Friday, May 5, 2017

Alice & Zoroku: The Validity of Feelings

"Up until that point, the girl didn’t know about the “outside world.” It was filled with things she had never touched, scenery she had never seen, and people she had never met... In the face of such a broad new world, she was surprised, wavered, and her eyes were opened on the impulse of curiosity. The girl’s name: Sana. She was born and raised at a facility called the “Laboratory” without ever knowing anything about the outside world. This girl has the special power to materialize anything she imagined. Those with special powers like Sana were called “Dreams of Alice.”

A new Simulcast series on Crunchyroll, this has caught so much attention, right from the first episode. It has the premise of a magical adventure bordering on action but also contains very tender and heartfelt moments.

The first episode of the series is 45 minutes long, something a bit unexpected, but served as the perfect opener for the series. There was the perfect blend of action and this confusion about what sort of genre this really is. The first episode was long, but it was engaging and was what made people interested. It was much more effective as a whole episode then it ever could have been as two separate episodes. If they had cut it up, then it would've left on a cliffhanger, which would have been too weird for a first episode, or they would've had to compress it, taking away the full effect.

The character dynamics are what really make this interesting. We have Sana, a girl with powers on an almost godlike scale, who shows a variety of different sides. She tries to put on a confident act, with the facade that she can take care f whatever is thrown her way. But as time progresses, we realize that she is fragile. She's just human, she has human needs, and she's still just a child who hasn't had time to experience the world and mature. Sana is young and impressionable, and she doesn't always have the right answer in life, and that's why she's learning to rely on others to help her when she doesn't know what to do or how to do it.

And then there's Zoroku, an old man who honestly seems like he walked in from another universe. He's a very down to earth, practical person. He won't take any nonsense and refuses to be swept up in the chaos that ensues. He has his own ideas, his own way of life, and he refuses to make changes just because something unordinary happens. He has lived a long life and endured a lot of hardships, but it was made him a well worn but experienced person. While a bit stubborn, he's still a genuinely nice person. He's willing to help out a complete stranger, even though it's inconveniencing him because he knows it's a child silently reaching out for help.

There's such a complete contrast between Sana and Zoroku, her being a magical girl almost, involved in crazy events, while he's just trying to live a peaceful life. The difference between them is what makes them so compatible, and what makes it interesting to watch as their relationship grows into something more than a chance encounter. Sana tries to be independent and distant from those around her, but she needs someone to guide her, an emotional and moral support. Zoroku is the best person for that because he's steady, has life experience, wants to help, and he wants to take the burden off of Sana's shoulders. He won't just look the other way when a young girl is carrying a heavy load, he'll take responsibility as an adult.

Alice & Zoroku is a very confusing series as far as the genre for some because it will quickly shift between sci-fi, slice of life, and (as a subcategory to sci-fi) magical girls. Slife of life is generally a very hard genre to incorporate into others as it's pretty straightforward. It's usually about real life topics or feelings, in a setting where these everyday things can be analyzed and nurtured. Slice of Life series have been done before, and when it's pulled off correctly it's a good show, but most slice of life hybrids tend to be a little incompatible. But A&Z does it very well, presenting the sci-fi aspects of the show as a problem, while the slice of life works as a solution. This may not make sense until you watch the series, but once you do it does click.

Alice & Zoroku is honestly such a sweet show, and it's very pure. Unlike the vast majority of slice of life type series, there isn't any romance so far. It's just the relationship of two strangers, then acquaintances, and then family. It's about Sana being able to rediscover her innocence in a way, and let go of the intense burdens she was forced to bear. It's essentially the story of a girl and her grandfather relationship wise, and this is something that we needed. A bond with good intent.

Image result for alice and zorokuWhile the series is very pure, it's by no means light. There are a lot of heavy things that occur, it's because of these events that Sana is able to grow as a person. There are villains with no sense of wrong, there are people who take advantage of Sana, and there's existentialism. Sana wasn't born like a normal human, she was a life form that slowly learned how to be human. Due to this, she has doubts about if any of her feelings are even legitimate, and if she isn't human, then she isn't valid. This is pretty deep thought for someone of her age capacity (I say that because she wasn't exactly human, so her age isn't the best way to describe her youth). In a lot of controlling relationships and in bad thinking, people can be convinced that what they feel doesn't matter, which is completely wrong. Everyone and everything is entitled to their own feelings, and nothing that they feel is wrong because those are their feelings. Even if the world says it's wrong, your feelings are our own, and even if they're bad that doesn't mean they aren't real. Sana is finally able to see this after Zoroku matter of factly tells her that she is a person, and her feelings are real. This was a really touching moment because it was at this point that their bond and ties have finally become firm.

The series is still simulcasting on Crunchyroll, and we eagerly await new episodes. There's a lot of speculation about where the series will go from here, as it feels like it has concluded. The people who were using Sana and experimenting with the Dreams of Alice were taken into custody, all of the other Dreams seem to be in government hands as well. We can assume that there will be more slice of life moments as Sana adjusts to the real world, but what else? Will there be more sci-fi adventure with a new enemy, or will the series settle down to just magical adventure? It's difficult to say because at this point they could take it either way. But this is if they decide to go down only one path. They could continue to blend the two genres together, and if they can it would be incredible, as it's hard to imagine how they could really do that at this point. It's entirely possible, just beyond any wild ideas we can come up with.