The final volume of I am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland has arrived! If you’re new to the series then make sure you catch up with Volume 1 and Volume 2. Volume 3 finally reveals what happened to Makoto and Hatter after the King of Hearts angrily spirited them away. We also find out the cause of the King’s cruel behaviour, and we get to meet some new characters! Want to know how well this series wraps-up? Just read on!
At this point I would normally list each character and individually comment on how they have progressed. This volume points the spotlight almost entirely on Hatter and Makoto however, so other characters such as White Rabbit, Dormouse, Dum, Cheshire and Alice receive little to no character growth. This being this case, I will instead only focus on the characters that actually make significant appearances in the volume. Right, on with the characterisation section!
The star of the series, Makoto, is faced with some inner conflict in this volume. Is he a boy or a girl? What are his feelings towards Hatter? Does he want to stay in Wonderland or return home to his younger sister? Volume 3 dabbles, briefly and light-heartedly, with the question of gender and true love. Creatively, Makoto’s troubles appear to him visually in a labyrinth-type game set by one of the book’s new villains. In this game Makoto must face the riddles that have been pulling at his heart. The only way to progress through the labyrinth is to make some decisions and choose what’s most important to him.
A mirror and a sword, two items that are slightly cliché in terms of gender, but they could be there for good reason. In fact, the symbolism of these items is possibly deeper than the feminine and masculine connotations suggest. Makoto almost immediately picks the sword, declaring what he has been repeating since the beginning of the series, ‘I am a boy!’. However, this villain wouldn’t be a villain if there wasn’t right and wrong answers… The villain points out that these are ‘handy items’, but he doesn’t explain whether these items are handy for Makoto or himself.
Thank goodness the situation isn’t so clear cut. The villain disguises himself as Hatter, whereas the real Hatter, passed out at the time, is disguised as the villain. This con artist tells Makoto to kill the ‘villain’ so that he and ‘Hatter’ can escape the labyrinth together. My assumption here is that if Makoto had chosen the mirror, he would have been able to see that the two had switched appearances. In this situation, Makoto should have been fooled. Thankfully Makoto realises that, through choice of words on the villain’s part, that ‘Hatter’ isn’t really Hatter, and pointedly turns his sword on the real villain instead.
Makoto made the best choice for himself by choosing to identify as ‘male’. Although, don’t be fooled into thinking that choosing the mirror would strictly mean that Makoto chose ‘female’ either. I wonder if, if the mirror really would have reflected back the viewer’s true appearance, the mirror would have shown Makoto before the whole body swap incident. Although that would have been rather mean on the mirror’s part if Makoto chose to identify as ‘female’… Regardless, the manga FINALLY touches on the topic of Makoto and gender, although you have to read in-between the lines to get it.
The seriousness of Hatter’s feelings towards Makoto is revealed this volume. Though he begins as the knight in shining armour, he later becomes a damsel to be saved, giving his relationship with Makoto a much more interesting, and slightly more equal, dynamic. He whips out his gun on more than one occasion (and no, that’s not a euphemism, you perverts!), gets poisoned, wounded, attacked and in general just beaten up. Hatter might flaunt the strength of his feelings towards Makoto, but he also shows off how physically fit and resilient he is too. Fangirls will also appreciate those shirtless poses in some voyeuristic scenes of fan service.
New character alert! As the Jabberwock is a nonsense poem created by Lewis Carroll, readers could be forgiven for not recalling this character from the 1951 Disney movie. This is largely because he never made an appearance, besides from a few lines recited by the Cheshire Cat. Kanou’s version of this mythological being is a much more attractive, though perhaps just as crazed, creation. Adorning a black hood, spider web shirt, goggles and some clawed gloves, he looks more like a poser than an actual theat.
It seems the reason for this was to pull the reader into a false sense of security however. The Jabberwock is surprisingly dark in comparison to the story’s otherwise upbeat plot. He enjoys pushing people into madness, and his favourite way to do this is through drugs and poisons. He’s the perfect antagonist, albeit a surprising one. Saying that, if the Jabberwock doesn’t turn into one of Makoto’s loyal followers eventually I’ll eat my hat! It seems even villains find something attractively magnetic about Makoto.
The King of Hearts has some serious explaining to do! After whisking Makoto and Hatter away, the group finally come together again and storm the castle a second time. Without spoiling too much, I will say that fans who suspected Lorina were on the right track, although the cause for the King’s pain was still unexpected… and rather pathetic, in all honesty. The King’s reasoning certainly pulls away from the deeply complicated, dangerously dark persona he had at the start of the series. Then again, those memories Hatter described of the King being a bratty Prince should have been a giveaway. His answers do offer a conclusion, just a rather anticlimactic one in a big ‘April fools’ kind of way. Oh, and don’t think the King of Hearts can resist Makoto’s charms either!
What’s this? Another new character?! Not many manga series will introduce two new characters in the final volume, but I am Alice is a bit of a special case. The Queen of Hearts is the King of Hearts sister. Without her help, the group never would have made it to the castle again. She seems as cheerful and eccentric as her brother, although it seems there’s something unnerving about her bubbly persona… Sadly the volume doesn’t last long enough to go into further detail.
One thing I don’t comment enough on is the beautiful, full page coloured artwork present in every volume of this manga. It’s a treat for the eyes, sometimes drawn across two pages and other times beautifying the first few panels. Volume 3 is no exception. A gorgeous picture of Makoto and Hatter lying on their backs in a pool of water embellishes the beginning of the volume. Encompassing shades of cool blues, soft pinks and gentle whites, this page of colour showcases innocent romance and shy glances.
There is also a pleasant bonus at the end of the manga. Early sketches of the characters and their outfits allow readers to see how Makoto and the gang have changed from initial drawings. It’s quite interesting to see what Dormouse would look like with ears and a tail, Makoto in Lolita stockings and Hatter with a torn shirt to show-off his bellybutton.
As in every volume, I am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland Vol. 3 delivers on light-hearted comedy and blush-worthy shoujo romance. There are close-ups on lips about to touch and panels split my dreamy roses, embarrassing arguments and glomping dished out in equal measure. Whether the story reaches a satisfying conclusion is debatable however, most especially as the final volume teases readers with information that doesn’t lead anywhere. For example, at one point in the story Dormouse finds an empty bottle on Makoto given to him by the Jabberwock. Dormouse swiftly snatches the bottle and throws it into the river, saying it has the smell of a ‘bad person’. Makoto then wonders if his mouse-like companion knows the Jabberwock, though he doesn’t voice this question aloud. The question stops dead after this one scene, never to be touched again in any of the following pages.
Another example comes from Jabberwock overhearing a comment made by the Queen of Hearts. From his hiding place among the trees he notes that, through this confession we cannot hear, the Queen’s plans will give him opportunity to make the country ‘even madder’. Again, this glimpse into a potential subplot is glossed over as we immediately move on to the next scene. Though it is a tad frustrating, there is a reason for these brief snapshots of content.
We mustn’t forget that the entire I am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland series is based on a mobile app game, a game that contains multiple paths and multiple endings. The assumption is that, although you don’t now know what the Queen is planning or what Dormouse’s connection to the Jabberwock is, you will know if you play the game. Likewise, although this final volume gave some closure to readers by allowing them to find out if Makoto and Alice were able to pass through the gateway, it doesn’t give a full conclusion as to whether the two will get back into their own bodies and return home. If you want to find that out, you will have to play I am Alice: Boy x Boy. Indeed the manga highlights this fact at the end of the story in a charming four-panel chibi comic. If you want to play this game then be aware that it’s only available in Japanese and that the app itself is freemium, and you know my opinion on freemium otome apps…
Overall I am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland is a pleasant and amusing read. There are no heavy plot twists, no shocking revelations or complex subplots, but what it does have is humour, entertainment, a genderbend twist and some very handsome bishies. It is a little disappointing that the series wasn’t taken further to a more concrete conclusion, but all in all the series is an enjoyable distraction and a successful advertisement for its counterpart app game. It may not be ground-breaking, and its views on gender could certainly have been expanded on, but I imagine any BL or shoujo fan would be happy to have it in their collection.
If you are interested in the series then feel free to check out the Seven Seas website for more information.
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