Last volume we left our band of eccentric heroes in a suspended state of tension. The soldiers agreed to help Makoto and Alice get to the palace in order to get the two back into their own bodies, while also having a secondary aim in getting the King of Hearts to stop attacking his own kingdom. With Makoto having finished collecting his six, mostly animal hybrid teammates, the second volume sees him continuing on in his journey to becoming a pokemon master.
…Let’s start that again! Hello and welcome back to I am Alice by Visualworks and Ayumi Kanou! This review takes a look at volume 2 of the series, so if you missed the review of I am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland Vol. 1, make sure to check it out by clicking here. In the last volume Makoto and Alice were shocked to realise that, not only had they been transported to a strange and wonderful land, but they had also switched bodies! The two quickly decided that the only way to get back into their own bodies would be to travel to the King of Hearts castle, which is rumoured to house a gateway that can take Alice and Makoto back home. This fantastical land is full of danger however, meaning the two can’t get to the castle by themselves! Thankfully these storybook travellers have managed to get some help. Joining them on their journey is a rabbit-man called White Rabbit, a solider called Hatter, a sadistic mouse-man called Dormouse, an enthusiastic cat-man called Cheshire, and a rebel army leader named Tweedledum.
There were some trying moments, some tricky situations, some hairy arguments, laughs, games and shocking truths (not to mention a LOT of flirting), but the group are now making some progress. As well as taking us to the palace and bring us face-to-face with two new characters, this volume also focuses its time on some interesting character development. Hang in there, Makoto! You’ll be back in your own body before you know it!
So, since becoming a girl and drawing the attention of every male in the surrounding area, how has Makoto developed as a person? Has he learnt anything? Perhaps something in regards to what the female population has to deal with in their day-to-day lives? Did he come to understand any misconceptions, deal with any revelations?
Ok, no. NO. Just in case this isn’t extremely obvious to everyone reading, being female does not make you useless. Without starting a long rant, everyone should know that women are extremely capable, strong human beings that should not be treated unequally to men. It was my hope that after this statement, Makoto would realise that not being a guy doesn’t make you useless, that a life lesson would occur.
I don’t quite see how putting a chick back into its nest is supposed to prove Makoto’s worth, but sure, I’ll go with it. Sadly though, Makoto falls and is caught by White Rabbit, meaning his effort in proving that he ‘can still be a guy’ doesn’t really work. Even more annoyingly, the situation is only resolved after White Rabbit puts Makoto on his shoulders and says, ‘You’re not a girl, right?! So you’re not embarrassed, are you?!’ This seems to please Makoto, as his ‘manliness’ has finally been recognised.
In the words of a very strong, wise and capable Alice:
Well said, Alice. Now, I’m not trying to say that this manga is anti-feminism. Alice herself is a very proficient character, with our first introduction of her involving the skilful rescue of herself and Makoto after some quick-thinking and a grenade. Alice opens up a bit more in this volume, and because of that we learn more about her sister and the circumstances that led her to Wonderland.
Alice’s older sister is a pretty young lady called Lorina. Alice greatly admires Lorina and loves her very much. One day however, Alice’s beloved sister disappears without a trace. Last seen going to the library, it was then that Alice decided to investigate. In doing so she was sucked into a magical book, which brought her to Wonderland. She is now convinced that Lorina must have come to Wonderland too, but as she searched the area before Makoto arrived, she believes Lorina has since left and gone back home. More than getting her body back, Alice just wants to see her sister again. In comparison to some of the other characters, who get roughly a chapter to explain more about their backstory, Alice’s time in the spotlight was quite short, a mere four pages. This was a little disappointing, but as Alice has been with us from the start of the series, this perhaps makes sense. There are other characters that are much newer to the group, and so they will need more pages to explain their situation. Still, finding out that Alice’s sister has disappeared was an interesting discovery, and I’ve got a feeling that this will become a vital piece of information once we reach Volume 3. Hmm…
There are parts in this volume that feel disjointed to me. An example of this would be when the group are travelling down a dangerous, crumbling road that appears to be running alongside a mountain. Almost out of nowhere, it is announced that a pretty English garden is up ahead. Furthermore this garden, though he is embarrassed to admit it, was built by White Rabbit. It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that this is Wonderland, meaning a garden in such a place, by such an individual, probably isn’t as strange as it first seems. Still, the chapter reminds me slightly of the final chapter in Volume 1, a chapter that felt more like a bonus than a serious continuation of the main story.
White Rabbit is having trouble with the idea that Makoto is actually a boy, leading to some humorous scenes where White Rabbit looks completely shell-shocked. White Rabbit explains that he was making this garden so that the people of Wonderland had somewhere to relax. On closer inspection, in turns out the monsters plaguing Wonderland had damaged the garden, crumpling the flowers and breaking walls and picket fences. The group moves into action by helping repair the damage. During this time, White Rabbit’s anxiety over Makoto’s gender is also resolved when he helps rescue a baby bird. We learn that, though White Rabbit isn’t the most adaptable of people, he’s a caring individual at heart who puts others before himself.
Your earlier, slightly sexist outburst is forgiven, White Rabbit.
Rather than having his own chapter, Hatter’s backstory is revealed to the reader gradually over the course of the story. Although Hatter may not be the focus, he certainly provides us with some of the more interesting discoveries. In one event, the group is attacked by one of the King’s monsters. This is common enough, however this time the monster only aims its attacks at Hatter, much to the surprise of Makoto and his friends. Hatter manages to defeat the monster by shooting it point-blank through the head, but as the monster crumbles it whispers one solitary word.
‘Traitor’. Everyone is shocked to find out the creature can talk, when suddenly it dawns on them. That voice didn’t come from the monster, but rather the King himself. Thus a deeper connection between the King and Hatter becomes evident. This complicated relationship is given more explanation later, when Hatter tells Makoto that White Rabbit helped him get tuition money for military school. It was there that Hatter met the King, both of them being children at the time. Although first impressions weren’t great, the two soon became close friends.
The obvious hostility between the two now brings up more questions than answers. The King seems to feel particularly betrayed by Hatter, even though other characters, such as Tweedledum and Cheshire, were also close to the King. This indicates that their relationship was perhaps special in some way, making me curious as to how their friendship fell into such disrepair.
Not only do these soldiers have animal traits, some of them were originally animals at birth! Cheshire used to be a cat, and not just any cat, but a cat that used to live with the King in his palace! Just like the majority of his companions, Cheshire loves the King dearly. As a cat, Cheshire was the King’s pet. When he was still a prince, Cheshire brought him a pretty stone as a gift. The stone was actually a national treasure, and the person who was guarding it, a man named Gryphon, threatened to execute Cheshire for being a traitor to the royal family. The prince protected him, and in doing so was severely scolded by his father.
This explains why Cheshire is so frightened of gryphons. The fact that a cat can turn human also adds to Wonderland’s bizarre nature. Through this we also learn that the King was once a kind man, but changed as he was apparently ‘betrayed by someone close to him’. The pieces are slowly coming together. Could this ‘someone’ be Hatter, or is there another person connected to the King that we aren’t aware of? Could Lorina be involved? Hmm…
Dormouse is especially clingy this volume, and is constantly wrapping his arms around Makoto. Unlike the rest of the group who are joining Makoto and Alice on their journey with the aim of stopping the King, Dormouse is simply tagging along to be with Makoto. He has no interest in helping the others fight off monsters, so long as Makoto’s safe. His selfish attitude gets him another one of these…
Poor Dormouse. First a punch is the face by Makoto, and then a slap from Tweedledum. Dormouse isn’t impressed, to say the least. He tells everyone how his beloved March Hare, a friend who recruited him into the army, was executed by Dum after reporting to her superiors that the King was controlling the monsters. Dormouse drags Makoto away and tries to get Makoto to run away with him. A monster suddenly ambushes them but Dum arrives in the nick of time, saving Alice and Dormouse both.
This leads to a mindboggling moment where Dum takes out a letter and announces that March Hare isn’t dead after all. Turns out Dum didn’t execute March Hare at all, and it was at that point that he created the rebel army. She wrote a letter addressed to Dormouse that said she was alive and well and was currently residing in one of the army rebel bases. Dum hadn’t given Dormouse the letter earlier because he wasn’t sure he was worthy to receive it…
…which is one of the stupidest excuses I’ve ever heard. I mean, really, Dum? Dormouse was tormented by March Hare’s death, and you don’t tell him because your ego says he wasn’t worthy? Ugh… Anyway, because of this Dormouse no longer holds any hostility towards Dum, which leads to Dormouse becoming a better person who is willing to protect his friends, and not just Makoto. This also dispels any suspicion readers may have had about Dum’s character, now that the accusation that he is a ‘murder’ has been put to rest. The act also reinforces the strong sense of morals and responsibility that Dum holds. March Hare was to be officially executed by Tweedledum, and by not following this duty, Dum went against a command delivered to him by the King. Unlike his brother, Dum paid a high price for doing what he believed was right.
In the final chapter we come face-to-face with two new characters! Finally, we’re able to meet the King of Hearts and Tweedledee. As soon as Makoto and his friends reach the castle, they are immediately greeted by Tweedledee and a horde of monsters. Whip in hand, Dee attacks the group, making an angry declaration at Dum as he does so.
The resentment Dee holds for Tweedledum is clear, his pain so deep that he even took his brother’s left eye at the time of his perceived betrayal. Not long after, the King of Hearts makes his entrance from a balcony, his face stern as he spits the word ‘traitors’ and attacks them with a ball of magical energy. Reason does not reach him as he exclaims, ‘I will reach my goal!!’. What this ‘goal’ is no one knows as he doesn’t explain further. In a striking twist, the King’s eyes fall on Makoto, and his face becomes crazed.
The twist is that his face is angry, rather than love-struck (which is usually the case with male characters). Still, the very specific and personal line of ‘your face offends me’ is quite thought-provoking. Is it possible that the King of Hearts has met Alice’s sister, Lorina, and now the face that Makoto wears reminds the King of her? Was it perhaps Lorina that betrayed him, and that his ‘goal’ has something to do with her? Either way, the King is certainly not the kind young prince he once was.
I do like the design of the monsters in this series. Although they are all created with the concept of Alice in Wonderland in mind, they also hold a feeling of yōkai . The upside-down teacup is my favourite example. Drawn as a large English teacup with a wide crack in its centre to show multiple, creepy eyeballs, along with a pair of long, girlish legs that hang from its shadowy insides, its appearance reminds me of Kasa-obake.
This yōkai from Japanese folklore also takes on the appearance of a household object, this time an umbrella. The rest of its traits can vary, sometimes having one eye and one leg, and other times having two legs and two eyes. This yōkai influence adds another layer to the Alice in Wonderland setting, and the two work well together to create something new and interesting. I also appreciate the fact that all the monsters are different. Kanou didn’t take the cheap way out by copying and pasting the same monster over and over again, thank goodness.
I enjoyed that we got to learn more about the characters this volume while also making progress towards reaching the castle. The problem with having so many characters in such a short series (3 Volumes), is that the overall pace of the plot can feel a little rushed. Although this volume is all about the characters, some of them got more attention than others, which is a shame. That’s not to say that I feel this volume was rushed, but I do feel that a few more pages in places could have added more to the story overall.
For example, throughout Volume 1 and 2 of the series the characters have been on a mission to reach the King of Hearts castle. However, when they do finally get there it feels rather anticlimactic. A single panel is spent on the castle and castle grounds, and although the castle and castle grounds is large, the whole thing looks rather bland. It was as though the castle was drawn in a long short simply to skip any detail the building may have had. There was no ‘wonder’ in this Wonderland castle.
The cliff-hanger for this volume was impressive. The King assaults Makoto with magic, wrapping it around his form. We see our hero screaming, and then falling, before getting his hand grabbed by Hatter and disappearing. The group is left dumbstruck as they watch their two friends fade away. The fact that Hatter was the one to grab Makoto’s hand and disappear with him, points to the probability of a ‘main’ couple. Sorry guys, but it looks like Hatter might be the one to steal Makoto’s heart in the end! This development has been hinted to the reader throughout the book, with Hatter knowing about the body switch from the get-go and making the most serious declarations of love. My guess is that this relationship will solidify in the next volume, after we find out exactly where the two have ended up!
I know I already said this in the first review, but it’s worth mentioning twice! I am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland is based on the game I am Alice: Boy x Boy by Visualworks. Like last volume, Kanou has left a little bonus for fans who both follow the manga and the game. This time the free downloadable outfit has a mermaid feel, with a goldfish hairpin, pearl necklace and delicate fin sleeves. With comments about the design, and pictures of the before after product, this page makes another very nice omake.
Somehow this volume managed to focus on character development for all six characters, while also making sure to make progress on the story’s plot without too large a page limit. That’s not something all mangakas can do, and I admire the fact that Kanou and Visualworks were able to meet that challenge. Indeed, I do think some extra pages would have been beneficial in places, but for a manga that presented itself as light-hearted and short (in the sense that some series are 10+ volumes) from the very beginning, such issues are forgivable. The plot shows clear direction, with Makoto and Hatter forming a deeper relationship together and the influence of other characters foreshadowing the final volume. Overall I’m excited to find out how this series concludes, and if Alice and Makoto are finally able to get back into their own bodies!
Oh, and I apologise profusely for the pokemon joke. I’m better than that. We’re all better than that…
Gotta catch ‘em all!
Catch you all in Volume 3!
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