Sunday, December 10, 2017

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party (manga, vols. 1-2) story by QuinRose, art by Riko Sakura, translated by Angela Liu

I will finish all the manga in this franchise, someday. Maybe.

This two-volume series features what I consider to be one of the series' most interesting pairings. Even though I don't think Blood is a particularly good for Alice, this pairing tends to dig the deepest into her past, the memories she most wants to forget, and her private insecurities, since Blood looks so much like the tutor she fell in love with back in her own world, and who married her older sister instead.

Not that The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party delves into any of that. For a series pairing up Alice and Blood, it was pretty mediocre and offered nothing new. I would also highly recommend that those new to Alice in the Country of Hearts (or any of the other countries) not start with this. It may be tempting to start with one of the shorter series, but it's a bad idea all around.

This is one of my post-vacation posts, so be aware that there are spoilers past this point.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party (manga, vol. 1) story by QuinRose, art by Riko Sakura, translated by Angela Liu - This speeds through Alice's arrival in Wonderland, leaving the palace, staying at Julius's, and ending up at the Hatter Mansion. Alice has sex with Blood. It's supposed to be a casual relationship, but she feels hurt when she starts to think that Blood only keeps her at the mansion to spite Vivaldi. Blood's feelings turn warmer, but Alice can't bring herself to believe him, especially after seeing him with Vivaldi in his garden. She leaves to go back to Julius's place, but Blood pursues her there.

This is garbage. Very nearly incoherent, with hardly any story. It speeds through too many things too quickly, and I shudder to think of a newbie to this franchise picking it up. If it was written for franchise veterans, then a lot of stuff should have been left out so that Alice and Blood's relationship could be developed more. But if it was written for franchise veterans it was also largely unnecessary: this was basically a much sloppier and more condensed version of the first Alice in the Country of Hearts release in English, right down to the scene with Blood and Vivaldi in Blood's garden. It contributed nothing new.

There was zero decent relationship development, and it didn't give readers a very good feel for the characters, other than the very basics. It also contradicted itself. It said that Peter abandoned Alice after taking her to Wonderland, but she's with him at the Palace right from the start of the volume.

I read this right after My Fanatic Rabbit, and one of the things that struck me was how different Alice seemed. My Fanatic Rabbit was a Yen Press title translated by Ajino Hirami, while The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party was a Seven Seas title translated by Angela Liu (who, if I remember right, might have handled most, or maybe even all, of Seven Seas' Alice in the Country of translations). The Alice of these two volumes had more of a mouth on her than the Alice of My Fanatic Rabbit.

At any rate, this was probably the worst Alice and Blood pairing I've read so far. The volumes with this pairing are usually pretty good, if only because they dig into Alice's past more than many of the volumes with other pairings do, but this just felt like a cash grab. It would have been too confusing for a franchise newbie, it didn't offer anything new for franchise veterans, and, even though it introduced sex way earlier on than I'm used to this series doing, even that felt tepid. Unfortunately, the artwork wasn't good enough to carry it either - it felt like a riot of screentones.

Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party (manga, vol. 2) story by QuinRose, art by Riko Sakura, translated by Angela Liu - Alice comes back to find Blood threatening Julius. She refuses to go back to the mansion with him but does agree to visit. When she visits, she, Elliot, and the twins decide to have a picnic lunch together (Blood is too "tired" to go). Blood deals with some rival mafia, but not before Alice is kidnapped as bait. She's sure she isn't important enough to Blood for him to come get her, but he does. After that, he finally explains who Vivaldi is to him. The volume ends with Alice trying to figure out what Blood's "type" is: she's worried she's too young-looking for him, not sexy enough.

This was a vast improvement over volume 1, but it was still essentially a rehash of the first English-translated Alice in the Country of Hearts release and at least one other entry in the franchise that I can't currently recall.

This felt like someone looked at the first volume and said "we need a do-over." The beginning even recapped how Alice arrived in Wonderland. It was kind of weird, actually.

This had nicer artwork than the first volume, but story-wise it still crammed a lot into one volume. For example, there were little creepy bits that indicated that Peter and Nightmare were teaming up to keep Alice in Wonderland, steering her to the point of taking her ability to choose away from her. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough space to both include this stuff and also explain it, so I imagine it'd be terribly confusing to newbies. Actually, I'd only recommend this to Alice in the County of completists like myself.

Am I done with this franchise yet? I think I have a little more to go, but it'd be nice to know how much. I feel like I need a guide of some kind.

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