The opening scenes of Alice & Zouroku involve poorly-done computer generated cars, a dramatic escape, and a Tokyo Tower scene that is eerily reminiscent of Sakura Kinomoto in Cardcaptor Sakura.
In fact, many things in the opening scene of Alice & Zouroku reminded me of other anime series — echoes of Cardcaptor Sakura, Madoka Magica, and Elfen Lied.
Yet what I latched onto was the nickname given to our titular Alice (Sana Kashimura): “The Red Queen.” Subsequent references to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There reminded me of another first episode experience — one that is near and dear to my heart — Kyousougiga.
“Myoue, I’ve been wondering, can we stay together a little longer? We’ve come all this way, and even came back to life and all. I can promise I’ll finish everything off. Let’s stay together just a little longer.”
-Koto to Myoue, Kyousougiga, Episode 10
A common thread in Rie Matsumoto’s directorial work is the inevitable destruction of whatever world she has spent the majority of the series or movie building. There is a ruined garden, structures flying everywhere, and an overall sense of disorientation in the face of the work’s respective protagonist coming to terms with what is most important to them.
As it turns out, what is most important is also wholly mundane and unquantifiable.
When children tell stories, they’re often stymied by an inability to communicate. Adults are frequently too far removed from their own childhood to understand, or the child is unable to make adults comprehend – much like the narrator of The Little Prince who, as a young boy, draws an elephant inside of a snake which is then interpreted as a hat. Additionally, when adults look back on their youth, they look at it from the eyes of an adult, reframing their experiences in a different context.
This makes portraying children in fiction and varying forms of media incredibly difficult. All too often a creator will underestimate a child’s intelligence and show them doing unnecessarily stupid things rather than a more nuanced display of ignorance. It’s remarkable when a director or creator gets children right.
With that being said, I’d like to draw your attention to Rie Matsumoto, director of Kyousogiga and Blood Blockade Battlefront.
Exchanges between humanity and gods in anime have always fascinated me. Perhaps it is due to my Catholic upbringing – where the primary relationship between man and god is built with the former firmly in awe of the latter, and a very rigid process of human life to afterlife – however, Shinto gods and humans have always appeared to have a fairly equal relationship. The beliefs of Shinto are that spiritual essences reside in all things, creating a collective known as yaoyorozu no kami or “eighty millions of kami” with the boundary between spiritual and natural left undefined. This isn’t to say that these gods (for lack of a better term, I’m using “kami” as synonymous with “god”) are without organization as there is a hierarchy within the multitudes. Primary gods are enshrined at specific locations, naturally garnering more attendance from worshipers.
Which leads us to the following question: would you trust the young man pictured above, of all gods, with your wish?
Backgrounds are primarily responsible for giving an impression of the world that the lead characters inhabit. They inform the viewer not only of where their focus should be at what time, but also give a certain framework through which to view the main characters, and determine the lenses that they look through while in their world. Backgrounds also take, in most cases, both time and money, specifically when there are other people occupying the same space as the main characters. Usually, the larger the amount of people needed to occupy a background – in a more crowded space like a school assembly or heavily-trafficked Ikebukuro – the more those denizens become a simple pattern. It’s a visual shortcut, allowing the viewer to easily understand that the area is densely-populated while continuing to identify where the main characters are at all times.