This is truly an anime for children and young teens and, perhaps, a little more so for girls. Like every good children's artwork, it also holds appeal for a much larger (and older) audience. Unlike others series aimed at the same public, there is nothing done here to satisfy male-chauvinist fantasies and that is a very welcome change. Everything in this anime breathes honesty. The only flaws are, perhaps, a little over-ambitiousness and, sometimes, a slight lack of clarity. Alll this being said, "Young Witch Squad Alice" remains, in my opinion, an absolute must-see anime and I shall try, in this review, to explain why I came to this conclusion.
The story has a plot somewhat inspired by Lewis Carrol's book (hence the name of the main character, no doubt) but does not have the same dream-like absurdity or disjointedness. Like Carrol's Alice, our young heroine falls down to a another (dream) world in which everything is very symbolical. In it, magic and the people who wield it are means of expressing very diverse messages all connected to the hopes and doubts of the young Alice. There are many themes treated including identity, individual freedom, love, ambition, knowledge, etc... Each of these themes is addressed with care and all characters and places introduced serve a clear purpose to that effect.
One scene is a perfect example of the whole atmosphere of the show. A little after Alice's arrival, she is brought before the Grand Mistress of the witches along with the two witches who had her in their custody and then let her out of her cage ( namely Sheila and Eve), resulting in the escape of a great number of fairies. The two young girls are punished for the escape of the fairies and a "curse of eternal youth" is cast upon them until they retrieve the lost creatures! There are so many adults who fear old age and decrepitude that they forget that children want to grow up and that staying a child forever is a nightmare to them. The show reminds us how unhealthy it is to want to remain a child but does so in a very creative way, without being insulting.
The story spans over a wide array of themes but also places and times and though it encompasses a whole imaginary world it remains very personal. Indeedl, everything rotates around Alice, her absent father, her gloomy view of the real world and the ways she seeks to deal with her doubts and fears. Despite its great ambition, the show often has a very light and enjoyable tone. Even during the more dramatic episodes, there is measure, and though there might be darkness there is no glorification of despair. Some of the finer messages put forth might prove harder to read for a young audience (for instance the "mirror" half brother) but will certainly please an older one.
Like the story, all the characters in this anime are very symbolical and none of them are truly good or truly evil. There are very few characters one cannot sympathize with, to a certain extent, and the design behind each of these was well researched and executed.
The main character is an energetic and fun loving girl with a lot of maturity but also a great sense of justice which results in slightly rowdy or rebellious behaviour. She is also very creative and her imagination is a tool she uses to deal with the harsh aspects of her life.
Sheila and Eve are the other two members of the squad. Sheila is at first a very law abiding student, eager to earn respect and frowning upon deviation from set courses, even if they seem unfair. Her character evolves for the better as the show progresses and does so in a rather realistic way. Eve is generous and loving but also somewhat weak-willed and cowardly and those traits will factor greatly in the evolution of her character. It sometimes seems as if these two characters reflect two aspects of Alice's personality.
The remaining cast could be talked about in detail but I will leave you the pleasure of discovering them!
Very original to say the least, the art might seem a little odd at first but, in my opinion, fits the world of Alice perfectly. Many of the charaters, creatures, places and vehicles are a pleasure to the eye. The originality of the design is yet another indication of the great effort spent in making this show. The animaton and art seemed very good to me though perhaps not to the point of inspiring awe.
A very strong point here. The score (and even the ending song) fit the world of Alice perfectly. The music is not incredibly original butI have rarely ever heard anything so well adapted to a show.
I greatly enjoyed this show and would recommend it to just about anyone.
Remember that a score of 8/10 means very good. I could probably have given it 9/10 if I just followed my feelings. I truly hope this anime will gain a larger audience in the future so that the anime industry will be inspired to create more such shows.