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Manga / Dolls Fall

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Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one
Expect someone to die when this comes up.

After the trial in 1893, Lizzie Borden took the name Paula and, along with childhood friend Carrie, started an orphanage, Mother of Garden, in 1912. She was actually very good at running it, until a mysterious man aware of her past visited one day. Fast forward to the present, Jiaiin Girls Dormitory in Kanekubi Town in Japan is an orphanage for gifted girls that has the new students completely harmlessly sign their contract with blood. How are the two connected? Through a trail of corpses to feed some magic box and a creepy lady that likes to bathe in blood and organs to keep herself young.

Main character Meiri Chibana lost her family to a fire on her 13th birthday. While traumatizing, it hasn't done anything to negatively affect her outlook on life. This makes her a person of interest to Chloe Zola, the headmistress of Jiaiin Girls Dormitory (where Meiri comes to live) and the successor of Lizzie Borden.

Calling Jiaiin Girls Dormitory an Orphanage of Fear is putting it mildly, as surviving it requires three years of both strength and luck and coming out without trauma is impossible. The dolls in "Dolls Fall" are the students, and "Dolls Fall" itself is the name of the "game" of who will survive the witch inhabiting the orphanage wall and who won't. The students only have the benefit that they are selected based on their ownership of a Possessed, a kind of superpower that is supposed to protect them, but it's not rare for students to die before they even discover the nature of their Possessed.

Dolls Fall is written by Makoto Kedouin, the same mind who came up with Corpse Party, and illustrated by Amido Sanshoku. There's some suggestion that Dolls Fall takes place in the same universe as Corpse Party, but it's its own franchise nonetheless. The manga was serialized in the shonen magazine Dragon Age from 2013 to 2015, and compiled into four volumes.

This series contains examples of:

  • Alternate History: Lizzie Borden starting an orphanage, killing the naughty children there, and then being executed by hanging is not what happened in real-life.
  • Anyone Can Die: In the first chapter, you might be under the impression that new students and roommates Meiri, Louise, and Mimi who form a friendship immediately upon meeting will be the story's main trio. You'd be 2/3th right.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: There's people who expected a cutesy story before realizing Makoto Kedouin is the writer.
  • Ax-Crazy: Lizzie Borden
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Headmistress Chloe Zola
  • Blood Bath: Headmistress Chloe does it to stay young. Admittedly, it's working.
  • Blood Magic: What the students are for. Among other things.
  • Bloody Horror: There's not a death that isn't this. Give or take some trivialized offscreen ones.
  • Child Prodigy: Mana Makino, who is 3-4 years younger than the rest of the cast.
  • Continuity Nod / Canon Welding: Perfect Life, a company dealing in spiritual merchandise that was introduced in Corpse Party: Blood Drive, delivers goods to Jiaiin Girls Dormitory as per Chapter 9. Because Dolls Fall takes place in 2013, its events occur concurrently with Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Everyone.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Firstly, there's reapers or evil spirits there that try to make weak humans like them. Secondly, there's the staff of Jiaiin Girls Dormitory who will hunt down and shoot runaway students.
  • Evil Plan: A combination of Immortality Seeker, Godhood Seeker, and Sealed Evil in a Can that fully relies on the students as a multi-use resource. In order to feed and raise the fetus inside the magic box, it needs to be fed blood (representing one virgin life) periodically. For this, students who misbehave are selected (although they can through the Witch Hunt pass on the death sentence to any other). Because only a bit of the body needs to be used, Headmistress Chloe can use everything else for a rejuvenating Blood Bath. The ones who behave are not likely to become the target of the witch hunt and their virginity is therefore not as important. For this reason, they are "rewarded" for their behavior by being sent to the nearby town for sexual services, which ensures the town's loyalty to the dormitory.
  • Eye Scream: Mimi Hinawa and one of the students during the massacre whose eye pops out when she's shot in the head.
  • Genki Girl: Louise
  • Hope Spot: The arrival of journalists Takeshige and Yamamoto. See Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • Hotter and Sexier: For people coming from Corpse Party. Dolls Fall goes further than even Corpse Party: Musume and Corpse Party CEMETERY 0 ~Kaibyaku no Ars Moriendi~ did. As with those, the trope overlaps heavily with Fan Disservice and Squick.
  • Human Resources: The students. See Evil Plan.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Rina tried to kill Mana after becoming a target. Her reasoning was that if she died, Mana would have no one to protect her so it was better to pass on the death sentence to her. Fortunately, Meiri intervened.
  • Maid Corps: The staff at Jiaiin Girls Dormitory
  • Meaningful Name: Only five of the nine maids are named, but all who are are (possibly) named after women involved in the Salem Witch Trials. There's Tituba, Mary Walcott, Elizabeth Parris, Betty, and Mercy.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The organ stone, which is needed to awaken the fetus in the box.
  • Mirror Monster: The witch only manifests on and can arise from refective surfaces like mirrors and windows.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Journalists Takeshige and Yamamoto gave their lives to report on the treatment of the girls at the hands of Jiaiin Girls Dormitory and Kanekubi Town and thereby save them. All it did was provoke Headmistress Chloe in ordering a massacre to erase the evidence.
    • There's also something to say for Chloe's childhood friend. If he hadn't come with her to confess about the broken mask, Lizzie would have very likely killed Chloe. Then she wouldn't have had a successor anymore and the whole child murder thing would've ended with Lizzie Borden's execution.
  • Off with His Head!: Because Chloe needs the girls' bodies for her youth baths, all that is saved for the caskets at the funerals are their heads. Which is still a better scenario than the handful of students whose heads are spared to serve as decoration.
  • One-Gender School: As the name indicates, Jiaiin Girls' Dormitory is an all-girls' school and orphanage.
  • Present Day: Student files in the panels indicate the story takes place in 2013, which is the year in which the first few chapters were released.
  • Promotion to Parent: Meiri takes over from Rina as Mana's protector.
  • Proper Lady: What the students are expected to be.
  • Puberty Superpower: The students' Possessed doesn't become accessible until they are 13-14 years of age. Mana got control over it at 10 years of age only because she's a Child Prodigy.
  • Randomly Gifted: Seems to be the case for the students. They are selected for Jiaiin Girls Dormitory because they have a special power, a so-called Possessed, which they don't seem to have a reason for having but sheer coincidence.
  • Sex Slave: The students of Jiaiin Girls Dormitory are all at risk of this. Basically, if they're naughty, they run the risk of being killed. If they behave, they run the risk of being sent to the town for "domestic work" for a few months.
  • Sex Is Violence: Headmistress Chloe gets off on seeing "the weak" getting destroyed by "the strong".
  • Shout-Out: There's possibly some back-and-forth with Corpse Party going on in Dolls Fall.
    • Many fans have noted that Louise Warifu displays a lot of traits people have come to know and love of Seiko Shinohara. Arguably, she's an expy.
    • In Corpse Party, Mitsuki Yamamoto stands out among the deaths for her final defiance. The same is true for the journalist Yamamoto in Dolls Fall, who is the only Dolls Fall character to share a last name with a Corpse Party character.
    • In Corpse Party: Blood Drive, Sachi Shinozaki's signature weapon is a hatchet and axes are the default weapons used by Red Helms. Blood Drive came out in 2014 and thus has shared development time with Dolls Fall. It follows that one inspired the other, given Kedouin's refusal to not make the most of any idea and that there were no axes or hatchets in Corpse Party prior to Blood Drive.
  • Title Drop: Occurs in Chapter 7. It's the name of the Witch Hunt the girls are made to participate in. They're the dolls.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Mimi Hinawa and Yamamoto.
  • Unholy Matrimony: At least, that's how Lizzie Borden saw her relation with the mysterious visitor.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Mimi Hinawa, Rina Makino, Aika Kadowaki, Imawa, Chikako, Carrie, Takeshige, and Yamamoto. There's also a number of students who are never given a name but show up in the background several times, like the girl with her long hair tied back or the one with short black hair with a small ribbon on the back. All of them die during the massacre in Chapter 22.
  • Witch Hunt: The titular Dolls Fall. Once the witch goes roaming, she seeks out girls who've done bad and target them, though only one is targeted at a time. A target knows they're it due to getting to see the witch's sign in a reflective surface like a mirror or window. A target has to die within a week or the witch will make more victims. The only way for a target to survive is to kill another to replace them. This other person does not have to have done anything bad at all as at this point it's about the process, not morality. There's no way to know who's a target unless they confess, so Headmistress Chloe seeks out girls who've done bad and publically exposes them. The result is that these girls become the target of the entire rest of the student body who'd want them dead before they can kill. Mind, though, that Chloe can only expose whom she knows of, so it's always possible the target is not among the exposed, causing only further panic. Add everyone's Possessed Ability into the mix and things get intense.
  • With Friends Like These...: Those who are targeted by the witch only can survive one way: kill someone else to take their place as a target.