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review 2016-07-11 07:55
Alice in the Country of Diamonds, Wonderful Wonder World: Official Visual Fan Book - translation by Alexis Eckerman
Alice in the Country of Diamonds ~Wonderful Wonder World~ Official Visual Fan Book - QuinRose

For such a skinny volume, this was jam-packed with stuff. I'll be going over each section individually. First, the more general stuff:

This book was lovely, and I liked a lot of things about it, but as an English-language release it had problems. The biggest one was that, as far as I can tell, none of the games are currently available in English, and this was clearly written for people with access to Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Wonderful Wonder World. Several sections were either useless or overly confusing without the game.

Although my experience with the franchise is limited to the English-language translations of the manga (which I still haven't completely finished reading) and the Alice in the Country of Diamonds light novel, I still got a lot out of this book. I'm not clamoring to own a copy of my very own (I checked this out via interlibrary loan), but I'm glad I requested it and got to read it.

I would like to mention one thing, though. I've seen this tagged as an artbook, and I'd hesitate to call it that. The artwork is a big reason for English-language folks to buy this, but the only section that's really devoted to the game's artwork is the "Illustration Gallery." That section has nice, large images, even when they're not full-page. Every other section has images that are maybe 1-4 inches wide. It's sort of a combination artbook, game guide, and promotional extras collection.

Now for the various sections.

About the Alice Series:

Helpful if your knowledge of the franchise is spotty or rusty, although I'd highly recommend that newbies to the franchise at least try some of the manga before picking this book up. It's a fan book, after all.

Mostly information I already knew. This section did give me a little more of the Alice in the Country of Diamonds context than the one light novel gave me, though, so that was nice.

Illustration Gallery:

Lots of full-color and often full-page illustrations and promotional art, with occasional comments from Mamenosuke Fujimaru, the artist. I loved this section, even though the artwork for this series tends to be busier than I'd like. It made me appreciate the book's larger page measurements.

Character Introductions:

Character introductions for everyone you might possibly meet in the game. The more important characters each got two pages with a brief description, a couple full-body illustrations, smaller facial expression illustrations, a brief profile, sample illustrations from the game, and a comment from Mamenosuke Fujimaru, the artist. Peter and Alice's sister got a page of info each (full-body illustration, facial expressions, description), while the Faceless characters only got a single page for all of them combined.

These introductions were nice, especially since I didn't get to see many of the new characters in the Alice in the Country of Diamonds light novel. However, they got a bit boring after a while. I was struck by how little variation there was between some of the facial expressions. For example, the only difference between Blood's “Cold 01” expression and his “Shy 01” expression was that the “shy” expression had a very slight blush and the “cold” expression had a slightly open mouth.

One amusing thing I noticed: the game's creators went to a lot of effort to keep most of Alice's potential love interests from being over 30. Wonderland math apparently does not work the same as real world math. For example, Ace is listed as being 12-14 years old as a child and 23-26 as an adult. Julius is 24-27 years old when taking care of child Ace, which means he should at least be 35-38 - maybe 33-36 at the youngest. Instead, he's 27-30 when Ace is an adult. The only character in the whole game who was allowed to be over 30 was Jericho Bermuda.

Character Routes:


These pages were a jumble of screenshots and words in various fonts and colors. It was overwhelming, to be honest. They gave me a sense of the different kinds of endings available for each character, but without access to the game for comparison, they were too confusing to really enjoy.

Something that shocked me: Alice is actually killed in one of the Twins' endings. I couldn't tell if it was because they killed her or because they didn't care enough about her to try to protect her during a shootout. Also, one of Sidney's endings had her being imprisoned by him, which reminded me uncomfortably of Toma's route in Amnesia.

Territories:

All kinds of background illustrations for the various territories featured in the game. Unfortunately, they were all very small – as many as 12 background illustrations per page. I'd have preferred at least a few full-page illustrations.

Interview & Commentary:

A short interview with Mamenosuke Fujimaru, and a short commentary written by Kou Satsuki, the scriptwriter. A few tidbits of info here and there, but otherwise “meh.” I did like that Fujimaru actually named favorite characters when asked to do so, rather than prevaricating.

Perfect Capture Guide:

This section would have been wonderful for anyone with access to the game. It included pages and pages of choices, the lines preceding the choices, and info about the effects those choices would have.

Anyone who just wants to know how to get to a particular ending in the game would love this section. As someone who doesn't have access to the game, I skipped it.

Exclusive Comics:

After the “Perfect Capture Guide” section, the book had to be flipped over in order to read the manga parts from right to left. The exclusive comics appeared to be continuations of a couple different endings from the game, the Twins' “Dead End” and Sidney's “Best End.”

The Sidney one was okay. Alice worried that Crysta would be a better fit for Sidney, and Sidney reassured her and told her a little about how he and Crysta first met.

The Twins' one was a continuation of that ending I mentioned, the one where Alice ended up getting killed. From what I could tell, her “death” transported her to another Wonderland, one where the Twins once again didn't remember her. She had some trust issues and doubted their willingness to protect her, due to them having let her die in the other Wonderland, but they seemed to have vague memories of liking her.

One thing I really liked: the pages were much larger than I was used to Alice in the Country pages being, and the artwork was pretty and crisp.

Previously Published Comics:

This section was fabulous. It started with some full-page gags and then morphed into four-panel comics. I thought it'd be boring, because a large number of the comics were focused on summarizing the franchise for those who were unfamiliar with it, and the remaining ones were devoted to explaining Alice in the Country of Diamonds. However, these all turned out to be much funnier than I expected. And also heavier on the fanservice and fanservice-related jokes – my favorites were probably the bit with Crysta (oh come on, one yuri route wouldn't hurt) and the bit with the twins (“The voice acting is incredible. The panting is very realistic and sexy.” (116) My laugh took me by surprise and I nearly choked on my tea).

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-01-25 04:28
Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz (manga, vol. 7) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu
Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, Vol. 7 - QuinRose,Mamenosuke Fujimaru,Angela Liu

It's the last volume! I read volumes 1 through 6 during my vacation because I didn't realize until it was too late that I didn't have the whole set. Instead of waiting until my next vacation to get the final volume, I decided to request it via interlibrary loan (I'm so thankful for ILL, it's wonderful).

The first half of this volume was a continuation of the main story, while the next half was a continuation of the prequel story (set in the Country of Hearts) included at the end of several of the other Cheshire Cat Waltz volumes.

The main story: Alice is working at the cafe while Pierce and Boris enjoy a nice meal. Or rather, Pierce enjoys his meal while Boris picks at his and surreptitiously watches a Faceless customer. Alice becomes concerned when Boris suddenly disappears. He left to confront the Faceless man and put Pierce in charge of keeping Alice safe. However, there are quite a few more enemies in the area than Boris realizes. Luckily for both Boris and Alice, Blood and his gang are well-prepared.

While I think Mamenosuke Fujimaru is one of the best artists involved in this franchise, I have to admit that the action scenes in this volume were confusing. It was difficult to follow what was going on, and the quick shifts between characters and locations – from Boris to Blood to Nightmare to the rival syndicate to Vivaldi, etc. – didn't really help.

One of the Faceless was killed off in order to add a note of tragedy to the ending, something that I think was done in at least one or two of the other routes I read. For some reason, this particular death made me feel more numb than sad. Maybe I've read too many of these volumes?

On a weird note, this volume revealed something I had long suspected, but that, according to my reviews, should actually have been brought up in a completely different route and country. Unless I completely mixed up my notes and wrote my reviews up all wrong, Alice's funeral flashbacks took place in Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game. All that Cheshire Cat Waltz had was vague memories of Alice's sister trying to tell her something. In this volume, the two memories essentially became linked:

the funeral was not, in fact, for Alice's mother, but rather for her older sister. She blamed herself for her sister's death, and the thing her sister kept trying to tell her was that it was okay, that she shouldn't blame herself, and that it was okay to be happy in Wonderland if she wanted to be.

(spoiler show)

Which actually made Alice's decision to stay in Wonderland seem much better in this route than it had in several of the other routes, where staying in Wonderland meant Alice had to accept her feelings of guilt about abandoning her real life family.

The main story was nicely wrapped up and ended on a sweet note (with a bittersweet edge due to that Faceless guy's death), and yet I was still left feeling strangely unsatisfied.

The prequel story, set in the Country of Hearts: A group of Faceless attempt to strike at Gowland (or something – I can't remember what, exactly, their goal was, if it was ever stated) by planting bombs throughout his park. Luckily, he got some intel from Blood first and was able to minimize the damage, although several characters almost end up hurt. The Faceless woman with a crush on Boris was involved in the attack on the park and was captured by Gowland's people. To add insult to injury, Boris still couldn't tell her apart from other Faceless. How sad is that?

I actually enjoyed this more than the ending of the main story. Boris's feelings for Alice were still mostly one-sided, since Alice hadn't yet realized how she felt about him and expected to be going home at any moment. Even so, it was pretty sweet. I kind of wish all the “prequel story” parts had been collected together, rather than included at the end of various Cheshire Cat Waltz volumes. As it was, it took me longer than it should have to realize that they weren't brief prequel one-shots, and I didn't pay quite as much attention to them as I should have.

Extras:

 

- A 7-page continuation of the main story: I'm not sure if this really counts as an extra. Anyway, it picks up right after the main story. Alice is feeling guilty about the Faceless man who died for her, because she didn't want him to die but is also glad that she didn't die instead. Boris comforts her, and readers get to see a little bit of what happened when the Faceless guy's death acted as a trigger for Alice's memories and almost drew her back into the real world. I'm not really sure I liked this continuation. Sure, fine, it showed that Alice didn't immediately forget the guy who died for her, but it also made her and Boris's happy ending seem much more fragile and bittersweet.

 

- A 2-page gag comic featuring Alice, Boris, and Ace: Ace tells Alice and Boris a depressing story about a girl sucked into the Cinderella story and forced to experience it over and over, never getting to stay with the prince after she falls in love with him. This reminded me that Cheshire Cat Waltz never really wrapped things up as far as Ace was concerned. In volume 5 he was kind of cruel, and in volume 6 he almost managed what I think would have been murder-suicide. Then he was pretty much forgotten.

 

- An 11-page preview of Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter's Late Night Tea Party: I could immediately tell that this story had a different artist (Riko Sakura). Sakura's work was prettier than Job's, both not quite up to Fujimaru's level. Anyway, this is one of the few routes I haven't read yet, although I'm sure I'll get around to it at some point. The title seems to indicate that Blood will be Alice's love interest, but all this preview showed was Peter chasing after Alice way too energetically. Oh please let this not be a Peter route.

 

- Four full-color pages at the beginning of the volume: I liked these. They looked great and were sweet.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-26 02:06
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game (vol. 7) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game, Vol. 7 - QuinRose,Mamenosuke Fujimaru,Angela Liu

With Blood's help, Alice escapes Joker's prison. She learns that Vivaldi is Blood's sister and that they

planned the execution together for...reasons. Vivaldi gives Alice up to Blood, and Alice tries to adjust to the role of being an escaped criminal, Blood’s lady, and a member of the Hatter mafia. She becomes the Hatter family negotiator, slowly transforming the Hatter family into something that operates more legally, and she eventually marries Blood. It's a fragile ending, though, as Alice's brief involuntary move to the past, the Country of Diamonds, demonstrates.

(spoiler show)


The issue of Alice's choice isn't completely resolved (the regret and guilt that led to her envisioning her sister as Joker's prisoner is still there by the end), and there's a sense of impermanence to her life with Blood, despite the evidence that she's building a future with him. The move to the Country of Diamonds was very brief, very rushed, and kind of confusing.

Although I was disappointed about how fragile Alice's happy ending felt, I still enjoyed the sweetness of it (even if it didn't really fit the tone of most of the previous volumes in Circus and Liar's Game). There was some recognition that, the longer Alice stayed in Wonderland and the more she built a life there, the more the rules would apply to her as well. Both Alice and Blood made it clear that they wouldn't tolerate replacements – if either one of them died, they wouldn't accept a new “Alice” or new “Blood” created with repaired clocks. I suppose that's as close to a "happily ever after" as you can get in QuinRose's Wonderland.

All in all, this was a sweet ending for Circus and Liar's Game, but I disliked how unfocused the series felt. There were too many mysteries (and I'm still not satisfied with the explanation given for Alice's visions of the funeral) and, although Blood was a fascinating character, the romance wasn't given enough room to breathe and grow. Also, art-wise, I'd like to say that Fujimaru normally does a great job but sucks at drawing guns.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-26 02:01
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game (vol. 6) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game, Vol. 6 - QuinRose,Mamenosuke Fujimaru,Angela Liu

Alice tells Peter that she has chosen Blood and is going to live with him, but she gets a more aggressive reaction from him than she expected, which causes her to worry about how “off with their heads” Vivaldi will react. Also, Alice is once again worrying that Blood might only like her because she's an outsider. It doesn't help that she spotted

an extra teacup in his private garden. Has he secretly been meeting some other woman? An attack on Vivaldi leads to Vivaldi declaring Alice an enemy and sentencing her to be beheaded. It shocks Alice, but for some reason she approaches her upcoming execution feeling strangely calm. Will Blood save her? Or maybe Peter? Or will she, feeling guilty at being happy that her sister doesn't exist in this world and therefore can't take Blood away from her, allow herself to be executed?

(spoiler show)

The volume ends with a cute short in which Blood feels jealous that Alice keeps baking Elliot special carrot-flavored goodies.

After volumes worth of feeling like the story was being unnecessarily stretched out, now it feels like there aren't enough pages left to properly resolve everything.

Blood, with his mafia connections and occasional coldness, isn't really my favorite choice for Alice, but I like him as far as the larger story goes. He has stronger ties with Alice's real life than most of the other characters do, and his presence tends to bring out some of the series' more interesting storylines. This is not only true for Alice in the Country of Joker, but also for Blood's “route” in Alice in the Country of Hearts.

The relationship between Blood and Vivaldi comes as no surprise to anyone who's read the first licensed Alice in the Country of Hearts manga, so I couldn't bring myself to be very interested in Alice's

worries about Blood possibly seeing someone else on the side, but everyone's utter coldness as Alice's upcoming execution managed to shake things up a bit.

(spoiler show)


The short at the end of this volume was pretty adorable.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-26 01:56
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liar's Game (vol. 5) story by QuinRose, art by Mamenosuke Fujimaru, translated by Angela Liu
Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liars Game, Vol. 5 - QuinRose,Mamenosuke Fujimaru,Angela Liu

Ace and Boris both admit they love Alice, but Alice finally comes to the realization that she loves Blood – not as the shadow of her tutor, but as himself. She plans

to tell Peter and Vivaldi and leave to go live permanently at Blood's place. However, Peter may have finally decided to become more aggressive about pursuing Alice. Also, Alice now has a mysterious key (possibly to her sister's jail cell?).

(spoiler show)


The more I think about it, the sadder this world is. While Blood isn't a comfortable character, not by a long shot, I can admire his determination not to let Wonderland turn him into a thing for Alice's amusement. He flat out admits that he had initially planned to kill Alice, just to see if he could do that to a beloved outsider like her. In a way, he reminds me of Ace, although for some reason he works better for me here than Ace did in Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts.

This one, like Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz, is on the steamier side. Unfortunately, there seems to be more steam than actual romance – Alice's declaration of love loses some of its oomph because Blood doesn't seem to be particularly affected by it. He's possessive and wants her to stay at his mansion, but that's nothing new.

One interesting bit of info: we learn that

Peter has been lying to Alice all along. He told her that she could go home after she filled up her vial by talking to Wonderland residents. However, what the vial was being filled with was actually her feelings of guilt at not wanting to go home. She could have gone home at any time.

(spoiler show)

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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