Thursday, December 10, 2015

Are You Alice? (manga, vols. 1-2) by Ikumi Katagiri, original story by Ai Ninomiya, translated by Alexis Eckerman

Are You Alice? was one of the bigger disappointments of my vacation. I had a huge stack of volumes, and I just couldn't bring myself to read more. Even as I was reading volume 2, I had the sneaking suspicion that I was wasting time I should be devoting to other more enjoyable series.

I doubt I'll be returning to this series during my next vacation. It just didn't grab me.

Warning: this post contains spoilers.

Are You Alice? (manga, vol. 1) by Ikumi Katagiri, original story by Ai Ninomiya, translated by Alexis Eckerman – A guy with no past ends up in Wonderland and is referred to as “Alice” by the Cheshire Cat. The Mad Hatter takes him to the Queen of Hearts, where he learns the rules: he is the 89th “Alice.” He can become the true Alice if he kills the White Rabbit, a game the White Rabbit devised for unknown reasons. Alice agrees to do this, on the condition that he gets to stay in Wonderland afterward – he has been searching for a place where he can belong. However, he soon learns that this world is even darker than he imagined, as he meets the Duchess, a little girl who is required to suffer as the substitute Alice.

I added this series to my vacation reading list because I was on a bit of a Alice in Wonderland kick. As mediocre as some of the Alice in the Country of routes sometimes were, they were almost always better and more interesting than this. Are You Alice? is what you might get if you took Alice in the Country of Hearts, turned the heroine into a guy but made sure all the character designs still counted as eye candy, and sucked out all the fun, humor, and romance while keeping the edge of danger, mystery, and violence.

I have no idea what this series is aiming for. It has a very stark and serious feel, which it tries to liven up with some unfunny humor. The oh-so-mysterious setup is boring because the stakes are so unclear. Readers aren't given even the tiniest hint of who Alice really is or what his past was like before he arrived in Wonderland. I'm not sure if Wonderland is even real, or if it's some kind of dream or hallucination. And I'm not sure who I'm supposed to be rooting for. Alice can't protect anyone or even defend himself – literally all the rules allow him to do is meet people and kill the White Rabbit.

I decided to read at least one more volume, just to see if things improved any.

Are You Alice? (manga, vol. 2) by Ikumi Katagiri, original story by Ai Ninomiya, translated by Alexis Eckerman – The Mad Hatter takes Alice to go find the Dormouse but ends up having to deal with a berserk Duke (the eater of regrets) instead. The Duchess is no longer able to function as a substitute Alice, so Alice invites the Duke to eat him and sees a vision of himself killing a girl (his sister?) named Alice and taking her place. The Mad Hatter learns from the White Rabbit that Alice is probably not Alice, but the Cheshire Cat seems to want him to be, to the point that he killed the previous Alice so that the new male Alice could take her place. Meanwhile, the Duchess has been replaced, and a past Alice is walking around as a regret.

If none of that made sense to you, don't worry, because it didn't make a whole lot more sense to me either.

This series still isn't working for me, and I think it's time to stop and move on to something else. Are You Alice? is boring, nonsensical in a bad way, and chock full of uninteresting mysteries and characters I don't care about.

The Cheshire Cat is okay, I guess, and so far intrigues me more than any of the other characters, but the new developments (both Alice's vision and the flashback to what the Cheshire Cat did to make room for the new Alice) were just blah. The more I read, the less things make sense. It's possible that the story and characters improve, but I don't really want to make the effort to find out.

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