The legendary dollmaker Rozen created several unique dolls throughout his life, but it was not the materials he used that made them special. Known as Rozen Maidens, each doll was imbued with a Rosa Mystica—a precious gem that gives them life. But these dolls have a specific purpose: they must fight each other in a contest called the Alice Game. The winner becomes Alice, the perfect girl who will have the chance to meet their father and creator.
Jun Sakurada, a middle school shut-in, experiences the Alice Game up close and personal when one of these dolls arrives at his house. After winding her up with the spring provided, she comes to life and introduces herself as Shinku, the fifth Rozen Maiden. Despite Jun quickly becoming annoyed by her haughty attitude, they find themselves working together when they are attacked by another doll. At Shinku's behest, Jun becomes her medium, allowing her to use his life force as a power to defeat their enemies.
In the aftermath of the fight, more Rozen Maidens appear and decide to live at Jun's house. But can there be any peace when their very existence means they must fight each other?
A lonely boy surrounded by living dolls in the form of little girls in gothic lolita dresses going on his nerves with their child-like character traits. Sounds like some stupid lolicon-fantasy to you? Well, that's actually what Rozen Maiden looked like to me reading the first volume of this series. I disliked the characters, the scenario and pretty much everything about it.
So, let me tell you about living dolls in the form of little girls in gothic lolita dresses, their adventures in the sea of the unconsciousness and how I completely changed my mind about this manga:
- The Story:
The story seems to be something you
have seen many times before. A boy getting involved in some supernatural business, just like Shiro in Fate or Yuji in Shana. Those stories can be much fun of course, but they also have this quite plain and shallow connotation. What differs Rozen Maiden from those storylines is the depth of the characters presented here. After a while you get to know all the characters of Rozen Maiden much better, you will take a look into their subconsciousness, understand their feelings and really grow close to them. In the end I found out, that these characters are not just your typical shounen plot devices but multilayered characters. Once you get to know these characters, you will experience many great moments of sadness, humor, mystery and excitement surrounding the Alice Game and its participants.
- The Atmosphere:
Well, as mentioned before, at first you will find yourself in a generic shounen adventure. The only special thing that might catch your eye are the typical 'Guardian Beasts' or 'Summoning Creatures' being dolls in gothic dresses. The exciting atmosphere of sad and hillarious scenes won't arise before you spend a couple of hours with this manga. But alongside all the inherently consistent atmosphere there are some scenes that might disturb you as they disturbed me. Most of the time the manga succeeds in presenting the dolls in a more moe way, so that even non-lolicon people may like the child-like heroines. But there are still scenes which made me feel uncomfortable. Those scenes feature some quite ecchi moments featuring the dolls, which I found most unappropriate. But there are not that many of these fan service scenes, so it doesn't trouble the whole opus.
- The Design:
This manga is the second work of the mangaka duo called Peach-Pit. Comparing Rozen Maiden's drawing style to their first work called DearS (which was quite awful in visual as well as in contentual terms) you will see that their style evolved and they were able to create more convincing characters. Another thing that seems to be special for Peach-Pit's drawing style is the use of constant scribble-like drawings between larger panels. While these scribbles became rampant in DearS, where the bigger panels of serious drawings appeared to be the exception, they reduced the use of this drawing style in Rozen Maiden to nearly a minimum of scenes, in which it underlined the humorous aspects.
- The Final Conclusion:
Rozen Maiden is not what you'd expect it to be after reading a couple of chapters. If you like exciting supernatural storyplots mixed with lots of psychological approaches, a mysterious background and some cute humour you should take your time with this manga. It may take a while but in the end it will drag you into the twisted world of the Alice Game.
Oh, by the way, don't know if that spoilers you but there is a brutal cliffhanger ending at the end of the manga, so you better expect to read the second series as well!
Rozen Maiden is a very touching series, but it also many amusing and funny parts as well. It's very character driven, with a variety of different characters to take an interest in. The dolls are odd, funny, and charming, and the people are some of the most realistically developed I've seen in a manga. No cardboard cut-outs here.