“It’s not real, you know.” Sure we know that fantasy isn’t real, but it wouldn’t be the first time people have misinterpreted this truth as meaning that fantasy is nonsense. While nonsense does actually have a place in the arts, it should not be confused with fantasy. A fantasy world may not be “real,” but to the characters within that world, it’s real enough. In fact, it’s all they know. And so, to these characters, the world must have a logic. A structure. Rules that run it. Otherwise it ceases to be fantasy and has become nonsense (as a side note, although a world with a lack of rules sounds easy enough to deal with, this actually makes it harder to create and manage. Very few successful nonsense works exist).
Some of the world’s most well known and beloved fantasy worlds have very firm rules that govern them. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis are two writers that were so convinced that fantasy needed structure that they wrote essays on the topic, claiming that without rules, a fantasy world was not even worth populating with characters as the “suspension of disbelief” could no longer be managed. As a consequence, the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia are known worldwide and more than a few readers have lost themselves to the adventures within them over the years.
Unfortunately, not all fantasy worlds are so carefully created. Any attentive reader or viewer can identify an ill constructed world. They may not be able to identify exactly what is wrong, but they will often comment something along the lines of, “It just wasn’t believable.” Fantasy may not be “real,” but the job of an artist is to make it seem real so long as the audience is engaged with the work. But there in lies many issues. Making rules that govern an entirely new world is quite an undertaking and not all artists are very good at it or even get a decent shot at trying (depending on the media form being used, that is. Comic books, for example, go on for many years and often employ many writers. It is not always possible to keep a world consistent under such circumstances). And when a show contains various worlds and fantasy characters with no clear set rules, as is the case with Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen, what should be a good fight ends up only leaving viewers wondering what the big deal is. After all, the enemy is too strong and the world the hero is in doesn’t make sense. Anything can and will happen. Specifically, the hero will win through luck and get home because the world they’re in will “magically” allow it for some half-baked reason or another. Without rules, viewers can’t know for sure if a character is actually in danger or not and seasoned viewers will instinctively know that a deus ex machina is on the way. Rules draw a clear battle arena, upping the tension. They also keep a world from feeling like it was made up on the spot.
Because that’s the whole point of fantasy. Feeling just as real as our own world, without the cumbersome burden of being our world.