Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz Volume 1 by QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru
I’m always a little hesitant to review manga from genres I don’t generally enjoy. After all, if I was reading a western and my reaction was “I don’t like books with horses and cowboys!” that’s not very helpful to potential readers. Part of the reason why I liked Alice in the Country of Hearts so much was that it seemed to transcend the whole manga adaptation of a dating game genre a little bit, just because it was occasionally surreal and weird. Alice in the Country of Hearts certainly succeeded in at least being a manga with an interesting atmosphere, even if the plot wasn’t the strongest point of the manga. I think that hard core fans of the first series will certainly enjoy Cheshire Cat Waltz, but I didn’t like it very much just because it exhibited a certain lack of subtly and less intriguing storyline.
One of the interesting things about Alice in the Country of Hearts was the worldbuilding as Alice discovers the strange new world (populated by handsome men) that she’s been transported to. Alice in the Country of Clover starts midway in a different reality where Alice’s home base was the amusement park instead of the clock tower. The world suddenly gets transported from Hearts to the Country of Clover, and Alice has to adjust to a new reality while fighting her attraction to Boris, the Cheshire Cat. Starting midstream can be both good and bad. Readers already familiar with the setting of this magna aren’t bogged down by exposition. On the other hand, any references to the pasts of the characters feels a bit unearned, because the reader hasn’t seen the history that’s being referred to. Alice keeps mentioning how much she misses her old life at the amusement park after she’s whisked away to the Country of Clover, but since her time at the amusement park was never fully portrayed, her dilema doesn’t have much emotional depth.
Fujimaru ably executes all the varied character designs established in the earlier series, but I tend to prefer the delicate illustrations that were a bit more sparse on screen tone in Hearts. There isn’t really anything to complain about with Clover’s art, but it just seems less visually distinct than the look that Soumei Hoshino established in Hearts. Clover’s art was more typical and the actions of the characters were also much less subtle. Blood skulks around trying out bad innuendo on Alice in all of his dialogue, and Alice gets randomly groped on a number of occasions. This stands in contract to the surreal violence and suggestions of psychological trauma that were hinted at in the earlier series. So overall, my reaction to Alice in the Country of Clover was that it was too much like a dating sim manga for me to really enjoy, and I’m going to have to assume that Alice in the Country of Hearts was the notable exception in this series in terms of being more rewarding to read. That being said, I’m probably not completely done with this franchise – I would certainly pick up another volume if Hoshino is on art duties again, and I’d also be curious to read a manga in the series that features Ace, the directionally impaired and homicidal Knight.