense to me. Admittedly, that's true of the denizons of Wonderland as well, but you kind of expect that. The characterizations are amusing and clever. The twists on the original ideas are not without appeal. I like the Hatter, despite his bipolar attitude, particularly the secret of his garden, which I won't be sharing, but I have to admit Julius gets a special place for his patience and the general hopelessness of his position. Poor sot.

It's drawn effectively, if not breathtakingly with artwork that doesn't jar one or bother me, but also didn't blow me away. The lack of plot is hardly noticeable in the twist and turns of creativity. And Alice, for all her crankiness, is a leavening influence on the others. I also liked the underlying depth, the dark part of the world that is hinted at only early on and then gone into in more depth later. Clever.

I like clever.

What I didn't like: The characters aren't entirely fleshed out and that's a pity here because they aren't just props for Alice in this story but key elements of a story. The craziness that works fine in a episodical world where someone's only there for the main character to act against is frustrating when we run into the same characters over and over again and try to make sense of it all. A mistake, of course, when dealing with Wonderland. The plot, as is frequently true of manga, was specious at best. If the characterizations had been more powerful, more readily identified with, the lack of plot could have been overlooked readily.  The creativity helped cover the lack, but with creativity like this comes chaos and I like my world to have order in the end.

Which argues not so much a problem with the story but rather that it wasn't a story well suited to a logical gal like myself. Someone else, who lives for chaos, might have completely felt at home. And, to be fair, it's still in my honorable mention group, even for that lack.

I also wish Alice had been a bit more appealing. She could have been the bulwark of logical in the midst of chaos, but she made no more sense than anyone else. And she was cranky, which might have been fine if she had had some other appealing quality, like a biting sarcasm.

In any case, it's a manga worth the read (to me) but not desperation in trying to get it in print. In my opinion.


  • SilverMuse603

    Actually, this series has been re-licensed!! Yen Press will kick off the series with the first volume sometime this summer. I can't remember if it's June or July, but somewhere in there. When I saw that, I thought I might give this series a try.

    I think now that's it being re-released, I might pick it up as it comes out. From your review (and everything else I've heard about it), it sounds like I'll like it, even if I don't love it.

  • SilverMuse603

    Just looked it up, and it looks like they're releasing the whole series on June 26th in three bunkobon volumes. Sweet. Maybe I'll think about getting them all in one go then. :)

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