Akari KitoAzumi WakiTomoyo KurosawaMisaki Kuno
Prima Doll
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2022
Director: Tensho
Writer: KAI, Toya Okano
Actor: Akari Kito, Ayaka Suwa, Ayumu Murase, Azumi Waki, Misaki Kuno, Miyu Tomita, Tomori Kusunoki, Tomoyo Kurosawa, Yuki Nakashima
Keywords: anime, SF
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=25242
Website category: Anime 2022
Review date: 5 January 2024
Prima  Doll
It's the weakest Key/Visual Arts series I've seen to date. I don't hate it and I think the emotional stuff in the last episode works, but the characters aren't that great and somehow the show's premise seems to be fighting against its own tragedy.
It's set in an ambiguously post-war setting that feels 1920s in its costumes and buildings, but has AI technology that allows the waging of war with girl-shaped battle robots (called dolls). They have Cyberman chest units, except worn on their backs as steampunk rucksacks. The war's over now... technically, mostly, except for the die-hards. No one should have to fight. Most of our heroines are dolls, working in the cafe of a dollmaker and repairer called Touma Nagi.
Quirks of this doll premise include:
(a) they get strange bugs that are hard to repair. If their memories are damaged, for instance, this is irreparable. You can't just plug in a new memory board, or back up the memories on a hard drive. (Even though it's possible for two dolls to link up and share memories.) No, the broken doll's brain will always be like a bath with a hole in it. Even if she remembers something, it'll soon vanish again.
(b) sometimes you can fix these problems by completely reformatting the doll's systems, but that's effectively a death sentence. It reboots the old body with a new personality.
(c) why is this period setting so technologically advanced in one specific area (sentient robots) but like the 1920s in other respects? No computers. No mobile phones. Nagi's doll laboratory is brass and steampunk.
(d) what's the law's ethical standpoint on all this? Dolls are sentient, with emotions and dreams. Do they count as living creatures? If someone claimed to be a doll-owner, would that technically be slavery?
Anyway, in ep.1, Nagi builds a complete idiot. Her name's Haizakura and she's useless at all tasks, but full of good-natured enthusiasm. People who hear her say she's a good singer, but this is unconvincing since her voice actress sounds like a squeaky toy. You could call her childlike. A real child would have more emotional weight, though, because frankly the dolls might as well have been talking toasters. They hardly ever have motivations of their own, instead just wanting to do a good job and serve Nagi. Haizakura's nice, yes, but it's a generic kind of niceness and undermined by what a harsh critic might call the character's inherent pointlessness. (She's so stupid that she'll light fireworks to be able to see while they're sneaking through hostile territory near an enemy base.)
The only dolls you'll remember are Karasuba (who's in love with Nagi) and Retzel (who actually has a purpose and a mission for a while, until she changes her mind).
There's quite a good explanation for all this. Ep.11 has some nifty ideas, then ep.12 has a decent go at creating a tearjerker. There's some worthwhile stuff in there. The crying over the rice omelette works, as does the diary in the puddle. "You're going to sleep for a big. When you wake up, I'm sure it'll be an easier world for you to live in." Ultimately, though, the show's too vanilla and soft-edged to make the most of its potential. When SPOILER goes apeshit in ep.11, she starts a robot revolution and burns the city, saying dialogue like:
"As long as the foolish humans exist, wars will keep on happening. That is why they must all be turned to ash."
...and yet when human soldiers appear and shoot at her, she takes them prisoner. What? Get outta here. Does she want to kill us all or not? I didn't buy it. (There's also an unpleasant assumption in ep.1, in which it's seen to be better to lie horribly to a small child than to tell the truth and let everyone cope with the situation.)
I don't hate this anime. It's okay-ish and has some decent episodes. It was, though, a bit soporific. It often didn't seem to matter. My attention would often wander. The girls are too bland to carry the "girls do cute things" side of the show, while the mildly chilling military stuff isn't particularly wholehearted either. There was definitely potential in this show's ideas and revelations, but it's ended up as a low-grade sort of "okay" that's in danger of becoming "meh".