First Impression – Alice to Zouroku

♪♩♬  Feed my Frankenstein ♪♩♬ 

Hello, and welcome to our first batch of first impressions for the Spring ’17 anime season. This time around we have a show that looks pretty darn comfy, but it might hold a promise for something more…sinister?

I’ll have a much better view of the garden

Mangaka Tetsuya-Imai treats the fans to a new illustration on twitter to launch the show’s open

So with Alice to Zouroku we have mystery upon mystery. First, there is the question of what the Red Queen is, what Wonderland is, and what Sana’s is, in that title and in that place. Next we have the running commentary of the K & C Pharmaceuticals guidance and all the needful things surrounding the Red Queen situation. It’s those two elements that plays our story out, as it influences everything that comes after. From the outset, that’s a lot for a show that looks like a cute slice-of-life Usagi Drop-esque coming of age story. But from the opening scene, to the closing of this double-length episode I was very much entertained. Sana is a great character to explore this sort of world. She’s a fish out of water that wants to swim everywhere, and own everyone. Zouroku is a man that desires order and precision, but feels left behind, perhaps? One has found all the purpose in life he can, the other is searching for the same; even when she uses her mental powers when she shouldn’t! But let’s break that down.

Wow! That’a big damn arm…

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Since this is the first episode, I really want to concentrate on themes and stuff like that. But I’ll share some favorite moments before I get into the deeper end. Please feel free to do the same in comments. So the first one up! I really like the limited power range the characters exhibit, and the weaknesses. It’s really easy to go overboard and just have them squash things willy-nilly, so I’m happy they held that back. Also, hunger is something you should never underestimate, and food is always welcome in anime – might as well put those two tropes together. Then on two, I was also interested in the esoteric use of the colored crowns. Anime indulges in those  power level as tangible looking device visuals practically all the time, but I appreciated the simplicity of this one; again they show some restraint. I also like how useless both Asahi and Yonaga are in actually securing their objective, and the quiet but effective pencil technique that Cleo exhibits – she drew the bridge that was wiped out previously, not to mention her hand in repairing all the damage her sisters caused, and even Zou’s cursed car. They’re our biggest view of K & C’ power outside the lab, so to speak, and it’s so informative that they Maggie’s Drawers from the get go – well, not Cleo.  I also love how Zouroku is slow to perturb, but doesn’t get stupidly angry, just very much allowing a short, sharp visit from the smack faerie. So much the episode did very well.

But this wasn’t one of them!

But in going deeper, I really love it when a first episode is able to give me clues about how the show is going to come around. For instance, it can be easy, like the first episode of Urara. That one told me the tone of the show, the shape it would take, and the what it could become when it’s finished – and that the journey shapes the destination. But something like Brave Witches can struggle because it tries to do to more than it should – that much being something that has already done in it’s own franchise, so it starts of weak, and ends that way, no journey required. YMMV on that, and of course there are several points in between and beyond.

Goodness, they were bad girls…

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So what do we have with Alice to Zouroku? Well I, for one, like breaking down the visual clues that don’t so much spell things out, as suggest; an import narrative point at the beginning of any story. Keep in mind, it may be that you may see stuff in a different manner. But the method of chase as the show opens tells me that this isn’t some typically terrible, horrible, man against nature, evil corporation after her, like so many tyke-bomb experiments gone wrong ushering bad guys – Elfen Lied and Brynhildr, to name just two by the same author, Flip Flappers and Izetta to name a few more recent shows, and all of that goes back to Shelley and Frankenstein anyway. In that respect, there was no grandiose military pursuit – no showers of bullets fired by faceless men, no showers of blood coming from the same. But there was also a stranger point, and that’s a harder one for me to explain. It’s just something about that massively large arm – a singular large arm suggests that something really big isn’t finished yet, ’cause where is the other arm? That feels off balance. Sure, it was a brute force arm as things went on, but it was primarily a support arm, wasn’t it? In taking all that in, this was a surprise for K & C, in some ways, and those methods we’ve seen in other shows aren’t the methods they use….yet? For now, they are exploring as much as Sana is…

1)Self-guided bottles…

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Also, another thing I take to note. Just when I was feeling that K & C should be being much more direct and proactive in securing their charge – because nothing was making me think this wasn’t a typical secure the tyke-bomb situation either, just a different one – and just when they were explaining the situation to other authorities, the next scene answers that question. They don’t have any idea what they have, do they? The sheer power and absurdity of what the Red Queen represents is beyond them. They can observe, but they cannot directly experiment upon or fully control; taking us back to Van-chan’s frustration with her slow equipment, and lack of budget, and Tachibana’s strong-arm being halted by the mysterious stranger. But then again, this is still early days yet. If the main tactic of the said stranger was for the Red Queen to cause commotion then that will only alert the government, then K & C may change over time as challenges appear, adjusting to fit the situation. But they did give us a rather sharp view at the Diet building, so Kouichi wants to use this situation to advantage. The larger narrative point here is that it wasn’t typical violence and gore solutions, so that suggests another model. That being they aren’t carrying the Idiot or Villain Ball as of yet. Best place to start a possible arc.

They just have to keep their army fed

Extra Rabbit Holes

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All in all I think that Sakurabi Katsushi is a perfect choice to tell this story, and JC is a good fit as a studio-  as his touches on the light-hearted but pointed flying witch, and the depth and power-levels of WIXOSS are just the place this sort of story can go – a powerhouse slice of life style that might be able to pull off something more than the sum of it’s parts…If the first episode is any indication, there’s more bubbling under the surface. So, in the end,  I really like how poor Sana only wanted to fall asleep, but not being allowed to sleep in the car just got in her way, then having to take off her boots got in the way, and then having to change clothes got in the way, until she just collapsed with little choice but to – and in every step Zouroku was her guide, order where there was child-like chaos. That’s the shape of this one, and I’m looking forward to the journey.

See you next time, after some rest…


All around nerd that enjoys just about any anime genre. I love history, politics, public policy, the sciences, literature, arts...pretty much anything can make me geeky...except sports. Follow me @theskylion
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15 Responses to “First Impression – Alice to Zouroku”

  1. Highway says:

    I saw complaints about the CG car chase, but I didn’t think it was that bad. And there were other uses of CG that I thought were excellent throughout the show, like that pan around the Skytree to come into view of “the Red Queen”. The only thing that was bad about it, as I said on Twitter, was the presence of an airbag in a 1960s vintage Mini, and that can almost be forgiven since there is an airbag-equipped rehash of that same Mini and they didn’t make a big deal out of it being an old Mini.

    I thought the story was very good in this show, although I’m not as focused on themes as you. They did do a good job walking back the “bad guy” aspect of the researchers, although there had to be something to the whole thing to cow the twin girls and to make the Red Queen want to escape (and it’s known by Kouichi to the point that he is intentionally underfeeding a young girl).

    And I’m pretty sure that I saw two arms during the fight, the one that was holding Mini C and the one that was fighting the mysterious girl.

    • skylion says:

      I focus on theme, but Highway has my back when it comes to Mini specs! This will work…I felt that the CGI was disconnected from the background, and that it had that typical looking texture of computer models; so maybe a few more passes on textures and such was needed to finesse the big ball and chain and the car into the scenes. But as you say, it wasn’t that bad, and we’ve seen far far worse in recent memory.

      Goodness, sometimes I feel very awful for missing a point that I should have made. But maybe that’s the effect the over story had on me. I was willing to forget Kouichi’s underfeeding of Sana. Is that the Start of Darkness for him, maybe?

      I just rewatched the fight, and the arm is the same Big Old Left Arm when it carries Minnie and when it fights – she was out of frame for much of the combat.

  2. HannoX says:

    I thought the CG during the car chase was bad, both in itself and in that it didn’t integrate at all with the background and so was disconcerting.

    As for underfeeding Sana, I’m not so sure. It was stated and shown that using their powers requires a lot of energy from the girls, thus a lot of calories. It could be Kouichi is allowing Sana sufficient food for her ordinary bodily needs (including continued growth), but not enough to use more than a little of her power. We’ll have to see if more is said about this later to allow a firm conclusion on the matter.

    I think both Sana and Zouroku are good characters who should play well off one another. And thank God that for once the hero the girl escaping from a shady lab hooks up with isn’t some teenager who’s continually wondering what he should do (can’t do much as it happens) and dithers around for most the show. Zou knows what to do–head bop when children misbehave!

    The CG in the car chase aside I did very much enjoy this episode so I’m probably onboard for the entire run.

    • HannoX says:

      Ah, head bop and stern lecture. A head bop alone doesn’t point out the errors of their ways.

    • skylion says:

      The CGI needed more time that’s for sure, cause that could have been integrated much better?

      That’s a fair point on the underfeeding issue. Now I don’t feel so bad for not calling it out…

      Zou is a great character, but man I get the impession that there might be some tight winding going on behind the scenes. It comes off as “typical” old dude grump, but the fact that he was a touch miffed that someone else had to take care of another order tells me something else is going on.

      Good to have you onboard!

      • Highway says:

        If they were asking her to use her powers, and intentionally limiting her food intake, then it’s still bad. And if the reason for limiting her food intake was “because she might escape” then it’s bad, because that is imprisonment.

        • skylion says:

          I still think they’re skating a fine line, but that might be a mixed line just from the one episode. On one hand, she creates impossible things in the confines of what they’ve indentified as Wonderland, so they’re operating under “we need to keep this contained, otherwise the alternative is chaos”. They’ve set themselves on the moral high ground, and want to influence gov’t too. That’s a huge narrative bag of tricks just at the outset.

          But still, I get your point that it’s, bad, because it really is. But in the narrative safety bubble, I’ll take it.

        • HannoX says:

          I’m not saying limiting her food intake isn’t bad, because it is. I’m saying to think they’re starving her may be too much.

  3. akagami says:

    My posts got deleted =( I forgot what I wrote about too…

  4. akagami says:

    I’ll try to take a stab at remembering…

    I didn’t really notice the CG at all, which is probably a good thing as I have an auto-what-CGI-dislike filter. But now that I see a scene, the CGI is pretty noticeable.

    I did read comments about how the art style was bad, but I like it. I think it works well in this circumstance. It’s unique but doesn’t detract from the story presentation, in my mind.

    Zouroku being a florist surprised me, I was pretty sure he was a mechanic. Because brown jackets = mechanics.

    The presentation by the evil-mad-scientist was wtf though… I imagine that’s what someone sees when they’re tripped up on LSD.

    • skylion says:

      Thank you for taking the time to recollect. I think I might have the exact same filter you have for CGI. I find that the bigger deal you make about it, the worse it actually is. So if you keep it at bare minimum, then the fuss disappears all the quicker.

      Zouruko is a mechanic of flowers? Does that work? I don’t think it does, but it might…

      The place makes drugs, so I guess there is going to be some tripping…I’m wondering if they’re going to try to make them just antagonists, or if they’ll try to make them comicbooky evil…We’ll see in future.

      I should have a double up episode post coming tomorrow.

      • akagami says:

        Do they make drugs? I must have missed that part. I thought they just used the superpowered kids for testing.

        • skylion says:

          The do both, they’re a pharmaceutical company. I’m pretty sure they discovered it all by mistake. I’m rewatching everything tomorrow for a catch up post.

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