Important Importables Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts Vol. 1 by Quinrose and Hoshino Soumei

June 12, 2010 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts Vol. 1 by Quinrose and Hoshino Soumei

Section: Reviews, Exclusives, Originals, Features, Columns, Japanese Imports, Consoles, PS2, PCs, Windows, Handhelds, PSP & PSPgo, Gear, Comics-and-Graphic-Novels, Genres, Adventure

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Alice in the Country of Hearts Alice no Heart no Kuni volume 1

Title: Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1
Author: Quinrose and Hoshino Soumei
Publisher: TokyoPop
Release Date: March 1, 2010
Price: $10.99
Rating: Two thumbs sideways, 70/100, C-, * * out of 5
Pros: Art style is consistent with that of the original game. Interesting take on Wonderland and its characters. Alice is a fairly complex heroine. Does an adequate job of covering what happens in the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the Alice no Heart no Kuni video game.
Cons: A few minor differences from the original game. The original game isn’t available in English so readers can compare. Storyline wanders a bit, without a clear focus beyond “Alice getting home.” Doesn’t really start developing any of the supporting characters in the first volume. Somewhat graphic (violent).


In a surprising twist, likely inspired by Disney’s Alice in Wonderland movie,  Tokyopop has chosen to pick up Alice in the Country of Hearts. Alice in the Country of Hearts is the manga equivalent of Quinrose’s PC, PS2 and PSP game Heart no Kuni no Alice, which in turn is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There’s still an Alice, and she still finds her way to wonderland, but the character she meets there and world is entirely different. (And quite violent!)

Alice is brought to Wonderland, where everyone “will” love her.

Alice is second-best. Her sister has always been everyone’s favorite, as she’s pretty, elegant, intelligent and demure. Essentially, everything Alice isn’t. The story even begins with Alice sleeping in the yard in her good clothes, while her sister is reading. (It sounds like her sister is actually reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.) It’s no wonder that Alice’s boyfriend/tutor fell in love with her. Alice starts to fall back asleep.

She suddenly sees a white rabbit wearing a suit. She thinks it’s odd, and decides to go back to sleep. This angers the rabbit, who yells that she’s supposed to chase him. He changes into a man (with rabbit ears), grabs Alice and takes her down a huge rabbit hole with him. Once they land at the bottom, he says that he is Peter White and declares his love for her. He gives her a potion to drink, which she won’t. So he sips it, then kisses her so she’s forced to drink it. Alice is left with the vial.

Alice then learns that she is an Outsider, outside the rules of the game of Wonderland. Wonderland is divided into three factions, the Mary Gowland’s Amusement Park, Blood Dupre who’s head of the Hatter mafia and mansion and Queen Vivaldi’s, the Queen of Hearts, Castle. The only way Alice can return home is to interact with Wonderland’s residents so the vial refills. She learns that only major player characters have a face and are distinguishable, and all other supporting people blend into the background and are disposable. She decides to stay with Julius Monrey, who lives in the only neutral area in Wonderland, as she searches to find a way home. She also learns that everyone in Wonderland will love her – everyone.

Scattered and simple, yet still pretty.

Alice in the Country of Hearts’ artistic design is very notable. It isn’t incredibly extravagant, realistic or gorgeous. It does, however, fit with the art of the original Quinrose Heart no Kuni no Alice games. Characters are well defined and elements of their dress and design even hint at their personalities. The facial expressions are also done quite well, which makes the character’s actions and behavior seem more believable.

The tragic part is, no matter how good Alice in the Country of Hearts is, it can’t compare to the original game. Heart no Kuni no Alice is a massive visual novel renowned for all of its events and CG images. There’s no possible way to capture all of the character development and action and present it in manga form. As a result, the first volume of Alice in the Country of Hearts seems to be in a hurry once Alice arrives in Wonderland, in a desperate attempt to fit in all of the characters from the game. The only character who seems to have any kind of development in the first volume is Alice.

This massive-game-to-four-volume-manga transition also causes quite a few other chops. The manga does do an interesting and decent job of setting up how Wonderland works in Alice in the Country of Hearts. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is intriguing to see how the mechanics of the world help shape and encourage the major characters’ and supporting characters’ personalities. It’s also quite dark, which is fitting since the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland wasn’t a lighthearted fairytale.

A nice companion piece to the Alice no Heart no Kuni game.

Alice in the Country of Hearts, as a whole, isn’t a bad series. The thing is, it’s more of a companion piece. While I’m sure all four volumes together will be able to adequately entertain readers, it feels as though it was designed to complement the larger work – the PC/PS2/PSP game of the same name. Unfortunately, since the original game was both a visual novel and dating simulation, it has little to no chance of every being released outside of Japan. This means that the Alice in the Country of Hearts manga will only interest shojo manga fans with a passion for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and more violent material.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports is taking a break on June 18, 2010, as I am going to be E3 2010. It will return June 25, 2010 and I will continue my manga reviewing streak with a review of the first volume of Ai Yazawa’s Nana.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports reviewed the Clover Omnibus Edition by CLAMP.

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