Sakurada Jun is a young boy who, due to something that happened to him at school, refuses to return. Instead, he spends all his time at his room, ordering various stuff over the internet and bitches at his sister whenever he feels like it.
Then, one day, he replies to a rather odd request and finds himself with an unusual doll come to life in Shinku. The two are at odds from the start, but the appearance of other dolls and mentions about something called the "Alice game" eventually makes them put their heads together to solve this mystery.
Rozen Maiden is another one of those shows I've been avoiding for the longest time. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe the thing with the dolls would be a reason. Maybe it was because the show looked a tad ... well, creepy for the wrong reasons instead of the right ones, looking from a horror genre perspective.
I eventually gave in, though, and watched an episode. And then another. And then.... well, you can see where this is going, I assume?
Rozen Maiden's charm is that it plays out like a good, old-fashioned somewhat gothic horror, though with some action elements thrown in for good measure. As the show progresses, the viewers are presented to a lot of different characters and it uses various alternate worlds, some of them made up of human beings' inner psyches to give said worlds their frameworks. It all lends the show much of its atmosphere.
Still, it took at least two episodes for me to get into it. I guess one of the main characters and his general attitude is the reason for that. When the show started and the initial mysterious footage was done, I was presented with a girl who had to turn down an invitation to go play sports because she had to take care of her brother, who wasn't "feeling well", according to her. So, I figured, he was frail or sickly or something, right?
The first we get to see of Jun, he's sitting in front of his computer, browsing online stores and auctions for various stuff, intending to return it just before the payment's due. You know, just because that's the thing he does. When his sister returns, he wastes no time in ordering her around, including, but not limited to, carrying all the stuff he bought to the post office to be returned. And when she makes an overly polite request of him returning to school, or at the very least coming down and having dinner with her, he loses his temper.
So, Shinku, when she first appears, earns some brownie points from me by slapping him and really letting him know what she thinks of his attitude. Starting out with the rough way she's handled while being wound up, she continues to provide the smackdowns as she first assesses his room and his collection, and later his general attitude towards his sister. Things turn even better shortly after the awakening, when Jun's life is threatened by an assailant and he has to prostrate himself at Shinku's feet after a quick, one second showing of bravado.
And that was only the beginning of the show. As the show progresses, we are invited to what is referred to as the "Alice game", which apparently is a grand fighting tournament among a set number of dolls. Most of these dolls are introduced as the show progresses, including the main antagonist of the show, the gothic project gone wrong; Suigintou. Suigintou on her part seems to play out her role as a female Sephiroth quite well, being very powerful and certifiably insane.
Now, while the show does predictably culminate in a huge battle amongst the dolls, the show itself isn't as much about fighting as it is about different people's personalities and psychological situations. Not only are we being taken on a tour of Jun's own pandemonium of a mind, but some of the other dolls are also taken in by masters with personal baggage of their own. This is the part of the show where metaphors are taken in use, though it never gets as heavy-handed (or ham-handed, for that matter) as some other shows I could mention. *coughAquarioncough*
Even if you have no interest in dolls, this is a show worth watching. Even if you think the whole gothic style is stupid, this is a show worth spending time on. The show is inventive enough in its settings to make it interesting, and the whole plot invites to suspenseful moments inbetween the drama. Well worth a watch.
When you can make a show about dolls and appeal to those who have no general interest in them, you have a winner. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The fights can get somewhat serious at times, with heavy emphasis on the consequences of losing. Even if they're "just dolls", this makes it a bit unsuitable for younger people.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Rozen Maiden © 2004 Peach Pit / Gentosha Comics / Rozen Maiden Production Committee
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