Jun Sakurada is a hikikomori who idles away his days ordering expensive mail order items- only to return them just before payment is due. Upon placing an order for a wind-up doll inside his desk drawer, however, Jun is more than a little surprised to receive a rather unique item- a doll who actually comes to life when wound up! The doll, Shinku, is a Rozen Maiden, one of seven dolls imbued with special powers and brought to life by their creator. Given that this is one item he cannot return, what will Jun make of this strange new house guest?
Much as I enjoyed the Rozen Maiden anime, I found myself somewhat unwilling to order the manga on its release; mixed reviews aside, a large portion of my enjoyment of the anime depended on the use of movement, colour and music, all things that wouldn’t be appearing in the manga version for obvious reasons. As it eventually must, however, curiosity won out, and volume one was duly purchased.
Taken on its own, this volume is little more than an introduction to the story- we meet Jun, his sister, Shinku and rival doll Suigintou, but aside from some first encounters with them all, the main plot has yet to get underway. The fact the anime changed the order of the story as compared to the manga is something of a mixed blessing; whilst the animated version definitely isn’t as much of a slow starter as the manga, the manga does not suffer from the strange inconsistencies that plagued Traumend in particular due to borrowing chapters here and there. It should also be interesting to see the story ‘as it was meant to be’ once later volumes are reached.
Visually, the standard of artwork is somewhat variable; at some points the characters will be even more detailed than their anime counterparts, but all too often the style shifts into simplistic and distorted forms which seem to be included less for effect than simply because the mangaka ran out of time. Backgrounds are sparse to nonexistent, with most panels having a plain black, white or greyscale backdrop in lieu of an actual setting.
Although it certainly lacks the impact of the anime, the opening volume of Rozen Maiden is not nearly as bad as feared; despite the slow start and variable artwork, it is actually a reasonably entertaining read. Nonetheless, I’m eager to get past these early chapters and start attacking the real meat of the story.