What’s it about? A group of young girls possess a mysterious power known as “Alice’s Dream,” which gives them the ability to turn their thoughts into reality. 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 willful powerhouse crosses paths with a stubborn old man named Zoroku, his carefully-ordered life will never be the same again.
Source: Anime News Network
The most important thing to understand about Alice & Zoroku is that it is two different shows, and the success with which it combines the two is debatable.
We begin in Sana’s world: she has escaped the pharmaceutical research facility, and must use her supernatural abilities to teleport away and protect herself. Her pursuer is a woman in kimono who rides in the palm of a giant hand attached to a giant arm, which she uses to attack Sana while people watch through high-tech surveillance equipment. Around 10 minutes in, we shift to Zoroku’s world: he is a gruff, straitlaced florist who prizes etiquette and detests criminality. After a business transaction with some yakuza, he runs into Sana at a convenience store, and their worlds collide when she reads his mind then disappears.
The marriage of magic, technology, high stakes adventure and grounded slice of life could make for a really strong series, but right now it is inconsistent. The scenes which combine three or more of these elements successfully are excellent, but it frequently slips into one mode or the other, affecting the pacing. If you enjoy one aspect of the show’s sub-genre mix but not another, there are chunks of time when you may get bored. If you were initially intrigued by the adult female characters, you will be disappointed by their complete absence for the rest of the episode. The result is that it’s impossible to know which parts of the premiere best represent what the show will become.
It doesn’t help that the premiere is double-length; the first 10 minutes might as well be an entirely different show to the last 10 minutes, making the contrast feel more stark than if they only had 24 minutes to play with. If they can’t get that balance right, we’ll have full episodes of high stakes magical girl combat side by side with full episodes of odd couple slice of life comedy, rather than mining the full potential of this intriguing premise and the world they’ve begun to build.
A lot will depend on how much you like Sana and Zoroku and enjoy their company. Sana is very much a child, chatty and demanding and oblivious to how her unfiltered words can sound. Zoroku is unimpressed, scolding her even while they are complete strangers. He finds her magic dangerous and her personality “twisted”, but treats her both like a little girl who needs to be taught some manners and like an adult who needs to work for her keep. Having spent her life in a research lab with the ability to shape reality to her imagination, this dose of normalcy will be crucial for Sana to adjust to the real world, which no-one from her past expects her to be able to do.
However, you may not enjoy seeing this older man disciplining this young girl, even played for laughs and out of the kindness of his heart. It’s not just Sana, either – when a pair of twins chasing Sana end up causing problems, Zoroku doesn’t hesitate to knock them each on the head and snap at them in the middle of the street, to the applause of onlookers. Since none of the women from the opening sequence show up later, Zoroku’s likeability is a more important factor for the show than the size of the cast would suggest. This aspect of his personality and interactions with the children put me off him, though that won’t be everyone’s response.
It probably goes without saying, but the art style doesn’t work for me. I always like seeing old stories adapted in fresh ways for new audiences, but reimagining Tweedledee and Tweedledum or the White Rabbit (all of these are assumptions, nothing has been confirmed in the text) as cute, clumsy kids feels obvious. Dialling down the generic trait of ‘endearing’ and dialling up the individual personalities would go a long way to making this show live up to its potential.
And that’s what it all comes down to, for me at least: whether or not you watch the show will depend on how invested you are in what it could be. This show has the potential to be something really special, if it can weave together these different elements tightly and evenly enough. Unfortunately, even after a 45-minute premiere results are inconclusive, which means it will be over an hour of viewing before viewers will get any sense of whether or not the show can fulfill its own promise, which makes it a hard one to recommend. If you’re not sure about this one, best wait another week or two and see what trusted friends are saying before giving it your time.