Alice in Kyoto Forest, Volume 1

TOKYOPOP. Apr. 2022. 192p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781427870971.
Gr 5-8–Fifteen-year-old Alice Shirakawa’s only refuge from her harsh family situation is her beloved books. Unwanted, she decides to leave. When she enters Kyoto Forest, an “other” world, she learns that being true to herself is intrinsic to both her health and her mental well-being. Even with a childhood romantic interest in the picture, Alice prioritizes her self-improvement, making her a good model. Young readers will be swayed by her kind acts and by the cute visual style. Like Wonderland, Kyoto Forest is a place of discovery with its own rules. But between the characters who act as supportive guides and the realistic Kyoto architecture, it is far from whimsical. While this two-volume manga references and has thematic similarities to Lewis Carroll’s work and other traditional stories, it walks its own path, using the bricks to bolster its touching message. Even though everything develops at a reliable pace, a few more chapters would have suited the adaptation’s leisurely tone better and given breathing room for the unexpected drama near the end.
VERDICT This manga blends Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Japanese culture within a sweet coming-of-age story; fitting for both fans and those new to the genre.

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