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 released the tenth volume, and you can read on for the review. (If you’re interested in my reviews for previous volumes, click here.)
Back Cover Blurb
When Lewis Carroll took in a little black cat for Alice Liddell, he most likely never imagined that it would be the sole witness to his final throes of madness. Nor could he have fathomed just how much a cynical alley cat could make of his discarded characters. So spins the tale of how the Cheshire Cat came to be–and how he may yet come to be Lewis Carroll’s undoing.
The journey through this Wonderland has been a twisted–and often violent–dive through the rabbit hole. Now Volume 10 backtracks in time to show how that rabbit hole came to be, which is a twisted and violent tale in itself. And our guide though this particular story is the Cheshire Cat.
The Cheshire Cat has been a difficult character to comprehend, but so is everyone else. As such, I assumed he wasn’t anything special. Turns out he is special indeed. Unlike the other Wonderland residents, he is not bound by a rule nor did he receive his name from the White Rabbit. But what makes him truly unusual is that he actually knew the original Alice and Lewis Carroll.
The narrative begins well before the cat meets Alice. As it turns out, Alice is the cat’s third owner. Even so, his life’s beginning provides a pretty good look at the “real” world, where Alice in Wonderland was written. Judging by his series of owners, this place may not be Wonderland, but it has its own kind of crazy, So much so that it’s almost fitting when Carroll loses his sanity. Having the cat as narrator also allows a glimpse into Alice and Carroll’s relationship through the eyes of a third party who can neither interfere in the tragedy that unfolds nor say anything about it. And as graphic as the volume’s images are, one of the most disturbing parts is the unillustrated text, “The Correct Way to Kill off Alice.”
Once the setting shifts away from the “real” world, however, that cat is doing plenty. Turns out the 89th Alice owes the Cheshire Cat a great deal for his existence In addition, the more we learn about Wonderland, the more it takes on a Toy Story-ish kind of feel. Carroll created Wonderland, but, like the toys in Toy Story, the scraps of words he discarded take on a life of their own. The Cheshire Cat might not have been able to do much for Alice as an ordinary cat, but he’s doing plenty in Wonderland, manipulating bits of writing for her sake.
Extras include closing remarks from the creator (although the background illustration is extremely dark), the short bonus manga “Are You Mack?” and the title page and table of contents printed in color.
The story delves into the past, in particular, the Cheshire’s Cat’s past in the world of the original Alice and Lewis Carroll. These chapters fill a lot of gaps, plus they unveil surprising information about where the 89th Alice came from. The ultimate fate of Wonderland remains to be seen, but you will come away with a better understanding of the Cheshire Cat’s part in this story of discards.
First published at the Fandom Post.