“it is a delicious strategy”

I was at a meeting where I was hungry, so I grabbed a pack of Almond Crunch Pocky (this stuff is fantastic, I can’t say enough good things about it) and started munching on them during the meeting. Then, at some point, I said, “It is a delicious strategy.” And that’s when I knew I should make a post about Rozen Maiden.

Priority #1!

Rozen Maiden isn’t what I originally expected… at first, I dismissed the show as, “Uh, it’s about dolls. I can’t believe I’m watching an anime about dolls.” But the smooth animation and great visuals drew me in, and for some odd reason, I started looking forward to watching this series. My disposition changed to, “I can’t believe I’m watching an anime about dolls and not ripping on it in my blog.” Then came episode 5, the one where Suiseiseki and Hinaichigo square off using Asami’s cardboard boxes. I got hooked right there when Shinku said, “おいしい 作戦.” Now I was more of the, “I can’t believe I’m watching an anime about dolls and liking it,” mindset.

おいしい 作戦

The stars of the show are the dolls (later we learn in the sequel, Rozen Maiden Traumend, that there’s seven) created by a dollmaster whom the dolls affectionately call “Father.” These dolls are so lifelike, they actually are alive and can walk, talk, and act like normal little girls. If the doll bonds with a human (“medium”) they can access greater powers (think Otome…) than normal, and Rozen Maiden begins by introducing us to Shinku, a very aristocratic and stubborn doll addicted to tea, and Jun, a hikikomori. Shinku is looking for a new medium/servant, and Jun is looking for, well, nothing. He lives a very empty life where he escapes from the world by constantly shopping for occult goods, and he even stopped leaving the house and stopped attending school.

The premise for Rozen Maiden is both simple and complicated. The main plot deals with the Alice Game, where the dolls all battle in order to steal each other’s Rosa Mystica, the source of their life power, a plot device that comes by way of Highlander, Survivor, and every rip-off since then. The eventual winner will achieve doll perfection and supposedly will be reunited with their father. The deeper plot is the evolution of the characters as Shinku becomes more accepting and affectionate towards Jun, and Jun starts to crawl out and reclaim his life. Shinku also learns more about the human world and becomes less of an ice queen as the series rolls on. One of my favorite Shinku moments (besides when she’s licking a lolipop) is when she mistakes the bathroom for a tea service room. Belldandy would be cringing somewhere. Oddly, for an arrogant doll and a hikikomori, these two characters are engaging and interesting and definitely evoke some pity from the viewer.

A devil amongst dolls
A goddess amongst dolls

Along the way, we are introduced to the other dolls and characters, including Nori, Jun’s older sister who is worried sick for him and Hinaichigo, the “youngest” of the dolls and definitely acts like a little girl and Suiseiseki, who Jun calls “The Wicked Doll” because she’s pure evil in a cute and less-harmful way and damn proud of it. Whenever she’s on the screen, one knows that something hiliarious will happen, and Suiseiseki and Hinaichigo pair up well like Skuld and Urd. Suiseiseki has a twin doll who is significantly less evil but looks more like a boy, Souseiseki, and the two form a gardening pair. They have the unique ability to travel into dreams, fly around in Samsonite luggage, and Suiseiseki continuously refers to herself in the third person. Jason adores that. The last doll introduced in the first series is Suigintou, the first doll created, and she is the doll most concerned with winning the Alice Game. Because Suigintou is an unfinished doll, she is very self-conscious and hates — I repeat — hates being called “junk.” By contrast, Shinku doesn’t seem to care as much about the Alice Game and would rather live in peace with her sisters. Even when Shinku wins an Alice Battle, she does not take her sister’s Rosa Mystica. Lastly, there are two fringe characters, Tomoe, who would be a girl from Jun’s class… if Jun ever went to class, and Kun-Kun, the star of the always enjoyable “show within a show” concept. I like how Shinku is such a Kun-kun fangirl that she has that DVD boxset and all those Kun-kun toys in Traumend.

Because Jun rarely leaves his house, most of the series takes place in two places: his house and the dream world. While in his house, the series mostly revolves around the comedic happenings of the dolls, Jun, and Nori. It felt like a funnier, eviler, and more turbocharged Mahoraba during these sequences. It’s especially disturbing when you realize that Jun’s harem consists of dolls and his older sister… well, any harem with Suiseiseki can’t be all that bad. When the action shifted to the dream world, the series turned less comedic and a lot more dramatic as the focus shifts more to why do people (and dolls) do the things that they do. During these periods, it felt more like Mai Hime without the moe lesbian action or Shana when her hair is red. Normally, that would be a bad thing, but Rozen Maiden has a few things going for it: crisp, beautiful animation; an intriguing and suspenseful Alice Game; a great humorous side; some great writing and pacing; and, some great and memorable characters (at least Suiseiseki).


The animation is wonderful, and it supports the world of Rozen Maiden quite nicely. I found myself thinking, “Why is the animation better for a series about dolls that only appeals to fanboys than Gundam Seed Destiny, which airs in cartoon primetime?” The style teeters from the detailed doll look to super-deformed, usually when the dolls are doing something funny or cute, and it works better than the juxtaposition of the two styles in Getbackers. The aristocratic motif of the dolls, i.e. tea, roses, etc. are carried on in the series, and even plain objects such as Suiseiseki’s watering can looks ornate.

As for the music, I was never a big fan of Bee Train since their music all sounds the same to me. Beyond the lyrics, the OP to Rozen Maiden hasn’t changed since, oh, Noir. Some people really dig this style of music, but not me. The background music fares much better, as I get the feeling that I’m listening to a music box. It adds to the mood and atmosphere of the show without being a distraction. Solid music, but not great. The best audio, though, is the incredible jobs from Natsuko Kuwatani (Suiseiseki) and Rie Tanaka (Suigintou). Natsuko hasn’t really had any other big roles, but I just love that extra “mmph” behind the manical laughs for Suiseiseki… not to mention those extra “desu.” Rie Tanaka seems to vacillate between great and subpar. I really enjoyed her Mariel, but her Lacus/Meer felt like a mail-in job (though I don’t blame her… it’s Destiny, after all). She really redeems herself with Suigintou, and I just can’t stop thinking about how much better Destiny would be if Lacus tried to conquer the world and did that Suigintou laugh.

With good visuals and sound work, all that’s left is the execution on the plot. It’s hard to miss with a “vote people off the island” concept, but they never seem to actually vote any dolls off the island so to speak. I was expecting a lot of battles, etc, but what I got was some soul searching and personal growth. All the characters seem to have gaping personality flaws at the beginning, and with each other’s help, they seem to mend them as the show goes on. The premier example would be Jun– he starts out a hikikomori and ends up not only opening up to Shinku and the dolls– but he actually goes outside. Somewhere, Yoriko is smiling down on him. The dolls also grow too… for example, Suiseiki isn’t completely evil, and it’s always cute to see her do some good, even if it looks like it pains her. It is easy to empathize with and root for the characters. They’re all likable. As such, the characters really drive the show, and with an interesting cast, they don’t steer Rozen Maiden off-course.

I really enjoyed the series, and episode 5 is a stellar example of greatness in anime. Highly recommend series for everyone. Now, excuse me as I have some Almond Crunch Pocky to finish up.


For more info, check out Wikipedia’s entry on Rozen Maiden or other blogs: Sea Slug, Matt, Memento. There is a sequel airing now, Traumend, that actually forces the dolls to fight and has less silliness thus far than the original.

Page 2 for screenshots.

2 Responses to ““it is a delicious strategy””

  1. Suiseiseki mostly pissed me off. Whereas Suigin Tou is my goddess. I need a figure or something of her desperately.

  2. I love suisei seki. the whole “chibi-ningen” routine with her and Jin always made me laugh, and really every thing about her sets the dynamics for the series. like stealing hina ichigo’s cake =P

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