Rozen Maiden Vol. #2 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, July 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2007



What They Say
Domestic war breaks out within the Sakurada household when Hina-Ichigo is accused of lying and barricades herself with Jun upstairs. All the while, Suiseseki and Shinku work on breaking through in order to partake in the delicious Flower-topped hamburger. Later, Suigintou strikes, but this time it's a trip to her N-field realm, resulting in a doll being destroyed... The Alice Game cannot be called a fun past time and the mysterious maidens will soon cease to function unless Jun can overcome his phobia and find a way to fix things.


The Review!
As Suigintou makes her moves to eliminate Shinku, the main cast is explored in both humorous and serious ways.

Audio:
Rozen Maiden has two stereo mixes included for its release, both of which are encoded at 192 kbps. Each of the mixes are fairly standard and in general don't really stand out all that much but are quite serviceable. With the show being mainly dialogue based that's complemented by some light instrumental music there isn't a lot really required here. The opening and closings tend to stand out the most since they're full in their design but the main show comes across clean and clear. We didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Filled with lots of bright vivid colors and plenty of stills where it's filled with dialogue, Rozen Maiden has a lot of very good looking scenes that just shine. Backgrounds maintain a very solid feel while the bright colors in the foreground and character animation are equally solid. Cross coloration is thankfully absent but there is some noticeable aliasing during many of the zooms and pans that occurs throughout. Though not horribly distracting by any stretch of the imagination, it's the only real flaw to the presentation. The majority of the show looks very smooth and clean while providing a great looking presentation overall.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release including the logo, the artwork here is quite eye-catching and attractive. The logo is retained from the Japanese release as well while the only omission is the volume number itself which isn't used on the front here at all. There's a good deal of detail in the background while the colors look fantastic and rich. The back cover uses a similar style to the Japanese release but not the same as it provides a brief summary of the premise. Four shots from the show are included with the episode titles while the bottom portion features the discs basic items and extras. The production information rounds out the bottom along with a solid looking technical grid that makes it easy to identify the runtime and language options as well as the aspect ratio. The cover has artwork on the reverse side where one panel features Suigintou and the other Suiseseki. The original logo is along the spine here as well. The insert features artwork from another Japanese cover but doesn't open up unlike the first insert. The back of the insert provides a rundown of the release dates for the six volumes that the series will be released across.

Menu:
Nightjar is brought in to handle another menu design for Geneon but ends up with something fairly mild once again. With no audio attached to the menu, the main screen is a static piece that features the artwork from the cover but expanded a bit to allow for the menu navigation along the right. Access times are quick to process and the navigation is simple but quite effective, especially with individual episode access from the main page. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The only extra included in this volume is a clean version of the ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first installment of Rozen Maiden brought a lot of fun to the table even as it played in somewhat standard harem manner by introducing more "girls" around a hapless male lead. The use of the dolls and their battles gave it a fresh feel that worked well both in terms of the character interactions but the overall designs. There is something quite fascinating with the look of the dolls and their articulation.

This set of episodes brings us through the halfway mark of the first series which means we get a mix of stories that furthers the overall plot but some amusing standalone material as well. Rozen Maiden can come across as too goofy depending on how it handles itself since we are talking about dolls here, but they manage it rather well by keeping the majority of the really silly stuff relegated to Hina, both in design and in action. Hina is a character that you can't help but to take advantage of and Suiseseki does just that on a regular basis. The entire first episode here is a hilarious game of war between Suiseseki and Hina that results from one of Suiseseki's manipulations. Jun gets drawn into it while Shinku feels that it's all below her. The interactions of the characters are priceless, especially when Jun finally goes for the kill by bringing in Kun-kun to draw Shinku's attention. And as Jun says, Kun-kun's show is definitely hardcore.

The placement of this episode is significant since it's the last time for the remainder of this volume, and likely this season of the series, that we'll see something so dedicated to just having fun. Suigintou is continuing her attempts to remove Shinku from the Alice Game and she kicks it up a few notches in this volume, first by taking out Hina and then by manipulating Suiseseki to do her bidding. Drawing Hina into the N Field in the mirror, Suigintou is able to bring Shinku and the others into her realm which reveals quite a lot about her state of mind. For Jun, it's quite the revelation considering the bright world that Hina seemed to reside in. Though the battle is fairly predictable, it's the verbal sparring that proves to be the most enjoyable. Shinku's growing band of servants is something that Suigintou is able to really have fun with in a mocking manner.

Suigintou also makes some good inroads into utilizing Suiseseki as a means for dealing with Shinku. This comes in the form of another doll that's introduced that turns out to be Suiseseki's twin sister. Through this manipulation we're finally able to see more of what makes up her past and that helps to explain a lot of her motivations and reasoning behind the way she is. Suiseseki isn't my favorite of the dolls but this episode brings her up a few notches as she begins to show more of herself. So much of her has just been mean or teasing since the start, especially since her defeat, that seeing some real emotion coming from her is very welcome. And it does sound odd to be talking about real emotions coming from a doll.

With all that's going on in these episodes, it's easy for Jun to get lost in the shuffle. He holds his own in the first comedy episode but he starts to take more of a back seat during some of the other episodes as it focuses on the dolls. The third episode in this volume does a great job of bringing him back to prominence as well as dealing with some of his personal issues. The aftereffects of one of the battles in the Alice Game has him really concerned about one of the dolls and he has to do some active research and work in trying to get things back on track. Though the growth is obvious and minimal overall, the end result is that Jun has some really good moments here as he researches for an answer. It also brings in some small but interesting revelations about the dolls pasts overall and how well known they are in general.

In Summary:
With the shorter seasons, Rozen Maiden works out well in that it doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on just the silly or the fun that such a situation can have. That material does show up here throughout but usually in smaller and much better ways. There is a good deal of serious material here and some good action sequences that look wonderful. The entire world of dolls like these in real life are filled with detailed and beautiful costumes and that's carried over wonderfully here. While Rozen Maiden isn't a top tier visual delight, it does wonders when it is firing on all cylinders. These episodes progress the story along strongly in several ways without beating you over the head with it. Everything builds perfectly on what came before in the first volume which will definitely please anyone that enjoyed it. Recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Ending

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rozen Maiden