By Quin Rose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan as “Joker no Kuni no Alice – Circus to Usotsuki Game” by Ichijinsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Zero-Sum. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
As I’ve noted before, I’m enjoying the Alice series a lot more than I’d expected to. I think one reason may be its similarity to the Higurashi series, another favorite of mine. Both franchises based on ‘visual novel’-type games, and made into manga series where the continuity reboots with each new incarnation. The Alice books, however, haven’t really tied into each other the way Higurashi does – you don’t really need to read them in order, and you can simply pick the series with your favorite guy and only read that one without missing much. Now, though, we have Alice dealing with a new antagonist, Joker, and this very much ties into the previous series, and rewards readers/players who are well-versed in it.
It may come as a surprise, then, to see the volume begin with what amounts to a giant 80-90 page recap of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland to date, from her abduction by Peter to her present life working in the Heart Palace (yes, she’s there in this iteration, not the Clocktower, the Amusement Park, or the Hatter Mansion). We meet the entire main cast, get a brief precis as to who they are and what their damage is, and see how they interact with Alice (who hasn’t fallen for anyone here – romance is, so far, not in the cards in this setup). It’s given a wraparound of Alice reading her diary and reminiscing about the past, which works all right. However, this doesn’t seem like filler but more a way of putting the basic concepts of Wonderland in the reader’s mind before the creators start fiddling with them.
Because it’s April, the Circus is coming to town, and Alice’s memories are starting to go a bit wonky. She’s currently in the country of Clover, yet runs into Julius and Gowland, neither of whom should technically be there. It would appear that this is merely a function of the season, but the arrival of the circus to town might also be a reason – a circus with two creepy children and their master, the titular Joker. We met Joker in a small cameo in the original Alice series, but this is the first time dealing with him in the flesh. He’s a smug trickster-type character, and no doubt will be driving Alice nuts as the series goes on. More to the point, Joker and his two assistants ask Alice why she’s staying in Wonderland and not returning to her world. We get a bit more detail about her life pre-Wonderland here, including a touchingly sad side-story detailing her crush on her tutor, and her sister’s role in it. Again, we see that all of the main male cast seem dedicated to her NOT thinking of her sister, and I have a feeling Joker might try to sabotage that. (Of course, the fate of her sister is about as much of a spoiler by this point as Higurashi’s main villain – if you haven’t figured it out yet, read the main series again.)
This is a more serious and mystery-oriented incarnation of the Alice series, with only one sexual innuendo from the Hatter (a new low!). This isn’t to say it’s without humor, however. Alice’s reaction to Peter’s assault at the start is amusing enough to take the taste of creepy away a bit, and the Hatter’s way of showing her she’s being appalling by comparing him with her tutor is fantastic. There’s also an amusing side-story showing what the series would be like if Alice was a tiny cute little girl instead – let’s just say less romance and more adorable. But the main reason to read Alice, as always, is for the mind games the world brings with it, and this series promises to be the best one yet in delivering them.