REVIEW: ‘Disney Manga: Alice in Wonderland’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Disney's Alice in Wonderland Special Collector's Manga

Disney Manga: Alice in Wonderland is published by TOKYOPOP. The manga comes from mangaka Jun Abe and is an adaptation of the 2010 Disney’s live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, which is based on the original Disney animated film and novel by Lewis Carroll. The manga details Alice’s return to Wonderland following her original adventure into the fantasy world.

Alice has frequent nightmares about a strange place and bizarre creatures including a cat that grins. However, she was able to cope with the whimsical world her mind made up with the help of her father. Following his death, Alice feels lost and with an engagement looming over her, she also feels like she is losing her independence. During a garden party, Alice sees a familiar white rabbit and decides to dive deep into the rabbit hole – figuratively and literally. Once in Underland, the name for Wonderland Alice previously misunderstood, Alice learns about her destiny to destroy the Red Queen.

To be frank, despite being a huge fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as well as the animated film Alice in Wonderland, I did not like the Burton remake. The main draw was the over-the-top visuals and 3D effects that were regaining popularity at the time. Additionally, the movie was marketed as a remake when in fact it is a sequel to the original animated film and more closely follows Through the Looking Glass than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On top of that, Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice was incredibly underwhelming.

However, Abe is able to inject some of the charisma and innocence into the character. Abe’s version of Alice is tenacious and fearless in the midst of danger but still unsure of herself and where she belongs. These qualities are incredibly relatable and remind me why Carroll’s original story resonates so much with people. 

The artwork features some of the stranger Burton inspired designs but overall are much cuter. The black and white format of the medium makes the designs more palatable. The new designs attempted to update the animated feature’s work by incorporating more Victorian-era fashion into the characters as well as giving them a more eery appearance. While I am still not a fan of the Cheshire Cat’s makeover, Abe’s version of the Mad Hatter is a lot more appealing. His scrawny limbs and mismatched clothes are coupled with his bizarre facial expressions. Hatter is creepy and the panels featuring close-ups on his features, which quickly change from content to deranged, clue the reader into how different this version of the character is.

Even in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Hatter has never been a good guy. His intentions are never to help Alice and his role in the story is just to be another bizarre character who points out Alice’s madness as well as her inadequacies. In Disney Manga: Alice in Wonderland, he has a bigger role in the story and comes off a lot more unhinged.

As much as I love the art of the book and the first half, the manga is still based on Burton’s movie so it inherits all of the narrative issues. The last half of the book tends to drag on. Additionally, while every other character feels fresh, the Red Queen, even in this form, feels like Helena Bonham Carter. While Carter is an excellent actress, she is not the Red Queen. Her portrayal in the original film left a sour taste in my mouth because it was clear the dialogue was created with her quirkiness in mind as opposed to Red Queen. Similarly, giving Hatter a backstory is unnecessary and instead of feeling sorry for him, I was left feeling confused as to why I am supposed to care since every other instance with the character he has been selfish and chaotic.

Despite the flaws in the story, Disney Manga: Alice in Wonderland is a better version of Burton’s movie. The action sequences feel dynamic, the characters are updated but still retain their bizarre whimsy, and Alice is much more likable. If you haven’t seen the movie, but love Alice in Wonderland, then this is a manga you will enjoy. If you did see the movie, beware that a lot of the plot issues still exist but overall this is still a fun read and a must for super fans of Carroll’s novel, like me.


Disney Manga: Alice in Wonderland
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TL;DR

Despite the flaws in the story, Disney Manga: Alice in Wonderland is a better version of Burton’s movie. The action sequences feel dynamic, the characters are updated but still retain their bizarre whimsy, and Alice is much more likable. If you haven’t seen the movie, but love Alice in Wonderland, then this is a manga you will enjoy. If you did see the movie, beware that a lot of the plot issues still exist but overall this is still a fun read and a must for super fans of Carroll’s novel, like me.