At a Glance: Rozen Maiden
Rozen Maiden is the story of 7 animate dolls with magical abilities. All of them are competing in an "Alice Game" to win the right to become the perfect doll, and basically their maker's chosen favorite. Our protagonist, a boy named Jun, becomes the master of a blonde-haired one named Shinku. He learns from her that the dolls, called Rozen Maidens, need a human master as a partner in order to use their magic. Over time, he becomes acquainted with more of the dolls and learns a bit about each one, while the competition of the Alice Games heats up more and more. Who will become best doll?
This show got 2 seasons and 2 extra episodes in its first run, from 2004 to 2006. More recently, in 2013, it got a kind of sequel called Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen that is basically the same story, told closer to the manga. I watched the first episode of this, but everything is introduced so much quicker than in the first anime, so it's definitely best if you watch the older anime first or you'll probably get a headache from exposition overload. Zurückspulen feels rushed, at least at first. But the animation upgrade looks cool.
Shoujo, Supernatural, Fantasy
Manga by Peach-Pit
Original by Nomad, Zurückspulen by Studio Deen
Original: 26, Zurückspulen: 13
Original: 2004-2006, Zurückspulen: 2013
Additional manga, novels, music, video games
A lot of anime involve this same kind of setup where you have a mundane, even tediously dull main character who is saved from his (or her, but usually his) dull life by some supernatural beings coming into his/her life in some way. Usually by force, usually breaking stuff on the way. It can be a guy getting a sexy magical girlfriend, like in Ah! My Goddess. It can be aliens deciding they're just going to crash in your apartment without paying rent, like in Level E. This sets up a lot of comedy as the supernatural entity unapologetically wrecks everything in the main character's life, but when the main character gets upset, said entity responds by scolding him/her for being "mean". Apparently, what the Japanese fear most is an uninvited, rude house guest who refuses to leave but also demands special treatment. But it's not exclusive to anime; this is also basically Shrek and Donkey.
That's what happens in this story, but with dolls. It seemed a little weird that dolls are all crashing at a boy's house, but whatever. He gets caught up in their magical competition, even though at first, the dolls clearly annoy him and he has very little initial interest in helping them.
The problem for me with this setup is that I side with the protagonist. I think the dolls are also pretty annoying (in the first 5 episodes of the show, which is all I usually watch for an "At a Glance" review). I couldn't really bring myself to like any of them. They're just basically as I described, rude guests who demand special treatment. I think we're supposed to care about this conflict, but I was just kind of hoping they'd all die or whatever so I wouldn't have to hear their whiny voices, desu.
I'm sure this must appeal to some people, but I'm clearly not those people. I'm privacy and silence is the golden rule people. Maybe if I watched the whole series, I would come to like and care for the dolls more, but at this point, I can't stand them. I'll give the show points for a creative plot concept and beautiful character designs, but once those pretty things open their mouths, I just get a headache.