Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Alice in the Country of Clover: Nightmare
After the land shifted, Alice found that she had been moved from the no longer extant Clock Tower to the Tower of Clover. Now living with Nightmare and Gray, Alice tries to get Nightmare to do his work, tend to his health, and to stop reading her mind whenever he pleases. But might she be falling in love with him as well? Also includes a Bloody Twins story, a Peter White story, and three Crimson Empire shorts.
With a series as long as the Alice in the Country of ________, there were bound to be some stinkers. Alice in the Country of Clover: Nightmare is one of them. With a main story that feels barely developed, art that renders the characters barely recognizable, and a quarter of the book given to another franchise, this is a low point in the QuinRose saga. While it does have its moments, by and large this is the book that might save you from your Alice collecting self – at least for one volume.
The actual Nightmare story takes up about half of the volume and is comprised of two chapters. The basic plot is that Nightmare has, at some time past, proposed to Alice, but she has steadfastly refused him. He creeps into her bed, he reads her mind, and he shirks both work and health, making her feel justified in her refusal despite the tender feelings she harbors for him beneath her crusty exterior. Major plot points include trying to get Ace and Peter to train him in self-defense (with sword and gun respectively) and Nightmare being convinced to take totally-not-Chinese natural medicine, which makes him healthy and productive but robs him of his dream-hopping powers. At some point in the story Alice does begin to feel that she can express her love to Nightmare, but the whole thing is rather garbled, and it is difficult to ascertain both Nightmare's character and just why Alice likes him.
A large part of the issue here is the art. Job, who appears to work a lot in the doujinshi world, does not have a particularly clean art style, nor is she especially adept at layouts. Most characters are simply scribbled onto the page, and those who are important enough to merit a full illustration within a panel are difficult to recognize from other series. Faces are very flat and almost uniformly wall-eyed, and if it wasn't for the clothing, it would be nigh on impossible to tell who the characters are. This does work to her advantage in some lighthearted scenes, where her use of barely drawn faces makes for a laugh or two, and in the Crimson Empire: Circumstances to Serve a Noble stories it doesn't matter as much because it has always been difficult to keep those characters straight, plus Job's art does give Sheila some much-needed levity. But when you have to remind yourself that the guy with the black hair and the sword is Ace, a character who has been a large part of most of the storylines thus far, the artist is probably not doing the absolute best job.
Neither the Peter White nor the Bloody Twins stories are particularly well developed, although both have their charm. The Peter story is a bit stronger, with its more cohesive plot about Ace teaching Alice a recipe that has surprising effects on Peter, whereas the Twins story seems to just be about the characters running around and trying to paw at Alice. Ace is much more jovial in his appearances in this book than we've seen for a while, cheerily poking at everyone and generally seeming uninterested in Alice. In fact, really only Peter and whoever is the lead character of the story expresses any romantic urges towards her, which is a bit of a departure – and not a bad one, at least in terms of keeping things kind of fresh. (This interpretation depends on whether or not you think Vivaldi has romantic inclinations in Alice's direction.) Likewise in the Crimson Empire stories only the specified guy is interested in Sheila, with everyone else sort of keeping out of the way.
Overall, however, Nightmare is one of, if not the, weakest entry into the Alice manga franchise to date. If you're a completist and really want all of the books on your shelves, there are things to enjoy if you look hard enough. If you're just a Nightmare fan, however, let's wait and see what the Nightmare Trilogy Seven Seas will start publishing in August will be like. One hopes that it will be less of a mess than this.
Overall : D
Story : D
Art : D
+ Some funny moments put Job's art in the spotlight, kind of nice to see fewer people after Alice and Sheila at once.
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