Rating: 4/5 – The Tea Party Was Never Quite This Mad
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
Once a week I call my sister and we compare notes on the anime we’re watching or the manga we’re reading. We suggest shows we think each other would like as well as shows to avoid. When I brought up a manga I was reviewing – Alice in Murderland – my sister asked what the deal was with Japan and the whole Alice mythos. It’s not an unfair question. Take a trip to wherever you buy your manga and you’ll find several different Alice-themed manga out there, mainly with a shoujo bent that has a slightly more grownup Alice falling in with a Mad Hatter who’s a bit more handsome than what Disney or Lewis Carroll imagined. I tried to answer my sister’s question with some baloney about the cosplay probably being one of the more simple ones to do and creators responding to that by creating manga to attract that audience. Like I said, baloney. The truth is Alice’s world is simply too fun a sandbox not to play in, and I finally caved with Alice in Murderland.
I figured something had to be up when I saw it on the shelf. Yen Press threw a little money behind this book, giving it the hardcover treatment. The two-pistol wielding Alice on the cover, drawn in Kaori Yuki’s distinctive style, cemented the deal. I figured there had to be something to set this book apart from all the other Alice books surrounding it, and I wasn’t disappointed on that front. The Kuonji clan is one of the richest and most powerful families on the planet. The matriarch and patriarch of the family have no children of their own, instead adopting dozens and dozens of children a la Brad and Angelina because hey, they can afford it. Once a month the entire clan, without exception, meets for a tea party, which is great until during one particular meeting when the ninety-plus children in the household are whittled down to nine, the unfortunates killed by poisoning. Shortly after that, their “mother” tells the survivors they’re to fight each other to the death, with the last one standing becoming the new head of the Kuonji family, inheriting all the power and secrets such a title bestows.
So it’s a little bit of Battle Royale meets Alice in Wonderland, but not completely. Where Battle Royale focused on the gore and psychology behind pitting classmates against each other, Alice maintains a bit more mystery and magic behind the fighting. For one thing, the normally brown-haired Stella seems to be able to change her form into that of a more violent blond-haired Alice during the more heated moments of battle, and apparently there’s more to mummy and daddy – aside from the mass murdering – that anyone in the family expected. What is the Kuonji’s tie to a mystical wonderland? That’s a question that’ll have to wait for a future volume.
Alice in Murderland might be the answer for anyone scratching their head about all the Alice titles on the bookstore shelf, and definitely stands apart from a lot of what’s currently being offered in that vein. There’s enough here to have me interested in volume two, despite the higher price tag due to the hardcover treatment. Obviously Yen Press believes in it enough to throw some extra money into the production. Time will tell if readers will follow suit, but it’s off to a great start with this first book.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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