By Ryo Maruya and Mamenosuke Fujimaru, loosely based on the novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Angela Liu. Adapted by Lianne Sentar
One of the big sellers about 5-6 years ago on the late lamented New York Times Manga Bestseller charts was Alice in the Country of Hearts and its 87 billion spinoffs, based on a number of otome visual novels by creator QuinRose. In fact, one might argue that for a while the market was a bit glutted with Alice manga. Sadly, when QuinRose’s business went under, so did the rights to her series, and therefore we’re not seeing any more Alices over here. That said, they were a big hit for Seven Seas in particular, and they decided to reach out to the most popular artist for the series, Mamenosuke Fujimaru, and ask her if she could create a similar styled manga based on the Oz series by L. Frank Baum, which Seven Seas had recently done a version of with manga-style illustrations. And so we have this new manga, in which Dorothy finds herself in a mysterious new world and is soon surrounded by handsome men.
The strengths of this book are somewhat similar to Fujimaru’s Alice titles. Her art is excellent, and the pacing and action flows very well. The characters are mostly likeable if not all that fleshed out yet, as is typical for Volume Ones. We get the addition of a brother-sister team of Crows, who have a complicated tsundere-ish relationship with the scarecrow that I quite liked, and led to the best moment of the book, in which Dorothy pretends to be an evil villain in order to lure them out. Best of all is the hint that one of the witches, Locasta (you know, the one who no one remembers) is trying to change the way that the story goes, and we get the suggestion that the Land of Oz is something that runs on rules of storytelling rather than logic, in a very similar way to the Alice books.
The weaknesses of the book also crop up. It’s wearing its heart on its sleeve, frankly – we can’t do Wonderland, so here’s Oz with very similar attempts at dark themes and a harem of young guys. Unfortunately, the premise, at least so far, seems to lack the Alice series’ caustic and complicated heroine. While she has her moments, Dorothy is simply too nice and sweet, and you’re reminded that the best Alice books showed us the truth behind everything in the world – that the world was created as an escape to help her run away with a reality too tragic to deal with. I’m not entirely sure whether something similar is going on here, but if so, there need to be more hints that Dorothy is more than what she seems, rather than just Oz being more than what it seems.
That said, this is still the first volume, and I’m perfectly happy to get the next one to see how things developed. In the meantime, Alice fans will definitely enjoy this, I think, even if it feels a bit “lite” compared to its inspiration.