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Dolls
by Alaena Night on July 31st, 2010, 9:11pm

Rating - 8.8 / 10.0

User rating of this review - N/A out of 5
Story/Plot - 4 out of 5
Characters - 5 out of 5
Drawing Style - 4.5 out of 5
Enjoyment - 4 out of 5
Overall - 4.5 out of 5

Click here for series information

This review is based on current releases and RAWs up to volume 7.

Plot/Story

This series has a way of leaving me speechless. I wish there was a way to put it into a box where it fit nicely so that I could evaluate it easily from there. Alas, it doesn't fit into a box. All I know is that no matter what Dolls is, it has a way with words and emotions that cannot be ignored. That said, the plot is good for what it is—a series of episodic, shocking, and often quite terrifyingly gory incidents into which the main characters are thrust. The plot seems like a means rather than an end. It could probably be significantly better, but when one thinks about it, [b]there is no better story style for this series than the one it has.[/i] The episodic incidents and arcs explore the personalities, stories and motivations of the characters, which is what this series is all about. It doesn't try to preach at readers from a moral high-point. After all, the characters in this series are all murderers. Readers may find their attention spans sagging during certain arcs. Since the readership is primarily female, some may find the lack of bishies in the arc that focuses on the all-female 2nd Brigade to be a little tiring. That said, the case-based episodic nature for this series may not be ideal, but it shouldn't be any other way. Story continuity seems to be pretty good, and it's easy to suspend one's disbelief in this richly detailed world. When the characters receive injuries, they seem to recover quickly, which makes me wonder if it's simply a lapse in the story or simply an implication that these people are serious about their work. It was something that bothered me a little, either way, but never enough to make me think twice about continuing. Story flow sometimes falters when—especially during action scenes—events move dizzyingly fast from one event to the next, which sometimes made me turn back a page and wonder if a panel or two wasn't somehow missing, but overall, flow is very nice, though sometimes slightly fragmented.

Characters

As with most series that truly stand out to me, the characters make this series what it is. From a cheery insomniac with a truly heinous past to a boy dealing trying to absolve his terrible sins by becoming the ultimate form of twisted "justice" visited upon the most terrible murderers, personality isn't lacking at all here. The focus is on the first brigade of the Tokkei (the Special Executions unit), and the authors spared no detail and cut no corners. The characters are excellent without a doubt. Expounding upon the amazing detail put into each character's reason for becoming a part of the Tokkei would not do justice to them. It didn't take me long to love these characters. Though the beginning was a little confusing, the authors have a way of inserting little pieces of flashback—never too much, never too little—that keep readers burning through pages to find more. At the very base of this series is a question: Why are people driven to kill, and what of the people who kill those people? Some may compare it to Death Note, but the question this series tries to answer is entirely different in its focus. It looks toward the characters, which is an excellent choice. I'm looking forward to each individual's answer to those questions. I'll most certainly keep reading.

Drawing Style

The drawing style is almost intimidatingly beautiful. I have to admit that even this veteran of bishie viewing took half a chapter to realize that Shikibu Seiju was, in fact, male—and even longer to get used to it. The almost doll-like beauty in the art is, as the title may imply, quite fitting and very intentional. In a series this serious, readers need some comedy to break them out of the chilling, heart-wrenching sadness, but from a personal standpoint, some instances of the comedy were simply too over-the-top, though they did an excellent job of lightening the mood. This particular reader was a little affronted at the extensive use of chibi in some scenes, which didn't seem inappropriate to the series.

Enjoyment

Despite some small flaws, this series has kept me reading, and will most likely keep me reading until its end. I am really emotionally invested in the entire first brigade and many other characters. This is a thought-provoking and interesting read that shouldn't be missed by anyone. I'd recommend it.

Overall

An excellent series. Fans of good character development and thought-provoking stories who have a stomach for sometimes intense violence should take a look. Fans of lovely and unique art won't find themselves wanting, either. Shounen readers who are in it for the fight scenes might find this one lacking, as would people who love intricate plots. This one's all about the people, for better or for worse. People coming off a Death Note high won't find solace in this series. Battles of wits aren't always present. However, this series takes a look at people's motivations and interests, and it does a stellar job of it.
 
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