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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — Alice in the Country of Hearts vol 1

Today’s “romance” manga is not only a shojo re-telling of Alice in Wonderland (which I just know will annoy MarkAndrew to no end!) but a great commentary on the inherent creepiness of “harem” titles.

Alice in the country

Alice in the Country of Hearts, by Soumei Hoshino and Quinrose, re-imagines every “male” character from the Alice in Wonderland books as a dreamy but not altogether right-in-the-head fellow who is destined to fall in love with a fairly pedestrian Alice Liddell.  Alice is forcefully dragged to Wonderland from her idyllic (although rather isolated) life by Peter White, otherwise known as the “White Rabbit,” who claims to love Alice and wants her to keep her in Wonderland forever.  Alice, who is no pushover, stridently rejects his romantic overtures but not before he can trick her into drinking the potion that keeps her in Wonderland playing a strange “game.”

From the dangerous Mad Hatter to the obtuse White Rabbit, all the male characters in this world are fascinated by Alice because she is an “outsider,” although their idea of how to express their “love” (which is really just interest or perhaps attraction to difference) ranges from kidnapping to death threats.  When she’s informed by the character “Nightmare” that while Wonderland existed independently of her — i.e. it isn’t just her dream — the men here will all fall in love with her because she wished to be loved by everybody.   This is rather problematic since some of these attractive men are completely unsavory characters, many of them armed to the teeth, since this version of Wonderland is comprised of a set of fiefdoms that are constantly at war with each other.

This is an incredibly un-romantic romance since everyone is under orders from the universe to fall for Alice no matter what, which means it is hard to see any relationship as “real” or sustaining.  The characters all seem to be playing their own game while Alice struggles to learn the rules and assert sanity into the various rituals the characters insist upon performing.   While Alice is surprisingly likeable, the members of her “harem” tend toward the mysterious, if not outright sinister.  Reverse harems are becoming rather common place in shojo manga, so it is amusing to see this one so completely mock the conventions of the traditional shojo romance.  The first guy to set eyes on Alice is a big old creep and the handsomest, dreamiest guy around may be a serial killer (I find this both creepy and hilarious).  Although the title has a few problems — such as the warring factions in Wonderland plot, which doesn’t really make much sense — I enjoyed the fact that there may be no Prince Charming to save Alice from trouble.  This gives me hope that this version of Alice will save herself, much like her original did in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

14 Comments

1) Ooku had a harem. You were right that was pretty great.

2) Oh Come On! Everyone and their damn dog is remaking Alice in Wonderland – I swear there’s at least seven different American comic companies releasing “Alice” related product in the last couple years. You’re not going to be better than the original. You’re not going to be CREEPIER than Alice in Wonderland. Give it up! Find another 19th Century British Children’s book to work with!

1) Isn’t our library great?! I love that they have Ooku and I’m really glad you liked it (I’m going to convert the world to Yoshinaga-readers, one person at a time!)

2) Probably but I found this adaptation amusing because it plays on the shojo convention of every single available male falling for the heroine. Here that is very much not a good thing.

That probably makes it better than every other Alice knock-off I have ever read. (Not saying much, but stilll…)

Yeah, I got Ooku and I said “This looks AWFUL.” Long conversation with Leiden about how dumb it looked. But I ended up really liking it a lot.

By the way, Danielle, if I can remain off-topic, the second volume of Ooku was excellent. Better than the first, and I liked the first quite a bit. I’m looking forward to the next one!

Oh, Greg and MarkAndrew have made my day with all the Ooku love!

Greg — Yeah, the second volume was a big punch to the gut for me. It was so shockingly harsh but then there’s hints of redemption at the end…can’t wait to read volume 3 when it comes out in April.

MarkAndrew — I hope you told Leiden…um, whoever that is? That Ooku is Awesome and you were WRONG, WRONG, WRONG to every hint otherwise!!!! ;-) (seriously, my SOUL HURTS at the thought you said bad things about Yoshinaga manga *sniffs*).

Ooku is that alternate japanese history manga right? How is it (beside just being “really good” or “awesome”)?
I’m still enjoying 20th Century Boys and Pluto to no end. I’ve finished volume five of each series respectively. I’m even considering checking out Monster once i’ve baught all the current volumes of Boys and Pluto.
But please, someone tell me more about Ooku. Danielle, have you reviewed some of it on CSBG?

Hi Mario — Yup, I’ve reviewed volumes 1 and 2 here:

vol 1:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/08/17/danielle-leighs-reading-diary-ooku-the-inner-chamber-vol-1/

vol 2:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/12/12/danielle-leighs-reading-diary-ooku-volume-2/

I’m hoarding volumes 1-10 of Monster, I want to get the last 8 volumes (I think it is 18 volumes total?) and just have a big old marathon. (I’ve been watching the anime, released by Viz, and loving it).

You guys really should meet. She’s the only other person in IC that I regularly talk about comics with.

Anyway, FINE, you were right. No need to all rub it in.

MarkAndrew — Hell, I’m DELIGHTED you liked it (I bragged about it on twitter even!)

Mario — My comment to you is waiting moderation because I’ve directly linked to my reviews of Ooku (eventually should show up. You can also google Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary and Ooku and reviews of vol 1 and 2 sill show up!)

Oh good. I am a source of delight.

Dammit, I was trying to do a smiley face there, and missed.

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This is an incredibly un-romantic romance since everyone is under orders from the universe to fall for Alice no matter what, which means it is hard to see any relationship as “real” or sustaining.

I like this quote a lot! I couldn’t help imagining the series with, say, the protagonist of Haruka in it or something. A ditzy, clumsy girl who’d get all flustered by all these hawt boys fawning all over her. What a lovely surprise that it doesn’t happen like that!

Thanks! As I said in the comments above, I couldn’t help feel this title purposefully mocks reverse-harems (seriously. I’m not kidding when I said I think the Mad Hatter is a serial killer!)

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