Manga Review: My Little Monster Vol. 6

There’s the type of shojo manga where a girl really can envision herself as the heroine. And then there are those where the characters are constantly going off the deep end. My Little Monster falls into the latter category, and if your taste in high school romance leans toward the improbable and wacky, this title might be up your alley. Kodansha  has just released Volume 6 of the English translation, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Valentine’s Day, which is coincidentally Shizuku’s birthday, fast approaches and the girls decide to cook up some truelove chocolates for the boys of their desire. A fun cooking party gets awkward and tense when Oshima-san and Shizuku confront the fact that they’re both making chocolates for Haru! Will Oshima back down as she always does? Given Haru’s obsession with Shizuku, will it even matter?

The Review

Volume 5 had a Natsume-centric chapter, and Sasayan gets a turn in Volume 6. Of the cast, he’s my favorite character, mainly because he’s the most normal. Despite this chance to get inside his head, why he decided to join Haru’s circle remains unclear. Yet he genuinely wants the best for Haru. His bringing Haru along for an afternoon with the guys not only shows how far Haru’s come (and has yet to go) but how considerate Sasayan is toward him. Still, despite his keen perception, Sasayan’s a high school kid, and there’s a particularly funny panel where he and Haru both gripe about girl problems.

The girls have their own problems with the arrival of Valentine’s Day, which is generally the setting for chocolates and confessions. Even though it also happens to be Shizuku’s birthday, the arc begins with a focus on secondary character Oshima. After a rather artistic and revealing chocolate making session at Shizuku’s house, Oshima makes the uncharacteristically bold move of calling Haru out on Valentine’s Day. Their meeting is anything but romantic, yet Haru moves Oshima with his own brand of consideration while Oshima imparts insight that helps Haru a step further to becoming a more aware human being.

The story then shifts to Shizuku’s Valentines/birthday celebration. Interestingly, her thoughts seem equally split between Haru and her ever absent mother. A series of flashbacks reveal more of Shizuku’s childhood, and though you have to wonder what exactly Shizuku’s mom does for a living, Robico-sensei paints a poignant picture of the restraint Shizuku exercises whenever her mother’s concerned. As such, she’s especially vulnerable when Haru surprises her, and thanks to recent lessons learned through Sasayan and Oshima, Haru manages to make it a sweetly memorable Valentines night for them both.

Extras include bonus four-panel comics, two short bonus manga, an afterword from the mangaka, and translation notes.

In Summary

Haru is slowly expanding his horizons. Volume 6 is mainly Haru-induced wackiness and embarrassment as his friends guide him on how to function within society. Fortunately, some of their lessons actually get through and pay off in a major way in an unexpectedly tender Valentine’s Day moment.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: My Little Monster Vol. 5

There’s the type of shojo manga where a girl really can envision herself as the heroine. And then there are those where the characters are constantly going off the deep end. My Little Monster falls into the latter category, and if your taste in high school romance leans toward the improbable and wacky, this title might be up your alley. Kodansha  has just released Volume 5 of the English translation, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Shizuku is now more determined than ever to make Haru aware of her love for him, but Haru is too preoccupied with fending off Yamaken to notice! Shizuku thinks Haru has nothing to worry about, but competitive above all, Yamaken has some plans of his own. Meanwhile, blossoming feelings turn the popular but romance-hating Natsume into a maiden in love?

The Review

Winter break is over, and the new year starts off with a chapter on Natsume. She may not be interested in dating high school boys, but an older man, specifically Mitchan, is something else entirely. The opening chapter spends a lot of time in Natsume’s head and includes flashbacks of the incidents that got her ostracized by her female classmates. While Natsume fans will enjoy this arc, it doesn’t include any huge revelations, and the most interesting part is how oblivious Mitchan is about her feelings.

The focus then shifts to Haru’s past with the death anniversary of his aunt, Mitchan’s mom. She features prominently in an extended flashback, but it though she made a huge impact on Haru, exactly how she did it remains a mystery. What is glaringly obvious though is the dysfunction within the Yoshida family, and even on such a solemn occasion, Yuzan doesn’t fail to provoke his younger brother.

Then Yamaken and company return to liven up the last half of the book. As mentioned in a previous review, I’m surprised they didn’t disappear after the first volume, but they are now firmly in the cast lineup. Shizuku spends more time alone with Yamaken than Haru in this volume (not that Yamaken takes advantage of it), and the spoiled Kaimei Academy brats make possible an otherwise impossible outing for cash-strapped Shizuku: the group ski trip. After the angst and repressed emotions of the first half, having nearly the entire cast play in the snow is a welcome change. But amid the beginner snowboarding flailing, bear encounters, and Shizuku pining for her textbooks, Haru and Shizuku do get an unusually quiet moment of understanding.

Extras include bonus four-panel comics after each chapter, two short bonus manga, an afterword from the mangaka, and translation notes. In addition, printing on one page was particularly muddy, and typos continue to pop up in the text.

In Summary

The story goes all over the place with Natsume acting out on her feelings for Mitchan and more background on the Yoshida family. These detours seem to be Robico-sensei’s compensating for the slow progress in Haru and Shizuku’s relationship. Even after five volumes, their vibe hasn’t changed much, and meek Oshima and snobby Yamaken aren’t creating much love triangle tension. Still, the volume ends with unexpected progress for our lead pair amid a jolly ski trip.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Spear Among Spindles Now Available in Twice Upon A Time!

Spear Among Spindles was my very first published work, and it’s now available once more in The Bearded Scribe Press fairy tale retelling anthology, Twice Upon a Time!

Blurb:

Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn’t in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s?

Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

This collection features 43 short stories from the following cast of talented writers:

Bo Balder, AJ Bauers, Carina Bissett, Rose Blackthorn, S.M. Blooding, Rick Chiantaretto, Richard Chizmar, Liz DeJesus, Court Ellyn, S.Q. Eries, Steven Anthony George, Dale W. Glaser, Jax Goss, K.R. Green, Kelly Hale, Tonia Marie Harris, Brian T. Hodges, Tarran Jones, Jason Kimble, Shari L. Klase, Alethea Kontis, Hannah Lesniak, Wayne Ligon, RS McCoy, Joshua Allen Mercier, Robert D. Moores, Diana Murdock, Nick Nafpliotis, Elizabeth J. Norton, Bobbie Palmer, William Petersen, Rebekah Phillips, Asa Powers, Joe Powers, Brian Rathbone, Julianne Snow, Tracy Arthur Soldan, C.L. Stegall, Brian W. Taylor, Kenechi Udogu, Onser von Fullon, Deborah Walker, Angela Wallace, and Cynthia Ward.

Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover art by Luke Spooner.


Excerpt from Fire & Ash by Joshua Allen Mercier, a dark fantasy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood:

THE cold, autumn gusts ripped across Salem’s port, stirring the angry waters, stirring the angry spectators gathered before the gallows—gallows which had not, until this day, been used since the Trials several years back. Men, women, children—all bore hateful eyes and twisted faces. All bore a deep-seeded fear of the woman before them; they watched and seethed, anger building like fire fed by the winds, waiting for answers, for closure, for justice—for the devil’s death.

Constance Archer stared at the sea of faces; she despised all of them, save two—two faces that weren’t supposed to be there. Her daughters, Rhiannon and Rowan, hid in the small grove of trees, but she could still see their watery, green eyes piercing through the shadows, their stares stabbing their fear and pain and confusion into her. They weren’t supposed to see her like this. With the gag still tightly secured about her mouth, however, her muffled pleas for them to leave went unheard.

Where was their grandmother?

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Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Water Bottle

My husband has been traveling to Asia frequently for his new job and has fun bringing me various souvenirs. On his last trip, he dropped by the Nagoya Animate, a manga and anime store, and found this.

haikyu bottle front

Haikyu!! water bottle. Nekoma print to the left also obtained from Animate but not included with the bottle.

It’s a water bottle. ¥378 (approximately $3.50 US) is pretty steep for 350 mL of water, but this beverage container is the most interesting I’ve encountered since I discovered Ramune. He picked it up because we are avid fans of the Haikyu!! anime series, and fellow enthusiasts will recognize it as the uniform of Kenma Kozume from the Karasuno rival Nekoma.

Please note the defined buttock region

Please note the defined buttock region

It’s kind of cool, but at the same time weird. It’s missing arms and legs, but the body is quite defined. Defined meaning it sports a distinct outline of abs and buttocks. It’s weirder given that Kenma didn’t quite seem that ripped in the series.

I’m curious as to who the water bottle’s target audience is. Haikyu!! is a Shonen Jump title, which means its fan base is skewed towards guys, but I can’t imagine a middle school boy paying a premium to drink water out of a Kenma molded bottle.

Novel as it is, I’m at a loss as to what to do with it. Seems too nice to toss into the recycle, but I’m not reusing it (especially since it’d be super weird to be drinking out of a container with abs and buttocks.). I can sort of see it as a collectible, but  my non-otaku friends might be creeped out if they saw it on our mantel. For now, it’s in our bathroom as a reminder of what happens when anime and Japanese packaging technology collide.

Kiss of the Rose Princess Vol. 1 Manga Review

Magical girls and reverse harems are standard fare in shoujo manga, and you can find both in Aya Shouoto’s Kiss of the Rose Princess.

Back cover blurb

Anise Yamamoto has been told that if she ever removes the rose choker given to her by her father, a terrible punishment will befall her. Unfortunately she loses that choker when a bat-like being falls from the sky and hits her. Anise is granted four cards representing four knights whom she can summon with a kiss. But now that she has these gorgeous men at her beck and call, what exactly is her quest?

The Review

Shojo Beat’s lineup is generally pretty solid so I was surprised that Kiss of the Rose Princess fell short on so many levels. For starters, Shouoto-sensei’s artwork is so crowded it interferes with the storytelling. The actual drawings are cute enough, but she crams so many panels on each page and so much into each individual panel there’s no breathing space. With everything so cramped, the action gets obscured, and Shouoto-sensei winds up relying on character commentary (i.e., “Someone is emerging from the card?!”) to convey what is happening.

Then there is the plot. It has several key elements of a reverse harem paranormal. High school girl Anise Yamamoto literally collides with a magical creature and, as a result, winds up the liege of four enchanted knights that also happen to be her classmates. The details of the Contract of the Rose are many and complicated (she summons her Rose Knights by kissing special cards; they draw their power off her blood; and somehow a rose choker from her father fits into all this). On the flipside, she and her knights have no real goal or opponent. Without any threat hanging over Anise’s head (other than her father’s displeasure), the manga turns into a kind of sitcom with the Rose Knights inconveniencing Anise’s everyday life.

Speaking of the Rose Knights, their character designs are attractive enough, and we have a range of bishounen types (the quarrelsome classmate, the super popular school president, the delicate loli-shouta, the dark, moody upperclassman). However, there is no chemistry between Anise and her knights. In fact, with President Tenjo, originally Anise’s one true crush, the romance element turns to parody when she discovers he’s a freak. And though the knights do have powerful abilities, their only opportunities to use them is when jealous classmates to try to embarrass Anise so they come off as less than heroic.

Extras include the opening splash illustration and table of contents printed in color; a two-page manga about the mangaka and her editor; and a bonus illustration.

In Summary

Kiss of the Rose Princess has got a high school protagonist, four handsome knights, and an element of enchantment and destiny. It’s a standard recipe for a magical shojo title. However, the manga lacks a real antagonist. Without any sort of quest or goal, the characters spend their time thwarting various petty schemes, making for a less than epic story.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Yukarism Vol. 1 Manga Review

Geishas are an icon of Japanese culture that, although their heyday is long post, continues to fascinate Westerners to this day. If you’ve wondered about the lives of these flowers of Japan’s bygone pleasure districts, you may want to consider Chika Shiomi’s historical/time slip manga, Yukarism.

Back cover blurb

Yukari Kobayakawa, an accomplished author at the age of 17, writes with amazingly accurate details about historical Japan. It turns out he has the ability to travel back in time…to his past life as a renowned courtesan in the Edo period! As he goes back and forth between the past and present, he unravels the karmic relationship he has with his beautiful classmate Mahoro Tachibana…

The Review

Yukarism is part time travel story and part historical but doesn’t perfectly fall into either category. The main character is 17-year-old Yukari Kobayakawa who has already earned acclaim with his novels about the Edo period pleasure district. Although the details in his stories are amazingly accurate, he’s never done any research. He hasn’t had to. He suspects he must have lived there in a past life, and his suspicions are confirmed when he meets his classmate Mahoro Tachibana. An avid fan of his novels, she begs to shake his hand, and when he obliges, her touch sends him back into his previous life–as the renowned courtesan Yumurasaki!

Yukari’s forays to the past are like dreams but not quite. His current body doesn’t disappear (he merely seems to pass out), but when he slips into Yumurasaki’s body, he actually interacts with the people of that world as opposed to reliving her exact motions. From that standpoint, this manga should interest history enthusiasts because he experiences the Edo period from a 21st-century POV. Shiomi-sensei’s gorgeous illustrations do an excellent job of evoking that era and focusing on the things most likely to interest a modern person. Shiomi-sensei also uses Yukari’s 21st-century sensibilities for comic effect when he “breaks form” and uses modern mannerisms.

Yukari has no control over these sojourns into his previous life, but despite their suddenness, they don’t trouble him. Rather he is amused by the opportunity to visit the world of two hundred years ago, and even being of a different gender doesn’t bother him. For a main character, he’s not very proactive; things simply happen, and astounding though they are, he’s merely amused. In truth, he is a kind of spectator to the story. Thus far, his actions don’t drive the plot; Yumurasaki’s life and mysterious death do. However, she is already dead, and Yukari is living her next life so that doesn’t create much anxiety on his part.

As if to make up for Yukari’s lack of emotional intensity, Mahoro, Yumurasaki’s reincarnated body guard, worries enough for both of them. She essentially has the role of ordinary schoolgirl obsessed with the rich, talented, out of her league genius (Yukari is all these things). So when Yukari abruptly passes out or hugs near-strangers, she’s the one to put everything in perspective by having a freak out. The story looks like it will have a romantic component to it (Yumurasaki is a courtesan after all), but for now, there is no chemistry to be had between Mahoro and Yukari.

Extras include a bonus one-page manga, translation notes, and author bio.

In Summary

If you enjoyed the film Memoirs of a Geisha, Yukarism might be up your alley. The mangaka’s done her research, and watching Yukari struggle through Yumurasaki’s motions does illustrate the skill required of a courtesan 200 years ago. The plot is a bit weak in that Yukari acts more like a spectator than a main character, but for now, his curiosity about his past life is enough to maintain my interest in the story.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Dogs Vol. 1 Manga Review

From Bakuman to School Rumble, the manga/anime industry has been a popular subject of manga and anime in recent years. Now joining their ranks is Kodansha’s new manga series Manga Dogs!

Back cover blurb

Kanna Tezuka is a serious 15-year-old manga artist, already being published as a pro. So when she finds out her high school is starting a manga drawing course, even she gets excited. But it’s a fiasco! The teacher is useless, and the only other students—three pretty-boy artist wannabes—quickly adopt Kanna as their (unwilling) sensei. But they all have ridiculous delusions about being an artist, and if Kanna can’t bring them back down to Earth, she’ll never get any work done!

The Review

Manga Dogs is meant to be a comedy. Unfortunately for Kondansha, its humor tends to fall flat. This is partly because jokes involve a lot of cultural references–in particular, manga references that go back over half a century. For example, character names are twists on mangaka from the 1950s and 1960s. Then there’s the actual interaction between the characters. The back cover blurb touts Manga Dogs as a “sharp-wicked satire of the manga world.” While it does focus on the travails of manga creation, the story is better labeled snarky than sharp-witted.

Because it is a satire, reality gets flung out the window, and the main character Kanna Tezuka enters Tokiwa High School’s brand-new manga major only to find she has a whopping total of three fellow classmates and zero instructors. Kanna’s already made her manga debut and working hard on her first series so it doesn’t really bother her–until her pretty boy classmates start pestering her for lessons.

Kanna’s not the easiest protagonist to warm up to. She’s neither cute nor sociable. She has no friends. There’s no need to cheer her toward the holy grail of publication because she’s already attained that. Although she’s desperate to keep her series Teach Me Buddha! going, her work is so uninspired and subpar I want it to get canned.

As for the supporting cast, they are meant to be a reverse harem. There is the blonde prince Fumio Akatsuka, the serious glasses type Fujio Fuji, and the loli shouta Shota Ishinomori. However, no romance is blossoming between Kanna and any of these three stooges. The boys are deeply passionate about manga and equally delusional about what’s required to succeed as a mangaka.

Chapters are very short (generally ten pages), and most are self-contained arcs. The majority boil down to the boys fantasizing about the glorious rewards they will reap for the manga they’re too lazy to actually create and Kanna alternately losing her temper and mocking their stupidity. Therein lies Manga Dogs main weakness. Whereas other parodies, such as Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, create humor by taking the many stereotypes and tropes of a genre and turning them on their heads, Manga Dogs presents minor variations of Kanna getting mad at the boys unrealistic views, and that gets old fast.

Extras include the opening illustration and table of contents printed in color; translation notes; mangaka afterword; and short bonus manga.

In Summary

Manga Dogs Volume 1 manages to end on a cliffhanger, but I’m not particularly interested in the ultimate fate of Kanna’s manga career. Her unlikeable personality and lackluster work make her a difficult protagonist to root for. Her three handsome classmates give the initial impression this series is a reverse harem, but they mainly serve as a chorus of dumb, dumber, and super dumb. Some of their antics may garner a laugh or two, but on the whole, it’s hardly witty or entertaining.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Aron’s Absurd Armada Vol. #3

An oft-used archetype in popular literature are pirates. Pirate stories are so numerous nowadays, you can find all sorts of buccaneers, ranging from romantic to sly to sinister, and joining the ranks of Captain Hook and One Piece’s Luffy is the idiot pirate Aron!

Yen Press has just released the final volume of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For those interested in my review of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

It’s pirates…
It’s treasure…
It’s the raccoon god…
It’s a monster…
It’s the sea king and the turtle…
It’s Bell…
It’s the Cornwalls…
It’s the king…
It’s Luther and Dorothy and Admiral Nelson and Lady Grey and so on and so on…
Anyway, Aron’s adventures are still cruising along…

The Review

Aron’s misfit gang has become fairly sizable, and although they get their hands on new outfits and a new ship, they (thankfully) don’t recruit any new crew members in Volume 3. That’s not to say there aren’t new characters. Leading them into their next adventure is the young boy Bell. Quite simply, he is everything that Aron is not. The crew instantly falls in love with Bell, and when they learn he seeks revenge upon the sea monster that killed his best friend, everyone–minus Aron–insists on sailing along to help him. Although Aron generally gets away with his stupidity, everyone gangs up on him to deliver punishment both swift and brutal whenever Bell is around.

In embarking upon this quest, they cross paths with the Navy, which has also suffered losses from the sea monster. While the pirates and Navy sailors do cooperate against their common enemy, the interaction between Aron and the main Navy characters (i.e. the Nelsons) is minimal. Scenes involving the Navy generally focus on the Navy’s perspective of the sea monster problem, and instead of revisiting Aron’s “friendship” with Luther Nelson, they focus on Luther’s one-sided crush on Dorothy and his tenuous relationship with his father.

Then Bell drops out of the story, and a talking bear in an orange jacket comes alongside Aron’s crew as they seek  the legendary knife that makes its wielder the greatest chef in the world! Aside from jabs at poor Vincent’s inedible food, this arc sheds light on the relationship between Mercedes and Wendy and provides back story on the Phantom Thieves. We don’t, however, get much information about the talking bear. Creator Kim seems to have inserted him into the story just so she can have another cute furry creature to draw.

Nevertheless, the bear does point to the crew toward their next quest: community service at a remote welfare center. The welfare center, like the sea monster, is also the target of a naval mission so we again experience the journey from pirate and Navy viewpoints. In addition, the welfare center leads into the final conflict involving the king and Aron’s mom. The Marchioness’ plot and the events that draw Aron into the midst of it are far-fetched, and while the lengthy string of coincidences does match the tone of the series, the finale fails to build a heightened climax.

Manhwa extras include character profiles (although one set seems to be in the wrong section of the book) and parting remarks and artwork from the creator.

In Summary

Aron’s Absurd Armada sails into its final volume! The crew behaves a bit more like pirates with a battle against a sea monster and two quests–although the impetuses for these adventures are rather moronic. The series wraps up with a plot against the king of Aron’s home country. It’s convoluted how Aron winds up at the palace just at the right time, but it makes as much sense as everything else in this series. At any rate, this manhwa reaches its conclusion, and though it had entertaining moments, I’m not terribly sad to see Aron go.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class Vol. #6

While most manga are written in chapter format, that does not mean the comic strip is unknown to Japanese artists. Known as 4-Koma manga, four-panel comic strips aren’t nearly as widespread as their long-format counterparts, but they are no less entertaining.

One of the few 4-Koma titles translated to English is GA: Geijutsuka Art Design, a lighthearted series centered around five art students. Yen Press has recently released Volume 6 and you can read on for the review. (For reviews of previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

As autumn descends on Kisaragi and her colorful GA friends, the gang goes on a trip…through time! Art history takes center stage as festival season approaches at school, providing the girls with numerous opportunities to display their talents (and madcap antics)! The year might be winding down, but the spirit of the GA class is only just kicking into high gear!

The Review

Two staples of school-centered manga are the sports and cultural festivals, and both events show up in Volume 6. The Sports Festival doesn’t offer too much opportunity for the art students to showcase their artistic skills, but Ayanoi High School does include a Obje’t Competition that ultimately winds up a blend of athleticism and creativity. In addition, the GA gang ends up on the other side of the sketchbook as they model sports poses for a classmate.

Art features more predominantly in the Cultural Festival arc with the focus on the Art Club’s 3-D Art House. Most of the Art Club’s exhibits involve optical illusions so these pages contain a lot of clever visual humor. Then we get a view of the entire school festival as the GA girls go out to the crowds to promote the Art House. These pages are very lively and do an excellent job of conveying the bustle and excitement of the festival.

As for the remainder of the volume, only one arc has the girls tackling a class art project (multicolor printing). The rest are a random mishmash, including separate dream sequences for Namiko and Kisaragi and a glimpse of the school back in the early 1970s. Although the stories are cute and entertaining, it does feel like Kiyuduki-sensei is grasping for ideas, especially when the girls pay a visit to the school stable (!?) so that Kisaragi can practice drawing horses.

This volume includes a few sets of color pages describing the major periods of Western art. They include commentary from the GA characters and lists of landmark works.

In Summary

With the school in festival mode, this volume is less about class assignments and more about our art students interacting in a broader school setting. The Sports Festival Obje’t Competition is a bit of a stretch, but the Cultural Festival is a lot of fun and captures the manic energy that goes into putting on the event. Still, we do get a couple of art history lessons although Kiyuduki-sensei takes a fantastical approach and uses characters’ dreams and a random leap into the school’s past for those arcs.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 6

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has inspired all sorts of spinoff works, from visual art to movies to manga. However, Ai Ninomiya may have conjured up the most unusual Alice yet.  Are You Alice?, which originally began as a CD series, features a gun-toting male as its Alice! Yen Press has recently released the sixth volume, and you can read on for the review. (If you’re interested in my reviews for previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

After barely surviving the Cheshire Cat’s attack, Alice finds himself face-to-face with the sister from his dreams. He remembers sharing the name Alice with her, but the White Rabbit insists the girl’s name is Mary Ann. And to protect this “Mary Ann,” the White Rabbit is ready to do away with Alice for good! But when an unlikely ally intercedes, the demands made of Alice by his savior shock him most of all…

The Review

Volume 5 ended with confusion and violence, and Volume 6 continues along that vein. Much of the confusion stems from nonlinear flow of the narrative. Some scenes are definitely flashbacks, but with others, it’s unclear what’s real and what’s imagined, especially where the White Rabbit’s “Mary Ann” shows up. However, the jumble of crazed present and hazy past does make one thing clear, and that is the 89th Alice’s connection to the original Alice in Wonderland. Having discovered (or been reminded of) that connection, the 89th Alice reaches an epiphany, and the plot reaches a turning point as he finds a goal for himself.

The story then settles into a much easier to follow linear format when Alice returns to the custody of the Mad Hatter. Both Hatter and Alice have irrevocably changed because of the last few chapters so when they are reunited, their dynamic is very different. They’re certainly not buddies, but the two seem to have reached a deeper understanding of one another.

As if to make up for the excessive angst, blood, and insanity, the story then shifts to a lighter mood with the recuperating Alice in Hatter’s shop. Chapter 33 feels like an extended bonus manga with the two bickering like disagreeable siblings or a grouchy old couple. Their griping doesn’t really move the story forward, but it’s still entertaining and a welcome break from all the intrigue and serious stuff.

And that’s when the March Hare bounces into Hatter’s shop. We’ve seen him before with the White Rabbit, but interestingly, he’s not on Hatter’s hit list. So the comic bickering between Hatter and Alice expands to include the March Hare. However, although the March Hare appears simple-minded, he is working toward his own goals, and the mood grows steadily darker as we discover his designated role in the Wonderland game.

Manga extras include closing remarks from the creators and the title page and table of contents printed in color.

In Summary

The story is set in Wonderland so it stands to reason it would contain some weirdness, but for the first third of this volume, it is very difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not. Despite this, we get a clear picture of the 89th Alice’s relationship to the original Alice, and the 89th Alice finds a goal strive toward. Thus, an intriguing new arc begins with a motivated Alice and the March Hare, who isn’t quite the happy-go-lucky bunny he seems.

First published at the Fandom Post.