Alice In The Country Of Hearts Omnibus, Vol. 3

By Quin Rose and Soumei Hoshino, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan as “Heart no Kuni no Alice ~Wonderful Wonder World~” by Mag Garden, serialized in the magazine Comic Blade Avarus. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I have a sad confession to make. You see… I forgot to spoil myself for the end of this manga. I know, it sounds unusual. After all, you are my faithful readers, and know me well. You know that I traditionally spoil myself rotten. And indeed, later on in this review I will be discussing ‘the big spoiler’, be warned. But when Tokyopop released Vol. 5 of this series, they hadn’t yet gone under, and there wasn’t as big a need to find out what was going on. Afterwards, well, I just forgot to. What this means, though, is that for once I came at an ending with no idea what would happen, and thus managed to be both surprised and pleased. Which is especially surprising given the ending’s hardly happy…

In a previous review of this series, I had noted that what I enjoyed most about it was that all of Alice’s choices for her ‘reverse harem’ were so broken. And even though there was a good deal of ‘and she changes them with her pure heart and friendship’ to it – this is still an adaptation of an otome game, after all – many of them stayed pleasantly psychotic and bloodthirsty anyway. Indeed, Ace was probably my favorite character, as he recognizes and is actively fighting against what Alice represents. There’s also some good backstory given throughout, especially regarding Blood Dupre, Vivaldi, and Eliot March. You get the sense that life actually happened before Alice arrived, which is hard to achieve in a setting like this.

I understand, having spoiled myself NOW, that fans of the games were a little annoyed at the opaqueness of the manga, especially towards the end. There’s apparently a whole lot left out about the nature of Peter White, etc. (Which doesn’t seem to bother me as much, mostly as I loathe Peter White. The manga apparently turned up the ‘jerk’ level on several characters, and he was the worst of them.) This is the nature of such adaptation, though, and I recall Higurashi fans being similarly annoyed with the anime. The question is whether one can get a gleaning of what actually happened from what the manga writer givens us. And I think the answer is yes, though it’s only a gleaning. (Apparently the manga writer didn’t understand the game’s ending.)

Here’s where I talk spoilers, by the way.

We’ve had Alice in Wonderland for most of the manga series, but occasionally she gets these pangs of conscience that she really should “wake up” and return to the real world, as her big sister is waiting for her. And as she interacts with the others, the vial she was given at the start fills up with liquid. When it’s full, she can return. And so she does, despite some misgivings, and others telling her not to, and those strange headaches she gets sometimes. And when she returns, she finds… well, actually, she doesn’t. Blood Dupre goes screaming off grumpily into the ‘real world’ after her and forces her to return. Having gotten approval to do this by Nightmare, who can now ‘Seal Off’ Alice’s memories again. And then we see her older sister in a coffin.

And suddenly the entire premise is thrown on its ear. Suddenly instead of ‘a teenage girl lands in a magical fantasy land where she must decide which hot guy she likes best’, it would seem that the land itself is attempting to prevent Alice from sinking into what is presumably hopeless despair in the real world, and that her sitting with her sister having tea and talking books is actually the dream. And that the vial which fills up as Alice interacts with the others is likely to be filling with ALICE’S feelings, not the guys falling for her. And we see why she gets so upset when all the others in Wonderland keep trying to murder each other (well, besides the usual reason anyone would).

So what we have here is a bunch of sociopathic clockwork people attempting to rise above their station and change themselves, even though that is completely impossible, and also help to heal the heart of a broken and damaged young woman devastated at a death in the family by sealing off her memory and keeping her in a fantasy world filled with blood and chaos. And that’s fantastic. Discomfiting, but fantastic. In short, this manga is more for Higurashi fans than for, say, Ouran fans. Highly recommended, and re-reading all 3 omnibuses in one stroke definitely helps as well.

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