Thursday, October 5
Review: Rozen Maiden (2004)
Story & Characters
Somewhere in present day, in Japan off course, a boy goes by name of Jun shut himself in, refusing to connect to the outside world due to his own perceived fear and insecurity. (a nikkimori or recluse) He escape the seemingly cold and harsh world by ordering occult or strange items thru the Net and takes joy in owning them for a short while before he gets bored which exasperated his loving sister, Nori. All her attempts to coax her rather difficult and bitter brother to be socially active or even go to school is a huge battle and often resulted in her defeat.
One day, a mysterious case with ornate markings in the exterior comes into Jun's room.
After answered a weird question from someone called Holie, he open the case and discovered a very life-like Caucasian blonde doll with intricate, Goth inspired female figure with serious expression on her face. A key look-alike item is placed alongside the sleeping figure of the doll and he instinctively wound up the spring of the doll. In rather dramatic fashion the doll springs up to life and begins her day by giving a tight slap at Jun's face, chiding him for handling her too roughly.
She introduced herself as Shinku and expects Jun to be her servant in rather haughty manner. Not long after stormy interaction between two, an unwelcome visitor comes and a small skirmish between Shinku and the visitor occurs. Jun was forced to kiss her ring and pledge his life to protect her Rosa Mystica under duress.
Here, it begins an adventure between a recluse and a charmed doll in search of his own salvation to breakaway from his seclusion and even Shinku's own attempt to finish her fight, born out of reason her own existence which cryptically known as Alice Game.
Began as manga series by Peach Pit, this story cash in the popularity of Gothic females, which evidenced by shows like Chobits and Le Petite de Cossette. However, instead going for fan service angle by Chobits or horror in other one, this anime is lighthearted and focuses more on characters as focal point of the story. This 12 episode anime is animated by Studio Bee Train, the one who gives us Noir and Madlax
The art is consistent and character design especially the Rozen sisters are well made, reflecting the Gothic feel. Background is done with minimum scale, reflecting the TV budget. For a cheery scene, lots of bright colour is used to convey mood of the scene and every time villain makes her appearance, the background turns gloomy or dark on purpose to add in the sinister feel to this character. The animators worked hard to give the characters detailed feel and look, especially Shinku and her chief rival whereas sometimes the animation did drop down for human characters as compromise to this attempt in order to remain consistent to principal Rozen doll characters. Afterall, they are the star attraction of the anime.
Silly caricature is also used to convey silliness of the scene especially the filler episode number 5, but can be flow jarring when there is a serious scene and they decided to use the caricature.
The animation of the series is not bad but sometimes it can be quite off in certain scenes.
It is standard fare of Victorian Era music and OST for the anime. It covered wide range of emotional spectrum presented in the anime from humor to sad scenes. It did its job and in adequate fashion but nothing exceptional in principal.
The OP and ED is sang with cutesy voice which I don't really fancy but it does add to the feel of the anime. Seeing that 90 percent of the anime's principal characters are female and it is about frilly dress from past era, the songs did prepare the audience for that sort of mood, so to speak.
The voice acting is a plus point here, each characters really feels like what they supposed to feel. Some voice acting is bit overdramatic though and sometimes the whining can be quite grating on nerves. Maybe it is meant to be like that from all what we know.
The theme of this anime is loneliness, life of inanimate, acceptance and connection with family. Jun and Shinku may look very different from each other in basic, but the anime did its job trying to show that they do share similar pain and connections with each other. However what is different between them is the way they handle it on their own, this part of their pain and suffering. As the episode progresses towards the end, both of them reconcile their views on life and began to have a sustainable relationship, Shinku finally founds a home and Jun founds a reason to be connected to the outside world again.
It is interesting how majority of the conflict resolutions occurs in dream world, perhaps it is reflection of subconscious that the Rozen dolls can make any difference since they are more acceptable to human mind. As Jun kept stressing thru out the series, he is disturbed by bewitchingly life-likeness of the Rozen dolls and even it confuses his emerging sexuality.
This anime stresses a lot on humanness of the dolls, which might not go down well with some audience but sometimes we need to be reminded of our humanity, even by inanimate object which in this discussion, Gothic dolls. Strange but true, the writer of this story may attempt to talk about our human failures and using the Rozen dolls as a foil of our fallibility in life. Jun's acceptance issue, distant family relationship and his self imposed seclusion is reflection of this fallibility. This aspect in my opinion is the strongest suit of the anime which lifted a little bit from galaxy of mediocre animes out there.
As we get to know more and more about Rozen sisters, it is emerging that they do trying to achieve humanity and seeking perfection as something they can do. The anime did not have enough time to explore this theme, unfortunately.
Rozen Maiden is not earth-shattering series, but it is good watch for casual evening and it did not take much trouble to figure out the intricacies of the story presented.