Teenager Alice Liddell is still struggling to adapt to life in the Country of Hearts, a dreamlike but dangerous version of Wonderland. Everyone here is beautiful and they all love Alice; on the other hand, everyone is heavily armed and gunfights break out at the drop of a hat. Besides, Alice isn’t even sure she wants all the attention she gets in Hearts. She’s given up on romance, but Blood DuPre—aka the Hatter, boss of a violent Mafia group—just might change her mind.
Alice in the Country of Hearts is one of several manga series based on relationship-centered Japanese computer games. In the games, players can choose a romantic partner for Alice from Wonderland’s many handsome, if murderous, characters. The manga parallels this premise by offering various series in which Alice gets involved with different characters; predictably, The Mad Hatter’s Late-Night Tea Party sees her entangled with the Hatter.
Alice still believes that her adventures in Hearts are part of an extended dream. That would explain why Blood looks so much like a man from her own world, on whom she had an unrequited crush. The resemblance, however, is only skin-deep, as Blood DuPre is a brooding bad boy. The Hatter’s personality is aloof and cold, except when he’s teasing Alice with scandalous suggestions and touches. She’s unsure how she feels about Blood, but even if she likes him, the callous, sexually experienced Hatter surely isn’t serious about her… is he?
Though Alice is conflicted about her feelings for Blood, she gives in to his advances and they sleep together. Soon thereafter, Alice spots him sharing a tender moment with the Queen of Hearts. Distressed, she decides that she and the Hatter need some time apart, and she leaves his mansion to stay with a friend. Blood comes after her with a gun, wounding Alice’s friend and threatening Alice herself. Clearly, this is not everyone’s idea of a romantic hero.
Violence, murder, and interrogation are par for the course in Hearts, but the visuals are limited to artful blood spatters. Sex is implied and vaguely discussed, but no nudity actually appears; readers may be more concerned about the nature of the sex scenes than anything that is visually depicted. While Alice is attracted to the Hatter, he continually pushes her beyond her comfort zone. When they do have sex, it seems like she is just giving in to his pressure. Alice doesn’t seem unhappy afterward—but then again, she also believes that everything happening is only a dream.
Riko Sakura’s artistic style fits in well with the other illustrators of QuinRose’s Alice manga. The characters are slender and pretty with elaborate outfits, though this series does less with scenery than others, as its backgrounds tend to be minimal. However, since it is focused on the characters’ relationships, it makes sense that people’s expressions and interactions are given the most emphasis.
The personalities of the romantic interests in the Alice manga are varied, which means that different kinds of readers will find them appealing. The Cheshire Cat series, for example, focuses on a lighthearted love story with sweet-but-clueless Boris; the Hatter is a darker Heathcliff type. However, those who enjoy the Country of Hearts and its cast of wacky characters are likely to have fun with all of the series, including this one.
Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Mad Hatter’s Late Night Tea Party, Vols. 1-2
Art by Riko Sakura
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781937867782
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781626920026
Seven Seas, 2013-2014
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)