Tag Archives: fantasy

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #5

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 5 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

In her exile to the east of the east of the east, Liselotte’s rambunctious house attempts to coexist with the witch’s forest. Hoping to break down the seal Vergue has cast, Anna ventures out on her own to pay the witch a visit. Despite a being hurt by humans in the past, can Anna convince Vergue to give people another chance, and to live among them again? Meanwhile, Lise is shocked by a familiar looking visitor surveying the nearby village.

The Review

In Takaya-sensei’s previous series Fruits Basket, there were a lot of antics and silly interactions, but once you got to know the characters, you discovered each one carried deep trauma. If you enjoy that sort of story, you can eat your heart out in Volume 5 of Liselotte and Witch’s Forest. The previous couple volumes delved into Liz’s tragic past, and now we shift to the rest of the cast, starting with En.

Given his memory loss, he doesn’t have much past to dwell on. The bits he retains suggest a desperate existence before he entered the Berenk household. However, his current circumstances aren’t particularly ideal either, as an interaction with the Eiche spirit reminds us. This is the first time we really get to delve into En’s thoughts, and there’s dark humor in his blunt assessment of Liz and his utter incomprehension of why he was so devoted to her.

Next up are Anna and Vergue. Liz is determined to befriend Vergue despite his attack on the house and repeated rejections, but interestingly, she’s not the one to crack through Vergue’s shell. On the surface, ever-smiling Anna doesn’t have anything in common with the irritable male witch. However, she recognizes the similarities they bear, and when she tells Vergue about the upbringing she and Alto suffered, it’s a confession, a rebuke, and an invitation for him to strive for something better.

The POV then switches from Anna to Vergue. We don’t get as many details on his wretched past but like the twins and Liz, he suffered undeservedly when he was a human. However, Anna’s words do impact him, and it shows in his actions, even if his speech and manner remain prickly as ever.

The focus then returns to the main character with Liz hearing about Heil Village’s spring festival. While it is strange how Liz’s companions unanimously encourage her to see it, the trip there gives Liz and En a chance to be alone. It also allows Liz to cross paths with Richard, the brother that exiled her. Liz’s guilt at seeing her brother isn’t too surprising, but what is surprising is En’s displeasure over the situation, especially since he’s lost his memories of Richard. If a visit from the regional lord isn’t enough, Woglinde, the true witch of the frontier forest, also returns home. With so many powerful characters in Heil Village, I’m anticipating something big in the works.

Extras include four illustrations in full color, story-thus-far, character line-up, and embedded author’s notes.

In Summary

If you like characters who bear the scars of abuse and rejection, you will have much to enjoy in this volume. If you prefer lovey-dovey moments, you’ll find a beautifully illustrated romantic scene between Liz and En, although En’s behavior is somewhat perplexing given his evaluation of Liz in the volume’s opening pages. There’s not much brawling in these pages, but with the arrival of Liz’s brother and the return of the witch Woglinde, the stage seems to be preparing for something big.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #4

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 4 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte’s house in the east of the east of the east has become even livelier with the additions of the witch Hilde and her familiar, Myrte. But one day, Vergue, a witch who hates all humans, attacks the household to drive Lise and the others away! Why is it so difficult to live a peaceful life?

The Review

Till now, little information has been given about the place in which the characters reside. Now we learn that The Land East of the East of the East is part of Erstes, a country that once achieved military victory with the help of witches. Considering it’s already Volume 4, these basic details about Erstes are late in coming, plus the way they’re presented (in the form of a schoolchildren’s lesson) is rather heavy-handed. However, they do give us a clearer picture of the society from which Liz has been exiled.

This provides a good place to introduce our next new character. Captain Erwin is head of the frontier outpost near the witch’s forest. However, he’s originally from the capital where he served Liz’s brother. He not only monitors Liz’s activities but seems aware of the true circumstances behind her banishment. He also has his own power when it comes to witches. Despite the lazy front he puts up, he is definitely not an ordinary human, and given his complicated background, he’s likely to get into the thick of Liz and Engetsu’s future affairs.

In the meantime, Liz continues to bravely strive forward in her hinterlands life. For fans of Fruits Basket, Liz is definitely a Tohru-type heroine: a cheerful dimwit who remains intensely positive despite the tragedies in her life. She’s also able to connect with social outcasts, as evidenced by the six people now living in her house. Now that Hilde and Myrte are part of the family, it’s almost a given that Liz will find a way to draw Vergue in, despite his violent efforts to drive her away.

As for the romantic arc between Liz and En, there are a couple poignant moments between the two, but overall, the mood is more comic than sweet. En without memories is sarcastic and blunt, which makes him a lot more interesting than when he was so unconditionally agreeable toward Liz. Judging from a brief interaction with Erwin, this new En is closer to his true personality and hints about a past I’m curious to learn more about.

Extras include four illustrations in full color, story-thus-far and character line-up, embedded author’s notes, translation notes, and a nine-page preview of Volume 5.

In Summary

This volume doesn’t so much move forward as it delves backward. Lessons, remembrances, and flashbacks provide a better understanding of the factors separating humans and witches and the circumstances that brought our characters where they are now. So aside from Vergue wrecking Liz’s house, not too much happens in these six chapters, but they fill in a lot of holes in the story.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #3

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 3 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte, daughter of a feudal lord, has been exiled to the lands east of the east of the east, now living with her servants Anna and Alto, the mysterious Engetsu, and the impertinent familiar Yomi at the edge of the witch’s forest. Despite Alto’s objections, Lise’s new family somehow continues to grow. But her troublesome past has caught up to them and Engetsu is seriously injured. Can Lise save him and also continue to live as optimistically as her heart desires?

The Review

Engetsu is in dire straits at the end of Volume 2, thanks to the fight with Liz’s would-be assassin, and with help from Yomi, Liz seeks supernatural help from the massive tree that grows though their house. Eiche trees, like witches, are magical, but their power appears innate rather than something learned. And even though witches are the ones with a bad reputation, the spirit of the Eiche tree makes them look positively benevolent in comparison.(It’s not the witches you have to beware of–it’s the trees!)

Far from being swayed by Liz’s bold demands for help, the Eiche cuts her down with a vicious verbal, then physical assault. In the midst of this encounter, we discover what En endured to return from the dead and the limitations of his current existence. Everything about the episode serves to demonstrate En’s extraordinary devotion to Liz, which underscores the true cost of his restoration when the pair returns to the real world.

With the mystery of Engetsu/Enrich connection revealed, a different mystery arises: Enrich’s origins. After the Eiche encounter, En’s behavior changes so drastically it’s as if he’s a completely different person. Faced with this new,  roguish En, Liz makes the surprisingly astute observation that if they think En’s changed that just means they didn’t know him well enough to begin with. Indeed, even though Enrich knew so much about Liz before, she knew very little about him, and that unknown history before he became her servant looks like it will be central to the next phase of the story.

The angst and despair of the first half of the volume is emotionally draining, thus for the second half, Takaya-sensei reverts back to bird-brained humor. Hilde and Myrte return and wind up incorporated into Liz’s household, which, as Alto describes it, is turning into “a supernatural menagerie.” This of course provides the framework for situational humor between grumpy Alto, prickly Yomi, and their high-strung new housemates. While Liz and En’s interactions retain an element of melancholy, the silly squabbling that surrounds them helps to keep the mood light.

Extras include story thus far, character profiles, embedded author’s notes, six bonus illustrations in color, translation notes, and a sneak peek of Volume 4.

In Summary

En has been the one rescuing Liz all this time, but everything changes after Liz begs the Eiche spirit to return En to her. Now she must strive against the impossible to restore the bond they once shared. In the meantime, a witches’ spat puts Hilde and Myrte onto Liz’s doorstep. Between Liz’s love tragedy and everyone’s new living arrangements, it’s a rollercoaster of ups and down in the land east of the east of the east.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Liselotte & Witch’s Forest Vol. #2

Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket was one of the most popular shojo titles in the United States in the previous decade. Now Yen Press has released Takaya-sensei’s Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, which showcases the mangaka’s distinctive art style, a new upbeat heroine, and a fantasy setting. Read on for the review of Volume 2 (For reviews of other volumes, click here).

Back Cover Blurb

Liselotte, the daughter of a feudal lord, has been exiled to the land’s easternmost reaches by order of her older brother. Despite the bitter past that put her in these straits, Lise enjoys her new life with her twin attendants, Alto and Anna, the familiar Yomi, and Engetsu, a young man who not only harbors a secret, but also bears a striking resemblance to an old acquaintance, Enrich. However, Lise’s quaint idyll is shattered when none other than a witch comes calling!

The Review

Takaya-sensei mentions in her notes that “Volume 1 unfolded at a relatively leisurely pace.” Well, she makes up for it with Volume 2. She starts with flashbacks and a conversation with the local villagers that shed light on Liselotte’s circumstances and brings context to En and Liselotte’s mutual attachment. His reappearance in Liz’s life is no accident. And random though Yomi’s entrance seemed, he also has a reason for hanging around Liz and En.

Then the witch from Volume 1 reappears, this time by Liz’s house. Overall, the illustrations do an excellent job of creating an air of tension and mystery. Unfortunately for one forest scene, sound effects are key to that terrifying atmosphere, and I spent several confused seconds hunting down Yen Press’ tiny sound effects translations (which are almost buried by the original Japanese sound effects) before I could figure out what was happening. To offset the creepiness of the witches, Takaya-sensei inserts silliness in the form of Liz’s blithe decision to embrace the witches as neighbors. Thus continues the somewhat hackneyed joke of Liz’s inedible food.

Her ditzy attitude seems inappropriate for approaching a powerful enemy, but it turns out to be entirely fitting. In one fell swoop, Liz exposes the witch and her familiar to be just as silly as Liz herself. That discovery is a letdown, especially after all that hair-raising anticipation, but Hilde the inept, crybaby witch does make a suitable companion for Liz and company.

Takaya-sensei, however, quickly replaces the witches with another enemy, one whom Liz definitely won’t offer a slice of cake. Magic takes a backseat to swordplay when an assassin explodes on the scene. Apparently, humans are more dangerous than witches, and we get to witness En’s heroics in a duel interspersed with glimpses of a past fight. Some of En’s dagger skills are a bit difficult to follow, but overall, the battle brings Volume 2 to a thrilling and emotional close.

Extras include embedded author’s notes, the title page in color, and translation notes.

In Summary

Volume 2 fills the blanks of Volume 1 to make what felt like a random assemblage of characters without clear direction into the tale of tragic lovers grasping at a second chance. Takaya-sensei had done a marvelous job of painting the witches as a malevolent threat to Liz, so when she reveals their true nature, it’s a disappointment. However, they’re quickly replaced with another adversary, one that sheds light on the past and leaves us with a heart-pounding cliffhanger.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 12

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 final volume, and you can read on for the review. (If you’re interested in my reviews for previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

With the game to kill the White Rabbit abandoned, the remaining denizens of Wonderland set out to escort the White Rabbit to the final page of the story. But this is easier said than done because it’s no longer only Lewis Carroll’s interference with which they have to contend.

As “Probably” Alice and his ragtag group of allies undertake their first and last mission, they vow to uphold the sole rule of this new game-no matter who is sacrificed, there is no looking back…

The Review

Katagiri-sensei has consistently crafted beautifully illustrated scenes that brim with emotion, and this final volume delivers no less. The desperation of the remaining Wonderland residents resounds off the pages as does the Cheshire Cat’s complicated feelings toward the Alices we’ve encountered. Somewhat more convoluted, however, is the ultimate resolution to this Wonderland journey.

What started off as the game to kill the White Rabbit turned into a story about the correct way to kill Alice that somehow erupted into a battle of wills between a deranged writer and his characters. With reality invading the world of story and multiple forces manipulating the plot, this final volume feels like a race from scene to scene to wrap loose threads. Granted, Katagiri-sensei’s comical interchanges are funny as ever, but between all the fake Alices, Alice Liddell, and the elusive Alice in Wonderland, it’s difficult to keep track of what everyone is striving toward. However, the final showdown between Carroll and those trying to force him to complete his work is quite dramatic with a conclusion both surprising and violent.

The last few pages present an epilogue that shows where the survivors wind up. Those characters brought to Wonderland by the White Rabbit return to the real world, and its interesting to see the disparate places they came from. Our final glimpse of Carroll is somewhat troubling, but the future of the 89th Alice/Little Brother/Explosive Device is hopeful. As the Cheshire Cat says, his story “has yet to begin.”

In Summary

Not surprisingly, the Wonderland game ends with a gunshot and blood. To be honest, though, it’s a bit of a relief. On top of Wonderland’s inherent weirdness, the series has had so many different layers of violence, deceit, and insanity, it was difficult to keep track of it all. At any rate, readers who envision Lewis Carroll to be as crazy as his Hatter can consider Are You Alice? an uber-violent origin story for Alice in Wonderland.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 10

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 Review

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.

In Summary

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.

Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 8

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 eighth 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 the Alice Fixed Holiday, Alice is ready to return to the task at hand: killing the White Rabbit. But Hatter, determined to break his fealty to the Queen of Hearts and get his time moving again, has other ideas. He leaves Alice in the hands of a courtly armed stranger with a horse-drawn carriage ready to take Alice to the Land Through the Looking-Glass… as its queen?! When Alice and Hatter meet again through the looking-glass not long after, will bodyguard and ward still be on the same page?

The Review

The Alice Fixed Holiday ends, and an intriguing arc begins. With it, we get three new characters and a change of setting. The Land Through the Looking Glass is Alice’s new locale, and the one who guides him there is a handsome gentleman, who is as attentive as the Hatter is indifferent. He doesn’t give his name, but the 88th Alice makes mention of a “White Knight” so perhaps that’s his name? At any rate, the guy wants to make Alice his queen, and it’s fun watching Alice weep from the royal treatment.

As for our other newcomers, they are Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and they are nothing like the dumpy Disney version. The Tweedles are a pair of bishounen twins, and in this Wonderland story, they are the “Regrets Reissuer” and “New Name Issuer.”

There’s a lot of situational comedy in these chapters as Alice does everything from mangling the Tweedles’ names to freaking out at the Nameless Forest to getting lost in the Land Through the Looking Glass palace. The funny bits are entertaining, but what really makes this arc engaging are the numerous flashbacks to the real Alice and the origins of the White Knight, the Tweedles, and most interestingly, the Cheshire Cat.

On the surface, The Land through the Looking Glass looks like a big detour from the Game to Kill the White Rabbit. However, between the glimpses of the past and revelations from the Tweedles, the story cleverly winds back to the rabbit, and on the way, delivers a stronger sense of the White Rabbit’s intentions and how he’s controlled the Game. While we get more pieces to the puzzle that is the 89th Alice and his “sister,” the truth remains a mystery. The only thing that’s clear is that Wonderland is caught in an endless loop, and it will take something drastic to break the cycle.

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

In Summary

New characters, new setting, and, best of all, new insights. Through a mix of flashbacks and confessions, we get a glimpse of the myriad motives at play in the Game to Kill the White Rabbit as well a better look into the world of the real Alice. Between these tantalizing revelations and a series of comic interactions, Volume 8 makes a fun and thrilling read.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 7

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 seventh volume, and you can read on for the review. (If you’re interested in my reviews for previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

It’s a very special holiday in Wonderland–the one day a year when everyone can take a break from Alice. In celebration, the Queen of Hearts is throwing a grand bash, and everyone in Wonderland is invited! Everyone except Alice, that is. Outraged when the Hatter abandons him for the festivities amidst reassurances that absolutely no one is bold enough to break the rules and come after him, Alice knows well enough that he’ll never be so lucky. But even Alice is surprised when, of all people, the Jack of Hearts attempts to abduct him!

The Review

The March Hare arc concludes in Chapter 37 of Are You Alice?. The chapter is a bit of its own Wonderland trip with flashbacks of the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, and even the Dormouse. Figuring out the March Hare’s issues requires quite a bit of effort, and I was rather annoyed at having spent so much time unraveling the Hare’s convoluted story only for him to exit at the arc’s jolting end.

Fortunately, the next arc dealing with the Alice Fixed Holiday is much simpler to understand. This time, the mute Jack of Hearts takes center stage. I’d written him off as a bit part character, but he apparently has his own back story and grievances. However, Jack’s functioned predominantly as comic relief, and Katagiri-sensei continues to use him in that vein. Even when Jack does the unthinkable in challenging the Queen, humor always diffuses the tension. Yet it works, and if you enjoy Alice and the Hatter’s snarky quibbling, you’ll enjoy Jack and Alice’s kidnapper/hostage bickering.

The plot then refocuses on the game to kill the White Rabbit. Chapter 42 is mainly foreshadowing at the change about to befall Wonderland. After all, Alice now has a goal, and the Hatter’s time is moving. The end of the volume also gives glimpses of new characters, but whether they’re players inside or outside of Wonderland remains to be seen.

Manga extras include the mini manga Are You Areha…?; closing remarks from the creators; and the title page and table of contents printed in color.

In Summary

For all the effort Katagiri-sensei puts into relating the March Hare’s inner angst, his arc’s conclusion comes much more quickly and abruptly than I would’ve guessed. Fortunately, the Hare’s convoluted story gets followed by a much more straightforward one about the Jack of Hearts. The absurdity of Alice’s hostage crisis provides some well needed laughter before the plot returns once more to the “Kill the White Rabbit Game” and the dark mystery that overshadows Wonderland.

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.

Manga Review: Are You Alice? Vol. 5

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 fifth volume, and you can read on for the review. (If you’re interested in my reviews for previous volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

The traitorous Dormouse had the Queen of Hearts in his crosshairs!! But once the Hatter wises up to the Dormouse’s game, he makes the mistake of leaving Alice alone with the Cheshire Cat – an error in judgment that proved fatal in the past – in his urgency to keep his sovereign from coming to harm. It soon becomes clear to Alice that the Dormouse wasn’t the only traitor to be reckoned with! Now Alice must fight to keep his position…lest his name – and his life – be forfeit!

The Review

Volume 4 ended with the Dormouse mowing down the Queen’s cards, and Volume 5 continues the bloodbath. The violence isn’t limited to the palace. Shootings, stabbings, and a surprising suicide have the panels from the Dodo’s pool to the Land of Broken Toys dripping with blood. Despite the splatter-fest, it’s not entirely gratuitous. There is actually meaning and reasoning behind each attack, especially on the part of the Dormouse.

The Dormouse might be a secondary character, but he dominates this volume, similar to the way the Duchess did earlier (by the way, she does get a cameo in this volume). His advance upon the Queen is bewildering at first but leads to some interesting revelations about the Hatter. Then, just when you think the dust has settled, the scene ends in a truly unexpected way. The Dormouse palace shootout may be a strange way to show it, but the connection between the Dormouse and Hatter, like that between the Cat and Duchess, runs deeper than they would ever admit.

The 89th Alice gets somewhat overshadowed by the Dormouse’s actions, but Alice has a major moment as well–a confrontation with the White Rabbit. It’s less Alice hunting the rabbit down and more a tumble down a rabbit hole. And despite Alice’s gun and supposed ability to kill the White Rabbit, the White Rabbit, who apparently is a very emotionally messed up bunny, holds the advantage throughout the fight. Much like the end to the Dormouse gunfight, the Alice/White Rabbit duel has an unexpected conclusion, but it hints that we’ll learn more about Alice’s connection to the real Alice in the next volume.

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

In Summary

The pages run bloody with bullets flying at the palace, murder at the Dodo’s pool, and Alice facing off against the White Rabbit. Amid the violence, we get glimpses of Alice’s past but even more hints of what drives the Hatter. These revelations help make sense of the bewildering events of the previous volume, and although Volume 5 does raise new questions, it arouses more anticipation than confusion.

First published at the Fandom Post.