First Impressions: Rozen Maiden

She’s a living doll, he is her servant.

What else will they awaken?

I recall a casual acquaintance going gaga over Rozen Maiden several years ago. He and I were blogger friends, and he kept posting about the show and linking to episodes. At one point he even said that he believed that I would love the series, which I thought was odd considering that he barely knew me. At the time I wasn’t into the genre of anime as a whole, so I told him that I might check it out, but I never got around to it. Now, many years later, I am an active anime fan, and at long last I watched the first episode of Rozen Maiden.

Shinku: adorable when she's sleeping in her creepy coffin...

Episode one opens with flashes of a lovely little girl in what appears to be an upper-crust family, possibly from a previous period in time. There’s a spooky scene with a doll giving the girl the stink eye in a darkened room, then the doll getting packed away into a box that resembles a coffin. Flash forward to modern times, and a girl named Nori who can’t hang out with her friends after school because she has to rush home in order to take care of her hikikomori little brother, Jun. Jun orders various voodoo dolls, masks, and curses from the internet, then sends them back in enough time to get a full refund. (Hey, it’s one way to pass the time.) He comes across a letter asking if he will “wind” or not, and after he circles “wind” a box appears on his floor. Inside is the doll from the earlier flashback. Jun marvels at how life-like she looks, then takes the key lying beside her in the box and winds it in her back. Suddenly, the doll stands up and talks.

...stone-cold bitch when she's awake.

Her name is Shinku, and after proving to Jun that she is indeed talking and walking around without mechanical motivation, a clown doll breaks into Jun’s room through the window and immediately tries to kill him with razor-sharp playing cards. Shinku offers to save Jun if he will “swear” and kiss her rose ring. He does (never swear until you know what you’re swearing, sheesh!) and Shinku plus a couple of other dolls in Jun’s room manage to take down the clown. After that she informs Jun that he’s sworn to become her servant, and indeed, he now wears a rose ring on his own finger that will burn his flesh if he tries to take it off. She orders Jun to make her some tea, and Jun tries his best to keep Nori from discovering the doll as he does so. He fails, but Nori seems delighted with the doll. Shinku manages to teach Jun a brief lesson about how loved he is, and the episode ends.

Shinku slaps Jun, which is officially my favourite part of this entire episode.

Thus far I’m not too taken with this series. The gritty flashback got the point across well enough (gritty in artwork, not in subject matter) but then the rest of the episode is in Jun’s room, which is a bland setting. Thus far Jun is an unlikable brat, and yes, I know that’s how tsunderes are, but Jun is super annoying, and his ungratefulness towards his sister pisses me off. Nori is sweet, but she very much resembles a doormat. I really wanted her to get angry and throw some tea in Jun’s face, just once! Shinku is pretty, and obviously has “valuable lessons to teach,” but she’s cold, and I wasn’t satisfied with just watching her take out a clown doll. Speaking of which, I wanted to stop watching as soon as I laid eyes on that thing. I saw Poltergeist, I know better than to mess with clown dolls! Obviously there’s a lot more to this story, and I am mildly interested at what the doll’s deal is, but overall I wasn’t super impressed with episode one. I’ll probably come back to this series, but I’ll watch ones with better openers first.

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