Sakurada Jun spends his days online, ordering whatever he takes a liking to, only to return it before the payment is due. Due to psychological trauma from school, Jun generally keeps contact with people as little as possible. One day he finds instructions online that tell him to put his order into his desk drawer. Rubbing it off as a joke, Jun mindlessly does so only to find that his order instantly disappears from his drawer. A package suddenly appears, containing a beautiful antique doll. When wound up, this doll comes to life. Sadly for Jun, this doll Shinku views Jun as an equivalent for a servant. Despite the constant demands Jun now receives from Shinku, she slowly helps him overcome his fears of human contact as well as protect him from the deadly battles that come into his life due to her appearance. Based on the manga by PEACH-PIT.
By some coinsidence on the internet, I came into contact with Rozen Maiden through the probably all to known DESU meme, and random recommendations from several websites. I started watching Rozen Maiden somewhere during fall, and finished watching somewhere before December. Here comes my review of the anime.
Story - This is one of the highlights of the Rozen Maiden. The story about Jun and how he comes in contact with the dolls is an action-filled, emotional, yet humorous sotry. The makers of Rozen maiden has managed to make a fine mix between humor, drama and action, and it is rather clear what nature each scene is of. It should be clear what episodes make the story go forward. Some things, however, may be confusing, but these are explained in one way or another through the anime. The plot holes in the story leaves the watcher with some questions. Many of these plot holes are filled in in träumend, however, so this makes it even moe worth to keep watching.
Art - There's really only one thing I can say here. The art is outstanding, and is also one of the major qualities of the show. Ranging from the modern Japanese suburban style of where most of the story takes place, to a more 19th century Victorian style of the N-field, the visual range of the anime is simply amazing. The dolls clearly differ from the humans in design. The 19th century style of the dolls clearly stand out from the modern look of the human characters.
Sound - This has to be the only downside of Rozen Maiden. The opening credits may be interesting to hear the first few times, but after you've heard it some times, you will start to feel it gets on your nerves. The opening credits are not really the best I've heard, by far. As for the ending credits, it is not at all as annoying as the opening credits. It is even quite calm and enjoyable, and does not get annoying after a few times, unlike the opening credits. The music that occurs in the show is in good touch with the scenes, with distinctive music for all types of scenes. However, many are played so commonly that you start to recognize them every time you hear them. It is not annoying, unlike the opening credits, but when you've heard the same song for every scene of the same nature, you'll want some different music for a change. As for voice actors, I believe they couldn't have done a better job for the japanese voice acting than what they already did. The voices fit the characters great, and I can't think of any flaws. If there is something that stands out in the sound department, it is definitely the voice actors.
Characters - This has to be another of Rozen Maiden's shining points. All of the characters have their own distinctive traits. For example, the main Character, Jun, is a secluded, traumatized young boy who has an interest in buying supernatural things. As the story progresses, however, one will notice how he changes as a response to the dolls that he comes in contact with. The dolls themselves are rather unique themselves, each housing their own distinctive traits and personalities. For instance, while Shinku may be aristocratic and dominant, Suigintu is cold and full of sorrow, while Hinaichogo is as innocent as a child. The character that seems to help the bond grow between the characters, is Jun's older sister Nori, who treats both Jun and the dolls with lots of love and care. While she is not the most prominent of the characters nor a very integral in the main plot, she is an important character nevertheless, and a strong support to everybody.
Enjoyment - To put it shortly, this is the best anime I have seen. It is rich of humor, action and drama, and is put together in a very good way. You may want to watch this many times just to catch all the aspects of the anime. This is truly an anime to remember.
Overall - As I said before, this is the best anime I have seen. If you like action and drama with a good sense of humor, this is an anime for you. I promise you, that you will not be dissappointed. Wonderful story with a beautiful style, and much diversity makes this anime something you can relate to. And if you like the original anime, then Träumend and Ouvertüre is a must to watch.
This definitely isn't a genre I'd usually watch from, but given that, I guess it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
STORY - To be honest, despite this series only being twelve episodes long, it took a while for me to figure out what exactly the plot was, and when I figured it out, I wasn't much impressed. In the beginning, everything seemed to happen pretty arbitrarily. Nothing was really explained, and things just seemed to keep happening for little or no reason. This was annoying, and I found myself losing interest pretty quickly. It was slice-of-life with unexplained fantasy elements. And when the story did finally emerge, it still seemed mediocre at best.
Because they were the fantasy elements in an otherwise very ordinary world, the story of the dolls and the Alice Game seemed much more interesting than the social anxiety struggles of a middle school recluse. But really, I found it hard to sympathize with either parties. The dolls were not explained well enough to garner sympathy, and even when they finally were (like, during the second-to-last episode), the situation seemed too absurdly simple, and I still wasn't impressed. Jun's plight was also only described vaguely until the very end of the series, and then, it was even less impressive than the dolls' story. My reaction was pretty much, "Are you serious?" I had expected something much more tragic. To some extent, I suppose it's interesting to consider that even something so simple could have such a great affect on a person, especially considering the pressures within Japanese society, but it really wasn't presented well enough to be effective.
CHARACTER - Given the weak story and the slice-of-life nature of many of the episodes, I suppose it isn't really that surprising that a majority of the characters were very flat and that most of their substance was for entertainment value only. This is the most true for Hina Ichigo and Suisei Seki; the former is the most stereotypically "cute" thing I've ever seen, and the latter is just gimmicky (desu desu desu). Sousei Seki seemed to only exist for a (rather boring) subplot, and while she might be considered a foil for her sister, neither are really explored enough to matter. Nori was your typical older sibling character -- you know the type. She is 100% devoted to her brother and provides unconditional love and support, but isn't able to do much more than put up with his verbal abuse. Really, she just seems overly convenient; she is the character who can cook, clean, and run errands since there are no adults in the house (they just happen to be working overseas; yeah, sure). Generic support character is generic. Similarly, Sougintou was a cookie cutter villain. Seriously, everything from her design to her laugh to her evil grin seemed like a copypasta from every other generic villain in the world. Because nothing was explained until the last possible second, you have no real context for her antagonisms, and it was difficult to relate to either side of any fight.
As the two protagonists, it makes sense that Shinku and Jun are the only characters in the entire series to have any real development. What was the most interesting to me was the gradual progression and development of their relationship throughout the course of the series, especially since it tied into both of their individual plotlines. Both of them grew, though Shinku had less room for change than Jun, and graduated to a higher level as people (or a doll) by the end of the series, which was possibly the only real good part of Rozen Maiden's conclusion. It was cute.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION - It's obvious from the beginning the the artists spent a lot of time detailing all of the dolls' lolita fashions. Each doll accurately represents a different kind of lolita, and they are all beautifully rendered. The human character designs are certainly plain in comparison, but they're only supposed to be ordinary school children anyway. The animation was good and smooth, but some background elements and special effects seemed a little cheap (the swirling clouds, for example). Overall though, Rozen Maiden was quite pleasing to the eye, and I'm always impressed when there are characters so overloaded with minute details. It's one thing to have pimped out backgrounds; it's another thing entirely when they have to animate all the ruffles and ribbons on a character.
MUSIC - I have a bias towards Ali Project. I love Ali Project. But really, I think the fancy, high-strung violins really suit the subject and style of Rozen Maiden. Classical elements are often associated with lolita, after all. The opening, "Kinjirareta Asobi," is pretty typical Ali Project: high in anticipation and urgency, fast-paced while simultaneously beautiful and delicate sounding. The lyrics are actually pretty intriguing, but I'm not sure how much relevancy they have to the series. The ending theme, "Tomei Shelter" by refio + Haruka Shimotsuki followed up each episode fairly well -- I'm always a fan of the more energetic stuff first and the more mellow stuff second anyway.
The soundtrack in the actual series seems to echo the style and mood of the opening, thus reminding me a lot of Yuki Kaijura's work even though she isn't the composer here. There were some very moving violin pieces throughout Rozen Maiden, and it's definitely a soundtrack I would recommend listening to beyond your viewing of the series. Then again, maybe I'm just a sucker for violins and pianos and the classical junk. :P
VOICE ACTING - Average, I'd say, although... As much as I don't really like the character, I think Suisei Seki has a fun voice and her "-desu" on just about everything, while somewhat gimmicky and annoying, is actually pretty original. Certainly she isn't the first character to have words tacked on to almost everything (Chichiri's and Ryuichi's "no da" and "na no da" come to mind), but "-desu" is a first, and it's amusing because it's a grand exaggeration poking fun at the Japanese's own language, which yes, does make frequent use of "-desu." Sousei Seki's "boku" isn't as prominient, probably because she doesn't speak nearly as much, but it's one of the reasons I'd consider her a reverse-trap, a rare creature indeed. I find it interesting when characters' verbal patterns dictate so much about them. It makes them more fun to listen to anyway, and both twins' voice actors do a great job with them.
Somewhat unrelated note: Hina Ichigo's cry for Shinku sounds exactly like Tian-Ze's cry for XingKe in Code Geass R2. That was so weird. D8
OVERALL - Rozen Maiden was kind of disappointing when I consider the fanboyish recommendations that had been thrown at me by my brother, but that makes me wonder if my lack of interest is just rooted in the idea that this isn't really my genre. The actual story didn't make the grand delay in getting to it worth it, and the abundance of two-dimensional, uninteresting characters really dragged it down for me. The series never took the time to explain much of anything, and even now I have tons of questions, but I can't be bothered to really seek out answers to them because even they weren't all that interesting. But it was frustrating to know that they omitted so much when they spent so much time on completely pointless subplots (the quest for flower-topped hamburgers, for example). While I'll admit that it was kind of cute in the end, that cuteness didn't really make up for everything else I had to put up with. Maybe I'm just utterly unaffected by the massive moe though. I'm told the second season is much better, and maybe I'll get around to it eventually, but for now, I don't really feel that inclined.
Manga, Anime: Rozen Maiden was originally a manga created by Peach-Pit (also well-known for the manga for DearS and Zombie-Loan), and began running in Monthly Comics Birz in September of 2002. Chapters were released regularly up until March of this year, when it abruptly disappeared from the magazine. No one’s quite sure what happened; the two main rumors are that the editorial department supposedly lost the chapter that Peach-Pit submitted, or that there was a disagreement between Peach-Pit and the editorial department. Either way, the final installment showed up in the July issue, and was the cause of some controversy, as it abruptly ended the story, but still left it open to continuation. The manga consists of eight volumes, all of which have been released in Japan. The manga was licensed by Tokyopop Stateside, and the fifth volume was released the same month that it ended its run in Japan (July 2007).
The anime itself was done by Studio Nomad (well-known for their animation work on sola and Chocotto Sister) and directed by Kou Matsuo (well-known for directing Red Garden and his role as producer on Millenium Actress). It ran from October 7th, 2004 to December 23rd, 2004 on TV in Japan. Geneon has licensed it Stateside, and the third volume is due to be released next Tuesday (August 28th).
Story: Jun, a rude little brat who refuses to go to school, much less out of the house, because of mental trauma, spends his days in his room ordering supernatural items over the internet, proving them false, and then sending them back before the return period expires. His latest purchase turns out to be a doll named Shinku who comes to life when wound up, and is involved in a supernatural battle with other living dolls. To that end, she needs a medium to draw power from. Guess who the medium gets to be? xD
I have to give this show credit, though. It has some of the most dislikable characters in the leads. I mean, the one that I ended up liking the most and you feel most sympathetic to is the villain! But they give reasons for it. And most of the characters end up improving a little bit, so it’s not all that bad.
The plot’s not especially remarkable. But more on that later, in Length.
Oh, and by the way? The series so did not need the Shinku/Jun hints, kthnxbye.
Art: It’s not anything to write home and gush about, but it’s not absolutely miserable, either. No particular color scheme. CG and not-CG blends well. So, for the most part, pretty standard.
Music: ED and the background music for the series are pretty unremarkable. I’ll probably download the OST, though.
But the OP is ♥. ALI Project for the WIN.
Length: This is where the series has some issues, which tie into Story.
The show has one of three categories that the episodes fall into: Filler, New Doll, or Alice Game. And the thing is, the show brings up so many mysteries, and doesn’t even cover them all. Most of the mysteries are still left hanging by the end of the series, and are shunted aside in favor of Filler, more often than not, which is disappointing. At twelve episodes, it can't really afford it.
Then again, there is a second season, and an OVA (not the one I’ll be covering further down). So maybe there’s some hope.
Seiyuu: Suigin Tou’s seiyuu is made of WIN. Otherwise, I don’t have any problems/standout roles.
Dub: N/A, haven’t bought the DVDs.
Overall: Overall, this anime has some standout moments, but it has some issues. Perhaps the OVA and second season can rectify those.
Rozen Maiden is a gem lost in a world full of more known titles and will be if not yet a classic. While some of taken jabs at this series for not following the source material and being supposed lolibait, I for one must tell everyone that Rozen Maiden is NOT lolibait and sometimes seperating yourself from source material can work. True, it can be extremely risky and may very well end in complete failure as multiple mediums have proved that very thing, but what if the material is both good and really entertaining? Ladies and folks, you get Rozen Maiden.
When I first started Rozen Maiden a few years back I in all honesty was not sure if it was my thing because up until late 2012 I was a heavy action and DBZ fan, but any doubt ended when got a few episodes in. Firstly, the story in itself is not completely unique to only Rozen Maiden and idea of being the last one of many standing exists in other titles such as Btooom and Zatch Bell, though judging from how Rozen Maiden operates I feel like the better comparison from the two is surely Zatch Bell. Quickly, enter Jun. Jun is a complete shut-in and has suffered trauma from negative experiences from kids at his school. I feel like middle schoolers or even high schoolers who have trouble fitting in with the society that is school can relate to the guy. I mean, who hasn't been bullied at least once? Continuing on, Jun has the hobby of ordering quite unusual stuff from the web and this is where the story begins to unfold as Jun is given a choice and that choice eventually will change his life as he must participate in the Alice Game and help his partner and blonde doll Shinku win the competition.
You could say the art in Rozen Maiden is somewhat bland, but actually I disagree. While not on the level of the stunning EF: Memories, I really feel like it was good and fine as it was. Rozen Maiden from 2004 just didn't need all of that, though for 2004 I thought it looked mighty fine and appealing. Now, what about the sound? Firstly, both the dubs and subs rock so watch it as you please. Secondly, those openings really are extremely catchy. Are you a fan of the Another opening? Well, check out this tune then because its done by the same people.
Rozen Maiden has a good story, appealing sound and look, but what about the characters? Are they worthy of a positive feedback? Well, that's the thing. Rozen Maiden's colorful set of characters ranging from Jun all the way to my personal favorite Suigintou really makes the anime great. It becomes a journey watching Jun mature, Shinku changing and even seeing Suigintou for who she truly is and was. This is anime at its finest and characters that are top notch. The character development that spans 26 episodes really does this anime justice.
The enjoyment I got from Rozen Maiden was beyond words. Maybe it wasn't as soothing as Aria, as smart as Monogatari or as groundbreaking as Madoka Magica, but being smart or powerful doesn't always relate to enjoyment. Rozen Maiden proves just that.
Overall? 10/10, easy. If you have yet to try Rozen Maiden due to the following reasons:
- Looks like lolibait
- 2004 seems old
- Does not follow source material
Please give it a chance. You may end up finding a gem hidden under your nose. I'm done, make me some tea Jun.