- Genre : Drama, adventure, magical girl
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: J.C.Staff
Our world is constantly changing. Species go extinct to make room for new iterations. Mutations give rise to devastating predators, while humble herbivores completely destroy ecosystems through enviable reproduction. Evolution is unpredictable and uncaring but also full of wonders. And it’s this capricious faith that has created the Dreams of Alice. All over the world, people seem to be awaking to newfound and wondrous powers, for unknown reasons and at the center of it all is one little girl. At first glance a very ordinary little girl. A capricious, boisterous and immature little girl named Sana. But what exactly is Sana and what secrets does she hold. As far as Zoukoru is concerned, it doesn’t matter.
A while ago, I went on a bit of a Magical Girl bender on my blog and my always helpful readers suggested I give Alice and Zouroku a try. My readers are geniuses. The show was already next in my cue so clearly, great minds and all that…
Bloggers I admire, and strive to emulate, have been making a point that the rigid review structure of analyzing technical / artistic merits and following up with a general opinion is somewhat stiff and dated. I have been thinking of breaking away from that, but my retentive nature is rebelling against the chaos of creativity. I will however attempt to be a bit freer with this one.
Ed – I’m writing this after a few tries and I failed. I still kinda like this dated and stiff review. I hope you enjoy it as well.
There is something slightly nostalgic about the character designs in Alice and Zouroku. A touch of innocence that combined nicely with the storyline to keep things relatively light despite some serious themes. I quite liked it, but it made faces a bit similar and not all characters are instantly differentiable from one another.
The production is top notch, with great animation that is primordial to getting this particular story across and impressive voice acting all around. I remember being very impressed with the soundtrack in the first episode but as the series gets less atmospheric with time, it also gives less importance to the music. I have to note that there is quite a bit of CG in this show and: Grancrest – please take notes. Thank you.
So far, this attempt at departing from the mold is really not going well, is it? OK, let’s try this.
I know people don’t like it when I compare shows but that’s how my mind works. I can’t help it. So I’m going to try to convey my experience with Alice and Zouroku by contrasting it with the shows it reminded me of.
From the very start of the series, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for Elfen Lied. If you loved Alice and Zouroku maybe hold off on binging Elfen Lied though. These are very different works.
The parallel I saw though was in this simple illustration of how human nature instinctively reacts to the unknown. Namely: Fear! First, we’re scared, we seek to contain what we don’t understand and as soon as we calm down, we try to figure out how to use it for our own selfish means. The best of us may strive to understand it but generally speaking, it’s the pattern we adopt.
Of course, this is a very different story when told through the eyes of the subject of all this fear. And even more so when that happens to be a child with limited understanding and experience as well.
After all, Sana is not even a teenager yet. She has relied on the adults around her to craft her understanding of the world and is still striving to figure out what any of it means. The concept, of self, responsibility or consequences are still being put in place in her mind and she has a very limited view of the world to base herself on.
Now this powerful but innocent little girl is for the first time put into contact with the outside world and has to figure out her place within it. For a being that’s downright magical, the mundane seems impossibly unreal. As the two worlds collide, some impact will of course be felt. We have seen many times over the horrors of granting immense power to children who still see the world in simple black and white terms.
But where Elfen Lied degenerated into bloody horror, Alice and Zouroku is blessed with a cast of incredible heroes, who may not be able to make all their wishes manifest out of thin air, but who do have an amazing super power: Perspective!
For all the exciting action and intrigue, the series truly shines in it’s simple depictions of every day relationships. It’s Zouroku’s straightforwardness that saves Sana. His ability to treat her as he would any other child and accept her as she is, is a strength unmatched by anyone else. It is her foundation and the only thing that allows her to move forward. The gradual family bonds she forms with him and her ersatz older sister Sanae, were the most miraculous things in the show. I wrote down, great grandfathers make for great granddaughters – which seems confusing but I meant great in the sense of wonderful.
In later episodes, we see how friendship can offer up a similar salvation to another young girl lost and isolated by her powers. Once again, the heavy surreal events are tempered by quiet normal little moments that make a powerful statement and make everything else stand out.
In a show full of daring escape, magical confrontations and dazzling dreamscapes, the simple scenes of Sana sitting on a modest couch and realizing the implications of getting adopted or a shot the mailbox with her name added, are the ones that stood out for me the most.
By the end of the series, I was thinking of Serial Experiments Lain. The show had moved on from being about the events happening to Sana to being about Sana herself and the events that she puts in motion. Ideas of belonging and identity start playing a more significant role as well as the weight of expectations. The nature and rights of sentience has always been a subject of great fascination for me, so this played heavily to my preferences.
Unfortunately, Alice and Zouroku does fall short in a few areas. The characters are great but aside from Sana, we get very little in the way of development. They are pretty much the same people at the end of the series that they were at the beginning. In a way, that’s the point but some do feel a little flat.
Some story threads, and even characters, get dropped throughout and I would have enjoyed a bit more exposition on the fantastic and/or sci fi elements. We get a superficial explanation on the government’s motives in keeping the emergence of these new powers a secret but not enough to really get invested in the conspiracy storyline. And finally, resolutions felt a bit too easy. Conflicts have a great build up with good suspense only to have everything get sorted out and workout for the best in a few minutes.
The thing is, all of these shortcomings can be explained by one questionable production decision. Essentially, Alice and Zouroku season 1 is two individual story arcs with a very heartwarming buffer episode in the middle. Both stories are detailed adventures with their own casts. It feels like two completely different seasons and if you ask me, it should have been.
The conclusion of both arcs felt rushed and unsatisfying. I spend the latter half of the season waiting to hear more about the events on the first half and wondering where some of the characters had gone, only to have the series conclude without having the chance to really explore wonderland or what was happening to Sana’s powers.
The story was constrained in too few episodes and didn’t get a chance to shine as it could have which is unfortunate as the light is clear to see. Still, it’s an uplifting series that was obviously made by a very talented team. It’s worth your time if any of the above seemed even remotely interesting.
But let’s get onto the most important thing here, why is Crunchyroll trying to make me doubt my sanity? First we have the Grancrest MiRza/MilZa fiasco now we have Zouroku becoming Zoroku halfway through the series. It should be noted that even though all the subtitles clearly say Zoroku (from episode 5 or so…not before that), the title of the series as well as the eyecatch in the middle of each episode still spells out Zouroku… You can’t miss it.
So, what’s the endgame here? Are they just doing this to me? Is Crunchy trying to have me declared insane in order to get power of attorney over me? Most of my stuff is anime anyways – it’s not like they need it. Guys promise me, when they find my body, do NOT believe the suicide note…
And what happened to the white-haired kid that drew the magic pictures? I was so sure he would be super important…
Favorite character: Green haired girl and Kōichi Kitō
What this anime taught me: ALL Shizuku’s are super hot!
I’m not as think as you drunk I am
Suggested drink: White Rabbit
- Every time we see disembodied arms – take a sip (it’s an eccentric show…)
- Every time we see a gate (flower) – take a sip
- if it’s blue – take another
- Every time Zo(u)roku gets mad – take a sip
- Every time Alice eats – have a snack
- Every time someone says “research facility” – get some water
- Every time anyone says “Queen” – take a sip
- if it’s not “red” – buy yourself something nice
- Every time Sanae does Sana’s hair – awwwww
- Every time Sana gets a head pat – take a sip
- Every time Zo(u)roku gives a lecture – listen!
28 thoughts on “Trying to Figure out What Matters with Alice and Zouroku”
And BTW: I really like the animated snippets (animated gifs?) at the top of your articles. Distinctive and fun!
Thanks! I’m not sure if you read my blog in the reader but I find they work well with my theme!
“I know people don’t like it when I compare shows but that’s how my mind works.”
I don’t know what people you’re talking to, but the whole point I read your blog is to read the results of how your mind works. So please continue doing what you do!
“From the very start of the series, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for Elfen Lied.”
I never even consider that as a possibility, but now that you mention it… Wow. There are absolutely parallels.
“His ability to treat her as he would any other child and accept her as she is, is a strength unmatched by anyone else.”
Zouroku is one of my favorite characters of all time. It’s hard to find aged characters, especially male characters, who are strong and admirable. Not impossible; just harder than it should be. I love how you described Zouroku’s impact on Sana. Do you remember the shot of an older Sana as she thanks the no longer present Zouroku? That’s good stuff…
“It feels like two completely different seasons and if you ask me, it should have been.”
Can’t disagree. Ultimately, I had to decide if I was going to ignore the technical narrative missteps and accept the beautiful moments this series offered, or if I was going to let the undeniable issues reduce my enjoyment.
You can probably guess which way I went!
Thanks for reminding me of this series!
This is one of the few series that really make me want to read the Manga. I feel like the story could be amazing if it had room to grow
I was lured in with the promise of a father/daughter type story that I enjoy but got a mixed bag ultimately. A lot of ideas but not enough time to fully delve into them. The one magical girl with the powers from the TV show was really awesome though. I’d watch a show just about that.
The hot one…me too
This really did have an abrupt gear change mid-season and unfortunately for me that meant my interest faded and I dropped the show. I really did enjoy the first arc, though as you said it was pretty rushed in the end and would have benefited from more episodes.
I liked the second arc as well but the same issue persists
Great review! I pretty much agree with everything you said here. I liked the show, but the endings of both arcs felt unfinished and rushed. I wanted more, but we never got it.
I haven’t seen Elfen Lied, but reading your post made me think of Hinamatsuri and how important being an adult is when raising a child. Both Sana and Hina grew up in places where they didn’t have much of a childhood, but then they managed to break out and found solace with someone who treats them like the kid that they are. They’re both completely different genres, but there’s some similarities there.
As someone who likes both finding new anime and analysis of said anime-
I like this type of review much better! Not saying you should keep doing this if you don’t feel it fits, but this type of post actually makes me feel interested in the show.
To me- having the premise explained is pointless. ‘Psychic girl meets ex-yakuza with a dash of government conspiracy’ doesn’t really grab me…
But tell me about an atypical fatherly relationship? I’m interested!
That’s really encouraging to hear. I honestly struggled with this one.
Anecdote: During the season Alice to Zouroku aired, I was reading Solaris. Completely different, but does share quite a few motifs and themes, like the attempt to communicate when you’re having a tough time even with the concept of individuals.
I suspect there’s more material to animate in the manga; I’ve grown not to expect closure from adaptions of ongoing material, so I wasn’t really disappointed and got enough closure with repsect to what I expected. I surely want to know about the Dormouse (he’s sleepy, so…). And since the story’s not complete, we also don’t quite get the deal with the framing of adult-looking Sana (?), who also appeared in Wonderland. There’s lot left dangling – it’s the usual read-the-mange appeal, I think.
But there were so many adorable scences. But the scene when they tell Sana she can be part of the family: “Kashimura Sana… Kashimura Sana… Kashimura Sana! KashimurasanaKashimurasanaKashimurasana…” It’s interesting that Sana is one of the most childlike anime children I’ve seen so far, while in fact not actually being a child…
Definitely made my top ten that year, this show.
Love Solaris and Lem in general – Sana is probably one of the youngest protagonists I’ve seen. Yes I’m sure there are tons more but I’ve rarely watched a show where the main character is prepubescent
REally – I’m not crazy about this one to be honest – Thank tou so much though – it makes me happy someone liked it.
Yes, its like Lain, agreed. Lain was more cyberpunk, but both these shows are about emergent AI/life. There’s several storylines like this in Ghost in the shell, since that’s the most cyberpunk anime, and the Matrix stole most of its plot from the movie.
From the cute alienated girl side of things this is a magical girlfriend kind of story, only its a magical daughter instead. Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a good parallel in several ways. The artistic side of things, the need for a caregiver. It calls back to the genius painter/sculptor of Honey and Clover, Hagu, who is about 4 feet tall and an award winning master sculptor and painter. Looks like a little girl, probably a dwarf, in college with the others, looked after by her cousin. Shes a lot like Alice for moe cuteness and actual ability. Hagu was the inspiration for the Pet Girl. Quite a few anime call back to that one. Very influential.
Huh – I guess it’s a question of who you resonate with – I thought it was a great father sort of story… I really saw myself as Sana and never for a second considered the storyline from Zouroku’s perspective…
I liked his character as a semi-retired and respected Yakuza negotiator who has raised his own kids and runs a flower shop. He’s experienced with girls, so he’s a natural to look after a new girl, and patient due to the Yakuza side of things, harder to startle. Sana benefits from this because she can’t scare him off like any number of Attachment Disorder kids from Caucescu’s orphanages, which is what the villains in XXX movie with Vin Diesel referenced. Alice could easily have gone psycho like them, and that’s very bad with a new emergent AI because you get Skynet instead of a Culture Mind (preferred).
Oh I adored Zouroku as a character and I agree that he is essentially the moral compass of the series – I simply wouldn’t have seen this as a magical daughter show since I see myself in Sana rather than in her caregivers.
Well, its even more like Lain because Sana isn’t human. She’s a bioroid remote for the AI at the bottom of that bunker. She thinks of herself as sort-of human, but really she’s an Emergent AI who has gotten far enough to play human and takes this guise to understand people who aren’t interested in containment. So she’s a magical daughter with immense consequences if you get things right, since emergent AI have the potential to surpass people. And making them friends who value us gets you the Culture Mind (best case scenario). Culture Mind is from Iain Banks novels about the spacefaring AIs and their human pets and the trouble they cause while trying to make the universe into copies of themselves. Like friendly Borg with better makeup.
I’d easily compare this show to a horrible driver in a lambo. It has all the ticks to be season’s sweetest whatever (tragedy, developments blossom, etc.). I’m a sucker for little kid with adult duo and that was the only thing that had kept me attached to the show. Everything else about it crashed like that lambo which was driven by a baddie.
That’s a somewhat harsher view. I thought there were quite a few commendable elements but it definetly fell short of it’s own potential.
I’d not actually heard of this one. It sounds like it has a bit of charm to it, despite a few shortcomings.
It has a lot of charm to it. Like I just told Ply – it really falls short of pacing but otherwise it’s great. I honestly think that if it had been split into two seasons it would have made my top 10 list
Unfortunately, that happens sometimes. If it rises above faults in any way though, that’s a definite positive.
First up, let me say that you shouldn’t force yourself to change, thinking that something better might come up.
I know because well, I pretty much am unable to write properly if I don’t have some form of structure in my writing. As evident by how even after switching the format of my first impressions, I’m stuck with talking about the art, the story etc. just with different lead ins, if I do not have a structure to guide myself, I just go stray, and rant on and on. Which is definitely sh*t to read.
More related to your actual post, YES. You watched Alice to Zourokou! I loved that show when it came out.
Although I do agree with you on the many bad things on Alice to Zourokou(you missed out the semi-horrible 3DCGI in the first episode that drove a lot of people away), the series still managed to leave quite a lasting impression on me. Even now, Zourokou is pretty much my spirit animal in terms of ranting because god can that old man rant.
I enjoyed the show a lot, and frankly, thank you so much for reviewing it, since it’s going to bring more attention onto an extremely underrated series.
Love ya <3
sidenote: Are you not going to join us on that collab? 🙁
Aww thanks Ply – I like to try new things but I’m really not a writer so I get lost easily. I do think I’m getting better little by little and that’s been awesome.
This show did a lot of stuff right in my opinion but tripped up it’s pacing a bit.
As for the collab – There were so many posts I sort of missed what it actually was but I thought AG wanted to keep it exclusive.