The Case of Hana & Alice is the kind of film that instantly gains cult appeal because of how convincingly it captures the essence and experience of teenage life at that point in time. Some of the most nostalgic and timeless television series and films are able to stand the test of time not because of how relatable they were to viewers at the time of release, but also how convincingly they serve as a time capsule of sorts, something that is representative of that era.
There’s nothing like watching the ordinary lives of young people as they make their transition through difficult and troubling changes that come with growing up. The self indulgent nature of young people can be a blessing sometimes, because of how the small community they live in is pretty much the full extent of the universe in their minds. Which is why their seemingly inconsequential lives and moments turn out to be such compelling adventures and experiences. I suppose the magic of teenage years isn’t so much about the ordinary events that transpire, but rather the lessons and experiences gained from them is what makes them so unforgettable and important. That probably explains the timeless appeal of so many shows and anime that focus on the lives of high school students, because we can all relate to what it feels like like to tumble around to figure out the crazy world we live in, and to make sense of our place in it. That’s probably another magical aspect of teenage years, where it’s pretty much the last era of one’s life where imagination is still powerful enough to suspend belief and forge a convincing reality, just to make our mundane lives a little interesting. The Case of Hana & Alice is about two young women who forge an alliance purely by chance, and unwillingly so, but end up with a meaningful friendship when it’s all said and done.
Alice is a 14 year old girl who moves into the countryside with her mother following the divorce. It’s a typical tale of a teen adjusting to life and people in a brand new town, which is probably one of the most difficult transitions we face at that age. She goes through the ups and downs that comes with being the “new kid” in the cruel social hierarchy that only exists inside a school. Not long after she finds herself in the middle of a murder legend involving Judas and his four wives, with characters barely able to make connections with the biblical material. From possessions to exorcism spells, the kids she meets in this town sure know how make their daily lives interesting. Alice struggles to adapt to her new environment, even breaking down a few times, but she still has wit and toughness, allowing her to handle herself around mean boys.
Getting caught up in the class legend about the murder of a student, Alice unexpectedly tumbles into a shut-in by the name of Hana. Hana hasn’t attended school in well over a year, and she has something to do with the supposed murder mystery that haunts their school. In an odd turn of events, Hana and Alice set out to solve the mystery and search for this Judas.
The journey that they go on is absolutely silly but it keeps you interested and intrigued. It’s filled with random moments, and encounters with people that don’t necessarily drive the plot at all, but are still meaningful in a weird way. Watching The Case of Hana & Alice can feel like watching a ’90s Nickelodeon show, it has the same level of bizarreness and surrealism as something like The Adventures of Pete & Pete. But of course, there are some serious undertones to it all and some life lessons to be learned. As characters, Alice and Hana are quite likeable and relatable, and they’re the kind of people you probably would have met at school.
The production itself is quite nice, with the visuals sporting gorgeous hand-drawn scenery with pseudo 3D cel-shaded rotoscoping blended in nicely. It’s a pleasant viewing experience for sure, and the acting and dialogue delivery in particular really stands out, with little nuances and quirks to make the characters feel unique and charming. Sometimes you forget that you’re watching an anime, and instead feels like you’re watching an absorbing drama.
The Case of Hana & Alice has all the right elements and ingredients to become a cult nostalgic classic, a piece of entertainment that captures the experience of being a teenager in this era. It aptly showcases the mindset of young people and their attempts at trying to be bigger than what they really are, and more importantly treating the confines of their school and town as if they represented the entirety of the world. That kind of closed mindedness fades away as we grow older, and so it’s fun to watch Alice and Hana entertain that self-indulgence, but at the same time we also learn that the greatest, most lasting friendships happen under the most weirdest circumstances.
The Case of Alice & Hana is playing at the Japan Film Festival.