I recently heard about an anime-style novel contest that was held in Japan. While this by itself isn’t significant, the stipulations on the contest were. The first, “no alternate realities,” and the second, “the protagonist cannot be a teenage male.” The hopes were to eventually make a work that the growing and far more open adult anime audience might find appealing. As someone who has been watching anime for a LONG time, seeing a show with an adult protagonist is always refreshing. This is what makes Alice & Zoroku so interesting. The show features a very unusual set of protagonists, at least for anime.
Alice & Zoroku is the story of an elderly man, Zoroku, who runs a flower shop. One day he runs across Sana, a young girl who is trying to escape from some other children, none of whom seem to obey the laws of physics. The lab subjects can fly across buildings, materialize objects from their thoughts, and generally be quite destructive in trying to capture Sana—one can even manifest giant arms out of nowhere. Zoroku decides that anyone who is attacking a little girl like that can’t be a good person and takes it upon himself to save her. These kids don’t know the power of a senior citizen in a Mini Cooper!
Zoroku takes in Sana and finds she has escaped from a research facility and that she possesses an ability called “Alice’s Dream” that gives her the ability to manifest any object that she can think of, often preceded by a hovering water lily. Sana has been locked away from society and isn’t terribly familiar with the rest of the world or how it functions. Finally, away from her captors she’s now free to use her power, at least a far as Zoroku will allow it. This results in her manifesting a drift of pigs (yes “drift” is the term for a group of young pigs, older pigs are called a “sounder of swine”), giant pancakes, and whatever else she discovers in the new world outside the research center.
Alice & Zoroku is one of those shows that bucks the trend somewhat. Television anime normally puts everything it has into its first episode, hoping to attract an audience. The first episode of Alice & Zoroku is double the length of a typical anime episode, 45 minutes, but feels rather slow paced and has some Initial D levels of awful CG animation. In fact, the CG animation looks so off-putting that I hope they clean it up for the eventual Blu-ray release. However, mediocre first episode aside, the show begins to shine as soon as the establishing is done, and while the action may slow down a bit the character moments ramp up.
Directing duties in the show are handled by Katsushi Sakurabi, who is well versed in slower-paced shows such as Flying Witch and Living for the Day After Tomorrow. Series composition is by industry veteran Fumiko Takayama, whose credits include Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, the American animated film The Flight of Dragons, Bubblegum Crisis, and even the original Super Dimension Fortress Macross from 1982.
The series is surprisingly charming and makes up for a lackluster first episode quickly. The cast expands as we get to meet Zoroku’s granddaughter Sanae and more of the residents of the lab. Alice & Zoroku is shaping up to be a show that is absolutely worth your time.
available: Now (Streaming)
rating: Not Rated