Everybody Loves Alice: Alice in the Country of Hearts 1-4

This series, in 140 characters or less: Everyone is in love with Alice, yet everyone also has no problem killing her or other people who want to take her away for themselves.

Alice in the Country of Hearts starts off normally enough: Alice is in the garden, waking up from a nap, talking to her older sister about the book her sister is reading. You knows what happens next — she sees a white rabbit who then abducts her physically to jump with her into the chasm that will take them to Wonderland.

This version of the classic storybook tale presents all of the classic characters — such as the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit — as tall, willowy bishounen.  The White Rabbit who abducted Alice is Peter White, the bespectacled, bunny-eared prime minister of the Queen of Hearts. The Mad Hatter is Blood Dupre, the short-tempered leader of a crime syndicate known as the Hatters. The Cheshire Cat is Boris Airay, a gun-loving, midriff-baring, boa-wearing boy with cat ears. I feel the author went through a checklist of all of the qualities that make girls moe and made sure that they were all included in the story.

Hey, no complaints here. For all the harem manga that have crowded bookstores in various languages worldwide, more manga series that feature cute boys as its prominent selling feature are always welcome. As of September 2, 2012, the first omnibus volume by Yen Press ranks #7 on the New York Times best sellers list as it did even during its previous life as a Tokyopop title. I always wondered how it became so successful in Tokyopop’s waning era, when there were no big marketing campaigns to push it to manga-hungry fans. Maybe the allure of Alice and her bishounen harem was just too much to resist?

The last two manga series that I’ve written about on this blog (KCDS and The Flowers of Evil) left me feeling somewhat uneasy, and this one is no different. Maybe I need to read a volume of Chii’s Sweet Home in order to balance out and forget the crazy that’s Alice in the Country of Hearts. I always thought that the original Carroll story was bizarre enough, but this manga gave an already dark story an added violent edge. Don’t let their good looks fool you, all of Alice’s Wonderland suitors are creepy psychopaths who’d sooner kill her than kiss her. They’re all obsessed, manipulative, selfish and maladjusted. They all claim to love her, but a couple of them, such as Blood and Ace, wouldn’t mind if she was dead (maybe by their own hands). Same difference either way.

What bothers me even more than the insane behavior of her bishounen harem is Alice’s reaction to all of it. With Peter White, she has no problem refusing his advances when he’s a in stalker male mode, but as a little fluffy rabbit, she’ll willingly cuddle him and bring him to bed. It’s still the same guy, girlfriend.

And of all of them, her reactions towards Blood Dupre are the worst! In Chapter 14, he accuses her of “stoking the fires in our hot blooded men,” saying that the only reason why Alice is doing so well in Wonderland is because she has seduced all of the men, possibly including himself in that list.  When Alice denies this accusation and counter-accuses him of carrying on an affair with the Queen of Hearts who’s supposed to be his sworn enemy, he leans in and tells her that she should be punished for invading his privacy and finding out that secret. He then proceeds to choke her.  How does Alice react? She pouts, blushes, throws a book at Blood and declares that she doesn’t want to fall in love again.

Maybe I’ll take that gun and kill Alice myself.

The manga does have an interesting take on what exactly is the value of a person’s life. It’s explained that the reason why inhabitants of Wonderland are all right with killing and dying is because they can be revived with a new appearance as long as their ‘hearts’ are intact. Alice insists that even though they can be revived, the new person won’t be them anymore and she’ll be unhappy if she won’t get to see that person again.

You know I’ll read the last omnibus when I get to it. Even if Alice is a thinly-guised Mary Sue with a bunch of abusive boyfriends, you can be sure I’ll be reading faithfully to find out how this ends. My inner feminist is weeping.

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Three-Episode Test: La storia della Arcana Famiglia

This series pretty much has “merchandising windfall” and “fujoshi bait” written all over it. Is that why I decided to give it a watch? Sure. As much as I generally get bored of anime series that are formulaic, occasionally there would be a series that would rise up from its meager roots and be that series that everyone can’t stop talking about, so unless I watch as much anime as I can, how would I know? Also, I feel that I’m only qualified to hate on anime if I’ve actually seen some of its episodes. That seems fair, doesn’t it?

I don’t actually hate La storia della Arcana Famiglia. I don’t love it either, but it’s a rare anime that I love after seeing three episodes. Love takes commitment and passion — two qualities that I don’t think I have the inclination to devote to this series.

Felicita is your typical cute girl. Her father’s the head of a mafioso-ish group and he decides that he’s getting in age so instead of having to make the decision himself, he sets up a tournament that will determine who will be the next “Papa” of the family. By the way, the winner gets to marry Felicita as a bonus, yay!

Enter your bishounen harem (a phrase which I infinitely prefer to “reverse harem”)* — oh, did I forget to mention that each male competing in the “Duello” has a specific power based around a carot in the tarot. Because, hey, that totally worked in X! How else would you keep your cute boys apart otherwise.

Which is to say, the competing males aren’t necessarily boys. Liberta and Nova seem to be in the same age group, followed by Pace, Debito, and Luca, then Jolly and Dante. I mean, all’s fair in love and war, and age is nothing but a number, but Jolly and Dante are a bit too old for the mafia princess, isn’t she? You’d have to be pretty blind not to notice that the anime is skewing for a love triangle between Felicita and the two boys Liberta and Nova, anyway. But maybe I’m wrong; since this is based off an otome game, anything could still be possible, I suppose.

While I found some initial bits funny and could essentially stick around for the seiyuu and bishonen eyecandy, I think I’m going to give this show a pass. Even in the three episodes that I watched, it was too heavy on the forced drama (mostly on Nova’s quasi-emo hangups and overall prissiness) instead of focusing on the romance! or action! that the first episode promised. When I saw that the “chasing the cat” sequence was lined up for the second episode, I began to worry. At least Code Geass and Night Raid waited a bit in their run before using that gag.

Mi dispiace, Arcana Famiglia. We just weren’t going to work out.


* I think I should start drafting that post where I write down all the phrases used in anime/manga blogs which make me nuts.