Title: Disney Twisted Wonderland Vol. 1: The Manga: Book of Heartslabyul
Author: Yana Toboso, Wakana Hazuki
Release Date: July 11, 2023
Publisher: VIZ Media
A school-based Disney manga that’s based on the Mobile Game of the same name, Twisted Wonderland Vol. 1 introduces Enma Yuken, captain of a kendo team who has magically whisked away from his regular life in Tokyo on the eve of an important kendo tournament to an academy called Night’s Raven College located in a world known as the titular Twisted Wonderland, after coming across a strange carriage on the way home.
It isn’t long until Yu’s life becomes chaotic and adventurous as he tries to find a way back to Tokyo while also learning about the world of the Twisted Wonderland and the many strange inhabitants and students of Night Raven that reside in this world.
The manga pits using a realistic art style while also giving some characters cartoonish or over-the-top appearances, which can be off-putting at times, such as with the Ramshackle ghosts that Yu befriends at the dormitory he stays in until he can find a way home. Disney characters in this volume have their appearances as accurate as possible to their own movies, even if they’re only little cameo appearances so far, such as statues on Night Raven’s premises.
Aside from the Magic Mirror from Snow White, who appears before Yu, the Headmaster and the other students of Night Raven during their first night to read Yu’s character and potential in Wonderland. The characters from the small cast that the story has so far all have a wide range of adventurous and lively personalities shown in the first four chapters that readers may quickly come to enjoy.
There’s Yu, the protagonist who doesn’t want to be in Twisted Wonderland and just wants to go home, but when he realizes that getting home will be more complicated than he and the Headmaster thought. (To the point that the Headmaster and other students don’t even know what Japan is.) He quickly comes to settle in his new surroundings despite initially being angry that he’s going to miss the Kendo tournament that he worked so hard to get himself and his team in. Still, when the situation calls for it, he will test his skills as a kendo captain to help resolve a problem, such as one that occurs sometime after he arrives at the school.
However, the character that I really enjoyed the most in this volume was Grim, the magic and evil cat who wishes to become a powerful magician at Night Raven. He chews up every panel he’s in, and he’s probably the best character in this volume and series so far. He will, more often than not, be the focus of the chapter’s most chaotic scene whenever he appears. In all four of these chapters, something crazy or chaotic will happen to our characters that leaves destruction and zany scenes in their wake, making each chapter more exciting, which did catch my interest in the story when reading through the volume.
Besides Grim, Yu, and the Headmaster, the volume also puts focus on the Heartslabyul fraction that some players of the mobile game might be familiar with, with characters such as Clover and Deuce appearing as they befriend Yu on his first day at Night Raven, even if they do act mischievous to him. Clover himself was another entertaining character in the volume as well, with scenes involving him also being as funny as Grims.
Riddle Rosehearts, an important Heartslabyul member, also appears now and again throughout this volume. Still, he tends to keep himself in the shadows and remains mysterious as the volume focuses more on Yu and readers learning more about the Twisted Wonderland and the various locations that the realm has, be it Night Raven or some familiar locations from certain Disney movies such as the Seven Dwarfs cottage and the mines they work at in Snow White instead with it being clear that we’ll learn more about Riddle and the other fractions of Night Raven in future volumes, with this one only giving the reader an interesting hint to Riddle’s character.
The realm of Twisted Wonderland also gives insights into how the classic Disney villains, for example, the Queen of Hearts, are often viewed by residents of the world as heroes that they worship instead of villains to despise, which intrigued me as someone that didn’t play the mobile game before.
Twisted Wonderland Vol. 1 aims to give readers a look into its world in its first volume and slowly introduce each main character. For fans of Disney, they will be able to catch a ton of references to well-known movies. In the case of this volume, they will find a lot of references to Alice in Wonderland through the plot involving the Heartslabyul, as well as Snow White, as mentioned earlier.
While it’s chaotic and doesn’t take itself too seriously, sometimes the chaos can be a potential turn-off to readers, and while it’s clear that nothing significant has yet happened to our current small cast of characters, it takes its time to introduce us to the world. Its characters without making a head dive into things so soon, leaving readers with an excellent start to a story with a chance that they would be clamoring for more on Yu and other residents at Night Raven and Twisted Wonderland.
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