I enjoyed the first few volumes of this mash-up of Alice in Wonderland. Here are my previous reviews of volume 1, 2, 3, and 4. I was glad that Yen Press picked this series up after Tokyopop imploded, and it seemed to me at the time fairly sensible since I believe many of the other volumes of this series ended up on the New York Times manga bestseller’s list. All along this mash-up of Alice in Wonderland and a Japanese dating game has been more interesting than I would expect from a dating game manga adaptation, but the final volume has some extra creepiness and an open-ended conclusion.
The Country of Hearts is about to have a grand ball, but Alice doesn’t know how to dance and doesn’t have anything to wear. Julius and Ace help her prepare, but she’s unable to avoid the Mad Hatter, Blood Dupre, at the ball. Alice is simultaneously repelled and curious about him, and she gradually learns a little more about the Hatter and how the system of chaotic government works in the Country of Hearts. This series has always been long on atmosphere and short on plot, with various hints that there’s a central mystery behind Alice’s journey away from the real world. This is solved somewhat by hints that suggest that Alice’s journey is really more of an unhealthy psychological defense mechanism, as she can’t deal with a specific event that took place in the real world. There’s also a suggestion about who the White Rabbit’s real world analogue is that makes his obsessive behavior seem even creepier, and I didn’t think that was possible.
Even though Alice in the Country of Hearts isn’t all that eventful, I did enjoy the series as a whole and was happy to read the final volumes. This manga is basically all about cute guys, random moments of homicide, occasional references to psychological issues, and awesome costuming. Even though the plot might not be all that detailed, it is much more interesting than any other manga that I’ve read that is based on a dating game, but perhaps I am just a sucker for random bullets flying in shoujo manga. Yen Press’ new omnibus editions will likely tempt fans to replace the old Tokyopop single volumes. I am too cheap to do this, but I did enjoy the larger size, character galleries, and color pages in this volume. I enjoyed this series enough that I’m planning on picking up the spin-off volumes from Seven Seas too.