Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 01

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!

Back Cover Blurb

A boy who has discarded all his dreams loses his way in “Wonderland,” where he discovers that he possesses the name of “Alice,” one that is vital to the Kill the White Rabbit Game. In this mad tale, common sense is out the window and all are bound by both the rules of the “game” and the commands of the Queen of Hearts. Amidst the insanity, Alice decides to pick up a cold, glittering gun and shoot his way to his own identity.

The Review

With bad-boy bishounen Mr. Hatter and “Alice” sporting their snazzy suits, cigarette, and pistol on the front cover, Are You Alice? looks like it could be a cop, detective, or yakuza title. But this story is as far from urban contemporary as you can get. The “Alice” mentioned in the title is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and as bizarre as the setting of the original is, Ninomiya-sensei ratchets up the insanity of her particular Wonderland several notches.

At its core, Are You Alice? is a quest for identity. Unfortunately for our disillusioned main character, his journey takes him to the mad world of Wonderland where everyone is bound by role-specific rules, and the only role available to him is that of “Alice.” However, to secure that name, he must follow the ruthless Queen of Hearts’ orders and hunt down the White Rabbit. If he fails, he’ll wind up a “Regret,” a vindictive spirit ever yearning to be “Alice.”

Our main character is the 89th “Alice” candidate attempting to claim the position of Alice in Wonderland, and he’s the most unusual one yet. Judging from the Regrets that keep attacking him, the previous Alice candidates were ingenuous young girls while he’s a teen punk with a smart mouth. Those familiar with the classic story might find it odd have a male Alice, but Wonderland is supposed to be nonsensical anyway, and the creators take their liberties in portraying the Wonderland characters. The Queen of Hearts, who also happens to be a guy, is not so much a strident tyrant as he is a cool manipulator. The Cheshire cat is a mischievous bishounen with cat ears, and the White Rabbit’s a kid armed with a sword and bad attitude.

While Wonderland is the setting, it also possesses a kind of personality. All of its inhabitants, even the Queen, are bound by its inexorable rules. In addition, something is desperately wrong with Wonderland that prevents its inhabitants from turning to the past. “Alice” of course is the key to that mysterious problem, which means everyone he encounters is either desperate to protect him or, like the Regrets, out to get rid of him.

Just as Lewis Carroll told of a crazy journey down the rabbit hole, Are You Alice? also presents a bizarre tale, albeit with a lot more breast groping, gunfire, and blood splattering (ergo the older teen rating). Oftentimes, things that appear innocent turn out to have a sinister twist, and there are all sorts of unnerving scenes of sweet looking characters turning into or getting swallowed by the utterly malevolent. This contrast is even more jarring thanks to artist Katagiri’s skill at making the beautiful gorgeous and the grotesque absolutely creepy.

This manga includes an afterword by Ninomiya-sensei as an extra, and the title page and table of contents are printed in color.

In Summary

Are You Alice? is based off the Carroll classic, but this is definitely not Disney kiddie fare. Don’t let the main character’s modern styled clothes fool you, this journey through Wonderland is closer to a Victorian goth tale. Personally, I found the original Alice in Wonderland too confusing to enjoy, and Are You Alice? is similar in how it completely disorients readers, albeit with a more violent flavor. If that’s your cup of tea, then you might want to give this particular Alice’s journey a try.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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