Teenager Alice Liddell is stuck in the Country of Hearts, a version of Wonderland that features a dizzying mix of amorous suitors and out-of-the-blue gunfights. This manga is one of more than a dozen based on a series of romance-centered Japanese computer games in which players take on the role of Alice and choose which Wonderland characters she will date. The manga, created by QuinRose and Mamenosuke Fujimaru, reflects these origins by offering readers an array of series and one-volume works that pair Alice with different Wonderland characters.
In The Clockmaker’s Story, Alice discovers the quiet charm of hardworking clockmaker Julius. Unlike most of the series’ characters, Julius is not easily identified as a character from the original Alice in Wonderland story. He’s the calmest and least violent of the people Alice meets in Hearts, but he’s also standoffish and very serious. As Alice discovers, he has good reason to be. The clocks Julius repairs have a significance beyond what Alice knows—one that has other Hearts inhabitants warning her to stay away from him. But as her heart gets involved, staying away from Julius starts to seem impossible.
This volume stands alone, an alternative to the events of the original Alice in the Country of Hearts series. Alice and Julius’s story only occupies two-thirds of the book while the rest consists of previews. There is an extended preview of the manga Crimson Empire: Circumstances to Serve a Noble, which is about a maid who is trained in battle and serves as bodyguard to a prince; and a much shorter preview of the manga Kanokon, which is about a kitsune girl. Crimson Empire is another manga written by QuinRose that is based on a relationship-centered role-playing game, and it will likely interest some fans of Alice and her romantic adventures.
The main story includes a lot of innuendo and one highly-discreet sex scene with no visible nudity. With a whole relationship to develop in such a short space, there’s less time for the violence we often see in the Country of Hearts. A lot of characters wave guns around, but the only time we see blood is a bullet grazing that looks suspiciously like an excuse for a Tender Wound-Bandaging Scene. There’s a bit more violence and a lot of implied sex in the Crimson Empire preview chapters, and none of either in the Kanokon pages.
The art is par for the course for an Alice series manga: it’s elegant and pretty with a rich variety of screentones. There’s much more focus on the characters than the scenery, but we do catch glimpses of the whimsical amusement park Heart Castle, and more.
Julius is an unusual romantic interest for the Hearts world. He’s much closer to sane and normal than the murderous Hatter, the fanciful Cheshire Cat, the love-drunk White Rabbit, or any of the other denizens of Hearts. He’s also the only one who is so reserved that Alice ends up pursuing him sometimes; many of the other characters, in this volume as well as in their own stories, push and tease Alice to the point of unnerving her. These differences may help The Clockmaker’s Story to appeal to readers who find other books in the series to be a little over the top, or those who prefer a different relationship dynamic.
Multiple previews of other manga make this volume seem scattered. Still, fans of the whimsical Country of Hearts will welcome another of Alice’s adventures there.