Tetsuko ‘Alice’ Arisugawa starts at a new school and things get weird very quickly when she learns through the melodramatic superstitions of her classmates about the rumour that a boy named Judas was killed by “four other Judases”. When she finds out that she’s closer to the mystery than she thought, she decides to enlist the help of her reclusive neighbour Hana to find out what happened to Judas once and for all.
The Case of Hana and Alice gets off to a fairly slow start, as Alice adjusts to her new school and tries to find out more about the mystery causing other students to pick on her and even at one point conduct their own supernatural ritual. Although it seems like bullying might play a strong part in the story, it quickly becomes apparent that Alice can definitely hold her own. I also thought that the supernatural elements were going to come into play throughout this anime but the spooky elements factor into this much less than I had thought.
In fact, the most interesting thing about this anime for me is the fact that it shifts tone several times. It opens with a strong bullying and supernatural angle to the point that I expected the story to be quite intense. But then it shifts into a more comedic, off-the-wall sleuthing investigation based outside of the school once Alice meets Hana and they decide to investigate the Judas situation themselves.
The film really finds it groove from the moment that Hana and Alice meet, they have brilliant chemistry and make a great oddball duo. The unusual situation under which they meet quickly develops from a psuedo-professional relationship into a quirky friendship. Whilst putting this review together I learned that this film is in fact a prequel to a live action Japanese film called ‘Hana and Alice’. As the two stars had aged since shooting the original film, it was decided to make the prequel animated so their voices could still be used, which might explain the great chemistry that comes across since the actors had already worked together.
That leads me onto the animation. At first I wasn’t overly impressed with the animation at the start of the film. Some of the choices of more distant shots paired with a more basic character style felt quite impersonal. However, this does change and become more interesting throughout the film. Rotoscoping was used throughout, which was definitely a clever decision in light of Alice’s ballet hobby as it makes for more naturalistic and impressive movements.
The scene shown below, in which Alice runs after her father was one of the most visually impressive moments for me, everything from the lighting to the fluidity of her movements is just a joy to watch. Paired with some beautiful piano music that felt quite reminiscent of Ghibli to me and it really made for an impressive scene.
The Case of Hana and Alice may be a bit slow to find its feet, but once it does it offers up an interesting and original story. For me the friendship between the titular characters and the combination of rotoscoping and pastel light effects are the things that make this anime shine. If you’re looking for something a bit different, check out The Case of Hana and Alice.