Manga-ka: Mamenosuke Fujimaru
Publisher: Seven Seas
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2013
Synopsis: “Julius Monrey is the grim Clockmaker of Wonderland, responsible for controlling the world’s time from his lonely Clock Tower, not to mention fixing the stopped clocks of the dead. When the beautiful Alice Liddell comes to live with and rely upon him, will her warm personality melt through his cool, apathetic heart – and bring about romantic feelings he never knew he had?”
There’s a certain stubborn streak required to keep up with all the Alice in the Country of… books. Some are good and some are awful, but they all leave us wondering if maybe, just maybe, the next one will answer all those looming questions. Why was Alice brought here? Has Nightmare been telling the truth about the vial? How is Alice’s sister involved? Sadly, The Clockmaker’s Story doesn’t address any of these points but it does give us something that’s been sorely lacking since the beginning – a genuinely touching romance.
The Clockmaker’s Story is a book I’ve been looking forward to since the day Seven Seas’ announced it. The original Alice in the Country of Hearts story left me unsure there was anyone Alice could have a healthy relationship with. Well, save for one individual – Julius the Clockmaker. In this world where everyone is destined to fall in love with Alice, Julius’ role change to lover felt more natural. It wasn’t immediate and it progressed over time, only ever as quickly as he got to know her.
Everything begins with Alice asking to move into Julius’ clock tower. She wisely acknowledges it’s the safest place as the only neutral zone in Wonderland. Others don’t think so however and offhandedly warn Alice that Julius’s true nature was not something to be trusted. His role in Wonderland is one of the story’s most interesting parts (so it’s not something to spoil!). It explains a lot about the attitudes the inhabitants have. It also makes Julius a very sympathetic character. His job is grim, reviled and at the same time expected and required. While he doesn’t seem especially thrilled by it, or by anything really, he does it with duty and skill.
It’s sweet then to see Alice thus step in to take care of this workaholic. She’s a little annoying in her persistence at first, but it’s kind and well-meaning, plus it’s great when a character is so self-aware of their actions instead of being oblivious to everything between their own ears. Julius is a pretty hard nut to crack, being so serious and introverted, but she’s considerate of what Julius thinks of her and her romantic feelings grow for Julius as organically as his do. There are all the cute, blushing, awkward and insecure moments that come with this kind of blossoming romance and all boundaries are respected. Crazy, isn’t it?
Alice and Julius’ story is short and sweet. The other characters bulk out the content with some attempts at interfering, and as usual we’re seeing the ‘same’ story played out only from a different angle so there are the familiar scenes of Alice discovering Wonderland. Julius and Alice’s relationship isn’t the only thing that feels different from the other books though, but may be the cause of the other discrepancy too.
In this book, Alice fills her vial completely but in the last panel, it’s shown as smashed. In previous books that I’ve read, the vial would fill but she would hold onto it and not ‘use’ it – however she’s expected to, we don’t know yet – but here, it’s broken. Did she break it herself? Did it break on its own? Was it an accident? It seems like symbolism for the fact that Alice had truly fallen in love and thus decided to stay here with Julius. That might just be an interpretation based on how much someone loves their relationship, but who knows?
The continuing lack of answers to the story’s great mysteries is still frustrating, but Alice in the Country of… definitely does its job well. It keeps fans buying, reading and waiting on the hope for questions answered. The eye-candy doesn’t hurt either, even if Mamenosuke Fujimaru’s artwork, while pretty, doesn’t quite reach the finesse of Alice in the Country of Hearts’ Soumei Hoshino. At least The Clockmaker’s Story satisfied one big lingering desire – offering a charming, fun, and adorably awkward romance where someone isn’t’t left feeling uneasy for reading it.
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Book purchased from Strange Adventures