Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: Jun is a teenage boy whose parents have left Japan for business and left his sister, Nori, in charge. When we first encounter Jun, we discover that he has decided to stay in his room indefinitely, refusing to go to school despite his sister's pleading. He spends all of his time ordering items on the internet and returning them before their policy expires for a full refund.
One item, with only the choice "Will you wind? Or not wind?" and mysterious instructions produces a case with an incredibly life-like and haughty little girl doll named Shinku. When a strange attack forces them to bond, Jun begins to learn of the strange symbiotic relationship he has entered with his "Rozen Maiden" and once others begin to appear, the strange story behind their creation begins to unfold.
Rozen Maiden has a lot of elements that seem very strange at first, but slowly get explained over time. And the relationship between the main character, Jun, and his sister, Nori, is very endearing. The dolls are ridiculously cute in their lolita way, and each of them has a different personality.
As more dolls become part of the story, the reader learns more about the reason behind the dolls existence, how there are only seven of them, why they must battle each other to become 'Alice' - but even four books in, you still don't have all the details, and it keeps you hooked.
The character design for this book is great. The dolls are drawn lavishly, each with their own style of clothing. The only thing I occasionally have difficulty with is understanding is when the artist/creator resorts to an over-the-top stylization of the characters as a one-take reaction. For example, Nori and one of the dolls, Shinku, are discussing what type of doll Shinku is, and Nori takes a second and then screams that she's so cute. Instead of this being a full-sized panel, Nori and the doll will be shown in a much simplified style, almost stick figures with a few characteristics of each of them, shown in a very small panel.
I know this is a regular thing in manga, but it does happen a lot in Rozen Maiden so just be prepared for it.
I have also watched the first disc of the anime (which I will review later) but I feel like it presents the story of the dolls in a way that is much more easily understood.
I would definitely suggest picking up this manga, especially if you're into the lolita or goth lolita style. I'm excited to find out more of the story of the dolls, how Jun will learn to deal with his feelings of isolation from his class, and just get to see more awesomely designed dolls.
Rozen Maiden Book 6 comes out in the U.S. October 2007.