Alice the 101st
written by Chiqusa Kawai
The Mondonveille School of Music is esteemed, prestigious, and highly selective. Students must try out for the school and only 100 are allowed in each year. These young men and women are the best of the best when it comes to musical skills.
This year, 101 students are selected. The 101st is Aristide Lang, nicknamed Aristo. The kids at school call him Alice, much to his annoyance, even though his family has called him that, too. The kids are also willing to make cracks about his gender, because he’s pretty enough that some people mistake him for a girl. In addition, they’re highly curious about what makes Aristo so exceptional that the school was willing to break its own rules and let in an extra student.
Finally, Aristo gets a chance to show off his violin playing to the students. And he’s horrible!
This makes it all the more confusing. Why, oh, why, would the school break its own rules and let in an extra student who so thoroughly lacks musical talent? Furthermore, he doesn’t even understand music basics.
One teacher gets so frustrated he blows up at Aristo, screaming at him. Aristo is charged up. He whips out his bow and plays a brilliant song that stuns the teacher and brings students running to see who can play that well.
Afterward, Aristo seems to come out of a trance. He can’t even say what the song was called that he played. He just knew how to play it. The teacher gives Aristo something to sight read and Aristo is horrible again. There’s something very strange going on here. It seems Aristo has had musical geniuses in his family, but how is it he can be so brilliant and so terrible at the same instrument?
Alice the 101st is a cute and prettily drawn manga, created by Chigusa Kawai, the same mangaka behind the La Esperanca series. It feels like a mostly carefree read, though there are parts that get more dramatic and sad. This happens when discussing members of Aristo’s family who have died. It’s in honor of those members that he tried to get into the Mondonveille School of Music in the first place. The book earns a 16+ rating, and this comes from a bit of swearing and a few bawdy jokes, but it’s actually pretty tame for the rating it earned. The mystery of Aristo’s contradictory playing is the most interesting part of the book, and of course it doesn’t get explained yet, making readers want to continue with the series.-- Danica Davidson