Alice & Zouroku

Alice & Zouroku

img_4381.jpgUp until that point, the girl didn’t know about the “outside world.” It was filled with things she had never touched, scenery she had never seen, and people she had never met… In the face of such a broad new world, she was surprised, wavered, and her eyes were opened on the impulse of curiosity. The girl’s name: Sana. She was born and raised at a facility called the “Laboratory” without ever knowing anything about the outside world. This girl has the special power to materialise anything she imagined. Those with special powers like Sana were called “Dreams of Alice.”

This is an anime that I watched one episode of and was completely engrossed. It had found a new way of combining a fantasy story and a realistic world and I was eager to see how things would pan out.

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Even from an early stage, I could see that my favourite character was going to be Zouroku. Being a disillusioned man of advanced years, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly and refuses to put up with any nonsense or flights of fancy. Nothing seems to phase him really, whether he is being hounded in a car by children like Sana that are trying to take her back to the research facility she escaped from, or when Sana fills the house with pigs. Combined with the strange young girl’s excitement and willfulness, Zouroku’s jaded and deadpan responses to such supernatural happenings are just brilliant.

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The relationship between the two of them is just heartwarming, nonetheless. It’s like one of them is exactly what the other one needs in their lives. When Sana is told by Minnie C. that she isn’t even human, it upsets her. When she tells Zouroku of her fears, he tells her – matter-of-factly – that it doesn’t really matter what she is, but no one should be alone in difficult times. After his straightforward, honest advice reassures her, Sana uses her powers to take Zouroku up into the sky over the city at night, and it’s magical. It’s almost Peter Pan-esque in its exposition, but Zouroku is a far-cry from being both Peter Pan or Wendy!

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In the second part of the story, Sana becomes Zouroku’s family and tries to adapt to living the normal, human life that she always wanted. She does chores, gets her hair cut and earns about living in society. However, she complains about feeling frazzled, she’s forgetting things and she’s losing control of her powers. The research facility has been shut down, the children with Dreams of Alice have been re-homed and Sana’s new sister Sanae assures her that these symptoms are all part of her adjustment period. But Sana can’t quite put into words just how wrong everything feels. Things get more complex when she meets Hatori and her friend Ayumu. Hatori has a Dream of Alice herself  one that allows her to completely control those around her. Though initially well-meaning, she has been abusing her power and is shocked to discover that Sana is immune to her controlling compulsions.

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Alice & Zouroku is such an interesting concept, like a children’s fairy story that has a dash of reality thrown into it. It was only a matter of time before Sana came across others with powers similar to her own, but now she is using them to protect those she loves. Some themes are examined in interesting ways such as family, belonging and responsibility, particularly that of those young children who are given such incredible power. Zouroku is constantly trying to teach Sana to use her powers wisely, to not use them in public and to focus on controlling her emotions and instincts. She learns not to use her powers for everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, washing and doing her chores. In comparison, Hatori never had anyone tell her that, as she kept her powers a secret and used them to chase her parents into the people she wanted them to be. She was always pushing her limits, testing her powers until she was living a life so far from reality it was practically another world. Her and Sana mirror and play off of one another beautifully. They both want to have the life that she other lives.

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Alice & Zouroku is a surprisingly touching story about Sana’s quest to become human and adapt to a normal life. It’s endearing and magical, yet oddly realistic and it’s an easy story to get into and then you just fall in love with the characters whilst you’re watching. If you want an anime that leaves you with a real fuzzy, warm feeling, you’ve struck gold here.