Captive Hearts of Oz
MARUYA Ryo (story), FUJIMARU Mamenosuke (art)
Shoujo – Adventure, drama, fantasy, reverse harem, romance
4 Volumes (complete)
Dorothy is an orphan, but she’s happily living with her aunt, uncle, and little dog Toto. But when a tornado tears through their farm, Dorothy finds herself in a strange land. Told to go see the Wizard of Oz in order to return home, Dorothy can’t help but have a nagging feeling there’s something oddly familiar about all this…
♫We’re off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Hottie of Oz.♫
Like many of you, my familiarity of The Wizard of Oz comes from the classic movie. I’ve never read the book. I know a little bit about some of the changes in the silver screen adaptation (silver slippers to ruby, aging Dorothy up), but that’s about it. While it’s not essential, there were a few points I though the manga was going off in its own direction, but it’s all related back to the original story.
Literally. The whole idea of Captive Hearts of Oz revolves around following the story. Not Dorothy and company, of course, but other characters discuss and worry about following the plot and keeping the flow on track.
Dorothy lives with her aunt, uncle, and dog Toto. Although at first Captive Hearts of Oz feels like it’s an adaptation of the classic tale, there are hints right from the first chapter that things aren’t always what they appear to be on the surface. Yes, Dorothy has braids and a small black dog named Toto, but it’s “Auntie”, not “Auntie Em”. Scarecrow and company have names. She meets and travels with a guy named Zero. Since readers know the witches are concerned about keeping Dorothy on the journey, the real mystery is who is behind this world: is there going to be a L. Frank Baum character, or did some powerful sorcerer just copy the book for their own benefits? It’s a puzzle to keep readers hanging on.
Unlike most series I review, Captive Hearts of Oz was created for an English audience. So while the author and artist are Japanese, it’s a bit of a different flavor than traditional manga. Seven Seas said the manga was to have an otome game vibe to it, and I agree it’s probably closer to that. Surprisingly enough, the story isn’t about all the traveling companions falling in love with Dorothy. Only one out of the scarecrow, tin man, and lion likes her romantically. It reminds me a bit of Code: Realize, as while all of her friends were fond of the heroine, it was, overall, very much a story of friendship even though it’s technically a romance. Also, it’s very clear early one who’s the romantic lead of the story, and you can even tell just by looking at the cover of the fourth and final volume.
In addition, the two main love interests are undoubtedly the best characters. Dorothy has her moments, but she often operates on autopilot. Not that she’s only to blame considering there’s magic involved. Otherwise, while Captive Hearts of Oz is about the journey, it’s the mystery that is more addicting than the characters, story, or even the art.
Speaking of volumes, the story does drag a bit. Part of it is the fact that characters keep operating with their own motivations, hiding things behind secrets and vague comments. That’s fairly typical of dramas, but the art is also quite large. There were quite a few times where I wished the panels were half their size in order to pick up the pace. Four volumes isn’t long, but it could have been done in three or added a little more of the adventure in the middle. Another disadvantage to this series is that, in the grand scheme of things, the first two volumes are wholly unnecessary. This series is too short and too familiar to make the Dorothy and friends’ journey feel like a full adventure or that they’ve grown and changed a lot. Heck, I think you could even jump to the final volume and still have a solid grasp of the story. I think perhaps it would have been better for the truth behind the Land of Oz to be revealed in the third volume and save the last for resolving everything. It would add some much-needed tension to the final volume instead of the ending being mostly explanations.
If Captive Hearts of Oz is supposed to be like a game, it’s like sitting through a bunch of explanatory cutscenes before getting to the actual ending. And as for the ending… it’s okay. I can’t say I would have ever guessed the truth, but that’s not because it’s a twist that blows my mind. The creation of Oz and Dorothy’s odd melancholy is just kind of odd. At least the loose ends are tied up, but there’s also a sense of, “Why?” I guess it goes back to the manga’s drama roots, which is better than the comedy here, like a friend of Nicholas’ making an oil can shaped like a spiky shell.
The artist is behind most of the Alice in the Country of manga. So if you’re a big fan of all the various Alice in the Country of releases, Captive Hearts of Oz feels like a natural addition to your collection. Some of the character designs do look as if they are twins of characters of Alice manga, which is to be expected. Between that and the otome game atmosphere, if you’ve played a lot of those types of visual novels, chances are you can “hear” certain seiyuu as the characters. This helps make the story come alive. (Hayward, the short, tough, and somewhat idiotic scarecrow is clearly a role for Shimono Hiro.) As I mentioned earlier, sometimes, the layout feels large at points, and the story feels like it is taking longer than it should. Alice also appears older at times, but Oz in particular is quite handsome. Except for Toto, animals are actually human-like (so the monkeys are people with wings), and I thought this was a nice twist on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The manga opens with a color insert with the cover and another image, so that was nice. Otherwise, not much to say about this shoujo-style art.
While Captive Hearts of Oz can get readers hooked in regards to its mystery, the rest of the story is kind of lackluster. It just is missing a certain spark, and this is only exasperated by the fact that the last volume’s explanations make it the only necessary volume of the series.
Fujimaru’s art can be found in most of Seven Seas’ Alice in the Country of manga.