Alice & Zoroku
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Alice & Zoroku ?
This week, Alice & Zoroku jettisons its more domestic elements in favor of an info-heavy exercise in world-building. Whereas past installments attempted to maintain an uneasy balance between the two, episode 4 goes whole-hog on the drama, outlining Sana's origins and explaining why she's so important to her pursuers. Like episode 2, which was mostly built around comedy, this latest outing is stronger for committing to a specific mood and sticking with it. This isn't to say that a show can't successfully alternate between tones within the same episode, but Alice & Zoroku tends to do better when it doesn't.
While en route to Wonderland with Alice in tow, Minnie C. reveals that Sana isn't a superpowered human, but rather an unidentified being that appeared beneath the research facility 13 years prior—making her an oddity even among her peers. Back at the flower shop, Naito informs Zoroku that he and Yamada are monitoring Sana at the request of a figure within the government who wishes to learn more about the Dreams of Alice. After Sana is able to transport Zoroku into the vehicle with her captor, the old man doesn't seem the least bit bothered by the revelation that his adoptive granddaughter isn't actually human. Since she looks, acts, and speaks like a normal girl, Zoroku reasons that she's close enough to the real thing. Before the vehicle is able to reach its destination, Yamada, who's also apparently a Dream of Alice, is able to intercept it and free the protagonists.
It's surprising that the show elects to reveal so much to the audience so early in the game. Although episode 4 stops short of telling the audience exactly what Sana is, it puts a great deal of her history out into the open. While there's certainly nothing wrong with this, certain aspects of the story would have worked better had this incident occurred later on. For example, Zoroku embracing the idea of welcoming Sana into his family might have had more of an impact if the two of them had interacted more and been given time to form a connection. This doesn't mean that the episode's big emotional moments don't hit their respective marks; it's just odd that both characters act as though they've been together for months despite only knowing each other for a couple of days. The knack for floral arrangement displayed by what's likely the older version of Sana that appears near the end of the episode indicates that she becomes a permanent member of the Kashimura family—so here's hoping we get to see her spend more quality time with her co-star.
The information we're given regarding Sana's origin and the various organizations at play is compelling, but the episode starts to feel overloaded at times. Fortunately, the episode never veers into full-on info-dump territory, but at several junctures, it comes perilously close. It's entirely possible that their true motives are being kept secret, but as it stands, the “evil” organization's ultimate goal—i.e. studying Dreams of Alice and finding ways to turn their powers into an energy source—isn't terribly original. As has become the custom after episode 1, the other adolescent Dreams don't do much this week, and outside of introducing them to the audience, there seems little point to keeping them in Shinjuku for so long.
With the sheer amount of content packed into each episode, Alice & Zoroku is never boring. Throwing a ton of material at the audience and seeing what sticks generally isn't the best way to structure a show, but this series has seen more hits than misses so far. Now that Sana's been rescued and will presumably return to the Kashimura residence, hopefully things will slow down, and the show's core relationship will unfold at a more natural pace.
Alice & Zoroku is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.
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