First Impressions – Alice to Zouroku

Imagine Gokukoku no Brynhildr if the male lead were 55 years older and it wasn’t totally tripping balls.

Alice to Zouroku - 01 - 04The season’s first flyer hits the airwaves with a double-episode as Alice to Zouroku enters the fray.  And you know, it’s not a bad effort by any means.  Production issues aside I’d go so far as to say I rather liked it, in fact, though there are a number of potential trip-wires I see looming in the road ahead.  Given my expectations going in, I’d say Alice & Zouroku modestly exceeded them – and that constitutes a positive start.

Alice to Zouroku - 01 - 05Premise-wise, I’d say you had me at “GAR florist”.  And indeed, Ootsuka Akio’s gruff but principled Kashimura Zouroku is the best – and least formulaic – element of the premiere.  Part of that is down to Ootsuka being a splendid seiyuu, but it’s an interesting and atypical (and that’s an understatement) anime character too.  It’s certainly a nice change from the innocent party being dragged into a life of chaos by magical girls being a hapless adolescent boy.  That Zouroku is not a mass-produced model is evident in the way the series chooses to introduce him – making a delivery (we’re not told of what, though we later see that it was a floral arrangement) to a Yakuza boss and sternly refusing to accept a Yen more than his usual fee.  This is not a man who wishes to be indebted to anyone, much less a trumped-up thug.

Alice to Zouroku - 01 - 01It remains to be seen whether the rest of the story – and the production itself – can do enough to make the series work.  Adorable little esper girls (though I think there is a token boy too, though it’s hard to tell as he never says anything) being exploited at a secret facility has certainly been done to death, and the Japanese fascination with Lewis Carrol seems to know no limits.  The main girl is Sana (Ohwada Hitomi) – the “Red Queen” as the evil drug company head calls her – and she’s about as cliched a magic loli as you’re going to find in series like this.  That her interactions with Zouroku sort of work is down to him, pretty much – having him repeatedly shoot her behavior (and that of her pursuers Asahi and Yonaga) down with bolts of hard-headed common sense is refreshing as all get out.  And a clue, perhaps, that the series understands just how steeped in tropes much of this is.

Alice to Zouroku - 01 - 02The other issue I have with Alice to Zouroku is the obvious budgetary issues.  I like director Sakurabi Katsushi a lot – he’s done very stylish and evocative work in the likes of Flying Witch and Asatte no Houkou.  And the music by TO-MAS could hardly suit the mood better.  But the look of the series itself is, frankly, terribly cheap.  The CGI is awful, the background detail is almost non-existent, and for a premiere to have this many instances of off-model characters is a very worrisome sign.  Sakurabi is someone I’d have some faith in to be successful relying on craft rather than cash but it’s clear J.C. Staff is producing this show on a shoestring.  Enough so that it’s a clear distraction from the story, and that’s a shame.

Alice to Zouroku - 01 - 03Still, I have some hope.  Kashimura-san is a keeper, and there might be some potential for his relationship with Sana (and presumably the rest of the esper kids eventually) to rise above cliche.  There’s ample evidence of some wit and intelligence in the writing, and the fact that this is a seinen gives me hope that it may be at least in part a deconstruction of formula rather than just another iteration of it.  I’m nowhere near feeling ready to commit to Alice to Zouroku, but I do find myself fervently hoping it will convince me to – and that’s a solid first step.

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5 comments

  1. Z

    I *really* enjoyed the Zouroku character, and if he continues to be used as a measure against how idiotic the personalities and actions of magical girls tend to be portrayed, I think this series could work for me. I’m only tentatively optimistic though, because the rest of what I saw was painfully predictable.

  2. M

    When was the last time a main character was older like Zouroku? Sure, he’s partnered up with a gothic lolita girl, but anime protagonists past the age of 35 or so just don’t happen. I honestly can’t think of any other than 2/3 of the main cast of Tokyo Godfathers. What other anime have done it? Any popular ones?

  3. Z

    (cough)*rakugo*(cough)

  4. Tiger and Bunny, which I loved
    Monster, yet another classic

    Although not over the age of 35, Space Brothers, Cowboy Bebop (I think?), and Steins;Gate feature young adults.

    I guess although there aren’t many, the anime that do feature older protagonists tend to be very good. Hmmmmm…

  5. r

    Real Drive – Main character Masamichi Haru is a 70+ year old who recently awoke from a 50 year coma
    Does Porco Rosso count?
    Ikari Keiichi in Paranoia Agent?

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