First Look: Alice & Zouroku

Alternative title(s): Alice to Zouroku
Manga Adaptation by J.C. Staff
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

A bunch of strange young girls have magical powers, and one of them meets a bizarrely unperturbed florist named Zouroku. I guess it’ll be one of those dad shows, with a bunch of weird magical shenanigans tacked on?

Iro’s verdict: Oil and Water

I think one of anime’s greatest strengths in general is its ability to combine seemingly disparate elements into a single entertaining whole, but Alice & Zouroku is an example of this gone wrong. Presumably, I’m supposed to be caring about both the mysterious past of the super-powered young girls and about the mundane life of grumpy seen-it-all old man, but the two ideas are so completely different from each other that I spent most of the episode confused as to what I was supposed to be taking away from it all. Throw in the abysmal animation quality (particularly the overuse of bad CGI) and the sheer drudgery of a double-length premiere episode, and I can’t say I’ll be giving this one any more time unless episode 2 really impresses.

Zigg’s verdict: In Blunderland

Chalk up Alice to Zouroku as another show that just can’t understand the importance of tonal consistency. The mood of this episode is all over the place, from mysterious sci-fi happenings, to heartfelt adult-child bonding, to a bunch of dumb wacky hijinks. None of them are particularly great on their own and together they just turn into a stew of unremarkable cliches. Am I meant to be laughing? Frightened? Intrigued? The truth is I’m none of these because the presentation is so boilerplate, the dialogue so unremarkable, that I’m largely just bored. There’s a glimmer of entertainment to be found in stoic, no-bullshit Zouroku, but it’s not enough to make up for the mediocrity that surrounds him. Then there’s all that CGI. Holy shit, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anything worse put on screen.

Jel’s verdict: May Not Age Well

I actually enjoyed this ambitious debut so much that I didn’t realize it was a double length episode until it was nearly over. I love the idea of an old man as our audience proxy, and despite some really awful animation and CG (no, really, be thankful I can’t find a clip to link) I still thought the episode was well directed and paced. I guess at its core there’s nothing particularly special about super powered little girls and mysterious evil organizations and admittedly everyone outside of Zouroku is a stock anime character that plays their role exactly as you’d expect. But having him around to keep everyone in check does make a difference, particularly as he scolds the girls for essentially acting like anime characters. That all said, I’m not feeling great about this series’ long term prospects. If the show becomes entirely focused on the relationship between Alice and Zouroku and her learning how to be a normal human child, I think it could be great. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to be the case. Based on the implications of the end of the episode, I’m guessing a significant portion of the each episode is going to be devoted to the aforementioned evil organization sending different anime girls of the week to chase down Alice, and I have very little interest in that. I’m willing to give it one more episode but my hopes aren’t too high.

Artemis’ verdict: Early Write-Off

And here I thought Japan might finally be over its Lewis Carroll fetish. To be clear, there’s nothing overtly sexual in this set-up, for which I’m profoundly grateful. Some might say there’s nothing even implicitly sexual here either, and you could probably make a decent argument for that. Still, what with the team of cutesy prepubescent girls complete with Lolita-esque costumes, there’s certainly enough going on to make me roll my eyes a bit and wish Alice had gone with something a little less obvious and overdone.

My other major problem with the series is the artwork. I can forgive poor production values if the writing is decent enough, but a) I don’t think the latter ever rises above average and b) the clearly shoestring budget isn’t actually my main issue. Appallingly bad CG aside, I just don’t think the art style suits the story at all. It’s like the writers thought they were making one show and the artists thought they were making something else entirely; the result is a relatively serious title in terms of key content, but with character designs that look like they’d be more at home in some arbitrary and bland slice-of-life schoolgirl show.

I can see why many viewers might give Alice the benefit of the doubt and keep watching for at least a couple more episodes, but I have neither the time nor the patience for that. I’m out.

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3 thoughts on “First Look: Alice & Zouroku

  1. This was definitely a mixed first episode. I’m intrigued enough that I want to see the next episode at least, but this is show is going to have to do something pretty amazing in the next episode or two to make me stick it out for the season given how many other shows are competing for my attention. At the least, there’s some interesting concepts here and it would be nice if it could decide on a tone at some point.

  2. Shoot, I was hoping they’d go the emotional drama route, but it seems they’re focusing on the “action” road. I hope I’m wrong. Cause that road goes no where if episode one is anything to go on… I’ll give it till episode 2 to convince me. Otherwise, it’s dead in the water.

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