“So that’s why, you and me are one.”
“I see dreams, and you see the reality.”
“My role is to see dreams… and your role is to see the reality.”
If Arisu is dreaming, I have to wake her up.
Outa is your typical no nonsense guy who looks firmly towards reality… Too bad his air headed childhood friend, Arisu, can’t be as serious as him. Their lives go about as normal, until Arisu has been absent from school for a total of three days. As Outa wonders what’s wrong with her, she drifts past him in odd clothes with a mysterious look about her. Outa is then pulled into Wonderland along with her. His mission? To save her, and drag her out of there no matter what. Amidst a mysterious world filled with talking rabbits and bickering flowers, why does Arisu insist on being called Alice? What’s her purpose there? And, does she even want to leave Wonderland?
First off, I was not expecting this to amount to much. The synopsis on VNDB has a cryptic quote which wouldn’t make sense to anyone unless they had read it themselves, and when the translation was released a little over a month ago, nobody really seemed to be discussing it. Or, perhaps I just missed those threads. Either way, it seemed to have dropped off mine and everyone’s radar and all I knew of it was that it was short, and Alice related. Since like many people, I too have a fascination with Wonderland, that was my only reason for giving it a go.
Like many large and popular fairytale franchises, Alice has dipped into other mediums, including visual novels. Some of the more popular Alice related VNs include Alice Parade featuring the befitting art of Noizi Ito, Liar-soft’s seminal classic Forest, and the breakthrough otome Heart no Kuni no Alice, to name but a few. What is it about Wonderland that fascinates us so? Is it the appeal of being taken to a world so very unlike our own, where all common sense and rules are abandoned to make way for bizarrely coloured creatures who speak in nothing but nonsensical riddles? Who wouldn’t want to throw away their dull and grey clothes in favour of over the top outfits straight out a child’s storybook? Wouldn’t you too want to try drinking peculiar flavoured tea amongst characters you wouldn’t find anywhere else? Wonderland is a world taken from our very own dreams, which is why it appeals to us so.
Tokyo Alice is another addition to the world which isn’t just some silly tie in. It deals with how Wonderland is a dream world, and the problems with escaping to such a world and leaving reality behind. It got to a point where something suddenly hit me, and it just kept going on from there. I felt my nose tingle, a sure sign that the floodgates would be unleashed. And, they were. I felt such sorrow encasing my heart, that I couldn’t help it but cry for Arisu’s way of thinking, and Outa trying to pull her out of a world where she wanted to remain, for completely understandable reasons. I was emotionally gripped at the story came to its climax.
It’s pretty short, and took me around an hour for my first read through. But, you’d definitely want to backtrack and make sure that you see every single scene, as when you do a bonus scene occurs after you beat a fifty card concentration game. But if you find difficulty in that (I feel like I spent a longer time backtracking and making different choices than I did reading the story the first time around), you can download a complete save for the game, beat the Concentration game and then view the short epilogue which clears some things up. It’s an extra few lines and expands on what Outa and Clo discussed before the ‘Hey, Alice’ quotes came on the screen. In case you haven’t read this yet I won’t go in depth about what it was but it turns a tragic, sorrowful ending into one with a slight bit of hope.
Considering that it’s a VN based on Wonderland, there are fantastical characters based on the original novels, like the Cheshire Cat, and the Tweedle twins, and then there are some characters based on who Arisu knows in real life – some obvious examples being Outa, Clo, and the lady in the house (or, Arisu’s mother). Most of the characters are pretty silly, but every so often they’ll say bizarre, almost unnerving things. What the Tweedle twins said about Outa not having a reflection at the time is one example, but it was casually brushed off as a joke. And then, once the ending comes we realize that what they said may have had some merit…
The sprites are simplistic, but they work well with the story. Even characters who only appear for a few lines have more than one expression, which would show the amount of work put into this. Backgrounds consist of real life photos, with Wonderland being a park you would want to have a picnic in. There’s a really nifty card theme there, as you can see in the shots I’ve posted. The cards turn around once a new expression/character shows up. There’s an annoying lack of being able to ctrl through what you’ve already read, which will prove frustrating for people trying to see every scene and have to keep backtracking. There is, however, an auto function which still isn’t as quick as it could be. Music is nice enough, and there’s one particular track which plays as things head to a close which would help draw the tears out of you.
Being a short VN, character development is mostly absent outside of our two lead roles, and that’s perfectly fine considering that it’s their story. But the side characters are plentiful and amusing regardless and add to the wondrous world that is Arisu’s very own wonderland. Without them, you’d just have the the top of your tower, the part which people admire and point at without any support.
/on a side note, I think that I might lay out my reviews like this in future, instead of cutting the images off into the paragraphs themselves. That way, I also won’t cut out too much of the images in order for them to fit.