They were meant to be inseparable twin sisters, but now Suiseiseki and Souseiseki have ended up on opposite sides- one serving a master acting on a long-held grudge, and the other desperate to save her twin from doing anything rash. With the help of Jun, Shinku and Hinaichigo, Suiseiseki decides to confront her sister, but if she cannot persuade her to stand down, they will have no choice but to do battle.
With a somewhat mediocre first three volumes and a massively disappointing final chapter, it seemed highly unlikely that any of the unread remainder of Rozen Maiden would actually prove to be at all satisfying, but nonetheless, curiosity continued to propel me forward. And, even though it is usually considered bad form to do so, I must review this with the use of extensive spoilers- if you want a spoiler-free introduction to the manga, try my reviews of the earlier volumes.
Although it is the best the manga has had to offer so far, volume four is not without problems of its own. The first half of the book focuses on the battle between Suiseiseki and Souseiseki, and although for a moment it looked like this arc would give the latter to receive more development than in the anime, any such hopes are quickly dashed when Souseiseki loses her Rosa Mystica at the end of the battle. To add insult to injury, just as Suiseiseki is about to take the Rosa Mystica, Suigintou conveniently swoops in to take it away in a highly contrived plot twist moment.
After this arc is wrapped up, the volume returns to the flow of events seen in Traumend, starting with a side story in which Hinaichigo goes out to deliver a letter, before introducing Kanaria and ending with a glimpse of Suigintou and Megumi. Ironically, the amusing side story is the best part of the book, far surpassing the fatally flawed main plot.
As to be expected by this point, the artwork is at the same inconsistent level that it has always been- close-ups are detailed and look good, but all too often the visuals are lazy and rough around the edges. This is especially evident in the action scenes, with the lack of polish in battles seeming to defy the whole point of basing the manga around a battle royale format.
Although it has taken a turn for the better, the Rozen Maiden manga remains the straw that broke the camel’s back- the disappointment that forever soured the last of my positive feelings for the franchise. Once again, curiosity compels me to read the second half of the series, but I can’t recommend it to many people besides the raving fanboys- who no doubt already have it anyway.