Manga-ka: Delico Psyche
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: December 2012
Synopsis: “One day, a mysterious rabbit-eared man named Peter suddenly appears in Alice’s garden and kidnaps her, whisking her off to a dangerous world where every resident brandishes a weapon. Trapped in this land in the midst of a three-way power struggle, Alice accepts an offer to stay at the Hatter’s mansion. At the mansion, Alice meets the Hatter’s right-hand man, Elliot March, who is likable and charming and…also sports a pair of bunny ears! And yet, Alice cannot get over the fact that Elliot is actually a Mafia hitman, willing to kill people without hesitation…In this popular Wonderland manga, the March Hare has finally arrived!!”
It’s been almost a year since I read, and very much enjoyed, Yen Press’s release of Alice in the Country of Hearts. Since then, I’ve been reading the spin-off series published by both Yen Press and Seven Seas in the hopes of filling in some of the plot holes left by the original story. So far I’ve been met with disappointment, not only for a lack of substantial plot expansion but also by stories that were dull from the forced pairing of Alice with one individual. None have been awful though, simply sub par, that is at least until I read the two part series, My Fanatic Rabbit.
To be fair, My Fanatic Rabbit was not entirely awful. Not at first. It was however consistently the most boring of the spin-offs for this franchise so far. The chemistry between Alice and the March Hare is nearly non-existent and no pairing has felt so much like it was just being put through the paces.
But let’s backtrack for a little history. Alice is a young woman trapped in a strange Wonderland that is split up into different countries, each one populated and overlapped by a variety of different people. There are a number of recurring characters such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts, and they all share one very big thing in common – every one of them will fall in love with Alice. This is because she is from another world and that’s simply the way of things. What matters within each spin-off is which individual Alice will return feelings for.
Enter the March Hare, also known as Elliot. Elliot is very shy, awkward and always second guessing himself. He is also a hit man and the right hand man of the mafia’s leader, the Mad Hatter. The contrast between these two roles is played almost like a sort of multiple personality disorder, and the severity of the shift does make for some suspenseful moments. However, Elliot being so prone to violent outbursts quickly makes it apparent how dangerous he is because of how abruptly he can fly into a blind rage.
Throughout the two books Alice goes about her daily activities that occur in all the spin-offs – working at a clock tower, visiting friends and generally wandering around. Elliot keeps appearing in hopes of spending more time with her and eventually realizes that he’s in love with her and wants her all to himself. At the same time, Alice is bombarded with the usual propositions and flirting from every other character, while randomly dwelling her thoughts on Elliot to keep reminding us that this is his story and she’ll fall in love with him no matter what. The only direct affection she shows for him consistently is finding him cute because of his pouting in combination with his rabbit ears, which she likes to fondle as if he were a pet.
Predictability is really what drags this story down – it’s far more interesting seeing Alice interact with others because the results are not known in advance. Even in the other series where she’s meant to be paired with someone else, characters are approached differently before being immediate love interests – as best friends, younger siblings, teachers, employers or landlords. Elliot just keeps running into Alice, occasionally helping her out and fawning, and then doing something scary that freaks her out. And the more he likes her, the more jealous he becomes. Couple that with his rage issues and… well, you get the idea.
When coming to the end of the second volume, I was bored by Elliot’s story but didn’t think too much of it one way or the other. And then the ending happened.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
In a fit of jealously and anger over personal issues with someone else, Elliot tries to physically force himself on Alice. Alice manages to fight back and escape, deciding then and there to return home to her world and get away from all that craziness. Elliot chases after her, in a moment I’m sure we’re supposed to see as romantic, and then Alice – seeing him coming after her so sad looking – apologizes to him saying that it was her fault he was driven to force himself on her like that.
Escapist fantasies are fine, and I’m okay with people reading whatever they wish as long as they can draw that line in their mind between reality and fantasy. Stories like this, however, targeted at teenagers and sending this kind of message just gross me out. These two books were full of warning signs, of a man who despite the story sugar-coating everything as his pure love for Alice, was violent, unpredictable and possessive. And in the end, he did exactly what we’d fear he’d do – he was attacking people who got close to Alice, and then tried to force himself on her.
But wait, there’s more!
When trying to decide if she really wants to leave, another recurring character – one who controls dreams – shows Alice a vision of what the March Hare will do if she leaves. When romantically rejected by Alice, the March Hare takes a pistol and shoots himself in the head. Brain splatter! Seeing this causes Alice to feel such guilt, that it heavily influences her decision to stay in Wonderland and specifically with Elliot.
I’ve never gone into one of the Alice in the Country of Hearts book expecting a great fleshed out romance or deep characters, and there’s a twisted level of suspense and danger in every story. The way this world works is unnerving, intentionally so. But My Fanatic Rabbit takes it to a much darker place then I ever thought it would go, and I really wish I hadn’t experienced it.
If you enjoy the Alice in the Country of Hearts’ series, take comfort knowing you don’t need to read all the spin-offs to follow any threading plots (which exist concurrently and at the same time independently of one another) – so you don’t miss anything by skipping this one, except reasons to wish you had. The little bits of fluff and cottontail weren’t enough to hide the unsettling results.