Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Anime Review: Rozen Maiden

ROZEN MAIDEN: An interesting concept ruined by poor story direction

Jun Sakurada spends most of his time indoors, ordering stuff online and returning them before the payment is due. One day, he orders an antique doll, only to find out that the doll comes to life once its spring is wound. Before he knows it, Jun is drawn into the dangerous Alice Game, a fight to the death between sentient dolls.

Battle to the death is actually an overused concept -- we have Battle Royale, Hunger Games, Fate/Zero, you name it. But a clichéd concept can be interesting by adding a new flavour into it. In the case of Rozen Maiden, the new flavour is the fact that the participants of the battle are dolls.

This is an interesting twist because dolls can easily be associated to symbolism. Rozen Maiden imposes philosophical insights on what it means to be a ‘puppet’, what it means to be ‘perfect’, and other concepts that could be linked to the symbolic doll. But sadly, Rozen Maiden has problems with execution, wasting its brimming potential.

Some of the Rozen Maidens

Like Fate/Zero, the Alice Game involves Master-Servant relationship, and whoever wins will receive an ultimate prize -- achieving the state of a ‘perfect’ doll and meeting their creator, Father. I expected a battle of wits and magic, but the story doesn’t go in that direction.

Instead of epic battles between dolls, the story goes to the direction of Harem. We get to see Jun Sakurada and other dolls having petty fights about strawberries and nonsensical tea ceremonies -- the least I expect in a battle to the death story.

It’s such a waste, really, because episodes 1 and 2 are really good in setting the tone of the Alice Game, but episodes 3 to 9 seem to throw that away and focus on random character interactions.

But episodes 3 to 9 are not purely random. From time to time, they do have sequences that involve the Alice Game. But in the least, it should be the other way around! They should focus on the Alice Game, and only from time to time, they could add sequences about strawberries and tea. But really, why are the dolls even together? They should be fighting each other.

The direction of the story is not all bad though. It redeems itself in episodes 10 to 12, wherein the story brings the focus back to the Alice Game. Just the mere fact that the story goes back to its real focus, the Alice Game, makes these episodes really good. The concept alone carries them. What more if the anime has focused on the Alice Game all throughout the series? It could have been intense.

Another thing I particularly like is the music. The soundtracks have a quasi-Victorian feel in them, with occasional uses of orchestral instruments. There are also some gothic tracks that fit perfectly to the Victorian impression.

Speaking of Victorian impressions, I really like the designs of the characters, particularly the dolls. Their dresses are very complex and have some nice touches of Victorian and Lolita fashions.The designs of the other characters, the humans, are nothing groundbreaking though.

As for the characterization of the show, it’s somewhat weak. Jun Sakurada has an inherently interesting archetype, but it is not pulled off, primarily because of the writing and execution. Most of the dolls too are not well-moulded. The only solid one is Shinku, the feature character of Rozen Maiden. Suigintou is also an interesting character, but she has not been expanded enough to make her a solid character.

Overall, I think Rozen Maiden is such a waste of an amazing concept. If the direction of the story didn’t change from episode 3, it could have been an above average anime at the least. If it dived deeper into the Alice Game and created well-moulded characters, it could have been the feminine version of Fate/Zero.

Despite the negative things I have said, I still find Rozen Maiden an interesting watch. And since the story has no proper conclusion, I will be seeing the other Rozen Maiden titles too and review them on the blog. I just hope that, in those titles, the problems in story direction have been fixed. Really, I want to subscribe to the Alice Game, and not to the tea ceremonies.


  1. I agree with you on many points! I had the same problems with Rozen Maiden. I never really thought of Rozen Maiden as a battle to the death anime, though... Technically it is one, but it's 80% slice of life, I swear. >.< Not that it's necessarily a bad thing for an anime to be slice of life, but it really did ruin the concept they had going here. Anyway, Rozen Maiden does get better in my opinion, and Suigintou actually becomes a very interesting character. In fact, she is my favourite character in Rozen Maiden, and there is some really touching character development regarding her in the second season as well as the OVA.

    1. I think the slice of life tendencies just ruined the good concept. It could have been much better if they focused on the fights. I haven't read the manga, but I've read somewhere that the anime was mostly filler -- and that's just sad.

      I've heard that it does get better in the next season. I'll look into that soon. Yes, Suigintou is an interesting character, but she wasn't really given focus in this season. We only get to really know her by the final episodes.

      By the way, I followed your blog! I'll check your posts, and I'll add you in my blog roll soon.

    2. Oh, I agree. If it focused on either slice of life or the fights, that would have been great. But since they started off with a battle setting and then immediately changed it to slice of life, it was disappointing... If anything, they should have made the original series focus on battles and then have a spin-off slice of life if they really wanted to. >.<

      Yeah, when I watched the first season, I didn't like Suigintou. That was mostly due to the fact that she was portrayed as the antagonist, though, and I didn't know enough about her to actually come to like her.

      Oh, thank you so much for following my blog! I appreciate it a lot! ^^

    3. That's exactly the problem! They started off with a battle setting and then went into slice of life and harem with a mix of fantasy. It would have been better if they have been consistent.

      You're welcome! It's always nice to meet people online, especially those with the same interests.

  2. Great review again! Unless the other series of the franchise are significantly better, I will likely skip this series or wait until there is not a lot great anime left for me to watch. The animation looks decent though.


    1. It's not something that is really recommendable, but the concept sure is interesting. I don't know. I just enjoy seeing and reviewing random anime titles, regardless of popularity. It gives me knowledge of how anime could expand as a medium, for better or worse.