media: shojo/josie manga
genre: reverse harem/manga based on an otome game
author: QuinRose/Job (Japanese version cites Job, Seven Seas cites QuinRose)
translation/publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
target audience: Older Teen (16+)
spoilers: may not reference this books plot but may for others
Art: Oh god I want to like the art. I want to. It’s a bit cutesy, a little different, more expressive. But I cannot distinguish some faces of people. The problem is solved when it’s in color. It is not in color aside from the cover and like 4 color panels. The black and white makes it hard for me to tell who is who unless they are Alice, Nightmare, or Peter (because Alice is the only girl, Nightmare has an eye patch, and Peter has his ears and glasses). Because what this artist does is that clothing might look rather simplified. I have seen Job’s other work and I suspect this is an older work. So good news, the art gets better in future manga. Bad news, this manga is the older work and it’s not so great. (I would also like to know Job’s gender. I’ve seen the fandom throw around ‘she’ but I cannot confirm if Job is a he or a she.)
Story: Nightmare’s main story is adorable. In other manga, Nightmare is an elusive character where you do not really know what he can do. This manga illustrates some of his quirks and powers. It also brings up a what if, since his main go to thing is reading minds so what if he loses that ability? Problem then becomes the story feels short. It’s a little rushed. This is a little typical of these side stories, but this takes it to a further level. Most Clover manga try to set up where Alice goes to the Country of Clover. Key word is most. This is one of the few manga that strays from that norm. And I would argue that it hurts the story. We don’t get to see how Alice gets into Clover Tower and buddies up with Nightmare and Grey Ringmarc. This is an instant relationship path. Those are okay, I’m perfectly fine with Alice being readily acquainted with Nightmare at least, but I would have liked to see Nightmare before he started proposing wedding arrangements (literally the first things you get right at the beginning).
For some of these one-shot relationship mangas connected with this series, there are side stories. There’s technically one for Nightmare (could be considered a continuation), one for Peter, one for the Twins, and various ones for a separate series called the Crimson Empire. Half this manga is composed of the side stories. For people who like this idea and enjoy Crimson Empire, this may not bother you. However, I’m bothered by this. For one, I don’t enjoy Crimson Empire. I tried reading it, I didn’t like it. So I find out that this manga has a huge bulk of Crimson Empire and I’m already annoyed. Then I find out that this does not take like a fourth or a third, this chunk takes up about a half of the manga. This manga is priced at fourteen dollars at a Barnes and Noble (I know it’s cheaper elsewhere, but I trust Barnes and Nobel to not screw up their stock of books). I am bothered that I paid that much for a smaller manga in comparison to some of the other relationship ones and it’s filled with Crimson Empire side stories.
I am a fan of the series and want more books, so I was getting this no matter what. I knew what I was getting, yet I am still miffed by it. But this could easily lead to others not getting the book and other stories from Job not being picked up for translation. That is why it concerns me. Maybe it was that way in the original manga, but I probably would have felt better if this was connected as a side story with another Job book. I don’t see why it could not work, unless manga publications are more complicated than what I take them for.
Translation: Okay, I don’t read Japanese. I cannot confirm if the translations are accurate enough to the characters. From what I understand of fan translations from the game, which I consider part of cannon (even though Seven Seas goes by the six volume Alice in the Country of Hearts manga by Hoshino pure cannon), everyone’s characterization lines up okay. It is not perfect by any means, because one common complaint that various translators give is Peter rhyming in the English manga. Even I admit, in this manga, it makes his lines even more out there. Since his part is relatively small, I can excuse it. But hey, common complaint by others who read the true source material. Various lines also appear weird, probably because of shaky word choice. Usually Nightmare’s lines have the issues, for the warning.
Cover and back: Okay, there’s a neat story to go with the cover. Otherwise, this cover makes very little sense. That seems to be a quirk of Job’s, cute and weird sceneries with an explanation that could easily be considered true cannon. And as always, there are the four mini strip panels along with character art on the back. It shows Elliot March and Grey Ringmarc, which is strange because Elliot does not make an appearance at all. The panel comic strip pulls fun at Nightmare and displays one of Grey’s quirks of not being able to cook (which can sometimes be passed over in other relating manga so I am okay with this). The description of the story is extremely off point because it assumes Alice is not in a relationship with Nightmare. As far as I am concerned, it starts with her very close to Nightmare. Maybe not close enough for marriage, but it was not as though she was openly available for dating.
Conclusion: The story and art is cute and funny, certainly worth a read. But when reading you may stumble on some translations, characterizations if you are familiar with the Japanese games (or even read the manga itself in the original format), and might not be happy with the filler of side stories. The story and art do not provide enough of a redeeming feature to warrant a non-fan to purchase this manga. For a fan of the Alice series but not for Crimson Empire, this may be a manga you cannot enjoy as much because of the limited Alice content. For a fan of both series, this manga is certainly the one for you, given Job’s effectiveness at fluffy and adorable stories, even if the art is not for you.