Review

by Rebecca Silverman,

Captive Hearts Of Oz

GN 1

Synopsis:
Captive Hearts Of Oz GN 1
Dorothy is a young teenage girl living on a farm with her aunt and uncle after the deaths of her parents. One day, her dog Toto starts acting strangely, and a massive tornado heads toward the farm shortly thereafter. Dorothy tries to hide in the storm cellar with her aunt, but a strange force prevents her from entering, and the next thing she knows, a girl calling herself Locasta the Witch of the North is welcoming her to the land of Oz. Locasta insists that Dorothy's only way home is to consult the Wizard in the Emerald City, but is that strictly the truth? Dorothy may not be in Kansas anymore, but there's something clearly off about this particular yellow brick road…
Review:

Is there a QuinRose-shaped hole in your life where Alice in the Country of _______ used to be? Seven Seas may have you covered with one of their new titles, Captive Hearts of Oz. While not actually based on an otome game, the series' first volume shares a lot with the Alice books in its reimagining of a western children's classic while also offering up a more sinister story than the previously released works of artist Mamenosuke Fujimaru. There's something very intriguing about this particular Dorothy and her journey, making this a book that both reverse harem fans and those who enjoy retellings of L. Frank Baum's original novel should find interesting.

At first it looks like business as usual for a story based on the 1900 American novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: there's a girl in a gingham dress named Dorothy living on a farm with her Scottie dog Toto and her aunt and uncle. But almost immediately, you notice that the story is careful not to call her relatives Em and Henry, and that Dorothy has a book on the table in front of her. It seems that this is not the Dorothy, but rather a Dorothy, and someone is desperate for her to play out the tale of Dorothy Gale's original journey. To that end, she is prevented from getting in the storm cellar with her aunt before being unceremoniously dumped in Oz, where she's immediately hailed as a “hero” for killing the Witch of the East, whose body is mysteriously missing when she regains consciousness. Almost without ceremony, a woman calling herself Locasta the Witch of the North forces the silver shoes onto Dorothy and insists that she follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, where Oz is sure to be able to help her get back home. The story, a mysterious figure tells us, must be followed.

It's evident that Locasta is uncomfortable with this turn of events. Dorothy is no fool – she immediately asks why Locasta, a magic user herself, can't just send her home, and she knows that there's something fishy about this whole setup. She remarks a few times that there's something familiar about the sequence of events, which would seem to imply that the book we kept seeing was in fact Baum's classic novel. (Those who have only seen the Judy Garland film will already notice that the shoes are silver and not ruby; the manga is sticking to the original book.) By the end of the volume, Dorothy has already met all three of her travelling companions, and it's clear that Locasta's meddling has forced this to happen. As this implies, the players themselves have regular lives outside the confines of the story, which must be disrupted in order to fulfill the narrative goal; in the case of the Tin Man, it seems like this has been a long time coming. It's obvious that someone must have an investment that in completing the original story, which is in itself highly suspicious.

This commitment to “Story” as its own being is an interesting literary trend that we've been seeing more in contemporary young adult fiction, most notably Sara Prineas' Ash & Bramble, although we can trace it back to at least John Kendrick Bangs' 1896 novel A Rebellious Heroine. In most cases, it pits the author of a piece against a character who refuses to follow the path laid out for them, and we can see this as a commentary on both the difficulties of writing fiction and predestination. Captive Hearts of Oz definitely appears to fit in the latter category, with someone, presumably either Oz or Baum himself, needing the story to work out according to his specifications. Has it gone wrong in the past? Why is it so important that Locasta not meddle and that Dorothy do as planned? More than anything, this is what makes the book so interesting.

Of course, this wouldn't be a shoujo work based on a literary classic without a bevy of beautiful boys to round out the cast. Fujimaru puts her skills to good use here, with Hayward the Scarecrow, Leon the Cowardly Lion, and Nick the Tin Woodsman all fulfilling different requirements of male manga beauty. There's a steampunk element to characters not on the actual journey, which is interesting, and Fujimaru's art has improved in general since the Alice series. Toto at times can look like a black blob rather than a puppy, and Dorothy's skirt changes lengths from page to page, but the panels read easily and the art is generally attractive. It's really the story that drives this one, though – the questions it poses about where things are headed while sticking to the basics of Baum's novel are what make you want to know for certain what's going on with the (terribly pretty) man behind the curtain.

Grade:
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-

+ Interesting use of story tropes and Baum's novel, poses interesting questions about what's really going on with both Dorothy and the plot
A few artistic inconsistencies, efforts to give Tin Man and Scarecrow backstory feel weak

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Production Info:
Story: Ryo Maryua
Art: Mamenosuke Fujimaru

Full encyclopedia details about
Captive Hearts Of Oz (OEL manga)

Release information about
Captive Hearts Of Oz (GN 1)

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