Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter’s Late Night Tea Party, Vol. 1

By Quin Rose and Riko Sakura, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan as “Heart no Kuni no Alice – Boushiya to Shinya no Ochakai” by Ichijinsha. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

We have now had about seven or eight spinoffs to the Alice series, most of them being variations on “well, what if Alice fell in love with this person instead?”. It’s been so long, in fact, that we may have forgotten that the original manga adaptation was pretty definitive about Blood Dupre being the canonical love interest, and its 6 volumes revolved around that. Of course, being an otome game adaptation, the manga can easily delight in all the possible routes. But it does mean that this spinoff, also dealing with Alice and Blood, is coming to us with a handicap: is there anything introduced here that we can’t get in the main series?


That’s not the only handicap, unfortunately. I’ve said before that I prefer Alice when it’s a psychological mystery rather than when it’s “which hot guy do I want to go out with”, and despite occasional attempts at a plot, this is very much the second. Alice is clearly attracted to Blood, with only his resemblance to her old tutor and his blunt ways holding her back. And even that doesn’t last long – Alice and Blood are in bed halfway through this first volume. (Again, I note that I am pleased that the series allows Alice to be sexually active without shaming or punishing her for it – probably a benefit to running in Ichijinsha’s josei line, where this sort of thing wouldn’t be out of place.)

As for Blood, well, he’s a charming rogue, and thus has the usual charming rogue issues. He’s attracted to Alice and wants her around, but demands control, and is jealous when she sees other men – particularly Julius. Yes, this is a Hearts world, so the clockmaker is back in the story, and everyone still hates him. I’ve mentioned before how much of this is due to the metatext of the game – his status as a neutral party, his connection with death that might remind Alice of why she’s in Wonderland in the first place – but this is a romance rather than a mystery, so honestly it’s mostly just the fact that they’re different types. Julius offers Alice peace and relaxation, something that Blood simply cannot provide.

There’s a lot of old ground gone over again – this being the Hatter Route, we get the subplot involving his secret relationship with Vivaldi again, as well as his ability to fluster and enrage alice simply by opening his mouth. If you’re a fan of Blood Dupre, you may want to give this a try, but for those wondering if this is a required read as an Alice fan, I’d have to say no. You get most of what happens here in the main series. (I was amused to see that this seems to be the only non-BL series the artist has drawn – she specializes in smutty yaoi.) I still like the Alice series, but the spinoffs are running out of ways to charm me.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Clockmaker’s Story

By Quin Rose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru, based on the game by Quin Rose. Released in Japan as “Anniversary no Kuni no Alice – Tokeiya” by Ichijinsha. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

You would think that I would have run out of things to say about these volumes. Sometimes I have, when they’re particularly pointless – see last month’s batch of Bookshelf Briefs for my opinion of the Ace spinoff – but there always seem to be a few nuggets of interest to keep me going. It also helps that this volume focuses on one of my favorite of Alice’s romantic choices, Julius Monrey, the clockmaker. (In case you’re wondering about the ‘Anniversary’ thing in the Japanese title, it’s what they called the updated PS3 version of Alice in the Country of Hearts.)


The basic premise won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s read the previous spinoffs of this endless otome game series. Alice is trying to get away from an oppressive Peter White at Heart Castle, so she asks Julius if she can stay at the clocktower for a while. He agrees, and they gradually begin to open up to each other. As their relationship deepens, however, Alice has to not only deal with her own feelings, and the fact that her beloved is not the type to take the initiative, but also realize that Julius is hated by a large number of folks throughout Wonderland. Can she come to terms with what his job really entails? And what of her ever-present need to return to her sister?

Julius is a rarity in the set of Wonderland males that Alice runs into. He’s passive, introverted, and taciturn. He will happily stay in his tower for weeks, just working on clocks and sleeping when he remembers to. After several stories with Blood, or Ace, or the twins, or Eliot, or Boris, he feels like a breath of fresh air. He also causes Alice to need to be more proactive, rather than simply have the love interest be aggressive consistently until she gives in. There’s lots of adorable scenes here.

Also, he’s a mortician. Who can resurrect the dead. Only not really. Wonderland’s weird world, where everyone has clocks instead of hearts, and people can be ‘resurrected’ but aren’t quite the same people they were before, makes almost everyone uncomfortable, and that gets taken out on Julius. He’s clearly not doing this for fun, but it’s his role, and he regards it as necessary. But in a way, hanging out with him is keeping Alice in a constant shadow of death – something that I imagine makes Peter quite nervous, given what they’re all trying to make Alice not remember.

This one-shot also has an unusual ending in that, when Alice confesses her love, she chooses to remain in Wonderland and stop trying to return to her own world. Which she’s done before, but in this case the vial filled with people’s feelings that she carries around throughout the game is seen in the final shot to be shattered at her feet. It’s a striking image, showing that there’s no going back. I will admit I’m not entirely happy with the basic premise of the series being ‘if she remembers her traumatic past that makes it a bad end’, which seems to romanticize denial more than I’d like. Still, it does make for a good capper on what has been a fairly enjoyable, if slight, story.

There are also two Crimson Empire stories at the end. Luckily, they are shorter in length than they were in the Ace book. I say luckily as they were incredibly boring and tedious. Alas, you’re better off with Alice than Sheila.

Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar’s Game, Vol. 1

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.