Thank goodness that I was born a boy. My gender guarantees that I earn considerably more than a female who does the exact same job (if militant feminists are to be believed) and it also blessed me with a far more enjoyable youth. Blokes grow up by playing with cool Transformers, whilst ladies have to make do with dull dolls. Robots that morph into vehicles are cool… Barbie is not (although undressing her is somewhat stimulating.) Given how uninteresting I find dolls I should have anticipated that Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen would bore me to tears. Available to buy in the UK courtesy of MVM Entertainment, this anime is the fourth series featuring a septet of porcelain dolls who battle against each other in a contest known as the Alice Game.
Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen starts off by briskly summing up the story originally told in Peach-Pit’s manga. Viewers are introduced to Jun Sakurada, a recluse who refuses to attend middle school after being tormented by bullies. The youngster has confined himself to his bedroom, where he spends his days amassing a collection of useless knick-knacks. One day Jun receives a mysterious package containing a bisque doll named Shinku. He chooses to wind up the dolly, which magically brings Shinku to life – forever changing Jun’s dreary existence. Unbeknownst to him, the decision to activate Shinku has gotten Jun embroiled in the Alice Game… and even worse made him the servant of a sentient toy who has a taste for high quality tea. Her highly refined palette demands brews made from the finest leaves… so I guess serving her a pot of Tetley is out of the question.
From episode two onwards the show’s narrative slows down to a crawl. Zuruckspulen reveals itself to be a “what if” tale set in an alternate time line where Jun chose not to awaken Shinku. Taking place several years in the future, we find an adult Jun trying to intergrade back into society by attending college and working part-time at a bookshop. Sadly for the former hermit socialising with others does not come easy. His academic life is a lonely one and an acne-faced manager, who does not appreciate Jun’s efforts, makes his job unbearable. Thankfully for our mopey protagonist things begin to improve when he begins to receive parcels containing instructions on how to construct a Shinku replica. Assembling the doll will allow Jun to reacquaint with his diminutive companion, in addition to sending the college student off on an inter-dimensional adventure.
My rating for Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen is two stars. The premise of seven competitors battling it out in the Alice Game sounded promising. I was half expecting a Fate/stay night clone with dolls replacing the waifu warriors from ancient history. Sadly however the series is severely lacking in action. The only doll that makes a proactive effort to win the contest is Shinku’s rival Suigintou… and she isn’t even the antagonist of the piece! That role falls to Shinku’s younger sister Kirakisho – who attempts to manipulate Jun into fashioning a body she can inhabit in order to exist in the physical realm. Action sequences are fleeting and not particularly epic. The aftermath of Suigintou tussling with Shinku for example merely leaves Jun’s apartment messily coated with flower petals and black feathers.
Instead of action Zuruckspulen’s script focuses on Jun’s humdrum routine, which sees him skive classes and endure tedious shifts at a dead end job. The show seems to reinforce the idea that shut-ins who venture outdoors are destined to a life of misery. Shinku perhaps represents how some geeks can only attain happiness via the acquisition of female figurines. All that said Jun does begin to turn his fortunes around. His meticulous bookkeeping earns him a promotion, volunteering at a theatre group allows him to exercise his fashion design talents and he even manages to snag a cute girlfriend. Hopes of a happy ending are however scuppered by a last gasp cliffhanger, which made slogging through all thirteen episodes feel like a colossal waste of time. Unless you seek a remedy for insomnia I would advise giving this snore fest of an anime a miss.