That segway aside, I figure that writing these reviews also help to gather and organize my thoughts about what I've just seen. Considering how much anime I've watched over the past year or so, it's only helpful to take a moment to two to pause and reflect now and then. Besides, it also gives me the chance to toss in bits and pieces of tangentially-related fluff. I figure that might at least be of passing interest to anyone reading this since I know for a fact the actual review itself holds no draw.
Our anime of the day, which I actually watched a few weeks ago, is Rozen Maidens. I was of mixed feelings about this one right from the start. On the positive side, quite a few of the characters made it to the top and near top of the SaiMoe competition a couple years ago. In case you don't recall, SaiMoe is an online competition where Japanese Otaku vote for anime characters which possess the most Moe. Moe being a Japanese term for 'budding' and generally means a feeling of attraction/protectiveness. The term is a bit hard to define and its meaning has blurred over time to basically equal anything that's cute/adorable/squishy. A past winner of SaiMoe was Taiga of Toradora, an anime I loved and a character I loved despite myself. I was sort of curious if Rozen Maiden would spark some of the same feelings given that the characters also placed highly.
On the downside, Rozen Maiden is also responsible for one of the more ubiquitous and annoying anime memes out there. I'll provide a link to the Encyclopedia Dramatica page for those who want more info. The less said about it the better.
So, lets begin with a short description of Rozen Maiden. The anime is about a bunch of dolls which were created by the greatest dollmaker of all time, a man named Rozen. He not only used his mechanical skills to make them far more functional than ordinary dolls but breathed life into each one through the insertion of a rosa mystica. This piece of phlebotinum brings them to life, gives them consciousness, and is also the key to the conflict. You can think of Rozen Maiden as an anime version of Highlander, but with dolls instead of guys with swords. The rosa mystica would be the quickening and just as you might expect, there can only be one. The dolls were all tasked by their creator to fight one another, claiming each other's rosa mystica upon victory until only one remained. The sole victor would then become Alice, the perfect girl that Rozen had been searching for his whole life.
This eternal struggle is made more complex by the fact that the dolls also need a human medium who will turn their keys (clockwork of a sort) and from whom they can draw power in order to function at peak efficiency. This also introduced our protagonist Jun, who is a introverted, shut-in at the start of the show. He receives a strange letter in the mail one day asking him whether he will wind and a hastily circled 'yes' changes his life forever. Soon there are dolls all over the place, some of whom are bloodthirstily focused on destroying the others in order to win the Alice game, while others value the lives of their sisters more than the contest.
Honestly, I think I would have liked Rozen Maiden a lot more than I did if they actually introduced more of the plot rather than dancing around the subject. Many of the episodes did absolutely nothing to advance the conflict and the series ends with the viewer none the wiser about WTF is really going on. I still have no idea what was up with that giant anthropomorphic rabbit that showed up halfway through the series, nor why a supposedly benevolent creator would want his 'daughters' to fight one another to the 'death'. I'd like to believe that this is a series that I would enjoy more in manga format, assuming that in the manga there's actually some plot expansion and resolution.
The other reason I didn't quite click with Rozen Maiden is because of Puppetmaster. I still remember those movies with the creepy murderous puppets and I couldn't help but watch each episode with the expectation that the dolls would turn evil at some point. I've already said to multiple people that figurines are where I draw the line. If my interest in anime/manga and general japanophilia ever gets to the point where I buy one of those pose-able figurines of an anime character, I expect and demand an intervention because I will have lost my mind. I've seen some really creepy stuff from otaku-land and I have no desire to fall down that slippery slope. Sure, it'll start with figurines but it won't be long before I'm one of those crazy whackjobs who celebrates his favorite anime character's birthday and makes shrines to her in the corner of my room. This prejudice I have against figurines no doubt has influenced my marginally negative reaction to Rozen Maidens.
So in the end, I thought Rozen Maiden was a bit lacking. It might have been interesting enough as a messed up slice of life with little puppets running around, but the dark plot threads never really pan out satisfactorily. Hell, even Highlander told you eventually why all these people were running around hacking off heads, even if we're supposed to believe they're all Martians or somesuch. It would have been nice to have gotten a behind the scenes peek at what was really going on in Rozen Maiden.