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.
(Note: this reviews mentions THAT Alice spoiler later on. You know the one.)
Now that this series has finally come to an end, I think it’s a good time to take a look at it in a larger context. Volume-wise, it’s the longest Alice series to date. However, many of these volumes were bloated up with side stories – some featuring Alice and Boris, some not – to the point where I suspect the actual content would struggle to make it to 5 volumes if put together on its own. Overall, I think the series was successful, but its tendency to meander and focus on the romance over the darker themes make it perhaps midrange in overall quality. Let’s see if we can pin down what it did best.
First off, the premise of the Clover world spinoffs (as opposed to Hearts) is that Alice has been there longer and is finding love with someone she already has a friendship with, as opposed to a sudden passionate love. I think it does a pretty good job of that here – much as I’m not a fan of the romance part of this series in general, the author does a good job of showing us Alice and Boris’ friendship, and how that’s affected by their growing love. It also shows off dealing with Boris’ cat-like tendencies – he can wander off, or seem aloof, and is quite changeable – as well as Alice’s mood swings and anger issues. And, of course, jealousy. It didn’t really knock me out, but as a romance it’s perfectly sweet.
The other thing I think this manga did very well is the attention that it gave to the ‘faceless’ inhabitants of Wonderland. Our view of this world has almost entirely come from Alice and the 12 ‘role-holders’, all of whom are naturally drawn to her by their very existence. The faceless are meant to be bodies filling out the story, so unimportant they don’t even get eyes. And yet Alice can tell then apart, something that mildly astounds everyone else. What’s more, here they are shown to have goals and lives beyond support of the heroes and heroine. Some are plotting a takeover against the hatter, some are jealous of Alice’s ability to get someone to love her whether she likes it or not, and some are just doing a job, even if it means their death. I’m still not certain about the faceless overall, but I have a much greater understanding of them after reading this.
And then there’s Lorina. This is the second book we’ve seen recently where Alice is shown abandoning the real world and staying in Wonderland with her love. I’ve discussed how this makes me slightly uncomfortable, something I think is entirely intentional on the author’s part. Cheshire Cat Waltz is not as dark and twisted as, say, Joker and Liar’s Game, however, so we see Alice, who’s having another post-traumatic breakdown, visited by Lorina’s spirit, who reassures her that it’s OK to forget and move on, and that her death (looks, it’s been 15+ books, I am now prepared to reveal the horrible secret of the Alice books) was not Alice’s fault. So her stay in Wonderland is couched in terms that make it look less like escaping from reality and more like accepting this is her new reality. How you feel about that depends on how you view the Alice series as a whole, I think.
As for the major drawback of the series, well, it meanders. It meanders even more than my reviews do. And just when each volume seems to be leading up to an exciting bit, the story ends halfway through so that we can get either side-stories of Alice and Boris in the Hearts world, or even worse, Crimson Empire side-stories that have nothing to do with this world at all. Read all at once, it must be more tolerable. Read over the course of a year, it’s a mess.
Still, overall, I’m pleased to have read this. Alice and Boris are cute, and it fleshed out the personalities of the non-Hatter cast a lot more. (The Hatter cast got a lot to do as well, but they always do.) It’s a good read for fans of the series. Just be prepared for the story to start and stop a lot.