After three episodes of Alice & Zoroku,I’m still not completely sure what direction the show is heading. So far Alice & Zoroku has been an intriguing and compelling mix between a sci-fi thriller and a quite charming slice-of-life show, switching these two genres up on the fly. We’ve seen the show’s core premise a couple of times now – the whole setup with a young girl harboring highly destructive superpowers and escaping a shady research facility isn’t exactly new or revolutionary, but it’s the added slice-of-life bits that give the show its unique twist.
Alice & Zoroku starts off with Sana trying to escape from her pursuers from the research facility, using up all her magical power by teleporting from place to place. But just as she’s about to be captured by Minnie C and her magically floating oversized hairy forearms, she gets rescued by yet another girl with the powers of Dreams of Alice. The mysterious rescuer hands her a couple of cans containing orange marmalade to restore her powers, and then tells her to teleport to the largest town she can imagine. And as you can probably already guess, that large town turns out to be Tokyo.
*All images were taken with GOOGLE STREET VIEW (images I shot myself will be marked ‘WD’)
The show spends the most of its double-length first episode in Shinjuku’s infamous Kabukicho district, Japan's largest red light and entertainment district. The area, which was named after a kabuki theatre that never got realized, boasts hundreds of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hostess clubs, and the likes, many of which are run by the yakuza. Although the district is not really a place where little kids like Sana should be carelessly wandering around, it makes sense that Zoroku is hanging around the area, as he seems to be somehow involved with the yakuza (he surely can’t only be their florist, there just has to be more to that). Pictured above is the iconic entrance to Kabukicho’s main street, Ichibangai Street.
You might already be fairly familiar with the Kabukicho area if you played the superb Yakuza 0 game.
Zoroku and Sana get detained in the former Yotsuya Police Station after the awfully rendered CG car chase scene.
After the eventful day, Zoroku heads to Shanghai Xiaochi for dinner, a little Chinese restaurant located in a seedy back alley in Kabukicho. While it may not look like much from the outside, the restaurant seems quite renowned among anime and manga artists, and actually offers a couple of culinary adventures like deep fried frogs, bull testicles, and scorpions. Another one of the restaurant's specialties is its steamed buns, which also get ordered by Zoroku in the anime. You can actually check out every dish that Zoroku ordered on the restaurant's official website, or you can try to cook them yourself by following Emily’s guide.
On their way home, they pass by Shinjuku’s famous Robot Restaurant. In all honesty, I don’t think that my simple description would do the place justice, as I’ve never been there myself (it's high up my list now). But let me just put it out there, that Robot Restaurant’s shows include a lot of robots, dancing bikini-clad women, and a neon tank!?! Read Patrick Macias’ article for a couple of his first-hand impressions.
Miami Garden is an Italian restaurant chain in Japan.
Sana keeps pestering Zoroku and asks what kind of shop this is, but he just tells her to be quiet and keep walking, which was probably a good idea.
Alice & Zoroku left out the giant Godzilla head (in the center of the right-hand image) in the anime, which is overlooking the Toho Cinema building in real life.
On their way home, they take a quick detour through Hanazono Shrine, which is located to the east of the Kabukicho district.
Hanazono literally means Flower Garden.
East entrance of the shrine.
In the second episode we see Sanae, Zoroku’s granddaughter, on her way home passing through Harajuku Station.
There’s also a third shot of Harajuku Station which unfortunately can’t be recreated anymore, as it was taken from an overpass that has been removed as part of the reconstruction of the station in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
And to wrap this article up, here are a couple of other locations we get to see throughout the show. At the end of the first episode, we get to see a glimpse of Japan’s National Diet Building, implying some sort of government involvement with the shady research facility.
We also get to see the Tokyo Skytree a couple of times. The observation tower with a full height of 634.0 metres (2,080 ft) is the second tallest structure in the world. The view up there really is something special!
On a final note, I was not able to exactly pin down the location of the first episode’s opening scene, in which Sana was fighting against Minnie C in the rain. This sign along Japan’s National Route 246 was the closest I was able to get to the one in the anime, but it’s still off about 2 kilometers.
What are your thoughts about Alice & Zoroku, and have you ever been to Kabukicho yourself? Sound off in the comments below!
You can follow Wilhelm on Twitter @Surwill.