The mysteries involving Sana, the organization after her, and how she grows up, alongside Tetsuya Imai's art, makes Alice & Zoroku an intriguing manga to read.

Alice & Zoroku Volume 1Title: Alice & Zoroku
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tokuma Shoten
Creator: Tetsuya Imai
Serialized in: Monthly Comic Ryu
Translation: Beni Axia Conrad
Release Date: July 3, 2017

Localized by Beni Axia Conrad (Translator of Alice and the Country of Hearts), Ludwig Sacramento (Letterer of Don’t Meddle With My Daughter), and alongside first time adapter Maggie Cooper, Alice & Zoroku is…odd. Not necessarily when it comes to adults dealing with children: You have Bunny Drop (which, well, don’t seek the ending), sweetness and lightning, and Silver Nina as a few titles that have this idea.

None of them star an old man meeting a child who can shape fantasy into reality.

Alice & Zoroku tells the story of Sana, a girl who possesses the ability to make dreams into real life. Want to build an ideal wonderland? Complete with forests, things that can grow, etc? Sana can totally do that. However, at the “Laboratory” Sana stayed in horrible things took place, and she knew she had to run away. She goes to Tokyo, and winds up at a local store when an old man approaches her. This old man is Zoroku, who does not take kindly to Sana’s powers, or her finding out who he was and his living situation.

He also doesn’t appreciate trouble, which Sana brings him when she decides to go where he is. She ends up bringing more people like her, except they’re looking to bring her back to the Laboratory, and they’ll do whatever they can to make sure it happens. But to illustrate the oddity of this manga, a brutal fight is set to take shape. A part of the city has been rolled over or broken. It’s set to get ugly, but it all ends in two pages because Zoroku’s plain crazy. How he can process (well, somewhat) a couple of kids causing chaos, and are clearly not human? The only way he can — by acting wiser, and treating them like they are kids. That also involves hitting them.

The more you think about Alice & Zoroku the more you realize just how odd the story is. Before that though, it feels like the tone is slightly different from the anime. The anime, which aired this past spring, began with a long action sequence that was about six pages and was shown in an entirely different context in the manga. The manga makes sure to highlight why Sana ran away, and ties the Through the Looking Glass book a bit more at this juncture than the anime. That meant if I’d remember what I read of that book I’d probably enjoy some of the references.

In general though, I feel like I get a sense of mystery about Sana’s origins more so than the anime, at least from what I remember. She’s even questioned about her past, her name, etc, which the anime doesn’t quite explore until later. Sometimes it’s a case where the setup sets the tone. While it does begin with Alice escaping to Tokyo, the manga begins with Zoroku, and in following him his day goes from sketchy (delivering a gift to Yakuza) to downright surreal (ends with taking a child with superpowers home). Now whether this is a normal reaction depends, but I think his personality is shown well enough that it’s at least realistic to think it’s possible.

The mysteries involving Sana, the organization after her, and how she grows up (since it’s framed is her telling this story) all intrigue me. Tetsuya Imai’s art also intrigues me, as it’s a mix of cute and yet sometimes serious. It can be messy during the action scenes, but there weren’t that many in this volume. I suspect there will be some in the next volume, unless the anime took a lot of liberties. Overall, I’m curious to see where it’ll go from here, and how Sana’s growth is portrayed.