Welcome Back, Alice Volume 6 Review

Please note that this review contains spoilers for Welcome Back, Alice Volume 6 and details scenes of self-harm. 

Just before Christmas, I reviewed Volume 5 of Welcome Back, Alice. With the series having finished at Volume 7, we’re quickly approaching the end and now Volume 6 is here so it’s time to check in with the cast and see how the story is progressing. 

In Volume 5, we watched Yohei continue to fall into an extremely messy relationship with Yui. They’re sleeping together, for reasons Yohei can’t fully understand and he’s filled with guilt about his feelings toward Kei. Meanwhile, Kei has chosen to distance himself from Yohei for fear that he’ll only get in the way of his relationship with Yui and is instead finding solace in spending time with Art Club member Ren who is creating a nude painting of Kei. 

In Volume 6, the situation hasn’t changed much either. Yohei is still with Yui, engaging in sexual activities that leave him feeling hollow and questioning what the point is. Things come to a head when he runs into Kei while waiting for Yui one afternoon, who upon arriving forces Yohei to admit to his desire to sleep with her in front of Kei. Watching Kei crumple before him, Yohei begins feeling resentful of his relationship with Yui but still can’t bring himself to break it off. 

However, Yohei can’t get Kei’s hurt expression out of his mind and that helps him finally break free of the grip his lust has over him. Telling Yui he doesn’t want to continue sleeping with her, Yohei begins wondering how he can get himself “clean” again and return to a much simpler relationship with Kei before puberty and his urges warped everything between them. Yohei no longer wants to be tied down by being a ‘boy’ and wishes to follow in Kei’s footsteps, someone who sees themselves as neither male nor female. 

It has been obvious since the beginning that Welcome Back, Alice was an outlet for mangaka Shuzo Oshimi’s complex feelings toward sex and gender. I think at the beginning that worked well and certainly fit within the way Oshimi often writes works like this, but as the series goes on, we’re starting to get bogged down and lose track of what the message is. This instalment in particular is very abstract both in terms of the art at times and also in the story itself. 

There’s a scene in the mid-to-late section of the volume where Yohei has run himself in circles trying to figure out how to become closer to his ideal (becoming pure like Kei) and he takes a knife to his genitalia. It’s not unusual for an Oshimi work to deal with or acknowledge self-harm and suicide as themes, but I think in the context of Welcome Back, Alice it makes this a very uncomfortable read without much takeaway for the reader. Is it easy to see how Yohei ended up in this situation? Yes, yes it is but I’m left wondering what the point of any of this is. I’m not sure even Oshimi himself knows, going by his afterwords which increasingly makes for uncomfortable reading all of their own. 

It’s clear Oshimi has things he needs to work through, emotions that I don’t think he’ll find a resolution to just through this manga. And as for where we are with Welcome Back, Alice itself, I don’t know if Volume 7 will be able to wrap all of this up in a satisfactory manner. Frankly, Kei is the only one I’m rooting for to get a happy ending as he had the sense to distance himself from everything. Yui has been completely poisoned for me due to her abuse of Yohei, something that I fear Oshimi is going to try to justify and I know I won’t be able to forgive. And our protagonist? Well, I don’t even know what to feel anymore. He’s troubled and needs support but there’s no one in this series I trust to provide that – particularly not within the space of one final volume. I especially don’t want Kei to end up being the magical solution as that doesn’t feel like what the story was driving toward in the beginning. 

And I think that brings us to the main point I’m getting to here. Welcome Back, Alice Volume 6 isn’t entertaining nor particularly enjoyable. I’m a big fan of Oshimi’s works and I know what you’re getting, it’s never going to be ‘fun’ in the broad sense, but this book is so self-indulgent that I struggled to get anything out of it. This has not been my prior experience with the series, so I hope Volume 7 manages to reel me back in for the end. 

Welcome Back, Alice Volume 6 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha under their Vertical imprint and continues to be translated by Daniel Komen. The release reads well with no problems. Volume 7 is advertised in the back of this release as coming out in “fall 2024”, but retailers have it listed for August 20th so it could be sooner! 

Overall Welcome Back, Alice Volume 6 is a difficult read that left me feeling cold toward the whole thing. I’m hoping it’s just a bump in the road and the conclusion will be strong enough to make up for it, but at this rate, we’re so far off track that I can’t even see a way back that’s going to be satisfying. 

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

5 / 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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