By Quin Rose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan as “Clover no Kuni no Alice – Cheshire Neko to Waltz” by Ichijinsha. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
I was less than impressed with the first spinoff from the Alice books, Bloody Twins. This second one promises a much longer and more involved plotline – it’s 7+ volumes in Japan – and like the heart volumes has Alice bonding with a lot of people while clearly being romantically paired off with only one of them. Here it’s Boris, the Cheshire Cat of Alice’s dream world.
The premise, supposedly, of the ‘Clover’ world is that the player, playing Alice, did not actually pick anyone while playing the ‘Hearts’ game – which involved a love based on passion. So the world changes to the ‘Clover’ country, where Alice once again interacts with most of the cast she knows (Julius is gone, and I missed him), along with a few new characters, and tries to see if she can find a love based on ‘companionship’. The manga thus fairly unapologetically plots out one of the ‘routes’ you can take as Alice in the game.
What this means in terms of an actual manga plotline is that Alice is uprooted from her comfortable life at the amusement park (as I said, different world from the Hearts manga) and dumped into a lonely forest. Much of this first volume involves her fear and uncertainty at having her life turned upside down right after she decided to stay there and not return home to her sister. Luckily, she eventually finds Boris, and through a series of wacky situations, ends up staying at the Hatter’s place and getting a new job.
Like Bloody Twins, this manga is focused far more on the romance than the Hearts manga. Alice’s sister is mentioned once or twice, but the implication we get at the end of Hearts is never brought up. Instead, we get the Hatter, and the Twins, and above all Boris, all trying to get into Alice’s pants. I’d mentioned in Bloody Twins that there was a far more sexually suggestive air to the book, and that continues here – at one point the Hatter says ‘So maybe you’ll *stay* if I make you *come*’ and his implication is clear. Of course, this manga series – and the original games – were written for female fans, not male ones. As a result, the tendency to try to keep all the harem characters virgins so as not to offend male otaku is absent. Nothing actually happens here, but I would not be terribly surprised if Alice and Boris come together – so to speak – in the future.
This volume does tend to get a little aimless at times, and risks being as light and frothy as Bloody Twins was. The good thing, though, is that it’s not afraid to show how emotionally damaged all its cast is. Alice and Boris are both filled with doubts and unfulfilled needs, and can’t communicate well at all – part of Alice’s worries are that Boris doesn’t love her as much because he’s a cat deep down. Meanwhile, thankfully Peter White and Ace are both in this universe as well, and they’re as insane as ever – Peter is the worst stalker ever, and Ace always seems to be one step away from a mass murder spree. If the title can balance its romantic comedy elements with the discomfort at its heart, it should prove just as fun as the original.