By Chii Kurusu and Minato Yaguchi. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Alice ni Tensei Shita node, Koi mo Shigoto mo Houki Shimasu!” on the Shōsetsuka ni Narō website. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Emma Schumacker.
As with a lot of recent isekai titles, I’m starting to wonder if the “reincarnated in an otome game” authors are using that device as a way to get people to read their work. The reincarnation part of the book involves our heroine getting run over while rescuing a kitten, and she ends up in her favorite otome game. The trouble is, she’s in the expansion pack version – which she never played as it was only announced the day she was killed. So while she has all the common “romance” routes from the original game memorized, they aren’t working this time around. What’s more, the otome game she played was notorious for putting in more and more bad ends as you got closer to each romance. It comes up throughout the book, don’t get me wrong. But honestly? This is a perfectly good, fun supernatural romance series. It didn’t need to otome game itself up.
Our heroine is Alice Liddell, a name that may seem familiar. This one, though, is party of a Victorian SWAT team that fights enemies on behalf of the Queen. She’s smart (especially once the rather awkward “huge fan of otome games” prologue finishes) and does not take crap from anyone, and for good reason – her entire family was massacred three years earlier, and she’s trying to carry out their legacy. Her current case involves young women falling asleep and not waking up, and the prime suspect appears to be the very eccentric – and handsome – Dark Knightley. Together with her team of Jack (butler to her family and the other survivor of the massacre), Leeds (androgynous and the first person that Alice saved) and the Tweedle brothers, Dum and Dee (strong fighters but also adorable little boys), she’s determined to get to the bottom of this. Mostly as she has a bet with Dark as to who will solve it first!
As you can see, the book is not very subtle. There’s a lot going on here – I didn’t even mention the contracts with demons or superpowers most of them have – and fortunately most of the “Alice in Wonderland” stuff is kept to Alice’s name, the twins, and the fact that Dark wears a lot of fancy top hats. (An Alice romance where the love interest isn’t the Mad Hatter? Heavens forbid.) The villain is also super, super obvious. But that’s OK,. because the only reason anyone would read a title like this is for the interaction between the two leads, and that’s excellent. Alice makes a very good heroine, kicking ass and carrying a gun but also able to act the part of a Victorian lady, albeit one disliked by the other Victorian ladies. She’s actually reincarnated as the heroine of the otome game, which is probably a good thing given the fate of the “otome game villainess” in this book. As for Dark, he’s eccentric without being annoying, doesn’t have that “I am overly possessive” vibe a lot of romantic heroes tend to get, and has his own tragic backstory to boot. They make a good couple.
If you’re looking for deconstruction of the otome game archetypes, look elsewhere. And I hope you side with the landed gentry over those who buy their titles. But Evil Alice manages to be a breezy romance with mystery and horror overtones, and is perfectly pleasant.