Image Source: TVアニメ『アリスと蔵六』公式アカウント on Twitter

When I first saw Alice and Zoroku’s premise and cover of the manga that inspired it, I figured it would be an adorable comedy about a girl with psychic powers bothering a grumpy old man. It turns out that this isn’t the story of cute little kids with psychic powers causing mischief, but instead is the tale of one girl fighting for her freedom from an evil organization while learning about the meaning of family.

The story of Alice and Zoroku follows Sana, a psychic girl who not only can read minds, but can also teleport and materialize anything she imagines. It’s an amazing power set, one that kids would often fantasize about having. She was raised in “The Laboratory,” a place that experiments on children who are “Alice’s Dreams”—the term used for people who have superpowers.

Image Source: TVアニメ『アリスと蔵六』公式アカウント on Twitter

Sana finds herself fed up with the Lab and decides to run away to the world outside. However, despite admiring the outside world, she knows nothing about it. This is where Zoroku comes in. Zoroku is a grumpy, stubborn old man who will not change his ways no matter what—even if a girl with unbelievable psychic powers comes into his life. He (grudgingly) takes Sana under his wing while she tries to take down the organization that runs the Laboratory.

Of course, Sana was not alone during her time at the Laboratory—she was raised along twins Yonaga and Asahi. One has the ability to manifest arrows. The other can summon any object with a chain out of thin air. Since Sana’s left the Laboratory, the twins have been forced to fight against her. Just in the first episode, Sana’s run to freedom is impeded not just by the twins, but also by Minnie Tachibana, a woman who manifests a giant version of her deceased husband’s arm to assist her in taking down Sana. The first episode—which is a one-hour special—is dominated by action sequences for its entire first half, with Sana on the run.

And why wouldn’t Sana want to run? As we see in her flashbacks, Sana originally had no worries in the laboratory, creating all the things she ever wanted. Sana even has the power to create her own entire gorgeous. physics-defying wonderland in which she played with the twins. But then, she found out the secret behind the lab: the scientists are experimenting on other children besides Sana. Sometimes these lead to gruesome deaths, one of which Sana witnesses with her own eyes.

It’s clear to see that this anime is not the light-hearted adorable comedy that I once thought it would be.

Anime Basics: Alice & Zoroku

But Alice & Zoroku isn’t just violence, either—it’s about Sana finding a family in a world she was never allowed to see. Sana began as a girl who only lived in the world of the Lab, given the twins as playmates and later, friends—heck, they were almost like her sisters. But it was something set up by the researchers, just as artificial as the world Sana created for herself within the confines of the facility she was raised in. But Zoroku, while stubborn and stern, sincerely cares about Sana’s safety like a grumpy grandpa would. He could have just left alone the girl who almost got him killed in a crazy car chase, but he instead allows her to stay with him and tries to work his connections to make her dream of freedom from the lab come true. And he does this is despite knowing that she is the holder of possibly the most dangerous superpower imaginable.

Image Source: TVアニメ『アリスと蔵六』公式アカウント on Twitter

Sana might have finally found her place to really belong, but with members of the Lab determined to take her back into the dungeon of experimentation, she’s going to have to struggle to protect what she’s obtained. The show isn’t just about cute girls using psychic powers. It’s about one superpowered girl’s fight to find and keep the family she’s found, and it’s also about the normal, grumpy old man who watches over her, despite not having powers himself.

Alice & Zoroku is streaming with subtitles on Crunchyroll now, and an English dub produced by FUNimation will premiere on May 3. You can learn more about the series, its characters, and other information on its Anime Basics page.

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