Review of Rozen Maiden (2004)
A clever boy who failed a major test got so hung up about it that he lost his self-confidence and started alienating everyone around him. He has not gone to school or even left his house in a long time, but his sister still takes care of him, perhaps too patiently. He obsessively examines creepy mail-order occult goods, and happens upon a set of living dolls who are locked in a Highlander-like quest called the “Alice game”. One of these dolls establishes a supernatural contract with the spiteful boy, making his courage and cooperation necessary.
An escapist fantasy adventure: humour, magic, cuteness, baroque excess etc. As part of its escapism, it’s a love story with hints of pedophilia and incest on the side, but at the same time, the series deals quite directly and almost sensibly with hikikomori, the relatively high frequency of recluse behaviour among Japanese youth. The series often pulls in all of these directions at once.
So, eclecticism or just perverse crap? It’s the latter. Artistically, Rozen Maiden turned out to be a portal to the many schlocky “trapped in a video game” shows of the 2010s.
References here: Welcome to the NHK! (2006).