Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll's fantasy worlds are a bit of a quandary. On one hand, his books contain great turns of phrase, enchanting characters, and some truly inspired concepts. On the other, we find strange, dark places where we don't want to go, a lead character who is essentially helpless, and some subtle hints of burgeoning sexuality. Miyuki-Chan In Wonderland is an interpretation of those works by Clamp, the all-female collective that has written and illustrated some of the most popular material in recent Japanese history. Unfortunately, this 1995 entry deserves instead the title of another fable: "The Emperor's New Clothes." A few people may ooh and aah, but it's nakedly bare, containing all of Carroll's missteps and none of his successes.

Miyuki appears to be an everyday schoolgirl in Japan, who by chance gets sucked into various bizarre worlds. In the first segment, "Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland", Miyuki goes through the first Carroll book that is most familiar to viewers due to the Disney adaptation, but through uniquely anime eyes. The rabbit has turned into a bunny girl, the Tweedle brothers into Chinese fighting girls, and the Cheshire Cat into a dark cross between Nuku-Nuku and Lum. We breeze through meetings with characters without a single pause, just to return Miyuki to her room. The second segment, "Miyuki-Chan in Mirrorland", takes us in a slightly different direction through some concepts most not familiar with Carroll's books might not expect. There's weird floating islands, bizarre pixies, and...oh yes...strip chess. And you thought this was a thinking man's anime.

Clamp may have intended to perform a visual spectacle here, but what they have created is a mishmash that owes more to the realm of Agent Aika than to the distinguished book series from which the concepts are stolen. The first thing of note is that, despite an almost complete lack of fan service, this show is decidedly, unabashedly sexual and even quite homoerotic in its tones (particularly since there are no male characters). Though the animation and character concepts might appeal to children, Miyuki-Chan is full of brazen Amazon women interested in Miyuki, and there are quite a few connotations I won't go into on a page visited by families. Suffice it to say that any subtle hints at the sensual world in Carroll are extremely exaggerated here to negative effect, and they make the show unsuitable for anyone not in their late teens or higher.

Secondly, the show contains all of Carroll's characters, but none of the humor. There's no personality to anyone, even to Miyuki. And at the rampaging pace of this thing, you barely even stop before the first freak show has fled offscreen and a new freak show has taken its place. Third, the fun song that starts the show on an exciting note gets old when it is repeated nonstop throughout the program. Finally, the show is incredibly short. The two episodes together don't even take a total of 26 minutes! With all these issues, you wonder why it was even made or released.

Ultimately, I believe it has to do with the clout of Clamp; due to their sales, they can command a lot more than your average artist or writer. Of their output that I've seen at this point, both this and the film X are execrable. Magic Knights Rayearth is moderately entertaining, and Angelic Layer is superb. With such a widely diverse catalog, one must conclude that their animated collection just isn't equal to their manga output, which is considerable. Who's to fault is something I can't determine. But I do place blame on Clamp for this: they practice thievery here. Their take isn't even vaguely creative or satirical.

For people who want eye candy, it's all there in its glory--the only good thing I can even say about it is that your eyes will not be sore from watching it, and that's why it doesn't suffer an even worse grade. Fans of Clamp might be satisfied. The rest of us, however, will want our money back.

Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland -- very brief nudity, strong sexual connotations -- D