Are You Alice?, Vol. 1

By Ikumi Katagiri and Ai Ninomiya. Released in Japan by Ichijinsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Zero-Sum. Released in North America by Yen Press.

I have often joked in the past about how North American licensors will pick up any manga with the word ‘Vampire’ in the title. It’s now looking as if that may apply to two other genres that are exploding over here: Alice in Wonderland pastiches, and survival games. Alice in the Country of Hearts sells quite well, and BTOOOM!/High School Of The Dead/Battle Royale/Doubt stuff has been in Yen’s wheelhouse for some time. As such, this book may be one of the least surprising licenses of all time. Shame it’s so dull.


In its favor, the book does seem to get the dreamlike atmosphere and the sense that it would make more sense if only you could figure out the rules of the world. It’s also drawn quite well, with lots of pretty boys being crafty and/or manacing while looking really hot. (This ran in Zero-Sum, one of those “BL only not really” magazines Japan has.) Unlike Alice from the ‘Country Of’ series, this Alice seems to have a very clear awareness of his past in the real world, and is quite willing to do anything to escape it. That said, he’s running into problems, mostly as everyone else in this world is so smug and aggravating.

I’ve read books that start off with everyone being unlikeable before, but never have I had such a sense that this is where they’re going to be in 5-6 books time. And Alice is 7+ volumes and still running in Japan, so that’s quite an investment to have in these guys. For a lead character, Alice sure does come across as a whiny brat. The Mad Hatter’s stoicness seems more like malaise, the Cheshire Cat is amazingly two-faced… I did like The Duchess, but not only does it look like we won’t see much more of her, but it’s somewhat aggravating that the only female character in the entire series is the one placed in peril, and indeed Alice is specifically told “Your weapon cannot protect her, it can only kill”.

But my biggest problem with the series is that 200 pages later, I’m still not really sure where this is going beyond a cat and mouse game. Alice has to kill the White Rabbit in order to stay in this land (presumably Wonderland, though the backgrounds look more like an Italian cityscape than any Wonderland I’ve seen before), but they don’t meet here, so there’s no emotional investment behind it. Indeed, Alice doesn’t seem emotionally invested in much of anything, which is fine if you’re bouncing off a bunch of freaks and weirdos in the cast (say, like the Country Of series), but in a series like this where everyone else is equally detached, it leaves the reader with nothing to grab.

If I was a BL fanfic writer, I’d probably love this series. There’s lots of hot pretty guys who could get into a relationship, and none of that pesky character development that makes writing canon fics harder. They’re just two-dimensional enough to make flesh9ing out an appealing choice. I hope that in future volumes the authors might also try to do something with them, because for now, this is all flash, no substance.

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