“I’m going to give it a good talking too.” Zoroku talking about Wonderland
What’s the Story?
Zoroku is an elderly florist, a bit grumpy, a bit set in his ways and he definitely doesn’t like anything shady. Yet when he comes across Sana, a young girl with the power to make whatever she imagines materialise in the real world, he finds himself put into a strange situation. Can Zoroku’s steady hand help to guide Sana through the strange new world she’s ended up in and to control her power as well. Or will the shadowy organisation that has kept Sana locked up all this time get their hands on her (You won’t realise it until you watch the show, but that’s a decent pun there). Personally I don’t think the bad guys stand a chance, Zoroku is the man who at one point gives a stern talking too to an entire alternate dimension. Now that’s a superpower.
Probably the best virtue of Alice and Zoroku is that it never does what you expect it to and that does mean there’s a great deal of variety to proceedings. One second this anime can be doing a sweet little slice of life anime as Sana learns about the world, the next its got women with magic powers battling like it’s a shonen anime and then we’re on to hard-hitting emotional drama as young girls learn what its like to have unlimited power and no idea how to control it. You’d think that would make this series a bit of a hodgepodge, but surprisingly it manages to sew all of this together into a cohesive hole without breaking a sweat.
I think the reason a lot of this series manages to hold together so well is because it keeps focus where it should be at all times, the characters. Yes there’s an epic fight between a maid with an endless array of weapons and a woman who can summon a multitude of giant arms (told you you’d get the hand pun), but that’s mostly background noise to the heart-warming relationship between Sana and Zoroku. It gets these people exactly right, well the main cast at least, the motivation of the lady with the giant arms is kind of one note. I mean it’s sad and all, but she’s really gone off the deep end, though I suppose that could be said of anyone who thinks it’s okay to threaten a little girl for their own desires.
Speaking of little girls, that’s exactly how Sana acts, a fact I appreciate so much and it makes sense. Sana is new to the outside world and obviously very young, but it’s just the little things, like how excited and wonderstruck she gets. One of the best examples of this comes from the final episode where Sana gets her first school backpack and is so overjoyed that she not only flying tackles Zoroku, but won’t let got of the backpack, even when she goes to bed. I mean I think I may have actually seen too many anime where teenagers get magic powers and have to deal with the problems from that (as well as battle one another), it’s nice to see what happens when little kids face similar problems and how they deal with it.
My favourite character though, by far, is Zoroku himself. He’s something we don’t often see in shows like this, he’s a rock of stability in a world of magic and wonder. He’s a steadying hand and force of calm, able to stop all these super powered children with the tone of his voice alone. He’s the adult that can be relied upon, the mentor (one who doesn’t die at a pivotal moment). Due to his influence it changes what this story is about, it’s not about the powers or the fantastical Wonderland where all of this stems from, instead it’s about a young girl coming to terms with her emotions and working out just who she is.
I’m not sure what else there is really to talk about, this is a unique and wonderful little anime that you should check out. I suppose the difference between the first and second arcs could throw some people, it did me for a little bit, but then that’s just another part of this show never doing what you expect. The first arc is pretty straightforward, with Sana coming into the real world and the fight against the shadowy laboratory that wants to take her back. It goes kind of shonen at the end and could leave you with the impression that that’s were this series is headed, but it’s not. The second arc is much more of a slower burn and, in my opinion, is the best the show has produced. It has a magical battle, of sorts, but this one is more about the emotions than actual fisticuffs (actually I don’t think a single punch is thrown in it). In it we get to see what happens when someone gets powers who doesn’t have a Zoroku in their life as well as Sana dealing with her “frazzled” feelings and showing off a just a bit of what she can do with her power. Just go watch it people.
Alice and Zoroku is a sweet, sometimes dark, sometimes thought-provoking and always heart-warming story of a young girl trying to find herself and learning to deal with the big wide world. It puts a different spin on several genre archetypes and approaches the subject of girls with powers in its own unique way and I love it for that. If it wasn’t for a couple of other really good shows this season I’d probably be saying this was my favourite. This anime is a dream come true.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.