Review: Alice on Deadlines Vol. 1

Seems just being a shinigami is not impressive enough these days. Turns out you actually have to be good at your job, and occasionally even do your job, or so one would assume. Lapan however, who is more interested in dirty magazines, believes in fun before work always. Therefore, when Lapan is assigned to go to earth to purge the soul of a shibito, aka zombie, he’s really there by force. The fun begins soon after though when his soul is switched from the skeleton vessel he is sent in into a buxom high school beauty named Alice. Alice, utterly horrified by her forced removal from her own body, now must keep an eye on Lapan; while Lapan, mainly keeping an eye on his sexy new body, must try to continue disposing of shibito’s until their bodies can be switched back.

Immediately, Shiro Ihara’s Alice on Deadlines comes across as one of the strangest cross-dressing stories yet, adding both body-switch and shinigami elements to the mix. Likewise, in addition to the superfluous amounts of fan service, the creatures that Lapan fights are actually quite disturbing.  So usually to the complete surprise of the reader, the manga goes from a total goof-comedy to serious action story with little to no warning. Certainly the story leans on the side of silly and sexy, but I expected perhaps a more natural transition. I suppose at least in this volume one must get used to the unpredictability of violence.

On the whole the character types are designed as one would expect a high school manga to have – a horndog teenage male and tons of cutesy high school girls. Of course, the skeleton that Alice inhabits sort of throws off the trend really quickly. Then again, throughout the manga the skeleton is also the most likely to have emotive art designs (a la sweat drop), perhaps chosen to underplay the otherwise morbid nature of the skeleton form. Ultimately though I suppose this blend of familiarity with darkness is was both what made me pick up the book and, after reading the first volume, note the series novelty in an otherwise cliché school setting. I’m not saying that by any means this is the most innovative high school comedy/action story around.  On the contrary, I think Lapan’s character, with his surprisingly successful attempts at provoking fan service moments, really hurts any chance of this manga escaping the standard high school / cross-dressing motifs. Yet everyone has their place, and without Lapan, the skeleton, poor Alice, and all the girls, girls, girls well this wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

In regards to the art style, I found it quite suitable to the hilarity. One would expect that adding life and humor to a skeleton would be challenging; however, the expressions clearly indicate Alice’s great displeasure (when she’s trapped in the skeleton) at nearly everything Lapan does. In terms of the girls, the manga creator rewards fan boys by dipping below the cute youthful faces of the girls to the mature bodies below. Now this is rated “Older Teen” and not 18+ so don’t expect too much; nevertheless, I presume the girls are bound to catch attention regardless of what they do, or what they may or may not be wearing.

Ultimately, as with Rosario Vampire, I believe the manga went for and achieved a fun blend of action and sexy high school hijinxs. In these early chapters, I believe Ihara intentionally worked more on character development than action; however, I’m assuming, and hoping, that with volume two we’ll start to develop at least the beginning of an overall plot. In summary, I did find myself especially entertained by Lapan and Alice, and their interactions will probably be enough for me to pick up the next book. If you’re not used to so much fanboy fan service though, or if that turns you away from manga, then you should definitely pass on this one.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

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