Saturday, July 16, 2016

REVIEW: I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland (manga, vol. 2) art by Ayumi Kanou, story by Visualworks, translated by Jocelyne Allen

I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland is a fantasy romance (ish) series that is, I think, based on a social game. It's licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment (the manga, not the game).

This volume focuses more on the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, and Dormouse's issues with Dum. The Cheshire Cat freaks out at the thought that the King of Hearts might view his current actions as a betrayal. Then Dormouse tells Makoto a little more about why he hates Dum, but Makoto finds it hard to believe that serious and responsible Dum could have coldly executed March Hare, Dormouse's loved one, even on the orders of the King. After that, it's time for gardening (yes, really). This break also allows the White Rabbit to deal with his newfound awkwardness around Makoto. He hasn't adjusted well to the news that Makoto is really a guy in a girl's body. Putting it like that makes this sound a lot like a trans story but, again, I'm probably putting way too much thought into this.

What about the King of Hearts and the possibility of Alice and Makoto returning to their own world and getting their bodies back? The volume gets back to that halfway through, when the group finally arrives at the palace.

I don't know why I don't hate this volume. The pacing was weird, Alice was criminally underutilized, Makoto continued to be bland, and Hatter flipped Makoto's skirt to cheer him up. Despite all of that, it's still just “meh” with occasional decent moments.

The aspect that bothered me the most was probably Alice's underutilization. After yet another sudden battle, I realized that, despite Alice being a weapons nut who took perfectly good care of herself when she first arrived in Wonderland, she never fought alongside the Wonderland guys. Everybody had to stop her from recklessly throwing grenades at the palace, and that was it. Even if Makoto's body was more out of shape than she was used to, there still should have been moments when Alice was genuinely useful. Even her role in the series' overall romantic storylines was seemingly forgotten – there was no sign of her attraction to Dum.

Oh, and speaking of characters being out of shape, at one point Makoto tried to lift a stone and was having trouble. That inspired him to think this: “I thought Alice said she trains! Guess a girl's body just doesn't have the same strength...!” Seriously? The implication is that Makoto could have lifted the stone if he were back in his own body, except in the previous volume Alice noted how out of shape he was compared to her and how it made running much more exhausting. Granted, Alice's body might have more stamina than Makoto's and yet less strength, but I'm more inclined to think the series was just being inconsistent and going with the lazy “girls are weaker” route so that the White Rabbit could swoop in and help.

The Cheshire Cat's backstory was nice enough, although it made him seem even more childish. Dormouse and Dum's issues could have been easily resolved if Dum had been a tad less stoic, but I did enjoy that part. My favorite of the backstory breaks was probably Hatter's. It was sweet and a bit silly. Actually, other than the skirt flip (why???), Hatter was probably my favorite thing in this whole volume. Even though I still don't understand why he likes Makoto so much, his devotion to him is nice.

What else...? Oh, look at the cover! Alice's hands are so horrible, one of them shrunken and the other one weirdly balloon-like, with a rosy blush that only makes it look worse. Flipping through the volume, it looks like there are a few slightly “off” hands, but nothing nearly that bad.

Anyway, one more volume to go!

  • Two full-color pages, one of which is a character list.
  • The URL and QR code for the I Am Alice: Boy x Boy social game. (In an amusing editing error, the game is called I Am Alice: Box x Boy. I can just imagine it now, a lovely romance between a box and one of the game's male characters.)
  • One two-panel joke comic about the ending of the gardening portion of the volume. I actually wasn't thinking so much about what that character saw as I was about the whole "riding on his shoulders while wearing a skirt" aspect.
  • A 1-page afterword from Ayumi Kanou.
  • Another game avatar dress design created by Ayumi Kanou.
  • A 15-page preview of No Game No Life. This is one of those cases where the basic premise seems like something I'd like (two siblings are secretly the most powerful and unbeatable gamer in existence), but the fanservice instantly puts it on my "do not want" list. In 15 pages there were multiple instances of the 11-year-old sister blushing while posing provocatively, as well as several upskirt drawings. I am totally not the audience for this series. I wouldn't think most readers of I Am Alice would be, either. Seven Seas could stand to improve its targeted marketing.
  •  Alice in the Country of Hearts (manga) by QuinRose, art by Soumei Hoshino - Those who'd like another game-based Alice in Wonderland-inspired fantasy romance without all the body swap issues might want to give this a try. This is the first series in the franchise - there are many, many subseries, each designed for fans of different Alice and Wonderland character pairings. I've written about many Country of Hearts, Country of Clover, Country of Joker, and Country of Diamonds volumes, but be warned: many of my posts include spoilers.
  • Are You Alice? (manga) by Ikumi Katagiri, original story by Ai Ninomiya - Another Alice in Wonderland-inspired series, although this one is more for fans of Alice in Wonderland reimaginings rather than romance fans. At least in the two volumes I read, there is no romance, just mystery. I've written about this series.
  • Your & My Secret (manga) by Ai Morinaga - Another cross-gender body swap series. I've written about the first volume.

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