Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 4 by Quinrose and Hoshino Soumei
I’m always happy to see a new volume of Alice in the Country of Hearts. It continues to display more depth and character development than one would expect from a dating sim manga adaptation. This volume shows the “game” Alice has been playing getting a bit of a reset. Alice is starting to feel comfortable in her new life, feeling affection for most of the inhabitants of the Country of Hearts. She almost inspires Julius of the clocktower to express his feelings for her, but he ends up displaying the overly stoic qualities of the typical Japanese shoujo hero by inviting her to stay with him in an offhand manner. The threat of violence is always present in this series, and here we see Ace acting like even more of a sociopath than usual. Alice manages to be an admirable shoujo heroine by speaking her mind, treating the people around her kindly, and not acting helpless even when she was thrown into another world.
The reset button is hit on this manga as the “season of April” arrives. Time has always been fluid in the Country of Hearts, and now the seasons change hourly as well. As Alice travels to locations hit by strange weather, other new visitors arrive from the Country of Clovers. Now there’s a new cast of characters for Alice to interact with, and one of them challenges Alice to a new game. Despite the dating sim like progression of introducing new handsome male characters for Alice with every volume, I’m still enjoying this manga even though it is taking a long time for Alice to unravel the mysteries of the Country of Hearts.
Happy Cafe Volume 4 by Kou Matsuzuki
Happy Cafe doesn’t really present anything new in this volume as it still features feel-good stories of Uru and her co-workers Ichiro and Shindo at Cafe Bonheur. Ichiro’s youngest sibling comes to the cafe, hellbent on hating Uru because it seems that Ichiro likes her so much. Uru and Shindo get closer when she nurses him through an illness. While I was surprised and a little intrigued by the plot developments in Alice in the Country of Hearts, Happy Cafe remains the same from volume to volume. While I can see why some readers might grow a little frustrated at the episodic nature of this manga which veers perilously close to plotlessness, to me it has a cozy feel and the sameness is really part of its charm. The potential romance between Uru and Shindo is developing at a glacial pace, but I find it to be a relaxing escape to pick up this simple manga and disappear into the angst free world the characters inhabit. Any issues are swiftly delt with and everyone cares about each other, so Happy Cafe ends up being extremely nice. This volume also features a longish, more dramatic back-up story about an orphaned girl coming to terms with her life called “Flower and Butterfly in Summer.”
Review copies provided by the publisher.