The series examined this time seems to combine a wide range of elements: drama, comedy, fantasy, the supernatural, Japanese fashion, and arguably elements of anime’s “harem”, “magical girl” and “death game” genres, which will be explained later on.
Rozen Maiden began as a manga by a pair of women working under the pseudonym of “Peach-Pit”. The series was split into two parts: the first series running from 2002 to 2007, and the second from 2008 to 2014. It has been adapted as an anime TV series four times since 2004. One of main features of the story is the role of “Lolita fashion”, a popular form of Japanese fashion inspired by the Victorians, but as stated the series covers also sorts of different things.
Rozen Maiden’s central figure is a boy named Jun Sakurada, who was mocked by his classmates and as a result now spends nearly all of his time in his bedroom, buying things online, and only really communicating with his older sister Nori. One of things Jun buys appears to be an antique, clockwork doll in a big red dress. When Jun activates the doll’s clockwork mechanism he finds that the doll is sentient and comes to life.
The doll reveals her name to be Shinku. She is one of the seven “Rozen Maidens”, dolls created by a man named Rozen, given their sentience by using jewels called “Rosa Mystica”. The seven dolls are engaged in something called the “Alice Game”, where each of the dolls must fight each other, collecting each other’s Rosa Mysticas in order to become “Alice”, the perfect doll.
Jun then finds himself attacked by other dolls, and in order to fight back he agrees to be a servant to Shinku, which allows her to become more powerful. The two are thus bound together with Jun wearing a special ring, while Shinku is able to defeat and control the others dolls using her magical powers that normally come in the form of rose petals. Thus, Jun finds himself embroiled in the Alice Game.
At first other Rozen Maiden dolls attack him, but following these battles many become friendly and also start living with him and Nori. Among the other dolls are the childish Hina-ichigo, often badly-behaved Suiseiseki, and her boyish twin sister Souseiseki. As the dolls become friendly they eventually come to the decision not to play the Alice Game, but other dolls interfere, forcing them to take part, at the possible cost of their lives.
Rozen Maiden’s stand-out quality appears to be the way it combines a vast range of different genres and plot elements. For starters, you have the supernatural element of dolls coming to life, which in turn leads to the drama and action of the Alice Game. Then combined with this you have quite a lot of comedy. This ranges from the visual, whether it is slapstick in the form of these cute dolls attacking Jun, or something even stranger. For example, the dolls develop a fondness for television, their favourite TV show being a children’s puppet show about a crime-solving dog. One of the best sequences sees Suiseiseki framing Hina-ichigo for stealing a strawberry, which leads to Hina-ichigo and Jun fighting Suiseiseki and Shinku, with the former duo forming a barricade at the top of a flight of stairs, while Suiseiseki tries to starve them into submission.
On top of this however, you could argue that Rozen Maiden covers several anime-centric genres. Because Jun is the only male character surrounded by lots of female characters, you can argue that it is part of the “harem” genre; as the dolls all have magical powers, you could claiming they in the “magical girl” genre; and as the Alice Game sees the dolls trying to destroy each other, you could even say it is a “death game” as well.
Some people have criticised the plot for being confusing, which is possibly why this series seems to cover so many things, but overall it is an entertaining series. You get the feeling that in Rozen Maiden there is something for everyone.
All four Rozen Maiden series are released on DVD by MVM Films.