Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!
In Alice & Zouroku episode 1 (The Red Queen Escapes), the Red Queen Sana attempts a daring escape in a cold rain. She comes up short because her captors at K & C Pharmaceutical Corporation of Japan wouldn’t give her enough food to sustain her powers. Later, after trying to befriend Zouroku Kashimura, she has to defend him against the psychic attacks of her old friends Yonaga and Asahi Hinagiri. The aftermath landed all of them in a police station — but not for long. Later, deciding she trusts Zouroku because of what she read in his mind, she tells him of the corporation and what it’s doing to her and the others like her, called collectively the Dreams of Alice. Knowing what she’s up against, will he help her? And if he does, what can he do against the power of K & C Pharmaceutical, a company that can order even the police around?
What’s In This Post
The Red Queen tries to escape from the K & C Pharmaceutical Corporation of Japan, but she has two things going against her. First, her captors had been limiting her calories to keep her power in check. Second, they had overwhelming technological superiority, what with their unlimited access to video cameras and vehicles. She uses her power to teleport to the highway. Minnie (Miriam) C. Tachibana, a girl with similar powers, arrives and tries to convince the Red Queen to return. Trying to escape, the Red Queen she collapses, exhausted. A third, mysterious girl shows up, gives the Red Queen some quick-energy food, and attacks Minnie. In the confusion, the Red Queen teleports away.
The Director takes three powerful girls, Cleo and the twins Yonaga and Asahi Hinagiri, into the city to look for the Red Queen. The techs back at headquarters pour over the city’s surveillance video cameras’ feeds. Meanwhile, Zouroku comes across the Red Queen as she looks longingly at the food in a convenience store. He’s a little surprised when she reads his mind and offers to grant any wish if he helps her. He’s even more surprised when, after he questions her, she thinks he’s making fun of her and teleports away. His surprises are just starting. He finds her in his locked car. Then the attacks begin.
Yonaga and Asahi use their powers and attack the car. With the Red Queen’s help, Zouroku keeps ahead of them, but he’s increasingly upset by the amount of damage they’re inflicting. He stops the car and demands she get out and not involve others in what appears to be a family dispute. The sisters catch up and force them to continue fleeing. Finally, after causing dozens of near-fatal crashes, one of Yonaga’s arrows makes them lose control, and the car crashes into a pole.
Zouroku, forehead bloody yet otherwise unharmed because of the airbags, looks outside the car to see the Red Queen confronting the sisters. They continue their argument, the Red Queen declaring her intent to remain free, the twins becoming more belligerent until Zouroku grabs both of the sisters by the top of the head. He then proceeds to lecture all three of them about the dangers of behaving so recklessly in a city. He tells them they’ll have to answer to the police for what they’ve done. The bystanders applaud him.
The police don’t believe Zouroku, even though he reasonably points out that there were plenty of witnesses. The interview’s interrupted when the Red Queen teleports away — on police video. A man claiming to the the twins’ guardian — the Director — takes the twins away, and the police detective receives orders to drop the charges against Zouroku. Adding just one more surprise to the day, Zouroku finds his car waiting for him — completely undamaged. The crash scene was also mysteriously restored. Meanwhile, the Director treats Cleo and the sisters to an enormous restaurant meal.
On his way home, Zouroku stops at a restaurant. He’s only a little startled when the Red Queen appears in the chair in front of him. He orders orange juice for her as she explains that she and the other girls are called Dreams of Alice. They use Mirror Gates to bring their visions into reality. She again demands that he become her servant but has to back down when he explains that’s not how life works. She looks so hungry that he offers to buy her dinner. She inhales about a dozen helpings (or more). She looks embarrassed when he points out she doesn’t know how to use chopsticks, and she launches into an explanation of the research facility and how she and the other girls were experimented on. She practically begs him to help her, saying that she’s looked into his mind and knows he’s a good man. Defeated, he leaves the restaurant and asks her to follow him.
Having sold his car because it “creeped” him out, they walk. They stop at a shrine where she tells him her name’s Sana, but she doesn’t know her last name and remembers nothing about life before the research. He offers to let her stay with him, but only if she promises not to user her power (a danger to his granddaughter) and if she helps him in his work. He finishes the lecture with “I hate crooked stuff!” As they ride in a taxi, the Director reports to what looks like his board. The board acknowledge that re-capturing the Red Queen is a top priority.
Zouroku takes Sana to his business. Though sleepy, she’s astonished at how beautiful his stock is. He’s a florist, and his speciality is beautiful and intricate arrangements for special occasions. She’s stunned. Even so, she falls asleep waiting for him to finish taking stock, and he has to carry her to the home he shares with his granddaughter. He throws the bedding down and is about to find some of his granddaughter’s old clothes for her when she throws herself facedown and is fast sleep.
What I Liked
The storm through which Alice walked was really well animated — probably the best animation in the first two episodes, at least so far.
Why do the Director and the others in the command center seem so pleasant and cheerful? And why does the Director have a congenial smile as he talks about limiting her food intake?
I don’t think I’ve seen powers like Minnie’s before. A gigantic disembodied hands and arms that do her bidding? It’s like she shopped at the Attack on Titan store’s irregular rack!
One of Minnie’s giant disembodied hands wore a wedding ring. She does, too. I wonder if that’ll be significant?
I don’t know how to feel about Minnie’s cheerful support of her captors. She seemed so dejected when she couldn’t capture the Red Queen, and she seemed to genuinely want to please the Director. Stockholm syndrome, maybe?
I’m curious about the extent of the girls’ powers. Teleportation, bridge removal, giant arms — it’s all fascinating, and I have a sense that the world has rules that will make sense. The fact that they need to eat — a lot! — to keep up their power is promising. I just hope the continues to define and adhere to those limits.
Sana’s pink dress is so whimsical! It fits the theme and I think it emphasized her sorrow as she stood atop the tower and looked down over the city. Small, alone, in a strange place, she seemed at a loss what to do.
I had a feeling that I was going to like Zouroku based on how he treated the organized crime boss (respectful, yet uncompromising). His subdued reaction to the Red Queen first reading his mind, then teleporting away raised my expectations. When he lectures the Red Queen and the Hinagiri sisters for the damage they caused, I knew I liked him! He’s pretty much able to take control of any situation. I respect that in a main character.
Even as they’re riding the flying bicycle that’s chained to Zouroku’s car, the Hinagiri sisters are munching snacks to keep their strength up. I like how this show’s placing realistic limits on their powers. Few things are less dramatic than unlimited god-like power.
Even Asahi, who had shown considerable courage and even recklessness until now, was no match for Zouroku’s well-reasoned attacks on their behavior. He wasn’t in the least bit abusive; he was just being firm as if he were there father.
As if I didn’t have enough reason to be cheering for Zouroku: he likes his beer. He drinks responsibly, but he likes his beer. It’s the little things in life…
He put out his cigarette so he wouldn’t have to subject her to second hand smoke! Maybe I’m reading more into the gesture, but it seemed like he was almost subconsciously trying to look out for her. Yet another reason for me to root for him.
What I Liked Less
I like CGI/3D animation when it blends seamlessly into the rest of the animation. One of my favorite series, Arpeggio of Blue Steel, is mostly 3D work, and I loved how it looked. In this episode, though, as exciting as the car scene was, the 3D animation just didn’t seem to blend; it stuck out and detracted from the experience.
Speaking of sticking out, when Zouroku stops the car and tells the Red Queen to get out, the scenery behind them is still moving. It should have been stable. I doubt Yonaga and Asahi were able to move the whole city around them!
I just noticed that the first episode was 44 minutes long. Huh! It didn’t feel like it as I watched it for the first time…
I won’t know until a few more episodes go by, but this show seems to be commenting on a theme that means a lot to me. It’s a variation on the ideas in Shikabane Hime (a Caw of Fame winner) and in Brynhildr in the Darkness: institutions or corporations treating humans as nothing more than tools or research subjects. In Shikabane Hime, the Kōgon Sect treated Makina Hoshimura and other Corpse Princesses her as tools. That’s bad enough until you find out the secret the sect kept even from most of its monks. In Brynhildr, the witches are not only experimented on, they’re fitted with devices that kill them if they escape or disobey — and that’s if they survive long enough without the drugs that keeps them alive. Humans subjugating other humans is just wrong.
That’s a lesson the world doesn’t yet seem to have learned.
The animation’s not always perfect. It’s certainly not at the level of Sound Euphonium. But it has its moments. The sequence of Sana escaping the corporation and the scene of her seeing Zouroku’s flowers were particularly effective. Between that, the quirky expressions, and the themes, I’m feeling good about picking this as one of the series to review for this season.
Other Posts of Interest
- Titans, Heroes, Queens, and Swords: Spring 2017 Anime Preview Part I
- Aliens, Gears, Game Creation, and Worlds in Collision: Spring 2017 Anime Preview Part II!
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 2 Review: Dreams of Alice
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 3 Review: Cards
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 4 Review: Something Not Human
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 5 Review: A Home to Return To
- Alice & Zouroku Episode SP Review: Looking Ahead to Part 2
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 6 Review: The Kashimura Family
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 7 Review: Friends
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 8: The Evil Witch
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 9: Where the Cheshire Cat Smiles
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 10: The Little Queen
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 11: The Queen and the Witch
- Alice & Zouroku Episode 12: I’m Home