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Are You Alice? by Ai Ninomiya and Ikumi Katagiri

Are You Alice? by Ai Ninomiya and Ikumi Katagiri
Book Name: Are You Alice?
Author: Ai Ninomiya and Ikumi Katagiri
Publisher(s): Yen Press
Formatt: Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Manga / Fantasy
Release Date: May 28, 2013

“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”

Let’s be honest, Alice in Wonderland adaptations and spin-offs are hardly rare nowadays. I can name at least five manga related to the classic tale (though there are a lot more), there is the old Disney movie, various books, games, and TV series, with the latest being Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. Sometimes they follow the original story, and in other cases the creators show their own take on it or add some ideas into the mixture.

Are You Alice? falls under both categories. Most people are probably not new to the story of Alice falling down the rabbit hole and ending up in a very odd world full of eccentric creatures. However, I imagine it is fairly uncommon to stumble upon a story where Alice is not quite your curious, adorable female lead.

In this adaptation a sarcastic young man, who has discarded his dreams and past, wanders into Wonderland, where he learns that he is “Alice.” Unfortunately for him, this name comes with an unlucky duty. As Alice, he is forced to take part in a game, where the objective is to kill the White Rabbit. The protagonist isn’t exactly enthusiastic about murdering without reason, but since he is now a character of Wonderland, he has no choice but to go with the flow of the story.

First off, this isn’t a fluffy version. It’s a psychological manga full of twists, turns and confusing ideas – in other words, the author managed to imitate Lewis Carroll’s mind-set reasonably well, staying true to the original’s complicated ways. The difference between the two works is that the manga’s altered plot is centred around the game of hunting down the rabbit, and this weaves a certain logic into the book. Undoubtedly, the story can be difficult to grasp at first. You really need to pay attention and take mental notes to keep up with the plot, so if you want something easy to read, I wouldn’t recommend this manga.

The core principle behind this setting is the search for an identity, a reason to exist, and a place to belong. Now, in a world bound by strict rules, where having to stick to a script at all times is a must, finding your true self can be a bit baffling. The only role available to our temperamental protagonist is that of “Alice,” and if he wants a place anywhere in the world, he has no choice but to take it. And if he has to kill for it, well, in the end he might just accept that fate. However, if he fails, we will end up as a “Regret” – a lost soul forever searching for a role, clinging to the name “Alice”.

To escalate the insanity, our lead is not the first Alice. In fact, he is the 89th, which means that there are quite a few Regrets chasing him and attempting to wipe him out. However, he is one unusual Alice, especially compared to the previous polite, naive, lovely girls who had tried to become the real thing. Our male Alice is a street-smart, arrogant teen punk with no intention of dying anytime soon. He is desperately looking for “something”, but not much detail is revealed about him or his past at first.

Just to take another look at roles, they determine everything that happens to each character, as well as their advantages, disadvantages, and abilities. Since no one can defy anything about these, there is a sense of resignation, of pointlessly going forward without any hope thorough the whole story.

There are some pretty unsettling rules in Ai Ninomiya’s Wonderland. By the command of their ruler, the cold-blooded Queen of Hearts, the inhabitants of the land can never turn back, which basically signifies that they cannot look back on their past, and they are not allowed to “reflect on days gone by.” Ignorance is not exactly their bliss, but that’s what keeps them alive, so they oblige. Clearly, something is wrong with Wonderland, and Alice is the key to fixing the problem.

The art is absolutely fantastic: the movements are clear, the comic relief moments are adorable, and every character comes off as unique not only because of their given personalities, but also thanks to their visual portrayal by Ikumi Katagiri. Another interesting bit is that most of the main characters are male – even when the role would logically demand a female player.

Are You Alice? poses a lot of perplexing questions with an interesting, but bizarre concept. This alternative and more modern-day Alice in Wonderland comes with plenty of dark twists, and not enough answers in the beginning. Naturally, more secrets get exposed as the story goes on, and I believe it has a lot of potential with enough patience.

The franchise started off as a series of drama CDs (audio plays) written by the same author. It was later adapted into a manga and a PSP game.


One Comment

  1. […] Faction is all about this manga, but be warned: it contains minor spoilers (volume 1 only). You can read it here – and don’t forget to comment / […]

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