This year’s summer anime season is packed with fascinating shows. Not only are several popular series returning for new seasons, but this season also saw the launch of several highly anticipated new titles based on popular manga. Of course, this means it’s easy for shows to get lost in the shuffle and overlook, despite being good. great doll is a great example of this, because despite being a fascinating show, it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.
great doll is part of a multimedia project created by visual novel studio Key and publishing house Visual Arts. Currently, the project includes two serial novels, various characters and this newly released anime created by Bibury Animation Studios. While on the surface, great doll may look like your average “cute girls doing cute things” show, if you look a little beyond the cute aesthetic you’ll find an intriguing premise.
great doll follows the employees of the Black Cat Café, a high-end eatery in the Imperial capital. However, the Black Cat Café is not an ordinary café as it is completely staffed by robot girls. These robot girls, called Automata, were built as soldiers to fight in a massive and devastating war. However, now that the war is over, the dolls try to find a new purpose, but that’s easier said than done. Because their creation was completely shaped by the war and the political circumstances. This quest for a new purpose is made more difficult as the scars of war still litter the landscape. This, plus the atmosphere of the region, makes it difficult to let go of the past.
great doll follows a doll who has lost her memory after being repaired by doll maker Nagi Tooma. Nagi names the doll Haizakura and has her work with the others at the Black Cat Café. As Haizakura tries to understand her situation and find her new purpose, she will learn about her past and discover what happened during the war. At the beginning of the first episode, the audience is shown a flashback that suggests that Haizakura was no ordinary automaton and that her creation was part of something much bigger and perhaps much more sinister.
The show features excellent design work. Each of the core girls has a unique and likeable design. And, in a nice touch, each has a detail that acts as a reminder of their robot status. A visual reminder of the weight they bear from the war. The other robots in the cafe and town also have unique designs, which are more like traditional robots than the cute, girly Automata. However, they all contain hints suggesting their war purpose, which helps further reinforce the show’s core theme. The environmental design is great too, with a nice mix of mid-century Japan and Paris with steampunk elements and design details that make the world stand out while still feeling cohesive. In addition, multiple background elements recall the war. It acts as a visual reminder of how difficult the girls’ quest for a new identity is.
While great doll contains many of the expected set pieces, with Haizakura and the other robots trying and failing to perform basic cafe tasks, often in a cute and comical way. The rest of the story is remarkably well developed. The overarching plot is revealed at a very engaging and good pace. The show also features some wonderfully gloomy moments that perfectly capture the feeling of putting on a happy face for the sake of others, despite hurting inside. As well as moments that perfectly capture the internal confusion and turmoil of trying to find your identity and trying to learn where you fit into the world around you.great doll is a dazzling show with many intriguing elements. It uses the format of the “cute girls doing nice things” genre to tell a deeper story about the effects of war and the struggle to find your purpose and identity in the world. The show goes perfectly from cute to cute to melancholy with surprising ease, and the show is clearly poised for a big reveal that will rock the audience’s opinion of the world and its characters. So it’s a pity that great doll hasn’t gotten a lot of attention this season as it feels like a show that many anime fans will love if they try it.
Prima Doll is now streaming on HIDIVE