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This volume focuses more on the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, and Dormouse's issues with Dum. The Cheshire Cat freaks out at the thought that the King of Hearts might view his current actions as a betrayal. Then Dormouse tells Makoto a little more about why he hates Dum, but Makoto finds it hard to believe that serious and responsible Dum could have coldly executed March Hare, Dormouse's loved one, even on the orders of the King. After that, it's time for gardening (yes, really). This break also allows the White Rabbit to deal with his newfound awkwardness around Makoto. He hasn't adjusted well to the news that Makoto is really a guy in a girl's body. Putting it like that makes this sound a lot like a trans story but, again, I'm probably putting way too much thought into this.
What about the King of Hearts and the possibility of Alice and Makoto returning to their own world and getting their bodies back? The volume gets back to that halfway through, when the group finally arrives at the palace.
I don't know why I don't hate this volume. The pacing was weird, Alice was criminally underutilized, Makoto continued to be bland, and Hatter flipped Makoto's skirt to cheer him up. Despite all of that, it's still just “meh” with occasional decent moments.
The aspect that bothered me the most was probably Alice's underutilization. After yet another sudden battle, I realized that, despite Alice being a weapons nut who took perfectly good care of herself when she first arrived in Wonderland, she never fought alongside the Wonderland guys. Everybody had to stop her from recklessly throwing grenades at the palace, and that was it. Even if Makoto's body was more out of shape than she was used to, there still should have been moments when Alice was genuinely useful. Even her role in the series' overall romantic storylines was seemingly forgotten – there was no sign of her attraction to Dum.
Oh, and speaking of characters being out of shape, at one point Makoto tried to lift a stone and was having trouble. That inspired him to think this: “I thought Alice said she trains! Guess a girl's body just doesn't have the same strength...!” Seriously? The implication is that Makoto could have lifted the stone if he were back in his own body, except in the previous volume Alice noted how out of shape he was compared to her and how it made running much more exhausting. Granted, Alice's body might have more stamina than Makoto's and yet less strength, but I'm more inclined to think the series was just being inconsistent and going with the lazy “girls are weaker” route so that the White Rabbit could swoop in and help.
The Cheshire Cat's backstory was nice enough, although it made him seem even more childish. Dormouse and Dum's issues could have been easily resolved if Dum had been a tad less stoic, but I did enjoy that part. My favorite of the backstory breaks was probably Hatter's. It was sweet and a bit silly. Actually, other than the skirt flip (why???), Hatter was probably my favorite thing in this whole volume. Even though I still don't understand why he likes Makoto so much, his devotion to him is nice.
What else...? Oh, look at the cover! Alice's hands are so horrible, one of them shrunken and the other one weirdly balloon-like, with a rosy blush that only makes it look worse. Flipping through the volume, it looks like there are a few slightly “off” hands, but nothing nearly that bad.
Anyway, one more volume to go!
My rating is probably too generous, but eh. ::shrug:: I still don't dislike this series (and this volume in particular), despite its issues and general blandness. So far, it's exactly what it presented itself as being. It could potentially have been more, and better, but that's why it's not getting more than 3 stars.
(Original review, including read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)