Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Alice in Bishounen-Land
Alice Kagami's not a gamer, by any stretch of the imagination. She also couldn't care less about idols, but her best friend Tamami is crazy about both. When they're hanging out together, Tamami gets a mysterious text message inviting her to play a new game, and when she clicks “accept,” she starts to get sucked into her phone! Alice's efforts to save her backfire when she gets pulled in too, and now the girls are pitted against each other in a real(ish)-life version of Love Color School Stars - and the only way to get back home is to take their idols to the top! And if Alice doesn't care, Tamami's definitely on the side of caring too much – will Alice ever flee her candy-colored hell and go home?
Pity Alice – she's no sooner seen a broadcast about girls going missing all over Tokyo before her friend Tamami gets a text invite to a new game that pulls her into the phone! In Alice's attempts to save her, she also gets sucked in, and now she's stuck in the world of Love Color School Stars, quite possibly the worst phone-based otome game ever written. If she wants to get back to the real world, she'll have to win the game by raising a top idol group, and too bad if she's not interested. So Alice quickly grabs five guys from the huge selection screen and dives in...
...with a half-dog who comes with his own dogsitter, a giant, a 41-year-old who reversed his time to his cutest point and then froze it, a ghost, and a guy who's eight inches tall. Also she's up against Tamami, who has gone into full otaku mode and has zero intention of ever leaving the game world again. It's a candy-colored hell for non-gamer Alice, who is continually frustrated by the nonsensical events, characters, and cheap cash-grab tactics. She's also very much aware that while Tamami and the other missing girls from Tokyo (and women; one person she's up against is a working woman) were all chosen because they're obsessive consumers of this kind of game, she's just there because she stupidly tried to save a friend from an isekai experience that she very much wanted. Tamami's betrayal of Alice is handled lightly and doesn't factor into the story all that much, but Alice's sense of annoyance and resentment still comes across very clearly. If you thought the guy in Konosuba had it bad, poor Alice has him beat.
Fortunately, this scant two-volume series is also really funny – I laughed out loud a couple of times in each volume, which is a pretty good sign. The story is a pitch-perfect send-up of otome game and gacha game tropes, with an emphasis on how weird and creepy it might be to live in one of those worlds. For example, for all of the many isekai series that take place in a game-like world, we almost never see one with a “new character” gacha option; that's not true for Alice in Bishounen-Land. It doesn't spend a lot of time on how uncomfortable it is, but one scene where you see the guys squirming inside the capsules and someone comments that Alice should hurry up and put in the coins so they can all get out of there more than does the job. And naturally Alice can get duplicates of the guys she's already interacting with, which is just as weird as it sounds. For the guys, too – despite the fact that Alice is now living in the game, the boys she's meant to raise as idols are all aware that they're in a game and most of the game features remain; they even train with what they flat-out call mini-games. It's patently ridiculous, and that's a huge part of the story's charm. Other self-aware moments include one of the characters pixellating when he's trying to get her to spend real-world money for in-game money, how pathetic the much-vaunted CG is, and how Alice can't help noticing how very, very badly the whole thing is written.
Fortunately for us, the manga itself is not badly written, or translated for that matter. The major issue is that money is given in dollar amounts rather than yen, which I have mixed feelings about. Although I understand the impulse to use a currency that may be more immediately familiar to readers who haven't read a lot of manga before, this particular series is so very steeped in the tropes of a few very specific Japanese pop culture elements that it doesn't feel like a title someone who isn't already a manga or light novel reader would pick up in the first place. Perhaps more of an argument could be made for the game appealing to players of mobile otome games, a fair amount of which are available in any given app store, but it still feels a little disingenuous. But with that one decision aside, the humor comes across clearly in the English translation, and there are even a few bonus gags for the Francophones among the readers, such as the fact that the in-game school Alice attends is called “L'école High School,” which translates to “The School High School.” The art also does an excellent job of conveying the humor and sheer lunacy of the story, particularly the half-dog Kensuke and his dogsitter and giant Fortress Kyojima. The bad CG has to be seen to be believed, but it's worth it.
Although the series is brief, something that appears to have been the creators' decision rather than magazine-driven, that actually works in its favor. The premise could have suffered from being too drawn out, and the conclusion we get is, if a bit rushed, just as batshit insane as the rest of the series. Simply put, this is a deliberately nuts take on the isekai story and otome games, and as such, it works impressively well. There's more to be enjoyed if you're familiar with the particular genre(s) of game the story is poking at, but simple familiarity with idol-raising stories will also do you just fine as far as getting most of the jokes. And as an added bonus, the second volume contains a lengthy discussion of the process artist Yukito undergoes when designing a Volks figure, which is interesting in an entirely different way. Alice in Bishounen-Land is a lot of fun the next time you need a laugh.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Pitch-perfect send-up of idol genre, isekai, and gacha games. Interesting extra about designing figures.
|discuss this in the forum (5 posts) ||
Full encyclopedia details about