A group of young girls possesses a mysterious power which gives them the ability to materialize their thoughts. Detained and experimented upon, these youths are locked away in secret until one of them manages to escape. Her name is Sana—a girl with the power to ignore the very laws of physics. When this wilful powerhouse crosses paths with a stubborn old man named Zouroku, his carefully-ordered life will never be the same again!
Alice and Zoroku Special: Looking Ahead to Part 2
The Red Queen Escapes
Dreams of Alice
Something Not Human
A Home to Return to
The Kashimura Family
The Evil Witch
Where the Cheshire Cat Smiles
The Little Queen
The Queen and the Witch
Even though it isn't tagged as such, there are several bits of the Alice in Wonderland elements incorporated. The anime itself has a cute, happy vibe going, at least after the first few episodes. I would could this to be more unique than generic, as there are several things done differently from what you would expect. The story is rather unusual. Your first 5 episodes lean more towards a dark and partial action theme. Oddly enough, episode 5 feels like it could be the ending of the anime, but it isn't. From there on, the anime turns more into a daily life situation. This is where that happier vibe comes into play. The purpose of the story is mainly on alice, who is learning about herself and who she truly is, and how she fits into the world. To go along with that, herself and a few others have a unique ability to use magical abilities such as summoning weapons or teleportation via the use of a magical crystal. I found large segments of the last 2.5 episodes to be slightly more boring, as they strayed away from the world we were familiar with. On the plus side, they incorporate that Alice in Wonderland concept. The ending has the largest surprise, and not something easily caught at first glance. It captures the progress of Alice well, but at a cost. Needless to say, it is doubtful there will be any seasons beyond this one. I found the graphics to work well for the type of anime, they use softer coloring and simplistic looks to give it a cute and relaxed theme. The faces are a bit derpy looking and some of the drawing may be a bit too simplistic at times, but it ends up feeling good when combined with the theme. The music also stood out, the opening theme is lovely, and throughout there are several nice songs played. When it comes to characters, people will no doubt appreciate Zoroku, as he isn't your generic anime character, but rather an older guy. The interactions between him and Alice are no doubt interesting, is it is far from your standard anime set-up. Along with them there will be his daughter, and some other people with the magical crystal ability users. None of those have a large presence, the anime relies heavily on Zoroku, Alice, and Sanae. Overall, it was a pleasent surprise and very unpredictable. The initial appearance might not fit exactly what you expected. Give it a few episodes, it is quite a tame anime that I would say is happiness.
At first glance, Alice and Zouroku is an Elfen Lied knock-off with all the teen drama and romance stripped away. There are no awkward young boys rescuing pretty damsels, no unnecessary humiliations, and no sexualized moe. Instead, a grumpy old man tries to parent an unsocialized magical girl, and the sincerity of this dynamic makes the show relatable and heart wrenching. Unfortunately, poor animation and a weak plotline keep the series from reaching its full potential. The pilot episode, which is double the length of a typical episode, wastes most of its time plodding through a generic sci-fi premise. Young girls with magical powers (called ‘Dreams of Alice’) are being experimented on by a vaguely evil government research facility that behaves somewhat inconsistently. When Sana, the most powerful magical girl of them all, escapes from the facility it naturally results in an epic (but meaningless) battle on the freeway. The rules of combat make almost no sense and the purpose behind some of the gimmicks remain unclear throughout. The underlying conflict here is cliché and mediocre, as the evil research facility is little more than a device to explain Sana’s unique circumstances. Luckily, the facility is only one of two plot arcs; Sana must also deal with another magical girl that has serious problems of her own. The second arc is a huge improvement over the first, but the resolutions to these plotlines don’t always make sense. Neither the sci-fi nor the fantasy elements of the show seem to follow any consistent rules, and the logistics of highly complicated scenarios are generally ignored. What ultimately saves the show is the presence of Zouroku as Sana’s guide and guardian to the outside world. His constant scolding and lecturing is actually well conceived, and goes beyond merely showing good manners. He quickly understands that Sana has had no experience with people and strives to teach her basic lessons about empathy and responsibility. She responds exactly as a small child would, which is often ridiculous and adorable. The best parts of the show involve Sana acting like a realistic nine-year-old who just happens to be a magical girl. The character development is backed up by solid voice acting. Akio Ootsuka (Batou from Ghost in the Shell) lends Zouroku additional depth by conveying tender emotions through a constantly gruff exterior. He manages to sound stern without being threatening, and is a master of reluctant sentimentality. His counterpart Hitomi Ohwada is less experienced, but her impression of an otherworldly child is surprisingly believable, especially when Sana throws tantrums. The supporting cast are generally well-rounded, and there are a number of newer actors who give solid performances as confused or tortured children. The rest of the production quality seems to vary from scene to scene, partially due to terrible cg and the occasional lazy eye. Backdrops and landscapes are generally dull and unimaginative, even when they are supposed to represent imagination, and the character art is basic. The lackluster animation is even more disappointing when considering the number of blatant product placements in the show; surely these ads could have afforded us a better Wonderland? At the end of the day, Alice and Zouroku provides a realistic character study of a fantasy ideal and uses it to elicit strong feelings of compassion and empathy. Beyond the poorly designed setting lies a story about the psychological needs of a young magical girl and the impact a father figure can have on a troubled child. If you’re looking for an excuse to cry, then the sentimental moments sprinkled throughout the show will certainly deliver. Just bear in mind that it comes wrapped in a deeply flawed package, and it’s unlikely to become a favorite.
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