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Alice 19th #1: Lotis Master
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Written by maehara   
Friday, 02 May 2008 16:00
Alice 19thYu Watase is a mangaka I'm very familiar with, despite not having read any of her books - I came to know her work through the Fushigi Yugi anime, which despite some annoying traits ("Miaka!!" "Tamahome!!!") I though was a great show. I must watch it again sometime... Anyway, Alice 19th is her latest manga to reach UK shores, and on first impressions is looking to be another very enjoyable story...

Alice Seno is a seemingly shy and meek 15-year-old girl who always seems to be overshadowed by her older sister Mayura, who is good at everything she does & infinitely more popular - Alice seems doomed to be known only as "Mayura's little sister". One day, Alice's life is turned upside down when she encounters and rescues from danger a mysterious and magical rabbit girl. Through her new acquaintance Alice discovers that certain words have power, and that she has the potential to be master of a set of sublimely powerful words called the Lotis Words. As a Lotis Master, Alice would attain the ability to use the power of words and communication to enter the Inner Heart of others. But such power always comes with a price, and for Alice the price may well turn out to be her sister, Mayura...

The rabbit is Nyozeka - or at least, a form that Nyozeka can take - and she's seen Alice's inner potential. She just needs the appropriate training, and guess what? Noyzeka's just the cuddly mascot character to do that. Unfortuately, before she can get around to doing that, Alice inadvertently uses her power to spirit her sister away - during an argument, she wished that Mayura would just disappear, and thanks to her powers, that's exactly what she got. Now she has to find a way to get Mayura back, but that's not going to be an easy task.

Being a shojo manga (which Viz define in the book as "sho'jo (n): manga appealing to both female and male readers" - uh, nom that's not quite right), there's also a healthy dose of romance and heartbreak involved, which in this case was the cause of Alice's desire to see the back of her sister. The hunk in question is Kyo Wakamiya, a member of the school archery club - both Alice and Mayura have strong feelings for him, but Alice's shyness and bumbling efforts to tell Kyo how she feels coincide with Mayura's own efforts to pull him, and Mayura on this occasion wins the day (despite Kyo seeming to be more interested in Alice - go figure). Cue argument, cue disappearance. There's also the small matter of Tatsuya, a rather pushy and dangerous senior that Mayura tries to set her sister up with.

Like all teen romance, there's a certain level of angst involved, but fortunately not at such a level that you can't tune it out and just enjoy the rest of the story. The romance, and danger that goes along with Alice's use to the Lotis Words' other main trick (being able to enter the "Inner Heart" of others - basically allowing her to walk through their thoughts and affect them), is accompanied by a decent sense of humour that lightens the tone when the book threatens to get a little too serious. It's a good combination - Watase has been at the manga game for a while and her experience tells - and the end result is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of entertainment. It's almost a magical girl story, in a way, but one that doesn't get too bogged down in the usual conventions of the genre and tries to do its own thing.

Art work's good, too, although the method of sound effect translation that Viz have chosen here is awkard at best (a numbered key in the text next to the Japanese effects, which you can then look up at the back of the book to translate).

There are other characters introduced here, including a second Lotis Master (very briefly, at the end of the volume), so we're still in the introduction phase, but this is a very good start to the story and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more.

Rating - ****

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