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Alice in the Country of Hearts
Ross Liversidge
Author: Ross Liversidge

Ross founded the UK Anime Network back in 1995, and following Andy Hanley's retirement has returned to the post of Editor-in-Chief in 2017. What an old man!

Alice in the Country of Hearts

Distributor
Tokyopop
Author/Artist
Quinrose
Price
£8.00

Alice is a plain girl overshadowed by her elegant elder sister. Craving love and attention, she falls asleep in the garden and is whisked off to a land where her wishes may just prove fatal...

This is another riff on Alice in Wonderland, and features some interesting ideas that deviate quite wildly from the original. Probably the most obvious change is that every character from the original book is now a handsome man (or teenager in some cases). Not only that, but they're all interested in the confused Alice for one reason or another.

Having been dragged down the rabbit hole by a dashing bunny-eared man named Peter White, Alice is force-fed a tonic and told that the only way she can return to her own world is by refilling the vial, which happens magically the more she interacts with the denizens of Wonderland.

Sound like a dating sim game? That's because it is. Like Kimikiss which I reviewed recently, Alice in the Country of Hearts is the manga adaptation of a Japanese dating sim, and it goes some way to explaining why the female lead is so dull.

The world is divided into 4 warring regions; the Amusement Park, the Castle, the Hatter's mansion and a neutral abode in a Clock Tower owned by the most reasonable character in the book, Julius Monrey, who shelters Alice for her own good. 

Unlike the aforementioned Kimikiss which is firmly rooted in reality, Alice has to spend much of its time explaining the setup for all the strife in Wonderland, and once you've worked out that none of it actually matters (because it's just a succession of handsome men being paraded across the pages) it becomes quite a drag.

It didn't help the book's case that I'm not the intended audience, and it's probably as dull for me as Love Hina is for girls (though I'm no fan of that either). The book also suffers from throwing too many love interests into the mix too early, diluting any sense of character. In some cases the only difference between the assorted angry bishies is the hair colour - at least in harem manga you get the benefit of separating the girls by cup-size and hairstyle...

Kimikiss worked because it explored the relationship between two rounded people, with some convincing and plausible interactions that led to romance. The only clue to it's dating game parentage was the resetting of the scenario with each volume as a new love interest is introduced and new situations are explored.
By stark contrast, Alice throws in a dull, unsympathetic whiner into a maelstrom of hunks with no discernible plot, but lots of cryptic messages which soon become tiresome. Why no one can just tell her what's going on is just infuriating.

On a positive note, the artwork is quite attractive, though the Nazi uniforms worn by Dum and Dee seem a bit of an odd aesthetic choice. 

Overall, I can at best half-heartedly recommend this to girls looking for some eye candy and a bit of harmless romance, but with a cluttered storyline, little to like about the bishies and a very dull leading lady, this is one bad dream you'll be happy to wake up and forget about.

4
Pretty artwork and lots of dashing men mean very little when there's no clear direction for them to dash in. Dull, leaden and forgettable in equal measure.
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