Saturday, May 29, 2021

REVIEW: Alice in the Country of Hearts: Junk Box Stories (manga) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu

Alice in the Country of Hearts: Junk Box Stories is a fantasy romance short story anthology. This particular volume is licensed by Seven Seas. I bought my copy new.


This is an anthology of short stories featuring characters from the Alice in the Country of Hearts otome game franchise. I just did a quick search, and it looks like one of the games used to be available for iOS and Android, but then the company that produced it, Quinrose, went bankrupt. That game is no longer available, and I'm guessing that means that all the other ones will never be available either. As an otome game fan, that makes me sad, but at the same time I've read so many of these manga spinoffs that I doubt I'm missing too much. 

Newbies to the franchise should absolutely not start with this volume. Although it does organize the stories by game (Alice in the Country of Hearts, Alice in the Country of Clover, and Alice in the Country of Joker) and briefly explains the overall premise of each one, it still assumes a lot of basic knowledge. It looks like all the manga may be out of print now, but if you can, I'd recommend checking out the original series, just called Alice in the Country of Hearts, from a library and starting there.

For those who are familiar with the franchise, this volume will work best for fans of Blood, Joker, the twins, Pierce, Boris, and Gray. There's also a very short Ace story in here, but it's pretty pointless (and kind of weird, a mixture of Ace in love with Alice but Alice also having a brief flash of being killed by him). Although the volume is organized by game, I'm opting to organize by character in my review.

Blood: Nothing particularly new here, although not bad either. There's one story in which Blood is a little jealous of Alice's old crush on her tutor, who happens to look exactly like him. There's another story that's mostly Blood being flirty, but also helping Alice fend off Peter a bit.

Joker: One story that could qualify as dark romance, I guess. Joker is both vaguely menacing and vaguely flirty. Another story in which Alice goes on a date with white Joker (with black Joker making rude comments). The date ends when black Joker appears. While Joker is certainly good-looking, I think I actually like him less than the twins when it comes to possible pairings with Alice.

The Twins (in Clover, where they can assume their adult forms): Alice gets frustrated with the way girls flirt with the twins and ends up accidentally taking it out on them, criticizing them for how easily they kill the Faceless. The twins are a bit too childish and interchangeable for my tastes, but if you're a fan of them, this is a nice enough little story.

Pierce: If you're a Pierce fan (surely some exist, right?), this volume is a must, because I don't think the guy gets a single volume devoted to him. I'm guessing his route in the game(s) was extremely brief. Anyway, the story is short, just Pierce being cute and stealing a kiss.

Boris: This takes place sometime during or after Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, which my reviews indicate I liked well enough but wasn't enthusiastic about. I did like this story, though. It's very fluffy - a lot of fanservice with a dash of "I'll take care of you" warmth. Alice is feeling a bit under the weather but still opts to have a fun day with Boris and the twins, which eventually ends with them all doing some group bathing together, because of course they do. Blood and Elliot eventually join them (Blood gives Boris very nice chin scratches, which has me wondering if there's Blood/Boris fanfic out there...), but things are cut short by Alice succumbing to a fever. Boris is sweet and takes care of her.

Gray: I swear I've read this story before, but I've searched my reviews and can't figure out which volume it was in. The closest I can find is Alice in the Country of Clover: The Lizard Aide, which was illustrated by Job. This story does say "newly illustrated," so maybe it's a redo with Mamenosuke Fujimaru's artwork? Job's artwork was pretty bad. At any rate, I kind of liked it but felt weird about it. Gray is in love with Alice but is worried that she's put him in some kind of "dependable father figure" box. He likes being someone she can rely on, but he doesn't know how to manage that and be someone she might fall in love with as well. His efforts to make himself more approachable are a little cringe-worthy but also amusing. Meanwhile, Alice secretly likes Gray but believes he sees her as being too young for him. As a reminder: Alice is 17. Gray's age isn't stated, but I'm guessing he's at least in his late 20s. Hence my slight discomfort, especially since the entire story is about their age/maturity gap.

Some of the stories are briefer, weaker, and more disjointed than others, but there are definitely a few good stories, and it helps that it was all paired with Mamenosuke Fujimaru's excellent artwork.


It's tough to say what counts as an "extra" in a volume like this, so I'll just list out anything I haven't mentioned elsewhere in this review. The volume ends with a bonus manga featuring Alice in the real world, with her sister telling her about a story she read in which a girl was transported to Wonderland. There are also two full-color pages at the start of the volume, some notes from Mamenosuke Fujimaru, and several comedic bonus comics. My favorites featured adorable tiny Boris and tiny Alice, and Gray being even more painfully awkward in his efforts to make himself seem younger and more approachable to Alice.

No comments:

Post a Comment