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Alice & Taiyo – 001-003 – Manga Review

Synopsis: One day, Alice Shinohara was feeling down. That’s when she discovered music that would inspire her to become a singer! Flashforward a few years and Alice just so happens to go to the very same school as her biggest influence– Taiyo Suzuki! But this unassuming quiet boy has a bit of social anxiety when it comes to playing his music in front of others… (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

While previous Jump Start Seiji Tanaka may have been one of my favorite new titles to appear in Shonen Jump’s three chapter tease, Alice & Taiyo is undoubtedly not for me. I actually kind of loath it in all honesty. Taiyo Suzuki is seemingly a kid who’s faced enough distaste for his creative efforts that he wants to remain a mild-mannered individual, content to live life in mundane obscurity. Alice & Taiyo is the story of Alice Shinohara pulling Taiyo up out of that funk and getting him to experience the joy of creativity again. Sort of. That’s really only the first chapter. After that the story seems poised to be one of total success without a trace of adversity. For now it looks to be a purely feel good story, and not once here does either protagonist face an obstacle, outside of Taiyo’s anxiety, which is overcome with such ease I can’t even really call it an obstacle, more a minor hiccup before the two are showered with heaps of praise and not an ounce of criticism.

My disdain for the series comes from it being little more than the manic pixie girl narrative. We have a seemingly mild boy who is taught to experience the joys of life, in this case his musical talent, by a quirky girl who’s bubbly and all smiles. It’s an overused narrative at best, and male fantasy at worst. Taiyo has incredible music talent, but is misunderstood from his early teen years thanks to his use of vocaloid, an often derided subset of Japanese music, where a computer produced voice sings the lyrics as dictated. Think Hatsune Miku, or Super Sonico, the most famous of vocaloid personas. (The manga doesn’t really explain this for Western readers, not that it should, but there you go.)

Perhaps most frustrating about Alice & Taiyo is not that Taiyo is just massively talented from the get go, but the manga’s undercurrent of almost bold-faced disdain for any criticism thrown talent’s way. The manga assumes a mentality of the haves (talented folks) and the have nots (Non-special losers.) There’s dialogue from Alice that speaks to this mindset and such a partisan view of the world makes Alice seem incredibly full of herself (never mind that whatever fans you garner are likely of the non-special variety.) It doesn’t take into account that most everyone is talented at something, but does not always receive the opportunity to discover that talent, or explore their passion, etc. It also doesn’t take into account that in a highly subjective medium, like music, criticism is less about talent or lack there of and more about personal taste.

Frustratingly Alice & Taiyo also feels like a beat for beat rip off of Your Lie in April’s early events, but without any of the adversity or drama. Cut a few of the more tear-jerker elements from Your Lie in April and you’ve got Alice & Taiyo, an entirely superficial experience about two people seemingly destined for success. Not once in these chapters does it feel like they have anywhere to go. Both times Alice & Taiyo play to crowds they’re immediately lavished with praise and applause. Even actual artists, ahead of them in the game, became ashamed of their non-professional attitudes, due to the sheer stunning nature of their performance. If these characters are merely in need of an avenue to showcase their already perfect talents, turning vocaloid music from a laughably perceived subgenre (the Manga’s stance, not mine) and into something undeniably profound, what’s the point? Why do I care? Why do I want to read week after week about these characters whom success is merely waiting for? Where’s the struggle, where’s the tough times, where’s the hard work?

Admittedly I’m of course aware Alice & Taiyo is an ongoing manga, meant to be anyway, we’ll see how long it lasts. Adversity could crop up later on, and there may very well be heartache. For as much as the Jump Start initiative can be flawed, with just three chapters not always enough to know how a series will turn out, Manga still needs to showcase something, some kind of promise and idea, about how the series will play out, where it ultimately will go and the kind of content to expect. I see nothing here but the characters succeeding at every turn and maybe a minor recurrence of Taiyo’s supposed anxiety (which he gets over all too quickly if that’s supposed to be an ongoing thing here.)  At the end of the day Alice & Taiyo just isn’t for me. It’s a feel good manga, designed for audience that just wants to see characters succeeding at their dreams and who have no need or care for how difficult that journey is or isn’t. But if the vote came down to this or Seiji Tanaka, I’d pick Seiji Tanaka every time.

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Alice & Taiyo in the comments below!

Alice & Taiyo is published as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.

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