Alice in the Country of Hearts: Why is Ace (the Knight of Hearts) always lost?

Hi guys, here I am again, writing more about the Alice in the Country of Hearts manga. I have already written three reviews about it:

Ace and Alice
Ace and Alice. He is smiling as usual.

Today, I have a different topic in mind. Here I will discuss the backstory of Ace, the Knight of Hearts.

Warning: This post will contain massive spoilers for the entire series.

As I was reading the various manga, I was struck by all of the strange and violent things Ace does. For example, there is this little gem from “Alice in the Country of Hearts” manga:

Ace
Smiling while saying that, what is wrong with Ace?

Why exactly is he always threatening people? In the manga the explanation is pretty simple. He considers life in Wonderland meaningless and all the people replaceable. He hates his role so he acts out in order to rebel fruitlessly against the rules of the world.

In a conversation with Vivaldi, the Queen of Hearts and Ace’s boss, she explains to Alice that roles in their world are just given to the roleholders and they have no choice about it. Vivaldi is the Queen because she was given that role. She doesn’t particularly like it and would refuse if it were possible – but it’s not. According to her, there are some who enjoy their roles and some who do not. She mentions Ace as an example:

Vivaldi is amused
In truth is looks like Vivaldi is actually somewhat sympathetic to Ace’s struggle but at the same time she is “darkly amused” by it.

That is what the manga has revealed so far. Now, here are the HUGE spoilers!

The Alice manga series is an adaptation of the visual novel/otome games. In one of the most recent releases “Alice in the Country of Diamonds” a lot of Ace’s backstory is revealed.

Last warning: you might want to skip reading this since it has not been revealed in the manga yet. It’s also very sad. You might actually be happier *not* knowing all of this. Once you know about Ace’s story, everything you read will now be colored by that knowledge. Like, dialogue that seems pretty simple and ordinary will suddenly become very ominous and scary.

Take this panel, for example (image below):

Ace about decisions
Ace talking about second-guessing decisions

The context of the panel above is that Ace and Alice are lost. Alice said they should have taken the other path and Ace says “Nah . . . knights can’t second-guess their decisions.”

On the surface, he is just talking about them getting lost, right? But once I read about his backstory, all of the dialogue like this has become monstrously sad.

Why?

Since the “Alice in the Country of Diamonds” (Diamond no Kuni No Alice) game isn’t even available in English, I had to read the fan translations. In particular, this blog post summarizes exactly what the deal is with Ace. And it’s heartbreaking.

The story:

Julius and the child Ace
Julius and the child Ace

Originally Ace was an Outsider like Alice. He was just a child who was all alone and had lost someone important to him. Then Julius appeared and took Ace with him to Wonderland. (Just as Peter took Alice to Wonderland.) Julius and Ace became very close. They were happy.

That part was really sweet. Julius was not a grump. Ace was a sweet, loving child and they seemed to have a nice parent-son dynamic. Ace ceased to be an Outsider since he fully embraced Wonderland and became on of its inhabitants. He and Julius were both roleholders although the game doesn’t say what their roles were.

Ace of Hearts
I’m talking about this guy, Ace of Hearts

However, one day Julius was killed.

“What! But how can Julius die when he is still alive in the other games?” was my reaction.

It seems that Wonderland is not just one place but a ton of alternate timelines and worlds. There are many AU versions of Julius and Ace. In that timeline, Julius died.

Ace was devastated. When the executioner arrived and wanted to collect Julius’ clock, Ace went ballistic and killed him.

Then Joker appeared and, seeing as Ace was so strong, offered Ace the executioner job. Ace agreed to take the job, but with one condition. The executioner and the clockmaker work together to retrieve and fix broken clocks. Ace was willing to become the executioner if Julius was made into the clockmaker. That way, they would always be working together.

Now, one thing to remember is that Julius was already dead in that timeline. Ace’s bargain would have no effect on that. That Julius is dead and he is never coming back. Hence, this panel in “Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Junk Box Diamonds” in which Ace talks about his strength:

Ace in Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Junk Box Diamonds
Ace in “Alice in the Country of Diamonds: Junk Box Diamonds”

Ace quote: “There is no meaning in becoming stronger if you have already lost what is precious to you.”

To continue the story: Joker agreed to make all the wonderland versions of Ace into the executioner and (all of the still living) Julius versions the clockmaker, but only if Ace passed a test. Joker then showed himself to be a thoroughly ruthless person. The test was that to become the executioner, Ace must kill Julius.

As noted, Ace’s beloved father figure was already dead. Therefore, he had to travel to a different alternate Wonderland to kill a different Julius.

And… he does.

Ace with a scary slasher smile
Ace with a scary slasher smile

Ace traveled to a different AU and cut down the Julius there, right in front of the child Ace in that world. Even Joker was surprised since Ace didn’t even hesitate.

The child Ace’s sword slid to the floor, and stopped after hitting the wall. To the boy, staggering while pressing his stomach, the adult Ace said this:

Ace: You’re weak. How powerless, unable to protect the sole person you wanted to protect.

Tormenting words. He sneered at his own past self.

Ace: Hey… You know that Julius died because of you? It’s your fault.

It was if he were tormenting himself. Not only this child here, but he himself, who had been unable to protect Julius in another place.

Ace:…. from now on, you should always suffer. (from the fan translation)

Roughly speaking it works out like this:

  • World A: the original world of Ace, he meets Julius there but that version of Julius dies
  • World B: Ace travels there and kills that world’s version of Julius in front of a younger AU version of himself
  • World C: the Alice in the Country of Diamonds/Clover/Joker world. The Ace version from World A ends up here and he is the one we read about in the manga. The Julius here is not the same one from World A or B, who are both dead.
Ace and Alice chibi
Ace and Alice chibis

I mean, obviously this was a crazy thing to do but Ace had already lost the only thing that was precious to him so he decided to salvage what he could of the situation. And from then on, Ace always suffered.

The reason for all of this is not just because that one Julius died. It also turns out that Julius is doomed to die in all the worlds. You see, a person’s existence in the various Wonderland worlds is not infinite. If more than 50% of the Julius versions have died, the remaining Julius versions are then destined to also die.

Ace didn’t want all of the alternate versions of Julius to die so he made Julius the clockmaker. The Joker, executioner, and clockmaker all have a special ability in that they can never completely die. That’s why the other Wonderland characters can kill Joker repeatedly but he still re-appears. Joker is effectively immortal so long as he is the ruler of the prison world.

Ace and Julius
All of this was because Ace just couldn’t let go of Julius

Currently the Julius we know from the manga is still “normally” alive. So during the manga and games, his existence is not like Joker’s ghost-like appearances. However, once all of the Julius versions in all of the worlds die, Julius will then become like Joker: not bound to any country or timeline and able to appear anywhere.

The fact that Ace already lost Julius once and will now have to watch as every version of Julius dies is part of what is making him crazy. That, and the regret he feels because he had to kill a version of Julius. Also, was making Julius the clockmaker the right choice? Will the ultimate “ghostly” version of Julius be happy? I think Ace probably does his best not to think too much about that.

Ace on hindsight
Ace on hindsight

That is why when Ace says stuff like in the image above, it has a new meaning for me because I know what Ace has done.

On the other hand, Ace does have a strong attachment to the Julius he is with now. And it’s not all negative.

Ace is an idiot
Ace is an idiot, he said it himself

When I feel sad thinking about Ace’s past I comfort myself with the thought that Ace has a lot of good endings in the game. Hopefully Alice and Ace together can have a happy future.

Links:

Alice in the Heart Ace’s Route Review

Ace’s Good end in Joker no Kuni no Alice

Ace, Alice and Julius fanart

Daiya no Kuni no Alice 4-Komas – humorous 4 strip comics about the Alice in the Country of Diamonds game, translated into English

Here is rather more coherent explanation about Ace:

Daily writing prompt: Clock

In Wonderland the central theme is that of time. Time just flows on and on, you cannot make it stop. The inhabitants of Wonderland have clocks for hearts. When they die, their bodies disappear but the clock remains. The clockmaker then fixes the broken clock of the dead person. Once fixed, the clock is put inside a new body but the person that used to be alive is not brought back with his/her memories, personality, and skills. Instead, when a clock is repaired a new person is born.

Weekly challenge: Origin Story

My post is a bit late but I think it’s very appropriate. This post deals with Ace’s origin story. It explores the reason why Ace is the way he is. Before he was the Knight of Hearts and Executioner, he had a family.

Thank you for reading this very long post. I would love it if you would leave a comment below.

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6 comments

  1. I read a few chapters of a Alice in the Country of Hearts manga (I can’t recall which one) a few years ago when I was a very big fan of the whole Alice in Wonderland theme. Your reviews remind me how fascinating the characters and settings are and that I should get back to this series (after I spoiled myself, wow).

    I was wondering about something, though. What happens to the Ace in World B? What about all the other Aces? Are they doomed to watch their Julius die? Are they forced into a role like the Ace of World A?

    Like

    • You haven’t spoiled yourself exactly, this info about Ace does not appear in any of the manga volumes. It’s from the games.

      > What happens to the Ace in World B?

      We don’t know what happens to him. I’m guessing that he became the Knight of Hearts and also the executioner, too. The roleholders state several times that their roles are given to them and they have no choice. The roles seems to be the same through the various AUs we have seen.

      > What about all the other Aces? Are they doomed to watch their Julius die? Are they forced into a role like the Ace of World A?

      It seems that all of the Julius versions are going to die, yes. The again, the other roleholders are also all going to die, aren’t they? That’s not the unusual part. The unique thing about Ace and Julius vs the other roleholders is that the two of them are now effectively immortal. It’s actually the tragedy of immortality, isn’t it?

      Imagine being in a world where only you and two others are immortal. You will have to watch as everyone dies!

      Therefore:

      – all of the Julius versions will gradually die off until he becomes the “ultimate” Julius and will have an immortal/ghostlike existence
      – Ace, being a hell of a lot stronger than Julius, will no doubt survive much, much longer and will be forced to watch as Julius dies again and again in the different countries/alternate timelines.

      Having said that, the story *is* an otome. If Ace and Alice fall in love then he will quite possibly become more emotionally stable and happier. The role of executioner and clockmaker have also changed at least once (when Ace took those roles from the previous roleholders via his bargain) so it’s not really that impossible that he could eventually escape.

      Bad end in the otome: Ace does not fall in love with Alice, no happy ending for Ace

      Good end: Ace falls in love with Alice, they get married, have kids, Ace will probably mature and be happy

      Best end: Julius, Ace, and Alice form a stable threesome (*swoon*), happy times all around!

      Liked by 1 person

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