Thursday, March 4, 2010

Manga Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 2

Originally released in Japan in 2008, Alice in the Country of Hearts (Wonderful Wonder World) provided to be a rather unique look at the Alice in Wonderland tale. Written by QuinRose and illustrated by Soumei Hoshino, we received the first volume of the English translation from Tokyopop recently. Well, the second installment is upon us now, and that's the true test of any manga. Does Alice live up to the expectations set by the premier?

The first volume of the book was an entertaining piece that left a lot of questions unanswered. There's a mystery at play here, and even after reading the second book I can honestly say we only have partial answers. In case you missed it, let's recap what transpired in the first installment.

Basically Alice was kidnapped by a guy with bunny ears named Peter White. The fell down a deep chasm and Alice soon found herself being force-fed a potion which involved her in a game of sorts. She's unable to leave Wonderland until the game is complete, or so she's told. What transpired from this point was Alice's discovery of the world and her meeting of its various inhabitants. There's the Hatter who runs the mafia, the Queen who controls the kingdom, Mary Gowland who operates an amusement park, and Julius the mysterious man in the Clock Tower. For each of those main players there are also secondary ones such as Ace, Elliot, the twins, and Boris the cat boy. As Alice makes friends in Wonderland the vial of potion refills slightly, and it's only when it's filled that she'll be able to leave. Interesting, huh?

The second volume of Alice in the Country of Hearts kicks off right where the first one left off with Alice at the Hatters for a tea party. Elliot lets his guard down and shows his true colors around Alice, and the Hatter does to an extent as well. Alice finds herself confused about some parts of their conversation, but leaves on good terms with talk of love in the air. It's clear that just about everyone in Wonderland is smitten with Alice in some way or another, and in the case of the Hatter it would seem that his love is a dangerous thing.

Peter seems to be the most obsessive about his feelings for Alice, however. Several times in this volume he appears either to look for her when she's not around, or hits on her when she's right in front of him. Throughout it all though, he seems to be genuinely pleased even to not be with her as long as she's happy. He often comes to her defense when she thinks someone will do her wrong. It's charming in a way, despite his being a perverted creep and all.

What really stands out in this installment is the revelation about clocks in the world. As an outsider Alice is shown to be one of the only people in all of Wonderland with an actual heartbeat. It would seem that every person we've met so far as a clock for their ticker, and that puts an even more mysterious spin on the Clock Tower and Julius. He repairs people's clocks when they are killed in order to allow them to be reborn in another body. It's interesting, yet haunting in a way, and we even get to see impressions of this work from characters such as Peter and Elliot. What this holds for the future installments of the series remains to be seen, but I'm sure this will be a major factor in the story since it's made such a big deal of in this volume.

Once again the artwork and translation of this book are downright awesome. The quality is on par with expectations set by the first volume and all around it's a very entertaining read. It's a rather wordy manga and as such it lasts a bit longer than others, so that's a definitely plus as well. All in all if you ever enjoyed Alice in Wonderland, then Alice in the Country of Hearts will most likely be right up your alley. It's engaging, mysterious, and extraordinarily unique in many ways. Give it a shot if you haven't read it yet and you may be pleasantly surprised!

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by Tokyopop. Alice in the Country of Hearts
is rated OT (Older Teen 16+) for Mild Sexuality, Mild Violence, and Moderate Gore.

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