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Title:
  Rozen Maiden vol 1 (of 5)

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Peach Pit

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  6.99

Number of Pages:  192

ISBN:  1-5981-6312-4

Reviewed:  19th November 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)

 

Manga is going from strength to strength in the UK, and Tokyopop have led the way due in no small part to quality titles like DearS.  So what better way to bolster your 2007 schedule than with Rozen Maiden, a new title by the creators of DearS, Peach Pit?

Those familiar with Peach Pit's work will be unsurprised to learn that Rozen Maiden features a beautiful, otherwordly girl who ends up living with a lonely young boy.  However, whilst that premise seems similar to DearS and a million and one other manga series, in execution it is not quite what you may expect.

The protagonist is Jun Sakurada, a teenage boy who lives with his older sister after their parents travel abroad for work.  However, Jun has withdrawn from the outside world, spending almost all his time locked away in his room, never going to school and ignoring the concern of his sister Nori.  To pass the time he has taken to ordering 'buy now, pay later' items online and sending them back before he has to pay, but he gets more than he bargained for with his latest purchase.  After following the strange instructions to post a letter into his desk

drawer an unusual item arrives for him, a beautiful, incredibly high quality doll.  The doll comes with a key, but when he uses it he gets one hell of a shock - it comes to life, hits him and demands tea!  The doll announces itself as Shinku, the fifth doll of the Rozen Maidens, and declares that Jun is now her manservant and must kiss a magic ring that will bond them forever.  Whilst this is all a bit sudden Jun hasn't got a lot of time to think, a mystery enemy sends a deadly (but unusual) assailant to attack them and Jun is left with a simple choice - either accept Shinku's terms or die!


On the surface Rozen Maiden is comedy, with some great comic moments - especially the ditzy Nori's over-reaction to pretty much everything - which makes it a good fun read.  However, there is an interesting and unusual plot bubbling away beneath the surface which makes it more intriguing than you might expect.  To start with things are pretty much standard for a manga comedy, with plenty of visual humour and hilarious reactions, but by the end of the volume things have taken a turn for the weird.  The plot moves very quickly after Shunku arrives, with just a scant few pages before they are attacked by a knife-wielding...Winnie the Pooh.  Yes, you read that correctly (although he has been given the copyright-friendly name Booh Bear).  In the world of Rozen Maiden, dolls and toys have souls, and they can be bent to the will of certain beings.  One of these beings is the mysterious Suigintou, a beautiful doll who lives in N-Field, a strange world of thoughts and memory that lies on the other side of a mirror.  She is the one attacking them and all because of something called the Rosa Mystica, to really get to the bottom of things Jun and Shinku must go to N-Field.  And that's when Rozen Maiden gets really interesting.
 

 N-Field is shaped by Jun's mind, to find what they need they have to go through his memories and personality.  The creativity and surrealism of N-Field is superb, A Christmas Carol-style memories of the past mix with worlds made up of a mountain of computer screens and one where the thoughts of everyone who knows him write themselves out in the air.  Not only is the creativity stunning, but it is also helped no end by some amazing artwork.  As those who have read DearS will know, there are few better than Peach Pit for detailed, beautiful art, and Rozen Maiden really shows it off.  The jump from simple

cartoony visuals to stunning, expressive art is not often done this well, and this coupled with an interesting story and some great comedy makes Rozen Maiden vol 1 a joy to read.

Apart from the obvious Alice Through the Looking-Glass parallels of finding a strange world on the other side of a mirror (a white rabbit turns up at the end too), Rozen Maiden vol 1 has originality and an intriguing story.  The artwork is superb, both in the comic moments and in the serious ones, and the combination of comedy, drama and beautiful art is only rivalled by the likes of CLAMP.  On the minus side it must be said that Jun is not a very likeable character, he treats the caring Nori like crap throughout and is going to take some serious development to become someone you root for.  However, the other characters are great, especially the bossy Shinku, and there is a huge amount of scope for a great story to come.  This kind of story isn't usually my cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish.  If you're a fan of the works of CLAMP or DearS than this is a must buy, but even if you're not, give it a go - you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Extras:

Several pages of ads and synopses for other Tokyopop titles, and the obligatory next volume preview.  There's some nice artwork bookending the story too, but it's a shame it's not in colour.  An average selection for a Tokyopop book.

Ratings

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