Having seen the anime series a good number of years ago (before this website began), and thus knowing at least the eventual outcome of the first season, this is a tough volume to review in the usual way. For the most part, it’s very similar to the first few episodes of the series, so here are some thoughts about what stood out for me on experiencing the story for the second time.
- The hikikomori allegory aspects stood out much more strongly this time around: the hub world with the many possible entrances, the idea of talking to dolls as a form of therapy even–see Lars and the Real Girl for a much more positive take on the idea in American cinema, of all places. Reading this post–Welcome to the NHK! is instructive; the situation is somewhat reminiscent for one of the sister with the MMORPG-addict brother though Nori is much more domestic, much more motherly. (And less interesting, alas.)
- That contrast between Jun and Nori makes Jun that much more unsympathetic in this instance too. For some reason I don’t remember being as irritated with him when I saw the anime than when I read this manga. He really is a bit of a jerk, though of course the point of the series is watching him come out of his shell.
- The line work is lavish and attractive. I was not all that taken by the dolls in the anime for some reason, and I found many of the voice actresses annoying. There are some wide panels in the manga that show off the fine detail of the hair and the dresses and I can recognize the artistry in them now. Kudos to Peach Pit.
- It’s interesting we are barely told anything about the Alice Game so far. Most of the time spent in the in-between world was devoted, Evangelion-style, to the internal and real-life world of Jun and what he’s missing. As I mentioned before the hikikomori aspects are clearer to me now and so the story seems more character-driven as a result.
- Why did I also feel that the conversation Shinku and Nori have about the right temperature for tea leaves was a thinly veiled allegory about Jun? It reminded me very much of the conversation about pinot noir grapes in the movie Sideways, in which different kinds of grapes = different kinds of people.
Will I continue the manga? I’d actually be curious in knowing a little bit about how it differs from the anime from all of you who’ve read it, so feel free to give some general hints in that direction. (No outright spoilers, please.)