In the first book of Soraho Ina’s manga Fairy Tale Battle Royale, we meet Kuninaka Aoba, a middle school student who is being mercilessly bullied by some mean girls in her class. Her teacher is worried about her because her grades are starting to slip, but Aoba has a release. Whenever she can, she disappears into one of her favorite books, Alice in Wonderland. For a short while, her imagination goes down the rabbit hole and she becomes completely immersed in the world of Lewis Carroll’s creation, turning her fellow students into Wonderland characters. She also dreams about drawing picture books, and has even written one for a contest. Unfortunately, she left it behind in class when her teacher called her away, and the mean girls found it. And destroyed it.
As Aoba picks up the shreds of her art, she finds something that she didn’t create herself: a piece of paper that says that it’s a contract, and offers her one wish of her choosing in exchange for becoming the main character Alice in Alice in Wonderland. It makes no sense, of course, but Aoba fills out her wish anyway: she wants all of her classmates to be her friends. It’s just a wish, she assumes, but when she gets to school the next day everyone is being nice to her. Suspiciously nice. She waits for them to reveal that it’s some sort of trick, but no, they seem to have genuinely become her friends. They even apologize for tearing up her pages the day before. Of course, she has nothing in common with them. They just want to talk about celebrity gossip, and she doesn’t know any of that. But it’s better than being tormented. When she gets home, however, the “contract” she filled out seems to ooze a kind of ink that creates a heart on the palm of her hand. Then the floor opens up, and she falls into… Wonderland? It’s not exactly the Wonderland of her daydreams, however, and she’s not alone. There’s a haggard, dried up girl there, who tells Aoba that the world now belongs to her, then crumbles into dust. What is going on here?
We start to get some answers to that in the rest of the manga, which follows Aoba along as she begins to understand the rules of this new world in which she’s found herself. She’s not fully alone in there. Indeed, she meets a boy Noah, who knows just a little more than she does. It seems that they’re now “protagonists” – Noah is the protagonist of Aesop’s fable about the man, the boy and the donkey – and each comes with a book. Aoba’s has a picture of her as Alice at the beginning, but is blank after that. What do these books mean? And what are the dried up zombies who come at them as they try to explore the world? Finally, how are they supposed to get back from here?
This manga starts us off on what certainly looks like a good, solid fantasy. Aoba is going to be participating in a “Battle Royale,” a fight to the finish with other people who have become characters in stories in the other world. We can tell that from the title alone, though we’ve barely gotten started when this first volume ends. But there’s more to this than just a solid fantasy adventure. Aoba has to deal with the repercussions of having fantasy take over from reality, both in the alternate world and increasingly in the real world. She starts having her wishes come true, and discovers that this can be more complicated than she imagined. Of course, the fantasy adventure remains the main point, and it’s a fun one. But having a little extra added to it makes that fun a bit richer than a lot of alternate-reality fantasies.
Kuninaka Aoba, a mercilessly bullied ninth grader, receives a magical contract that grants her greatest wish, but at what cost? Suddenly, Aoba is thrust down a rabbit hole into a strangely familiar world from children’s stories–only this version comes with a dark and gruesome twist. In this Wonderland, it’s kill or be killed, in a dark fairy tale fight for survival!Add to CartLearn More