Alice & Zouroku – Back into the Fire

Note: This post may include spoilers, so be cautious!

Quick Summary

In Alice & Zouroku’s third episode, CardsZouroku Kashimura demands that Sana apologize for raining pigs down on his place of business. Shizuku Ichijou reveals that this isn’t the first time she’s met Sana. Cleo doesn’t like Minnie (Miriam) C. Tachibana; why would there be discord within the Dreams of Alice? Ryuu Naitou has an idea that shocks Zouroku and delights Sanae Kashimura and Sana. The Directory and Minnie C. make their move against Sana.

What’s In This Post

Quick Episode Summary
What Happened in this Episode
What I Liked in this Episode
What I Liked Not so Much in this Episode
Thoughts about the Episode
Related Posts

What Happened

Ichijou helps Sana calm down after the piglet incident. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
  1. Shizuku Ichijou, the traveling companion of Zouroku’s friend Ryuu Naitou, helps Sana calm down while the others clean up the pigs. She reveals she had met Sana before; Sana doesn’t remember, but Ichijou was the one who helped her escape. Men from her agency take the pigs away for humane testing. After all, Sana created living creatures out of nothing, and they want to understand more about her power. Ichijou checks with her partner, Noriko Yamada, who had also helped Sana escape. They’re putting together a way to track Sana.
  2. Zouroku demands an apology from Sana, who is too stubborn to just give one. He wants her to understand that she broke her promise and that she put them all in danger. Sana begins sobbing, and Naitou calms her down by telling her he’s one of the guys trying to track down the men who had been experimenting on her. He asks if she’ll wear a homing device, and she “grudgingly” accepts one that’s a emoji-face button. It shows up on Yamada’s tracking device. Sana announces that she’s hungry again.

    Sana’s delighted by the emoji-faced tracking device Naitou gives her. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.
  3. The director, riding in a car with Yonaga and Asahi Hinagiri and Cleo, tells Minnie C. to get ready. Cleo says that she doesn’t like Minnie C because she’s always smiling, and Cleo thinks that’s the same as never smiling. We learn in a flashback that Minnie C had been in the US Marines when she had met her husband, who was also a marine. While trying to defuse a bomb, he had been killed, and both his arms had been blown off. She had been despondent until she had a dream where his arms were holding her. Now, remembering the time she had spent with her husband, she snuggles into his arms while riding in the car. The same arms that make up her card.
  4. Minnie C thanks her card, her husband’s arms, for retrieving Sana. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

    Ichijou has her people bring in a load of fast food. While Sana’s eating, she offers Sanae some fries while Naitou shocks everyone: he asks if Sana would like to join Zouroku’s family. Zouroku’s angry, saying that the agreement was to take her somewhere safe. Naitou says they’ll provide guards, but that what Sana really needs is a family. That’s where she’ll be safe. And that’s where she’ll have an ordinary life, which is what Naitou wants. Sanae’s happy about the prospect. Sana asks Zouroku if he wants her in his house. He asks her if there’s something she wants to say first, since she never finished the apology. She asks to go the restroom instead. Sanae escorts her. Sana’s so happy at the prospect of having a family that she’s giggling. She says she’ll need to apologize to Zouroku first. That’s when Minnie C’s card, her husband’s arms, grab Sana through the ceiling. Sanae is the first to find Sana’s gone. Yamada reports that the transmitter is moving, but when they intercept it, they find only the receiver. Sana’s gone.

  5. Sana learns that Minnie C’s card is appallingly strong — and just as relentless. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

    Yamada tries to track Sana’s power signature, but it abruptly disappears. They don’t know that it’s because the getaway car is now hidden inside a semi. Sana wakes up and begins to struggle against the tape binding her. Using her card, Minnie C slams Sana to the floor and applies so much pressure that Sana’s almost crushed. She reflects on her first meeting with Sana, deep underground. Most Dreams of Alice have a single card that is the manifestation of their power. Sana had created an entire world deep beneath the facility, complete with whimsical living creatures. Her Mirror Gate apparently has few limits. The Director desperately wants to control Sana, and he tells Minnie C that he’ll grant her anything if she helps. Minnie C tells Sana that if she struggles at all, she’ll snap the little girl’s neck. Losing her smile for the first time since we’ve seen her, she says, “I would do absolutely anything to see him again, Red Queen.”

What I Liked

I’m really buying Sana as a child. Everything from her mannerisms to her voice (credit to the voice actor!) feel authentic. Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I am totally buying Sana as a child. The voice actor, Hitomi Ohwada, not only nailed the stubborn little girl, but the crying little girl, too. It was heart-breaking to hear her ask, “What?” in a post-sobbing voice when Naitou told her he had a favor to ask (around 8:23).

Naitou was so proud that Sana said he wasn’t a bad man. I can see Zouroku’s resistance to Sana dropping when he observed, “She said the same about me.”

Minnie C’s husband had his arms blown off trying to defuse a bomb? And those are his arms that we’ve seen in the previous episodes? Yikes! This is definitely the Brynhildr in the Darkness side of the show! Seeing how she snuggles against his disembodied arms drives home how she’s been hurt. At the same time, it gives me the impression that she’s only tangentially intersecting with reality. She has the makings of a good villain — someone who’s sympathetic, but who makes reprehensible decisions (at least from the perspective of the protagonist — more on this a little later).

I think it’s fair to say that Sanae felt surprised when Sana offer her the fries! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Sana, raised as she was far away from etiquette, still offered to share her food with Sanae. I know what the writers are doing. They’re building up sympathy and sheer “awwww!” factor of Sana and Sanae together, so when circumstance rips them apart, we’ll freak out. Even knowing that, even sensing the impending freak out, I’m still sitting here thinking “awwww!”

Even though I saw it coming; even though I saw the signs; I was still upset on Sana’s behalf when her moment of giddiness was destroyed by abduction. She was on the verge of joining a normal family and being loved simply as a little girl — not as the Red Queen, creator of worlds, but as Sana the kid.

If this were an ordinary drama, I’d be thinking, “Wow! Zouroku’s not going to take Sana’s abduction sitting down!” But what, exactly, is he going to do? He has no super powers. He can’t go head to head with even the least powerful Dream of Alice. Does Ichijou and Yamada have access to others who can use a Mirror Gate? If not, what can Ichijou, as powerful as she might be, do alone against Minnie C and the others combined? The writers have done a great job of setting up this conflict only three episodes in!

What I Liked Less

Minnie C is shaping up to be a sympathetic but deplorable villain. Should be fun to watch! Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

Minnie C. Minnie C is what I like less this episode. At first, she seemed gentle and perhaps sympathetic. After watching this episode, I now find her tremendously sympathetic, but also malevolent in the extreme. She’s willing to destroy Sana’s life — dooming her to a life of experimentation and imprisonment — so she can see her husband again. I get grief. I get making a bad decision in the heat of passion. But this cold-blooded deliberation ending in Sana’s imprisonment? Unacceptable. Minnie C has to go down.

Paradoxically, listing this in “What I Liked Less” actually means I liked it. Effective drama rocks!

Thoughts

A good villain makes a huge difference. Before this episode, I figured the Director was going to be this series’ bad guy. I expected he’d be the polite corporate type to build out the theme of banality of evil, which I think is both chilling and utterly appropriate for our age. However, now we have another candidate, Minnie C., who’s sympathetic (who wouldn’t sympathize who had lost a spouse to war) and coldly evil in a calculating way.

From happy moments like Sana smiling at a piglet to dark moments like Minnie C’s card crushing Sana to the floor, the show’s tone seems inconsistent. Or does it? Capture from the Crunchyroll stream.

I still have a lingering concern about the show’s focus. Is it trying to be a Flying Witch? They even have clapping in the OP! Are they trying to be Brynhildr in the Darkness, complete with brutal attempts to retrieve witches who leave? The show is shifting smoothly between the lighter moments with Sanae and Zouroku and the darker moments with the corporation. Today’s episode, with Minnie C’s chilling speech to Sana at the end, took an even bigger step towards Brynhildr. I can’t point to anything that says it’s not working, and I understand that genre is an artificial construct, but I’m still uneasy.

What do you think? Am I making too much of this? Let me know in the comments!

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Post Author: tcrow