This review is about the first season of Rozen Maiden. I first came into contact with this franchise through a bit of a strange way: I never watched the first season, but when the second season (Rozen Maiden Traumend) aired, I decided to give it a whirl and watch it. If I recall correctly, I lasted five episode before dropping it, because it just didn’t seem to go anywhere, and the annoying characters weren’t helping much either. To give a small indication of the annoyingness of one of the characters… I think that this video says it all…
In any case, Solaris managed to talk me into giving the series a second chance, and I’m really glad that I did, because the first season made an entirely different impression on me. What I saw of the second season goofed off way too much, but the first season is actually a very focused character-study of a bunch of dolls that came to life, and the humans that they made contact with.
Right from the start, this series knows exactly how to use its limited time of 12 episodes. The story continues to develop, and there’s always something interesting going on. The different subplots flow very smoothly into each other and never feel rushed, and the series ends with good conclusion.
The results of this excellent storytelling can be seen in the characters. Characters that got incredibly on my nerves in Traumend turn into likable and adorable characters, right from the start. The Alice-games, which play a central role in this series, which cause the different dolls to fight each other are interpreted differently by each of the characters. Some become obsessed over perfection, others want to break out of that tradition, others want to win, no matter what and others don’t care about these games at all, and just want to play like a little kid. In the same way, each of the dolls has a different understanding of what the word “doll” means to them. My biggest surprise was that Hina-Ichigo turned out to be more than just an annoying little brat, and how she had a very clear purpose in this series.
Peach-Pit’s adaptations have often been plagued by strange production-decisions (Zombie Loan was good, but way too short, Shugo Chara had the potential, but turned out way too bloody long), but this first season of Rozen Maiden is pretty much without any major flaws. The graphics also look pleasing, and although I fully agree that the ALI project should stop making all these OPs and EDs that sound way too much like each other, I do admit that their work on Rozen Maiden’s OP is their best one. The rest of the soundtrack is also pretty much awesome, which all results in a really worthwhile series. Now, I hope that the second season is going to turn out better than what I remember of it.