Tuesday 24 January 2017

The Case of Hana and Alice

‘The Case of Hana and Alice’, written and directed by Shunji Iwai, is an anime set in rural Japan that speaks about friendship, mystery, and fitting in. After leaving her home in the city for a new life with her mother, Alice finds it hard to adjust to life in the sleepy village of Ishinomori. Once enrolled in the local school she hopes to make some friends, but instead finds herself bullied by the whole class for having to sit in the seat of a student who was murdered the year before. From what she can work out the students was called Yudas, and he had four wives, but it just doesn’t add up in her mind. Curious, Alice decides to investigate the murder and find out what really happened.

In order to do so Alice has to get the help of Hana, a mysterious student in the year above. The two then go on a bizarre adventure through the streets of Tokyo to find out the truth of the matter, and learn a few things about themselves along the way.

‘The Case of Hana and Alice’ is a little bit different from your usual anime film for a few reasons. The most noticeable difference is the style of animation – the whole film has been rotoscoped. This both good and bad as the animation gets a little messy at times, though I liked the general style of it and the difference in movement was quite refreshing in a way. It also reflected the characters well, who were also making a bit of a hash of their own lives. Secondly, the content was just so different to what you’d usually expect from an anime. There was no real fantasy or anything like that – it’s simply a story of two girls trying to find out answers at school. There are some scenes of ghosts and spirits that almost alarm you at first as they seem so out of place, but after that it all gets pretty real again.

The best part of the animation by far was how the theme of innocence came across to the viewer. Hana and Alice are both just fourteen years old, and they have a very different perception of the world to an adult; hanging out with an old man they don’t know in the middle of a city doesn’t bother them, and nor does the idea of being away from home all night. They also don’t see the issue with sleeping underneath a lorry with its engine switched on – all things that an older, wiser character would hear alarm bells over. It’s quite sweet in a way, as all they’re trying to do is find out what happened to Yudas, and so their safety has just become an afterthought. 

Sometimes the film felt a little bit disjointed – for example, the first half of the film is spent in the school environment, and yet during the second half we barely see any of the characters and locations we’ve been getting to know as suddenly we’re caught up in an inner-city adventure which is led only by errors. There’s quite a big shift, and it feels a bit weird at first. We’re treated to scenes that build up Alice’s past as well, such as joining a new ballet group and meeting up with her dad for the first time in a while, but these aren’t dwelled on and we never hear about them again. 

‘The Case of Hana and Alice’ is an interesting story, and a lot different from other anime. It’s animation can be clunky at points, but is worth watching if you’re looking for an animation that’s a little less fantasy, and a little more 'slice of life'. 3/5


Hannah Read

The Case Of Hana And Alice at CeX

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