Alice in the Country of Hearts has had a solid showing in North America, and in June 2012 we got the reprint of the entire series from Yen Press. With gorgeous new art and better translations I just couldn’t help but dive into this series from Quin Rose that takes a wild tumble down the rabbit hole.
The Gist: Alice falls asleep in the garden only to be kidnapped by a white rabbit. When he takes her down the rabbit hole, he coerces her into drinking a potion to make her stay in the Country of Hearts. In order to be able to leave, she must interact with the residents of the country until the vial is full of liquid once again. Alice wanders into a bunch of trigger happy, violent characters that fight over her attention and presence. As she learns the eccentricities of the main players in this game, she uncovers a fondness for the inhabitants of the Country of Hearts. When time comes for her to leave, will she choose to stay or go?
The Characters/Romance: While Quin Rose’s story uses some of the familiar characters from Lewis Carroll’s classic, the personalities and idiosyncrasies of her characterizations offer a whole different take on Alice’s adventure. With the devaluing of life in this Country of Hearts, deaths are a common occurrence. It’s not just the Queen of Hearts screaming “Off with Her Head!”, it’s the whole cast fully equipped with blazing guns, flying axes, and deadly swords. Although the quixotic characters don’t hesitate to shoot, they begin to falter when they meet and get to know Alice. While the plot may seem frivolous at points, there is a further meaning behind the characters and Alice’s adventure. It just takes the entire six volumes for Quin Rose to alude to this. That is why some readers may lose interest before the final volume.
Quin Roses’s shoujo take on the story creates a reverse harem where everyone one, the queen included, falls in love with Alice. As the main protagonist, I found Alice to be strong-willed and opinionated. She is very optimistic about the people she encounters. She has bouts of bravery that occur whenever she is faced with alarming evidence, or adverse situations. Yet, I found her a little too vulnerable. She ends up in compromising situations for the benefit of our harem romance, when I think her character would make wiser decisions.
The cast of active characters includes Peter White the rabbit, Blood Dupre the mad hatter, Elliot the March Hare, Boris the Cheshire cat, Tweedle Dee and Dum, Vivaldi the Queen of Hearts, Julius the clock maker, Mary Gowland the amusement park owner, and Ace the Knight of Hearts.
Alice in the Country of Hearts is not a heart pounding romance, but it does provide plenty of attractive matches for our heroine. Being a reverse harem all the bishies crush on Alice, but Peter White is most insistent. Alice shows most interest in Blood Dupre, seeing as he resembles someone from her reality. She also forms bonds with Boris, Julius and Vivaldi.
The Art: My favorite element of this series is the fantastic art by Soumei Hoshino. Striking characterizations and costuming. Effective use of toning. The line art is clean and the paneling flows. The colored pieces are superb. I can’t rave enough about Hoshino’s style. It really takes the story to another level.
The Audience: Yen Press has a rating of older teen on this series. This is most likely due to the amount of violence. The characters have little value for life, so there are several scenes where someone is shot down or cut down. The characters may become covered in blood. That would not be a pretty picture for the young ones. The few romantic scenes in the series rate it as cuddly on the love scale.
The Media: Alice in the Country of Hearts was first published by Tokyopop in five volumes, but was never completed. The complete series has been reprinted by Yen Press in 2012 in three omnibus editions, covering all six volumes. The sequels and further adventures of Alice are being released by Seven Seas publishing. The series was adapted from a visual novel video game that was first released in 2007. Since the first game there have been four more sequels and an animated movie. That means there’s a lot of material to work from. I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot more to come from Quin Rose.
Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥
Wonderful to look at and entertaining to boot, Alice in the Country of Hearts won’t leave you napping any time soon!