Rabbit vs. Hare
The story continues in Alice in the Country of Hearts, Soumei Hoshino’s manga adaptation of Qunirose’s otome “dating sim” game inspired by Lewis Carol’s original Alice in Wonderland. Seeing just how many times removed this manga is from the source material should set the proper expectations. “Alice in the Country of Hearts” (“Hato no kuni no Alisu”) makes no attempt to be faithful to Carol’s vision. Aside from a few of the character prototypes and some names, there is little here that is the “classic” version of the story.
Volume 2 starts with a tea party (what else?) given by Blood Dupre (the Mad Hatter) and attended by Elliot March (the March Hare), Boris (The Cheshire Cat) and the Gatekeepers (Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum). Although initially resistant to the dangerous mafia leader, Alice finds herself warming up to Blood Dupre. Aside from his declaration in volume 1, Dupre is also drawn as irresistibly towards Alice as all of the inhabitants of Wonderland.
When Peter White (The White Rabbit) finds out about the tea party, sparks fly and he is quick to call out Elliot March into a duel. The casual violence of Wonderland continues to stun Alice, who is less-than-impressed at the number of men willing to kill or die for her affections. Every man in Wonderland is compelled to want Alice, but they know no method of winning her other than Wonderland style of killing the competition.
Aside from random violence, volume 2 reveals some of the secrets of the Country of Hearts, and what is the fundamental difference between Alice and the Wonderland inhabitants. Some of the details of “those with duties” and the faceless ones are also revealed, and what exactly Julian is repairing in his clock tower. “Alice in the Country of Hearts” has always been darker-edged, but the tone of volume 2 becomes even darker.
I can’t say “Alice in the Country of Hearts” is an amazing comic, but I am enjoying the series. There is a nice contrast between the sweetness of Alice in her frilly maid outfit and the handsome, blood-covered Ace who places no inherent value on being alive. Most “harem”-style series have the clear winner from the first issue, but I honestly couldn’t say what guy, if any, this Alice will wind up with. As the saying goes, they are “all mad here.” Each member of Wonderland holds some dark secret, which gives them depth beyond their character design.
Not that “Alice in the Country of Hearts” is all bleakness and blood. There is a really funny joke set up here in volume 2, where Elliot March insists he is not a rabbit like Peter White, because he only eats carrot-based foods and not raw carrots like a rabbit. This bit makes for some welcome comic relief and is genuinely funny.
There seem to be some improvements made in the translation for volume 2, but it still has its clunky areas. Some of the language, like when Eliot March suddenly refers to Alice as a “little slut” seemed out of tone with the rest of the series. I haven’t read the original Japanese, so I don’t know what word was used and maybe its intention was to be jarring. Somehow the “flow” of the language is missing, that sort of intangible element that comes from having writing abilities rather than just translation abilities.