Alice & Zoroku
Episodes 1-3

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Alice & Zoroku ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Alice & Zoroku ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Alice & Zoroku ?

Series that center around super-powered girls inserting themselves into the lives of young men are a dime a dozen. In many cases, these girls are either moody and abrasive or docile and subservient, while their leading men are often lacking in personality at all. Although it doesn't reinvent the wheel, Alice & Zoroku offers a unique twist on a familiar formula by making the male half of its titular duo a tightly-wound septuagenarian with no romantic interest in the girl who turned his everyday life upside down. Personality-wise, Sana, the titular “Alice,” is a character we've all seen before, but the chemistry she shares with the no-nonsense Zoroku is the most entertaining part of the show so far.

After escaping from a secret research facility known as the Laboratory, Sana—a young girl who's able to teleport and create matter out of thin air—makes her way to Shibuya, where she encounters the elderly (but still very active) florist, Zoroku Kashimura. Following an action-packed run-in with two super-powered children whose goal is to retrieve Sana, Zoroku reluctantly agrees to provide the girl with a temporary home. However, it isn't long before Sana's powers begin causing trouble for Zoroku, who's eager to get rid of her as soon as a suitable home can be found. Although the old man seems somewhat amenable to the idea of allowing Sana to stay with him and his granddaughter, Sanae, for the foreseeable future, the latest installment ends with Sana's abduction by Minnie C. Tachibana, a superhuman employed by the Laboratory to keep the children it oversees (referred to as “Dreams of Alice”) in line.

Although the show features its share of grand action sequences and unique superhumans, its core strength lies in the uneasy relationship between the main duo. (And to a lesser extent, the relationship between Sana and Sanae.) At times—particularly during the double-length series premiere—the series' more otherworldly aspects feel like they're getting in the way of something more interesting. It might actually prove more entertaining if Alice & Zoroku put Sana's pursuers on the back burner and focused almost exclusively on the show's paranormal slice-of-life elements, like a socially awkward girl wishing pigs into existence and craving (product placement) Carl's Jr. soda. However, that's probably not going to happen, and to its credit, the show has done a serviceable job of building up certain villains and creating intrigue. Minnie C. is able to come across as genuinely menacing while still managing to elicit a touch of sympathy. Her power is also unique, if a touch bizarre.

As of the third episode, the origins and explanations behind this show's superhumans remain largely unexplored, although there's still plenty of time left to fill the audience in on the specifics. (Even the folks at the Laboratory don't understand why Sana has multiple powers when every other Dream of Alice is limited to one.) Once Sana and Zoroku are inevitably reunited, it would be nice to see the show split its time equally between world-building and slice-of-life shenanigans.

On the visual front, this colorful show boasts crisp, slightly stylized character designs and middle-of-the-road animation. Unfortunately, its CGI vehicles look even more out of the place than usual, with nearly every one looking like something from a PS1-era video game. Oddly, the series premiere was the worst-looking and choppiest episode, with episodes 2 and 3 showcasing notable improvements in aesthetics. The Alice in Wonderland theme of Sana's “Wonderland” cave is a visual highlight; the pretty colors and awe-inspiring designs of her own little kingdom convey the idea that this little girl has the power to bring dreams to life.

Tonally, the show is difficult to pin down. In the span of three episodes, it's alternated between high-concept buddy comedy, low-key slice-of-life, and supernatural drama. Although the show does reasonably well with each of these genres, its refusal to commit to one sometimes creates a sense of unpredictability and disjointedness.

Rating: B

Alice & Zoroku is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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