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Anime Review: Prima Doll—Key Always Delivers!

We all know Key, but for the rare ones who don’t, I’ll start with that. Key is a visual novel studio that focuses on the dramatic visual novels that will make you cry. They have made some all-time classics in the community, including Air, Kanon, and CLANNAD.
Not only are they known for their writing, they have a reputation for their music too. With Shinji Orito as the primary composer, Key has mastered the art of creating well-crafted stories that immerse you completely. This studio certainly achieved what many can’t: love from both critics and the community.

Retzel from the «Prima Doll» web novel

Prima Doll is Key’s latest multimedia project and is helmed by Kai and Tōya Okano.  Okano worked on the web novel Prima Doll Encore, which received periodic updates since October 2020, finishing almost an year later in September 2021. The web novel is the base the anime was built on for the adaptation.

Next, is Prima Doll Interlude, which Kai writes. I have no experience with interludes, but it is advertised as a collection of short stories.

Finally, even though Maroyaka illustrated both novels, they didn’t get any credits for the Prima Doll anime adaptation itself. At present, there are also two manga volumes, but none of the mangakas have worked directly on the anime so I won’t mention it again again.

Screenshot: Episode 1 of «Prima Doll» (TV Anime)

That brings us to the anime itself — the glue that holds this entire project together.

ImagineViolet Evergarden, but set in a cafe. The Black Cat Cafe, where most of the anime takes place, is located at the 5th ward of the Imperial Capital.
This cafe staffs mechanical dolls, previously used as war weapons — they are known as “automata”. While they do try to adjust to their new lives, their past continues to haunt them. Again, you get a lot of Violet Evergarden parallels. However, the difference in Prima Doll is that you get multiple unique automata, each chained by their past in the military, trying to be free and learn how to love. Prima Doll has what it takes to make you emotional: Its hard-hitting raw moments alongside soothing slice-of-life scenes surely are a powerful combo.

Prima Doll, at its core, has amazing writing reflecting its characters and the world.
Haizakura is one of the main Automata. Even though she is kind and energetic at first, as we learn more about her amnesia and past, we clearly understand how much she struggles. We see her carrying this burden all by herself, without ever giving up on her fellow companions and lending a helping hand.

It’s curious how the anime is written. It feels more like a visual novel than anything else. While VN fans will like this fresh take on anime writing, those who are not familiar with this form of writing might find the anime boring or repetitive.

When it comes to the animation, Prima Doll‘s isn’t the worst. If I may say, it’s passable, considering how much charm and wit the anime brings through the writing. It’s hard to compete with that, though it’s a shame its animation didn’t get to the same level as the other aspects.

Finally, the soundtrack. It’s a fantastic collection and I must say: even if you are not interested in the series at all, the soundtrack is still worth listening to!
With two discs worth of music, there’s plenty to go through…! I’m going to try my best to be short, though.

The first two tracks are composed by Hisashi Tenkyu (LOOPERS, LUNARiA -Virtualized Moonchild-) and Jun Maeda (CLANNAD, Little Busters!, Rewrite), respectfully.
The first track sets the tone for the series well: the orchestral instrumental creates a mysthical feeling, gradually growing with the piano. Its brevity only makes it that much more impactful.
On the other hand, the second track is definitely a happier and vibrant track with classic visual novel musical aesthetic and composition.
In track four (Ryo Mizutsuki), we get a change: an emotional piano ballad that is succeeded by an intense string arrangement.

As I continue through this soundtrack, it certainly shows how well each composer is in their respected strengths and areas that elevate the music in Prima Doll.
Another highlight is Tin Toy Melody, composed by Jun Maeda. This is a perfect example of how masterly he can create such positive emotions from music; if there’s one track you must listen to, it’s this one. Oh, the piano version is 100% perfection too — short and sweet!

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Tin Toy Melody — Composed by Jun Maeda; performed by Chat-noir

Finally, track 11 (composed by rionos) with Michiyo Kimura on the violin reminds me of track straight out of the Violet Evergarden sountrack. It’s always emotional impactful, but the piano in the second part absolutely DESTROYED me — …and then, a violin. It lifts you up, in a way only art can. I could go on all day and night on how masterful Prima Doll‘s soundtrack — so please! Listen to a track or two!

Prima Doll is another fantastic project from Key and one I look forward to seeing more of. I truly wonder where this concept and story will go next…
While the anime isn’t perfect, the fantastic writing and music create an unparalleled experience. This is a shinning example of why Key is one of the best studios with some of the best writers and composers at their disposal. If you want to get into Prima Doll, the anime is my recommendation to start the series. Listenig to the soundtrack is also a wonderfully pleasant to immerse more into the series.

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Music and Video game lover. Inactive on most social media but you can find me in the Fuwa discord.

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11 months ago

typos: (is thta) (is takes)
thanks for the news

Reply to  Typomaster
11 months ago

Fixed, thank you!