Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland
While stopping by the library one day, Makoto opens a book only to find himself pulled into it. He blacks out, and when he regains consciousness, Makoto discovers that he's been transported to Wonderland...and that somehow he's switched bodies with a girl named Alice who came through at the same time. Now Makoto (and Alice in Makoto's body) are trying to find a way back home, but their efforts are hindered by the fact that the King of Hearts has waged war on his own people! The two fall in with some rebellious Wonderland soldiers – White Rabbit and Mad Hatter among them – to try and convince the King to let them go home. Can Makoto survive his time with men who seem far too interested in his new form? And will he ever learn to walk in high heels?
The arrival of this book on bookstore shelves (physical or virtual) might raise some reasonable questions: Is this part of the Alice in the Country of Hearts juggernaut? Is it related to, perhaps as a sequel, Are You Alice? Will there ever be an end to manga series based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? The answers to the first two questions are no, and the answer to the third remains to be seen. More important, however, is the question of whether or not this particular variation on Carroll's theme is worth your time.
Based on a cellphone game, I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland takes a different approach to the classic novel than other English releases of similar manga. In this version, “Alice” is a Japanese teen boy named Makoto. Makoto is your everyday nice guy, at least from the sparse information we are given before the story gets going. He has a younger sister with whom he is close and he has stopped by the library in order to get a book she specifically wanted to read. While there he saw a curious looking volume sticking out from the rest. He picked it up, lost consciousness, and the next thing he knew, woke up as a girl. The reason for this, we quickly learn, is that a girl named Alice did the exact same thing at the exact same time with a different copy. The book being a portal to Wonderland, the two went through together, resulting in a mix up of the bodies and souls. So now Makoto looks like Alice and Alice is wearing Makoto's body. Neither is quite as upset about the switch as they might have been, although they do chide each other to be careful with their borrowed forms. On the whole, however, Makoto and Alice seem to be more comfortable in their new bodies than might have been expected, giving the book the air of a less-funny Your and My Secret.
After the initial switch takes place, VisualWorks' story begins to fall into predictable clichés. Naturally all of Carroll's original characters are now bishounen of the highest caliber, with White Rabbit being the first we meet. As has become the norm, the Mad Hatter is set up as a dangerous love interest, the Cheshire Cat and the Dormouse are rivals, and there's something off about twins Dee and Dum. The King of Hearts (replacing the queen as the primary ruler of Wonderland) is a dangerous lunatic who has managed to transform his kingdom from one of peaceful tourism to a killing field, and if Alice and Makoto want to return home, they must somehow convince him to allow them passage through a portal in his palace. To do that, they will probably have to fight his army, named members of which will continually fall for Makoto. The plot is utterly predictable and not terribly exciting, largely because if you've read or played any young adult or older version of Alice, you've seen all of this before, and probably done better.
The big twist here is the titular body swap, and that really doesn't add much to the story. This is largely because, as mentioned before, neither Alice nor Makoto appears terribly upset by it once the shock wears off. There is an entertaining moment when Makoto wonders how girls can run in high heels (although Aya Kanou's art makes them look more like platforms), but he never seems quite uncomfortable enough at being Alice, even with the men hitting on him steadily. That the plot takes a break in the last chapter to have a hanami party/mad tea party blend does not help, as it slows down an already fairly uninteresting story.
There are some good moments, luckily. The aforementioned shoe scene is amusing and makes for a nice bit of commentary on manga heroines' usual footwear, and Makoto's conversation with Dum about sibling relationships is kind of sweet. Also interesting is the idea that the book functions as a gateway to Wonderland for tourists, and it certainly offers an explanation for why so many people seem to end up visiting across countless stories in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way. Kanou's character designs are attractive, albeit somewhat bland, and one of the monsters they encounter early on is very creepy in a zombie cherub kind of way. She has trouble with perspective, unfortunately, and one scene of Hatter holding Makoto in his arms looks very off, with Makoto resembling a doll in terms of how her size matches up to Hatter's.
If you haven't read other recent English language releases of Alice-based titles, you may find this book more enjoyable, but even if you aren't a collector of all things Alice, this volume is fairly mediocre. It doesn't do enough to separate itself from the herd in either art or story, and in many ways feels like a cheap knock-off of the QuinRose franchise. It isn't an offensive or painful read, but it also fails to leave an impact. This is one trip to Wonderland that might be safely avoided.
Overall : C-
Story : C-
Art : C
+ QC code for game download included, translation is very smooth. Some interesting moments within the story.
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