Manga Review - Are You Alice? Volume 1

A modern day reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland), Are You Alice? by writer Ai Ninomiya and artist Ikumi Katagiri is a psychological mind-bender from start to finish. Toying with motifs from Carroll's nonsensical masterpiece, Alice manages to intrigue, delight, confuse and confound all the while begging to be read.

"A boy who has forsaken his name and memories stumbles into the mysterious world of Wonderland. There, he is approached by the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter who addresses him as 'Alice', and ordered by the Queen of Hearts to participate in a deadly game to kill the White Rabbit, or it's off with his head! As the game unfolds, things are set to get curiouser and curiouser?"



After reading Are You Alice? volume 1... considering it... and then re-reading it, I'm still not sure what I think. As you could imagine, this makes for a very difficult position to begin a review. First of all it would help to disregard what you previously know from the original Alice in Wonderland. Although we meet characters named Alice, The Cheshire Cat and the Red Queen they are more or less just names and very loosely based characterisations. For instance, Alice is male and he carries a revolver. There are no blue dress and white stockings in this story.

Confusing is generally a negative term when used to describe a story but in this case the confusion leads more to intrigue than frustration. I can honestly say that following my first reading of this volume, I struggled to wrap my head around where "Alice" came from, how he managed to arrive in Wonderland and why he is tasked to kill the white rabbit with a six shooter. But after asking myself these questions, I realised that "Alice" himself didn't know the answers to these questions either! It was a real Bastian/Atreyu moment. In realising this I found that I was actually being taken for a ride of self discovery with the main character. A voyage to discover himself and his part in the all too confusing world of Wonderland. Ninomiya-sensei's version of Wonderland is every bit as non-sensical as Mr Carroll's although with a noticeably darker and more sinister edge. The Cheshire Cat no longer appears mischievous but is outright devilish, this brooding dandy undoubtedly has a number of schemes up his well tailored sleeves. 

The art is really up there with some of the best, and I don't say this lightly. For a book that I had never particularly heard of, I was well surprised to see the quality of art within. The delicate line work gives a dignified air to the characters and portrays them as pieces within a greater story. There was, however, a lack of background work which sometimes left the panels feeling light and sparse. This is not entirely uncommon for first volumes as the artists assistants are usually only hired after the book is proven to be successful enough to warrant additional employees. The empty panels do help to add a dream-like quality, detached from reality.

As said previously, confusion is generally a bad thing when talking about a story but in this instance it has done nothing but pique my interest and has left me wanting more. I feel as though Are You Alice? has a big story to tell and I would like to be there as it unfurls.

Are You Alice? volume 1 is available now from Madman and volumes 2 and 3 are available for pre-order. 

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