Art: Soumei Hoshino
My rating: 4 of 5
One afternoon, while waiting for her oh-so-elegant and admired older sister to bring back a game for them to play together, Alice drifts into the world of dreams . . . or so she thinks anyway. She opens her eyes, and is promptly dragged down a huge hole and forced to drink a vial full of potion, all by a strange, pushy guy with rabbit ears. Then, Alice is informed that the only way she can go home is by refilling that vial by interacting with the people of the wonder world in which she has landed. Believing she is still dreaming, Alice does just that, developing friendships with the various inhabitants of this world and finding a place in the clock-work hearts of many of them.
Alice in the Country of Hearts is a fun retake on the classic Alice in Wonderland. It’s actually based on an otome visual novel, which artist Soumei Hoshino has adapted into manga format. The art is quite nice–pretty and expressive without being overdone. The real appeal of the story is definitely the characters. During her stay in the wonder world, Alice encounters most of the characters from the Carroll version, only in this story they are mostly attractive guys. The personalities do seem to carry over fairly well from the original, while being imbued with a life of their own in addition. A true plus for this story is that, unlike in far too many otome stories, Alice herself is a strong character–warm, open, and a bit less that elegant. Her interactions with the Queen of Hearts (another strong, multifaceted female character) also add an important dimension to the story, particularly as they reflect upon her relationship with and image of her older sister. The story line itself sometimes seems a bit directionless, but that suits the work–it’s really mostly about the building of relationships between the characters. Alice in the Country of Hearts is definitely an excellent work for its intended audience–young single females. However, I would actually recommend it for a broader audience, as the rich characterizations– particularly of Alice and the Queen–give it an appeal that reaches beyond the intended gender and genre boundaries.