Welcome Back, Alice Volume 5 Review

Shuzo Oshimi’s Welcome Back, Alice has now reached a conclusion in Japan with its seventh volume. As the English releases also approach the end, it’s time to check in with Yohei and the rest of the cast to find out what’s in store for them in Volume 5 of this teenage drama. 

At the end of Volume 4, Yohei sleeps with Yui but is filled with regret. It should have been an important step in their relationship, but Yohei can’t help but think that the experience wasn’t as good as anything he’s done with Kei. As we reunite with the cast for Volume 5, we find Yohei meeting up with Kei in front of their old elementary school where the two reminisce about how innocent and fun their lives were back then. 

But Yohei can’t stop feeling guilty over sleeping with Yui and soon confesses his actions to Kei, who congratulates him. At the same time, Kei realises there might not be a place for him anymore by Yohei’s side and decides to take a step back from their friendship while telling his friend it’s up to him where things go from here. 

Much like the previous two volumes of Welcome Back, Alice this one once again throws the emotions of our cast into turmoil. Yohei is stuck in this relationship with Yui that he can’t break away from. He’s intoxicated by her but feels horrible for how it makes him feel and how it affects Kei. Kei meanwhile is keeping a comfortable distance from the two. Not ignoring them, but being careful not to overstep any boundaries either. Still, that means he’s often by himself at school and Art Club member Ren is quick to realise that something is upsetting him. 

And then we have Yui, who is increasingly losing sight of why she started dating Yohei in the first place. She’s now using him, even abusing him at times and that’s both as a means to get back at Kei and as an outlet for her hatred of men. If she’d been born male would Kei have gone out with her when she confessed her feelings back when they were kids? Or was Yohei always the destined special one? 

Even if you didn’t know Welcome Back, Alice was finishing in a couple of volumes I think you’d be able to tell it was building up to a conclusion. The relationship between these three characters has escalated to the point of there needing to be a big change of some kind; it certainly can’t continue like this. And if nothing else, Yohei knows this; he needs to either break things off with Yui or stay with her for the foreseeable. 

By this point, Oshimi has a good grasp of how to juggle all of his main characters. I was pleased that the chapters here focus on all three of the cast. Oshimi is exploring their feelings in depth and that ties together the overarching storyline and moves it along at a steady pace. I also appreciated that toward the end of this volume, we spent a lot of time with Ren who was only introduced in #4 but is already a staple member of the cast. They, like Kei, have a difficult relationship with their identity and how they feel about romance and gender. So, it’s nice to see them build a friendship with Kei where they can express those feelings in a safe environment. 

And I think underneath all the romance drama the manga has now, Ren as a character is a combination of everything this series wants to be. In the afterword for each book, Oshimi continues to talk about his complex feelings about being born male and that feeling is what drives Welcome Back, Alice. We might be in the midst of the kind of melodramatic storylines we expect from the author (especially if you’re familiar with Flowers of Evil), but I think the introduction of Ren was to balance those out and remind us of the message Oshimi is trying to convey through this work. Certainly, I’m still eager to see how this will all come to an end. 

Welcome Back, Alice Volume 5 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha under their Vertical imprint. The series continues to be translated by Daniel Koman and as ever the dialogue reads well with no issues. 

As mentioned earlier Welcome Back, Alice is complete in Japan with Volume 7. In English Volume 6 is scheduled for a release in March. No sign of Volume 7 in the schedule yet, but I can’t imagine it will be too far behind. 

Overall Welcome Back, Alice is clearly approaching the end as the characters are faced with choices to make. With the focus evenly divided between them, there’s plenty of character development on offer here and we even get to see more of Ren, who is a welcome addition to the narrative. 

Our review copy from Kodansha (Vertical Books) was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).

8 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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