Rozen Maiden Season 1–Anime Review

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4 Stars
The worst thing about this series is trying to explain what it is about without sounding ridiculous. A story about a boy who plays with dolls? A story about dolls that fight each other to win the chance to become the perfect girl? A commentary on the emotional pathologies of Japanese adolescents?

Nevertheless it is a fascinating and charming story with a positive ending and some very nice artwork.

  • Title
    Rozen Maiden
  • Genres
    Gothic Fantasy, Drama
  • Demographic
  • Contents
    12 Episodes on 3 DVDs
  • Languages
    English, Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A manga by Peach-Pit
  • Series Composition
    Jukki Hanada
  • Character Design
    Kumi Ishii
  • Chief Animation Director
    Kumi Ishii
  • Animation Studio
  • Broadcast
    TBS, 2004
  • Region 1 Publisher

Parental Advisory

In spite of the fact that this series has dolls as central characters it is not really suitable for young children. Small children tend to react badly to stories about toys that come to life and behave in a threatening manner. The series includes enough dark and scary imagery to provide source material for dozens of nightmares. (Some of the material is actually cute and funny, but it would be hard to separate this from the scarier stuff.)

Older children, perhaps 10 years and older, should be able to handle it better. Teenagers are unlikely to be frightened and will probably enjoy it.

Some parents may be concerned about the lyrics of the opening title song, which have strong kinky undertones. My guess is that any child old enough to understand what the lyrics are suggesting is unlikely to be harmed by them. Still, if you are watching with subtitles on, this might be a good time to turn them off, or just hit the “Skip” button.

Background: Hikikomori

From watching anime one might get the impression that Japanese teenagers live a cheerful, carefree life, filled with club meetings and cultural festivals, sharing bentou on the school roof and cavorting at hot spring resorts. Only occasionally are these fun activities interrupted by an unwelcome test or alien invasion.

Of course this is escapist fiction. In reality Japanese adolescents are subject to even more stress and pressure than their American counterparts. Japan is still a very conformist society where those who don’t fit in perfectly are likely to be bullied or ostracized. Worse, it is generally accepted that one’s entire future depends on getting a job with a major corporation, which is possible only by getting into a top university, which requires an excellent score on a grueling competitive examination which mostly tests your ability to memorize vast amounts of information. Of course you can hardly expect to do well on such an examination unless you can get into a top-rated high school, which involves another grueling competitive examination…

Some teenagers crack under the strain. Some commit suicide. Some give up, drop out of school and look for low-level jobs. But a lot of media attention has focused on hikikomori who withdraw from society altogether, confining themselves to their parents’ homes, or even locking themselves in their rooms. Often they stay that way for many years.

Premise and Characters

NoriNori Sakurada was a typical high school student before her parents took jobs overseas and left her in charge of the household. The problem of managing both school life and home life became much worse when her younger brother began to refuse to go to school. Apparently there is no trusted adult that she can turn to for help. Though she tries to remain upbeat, she is feeling increasingly desperate as she watches her brother deteriorate.
Nori and JunJun Sakurada has settled into a comfortable existence: staying in his room, barking orders at Nori, and ordering “magical” items over the Internet. (He always returns them in time to get a refund.)
Box with DollOne day a mysterious box appears in his room, containing a beautifully-crafted doll.
Shinku and JunTo his horror the doll comes to life and begins ordering him around–and slapping him around when he doesn’t comply.
ShinkuShe introduces herself as Shinku (“Scarlet”) “the fifth Rozen Maiden.” Shinku is imperious and arrogant, but deep down she is kind-hearted. Though somewhat naive about the human world she can be very insightful.
Shinku and RozenThe Rozen Maidens were created over a century ago by a mysterious craftsman named Rozen. He was obsessed with creating “the perfect girl” and the dolls represent his attempts to do this. He set a cruel task for his creations: they are to fight each other until only one is left alive.
The N-FieldIn addition to being able to walk and talk, the Rozen Maidens have a variety of magic powers. Perhaps their greatest power is the ability to enter the N-Field, a surreal universe where human dreams and nightmares originate.
Tomoe and Hina IchigoTomoe Kashiwaba, one of Jun’s former classmates, has also acquired a Rozen Maiden doll.
Hina IchigoHina Ichigo (“Little Strawberry”) is very cute, but she is childish, impulsive and irresponsible. Her lack of self-control will soon put Tomoe’s life in danger.
SuigintouUnlike the other dolls, Suigintou (“Mercury Lamp”) is malicious, cruel and ruthless. She is determined to destroy the others as quickly as possible in order to prove herself worthy of Rozen’s love.
SuiseisekiSuiseiseki (“Jade Star”) speaks in an ultra-cute manner, ending most of her sentences with an over-pronounced “desu“.
Suiseiseki with Watering CanShe has the ability to enter other people’s dreams and special gardening powers.
SouseisekiSuiseiseki’s twin sister Souseiseki (“Lapis Lazuli Star”) dresses and talks like a boy [1]. Her powers are similar to Suiseiseki’s, although her gardening powers are more related to pruning than nurturing.

The Sequel

The 12 episodes of the first season tell a complete and satisfactory story.

A second season called Rozen Maiden: Träumend, has also been licensed by Geneon but has not yet been released. It is a sequel to the first story. Though it has much of the charm of the original the ending is not quite as satisfactory.


Anime News Network listing.

Wikipedia article. (Spoilers for both seasons. The entry covers both the anime and the manga. Since there are significant differences between the two, some of the analysis may not apply to the anime.)

Wikipedia article on hikikomori.


[1] More specifically, she dresses like a very young boy circa 1901 whose mother had more money than sense.