Rozen Maiden Traumend Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 08, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007
What They Say
Jun is back in school and life couldn't be any better. Despite the happy days everyone spends with each other, something seems to be bothering Shinku. Could it be the arrival of two new adversaries? When all the dolls have assembled, the peaceful life everyone had been living up to this point will end and the battle to life or death will begin as the Alice Game takes full effect. Shinku has already turned one doll to junk. Will she be able to do that to the rest of her sisters...
With Suigintou out of the picture, things have a chance to slow down for all of about five minutes before the true Alice Game begins.
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.
Originally airing in 2005, 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. Unlike the first season, there's a bit of cross coloration to be found throughout here. It's more prevalent during the last episode or two but is visible across all of them to some extent. There is some noticeable aliasing during many of the zooms and pans that occurs throughout as well. 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.
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release including the logo, the cover is quite attractive with lots of bright bold colors and great designs. Shinku has always looked great on the covers and Kanaria looks her best here as she takes over a large chunk of the background. 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 Hina and Kanaria while the other has Bara-Suishou. 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.
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.
The extras are minimal but not surprising with this volume as all we get is a clean version of the new opening sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Rozen Maiden presented an interesting enough concept and then ran it through a relatively self contained story arc. If that had been all that was ever made, it would have been satisfying enough on its own even though there wouldn't be a true conclusion. Thankfully however, we have the Traumend season which looks to put forth the actual Alice Game as the remaining dolls have all arrived.
The characters have been fairly well groomed during that season so that when this one kicks off there's little to no time spent on introducing anyone. It's simply expected that you've seen the first season, so much so that some characters aren't even named for the first couple of episodes. Life has returned to normal at the Sakurada household with Shinku and Hina living there alongside Jun and Nori. Suiseiseki and Souseiseki make their regular visits, much to Jun's dismay of course, and everyone gets along in their own way. Shinku isn't having all that good of a time however as some nightmares continue to persist. The knowledge that the Alice Game could be closer combined with what she's done to Suigintou haunt regularly.
With no time needed for introductions of the main cast of characters, Traumend doesn't linger long before getting the storyline running. Framed by some hints of Father actually being nearby, the Alice Game is getting closer to happening as the Seventh Doll, Bara-Suishou, has made her appearance. The curious looking doll, which seems to be associated with a rabbit, has her intentions of getting the game underway for reasons not quite clear yet. The last requirement for the game however is all of the dolls, sans Suigintou. The arrival of the amusingly inept Kanaria sets the stage for that. Kanaria is thankfully not quite as inept as Hina is which means a lot more than you'd think. She has her own little game in mind at first but the way this group of dolls roll, well, nothing goes according to plan for anyone and Jun finds himself surrounded by yet another doll.
The arrival of Bara-Suishou gives the show its initial edge as it sets things up for the Alice Game fairly quickly. There isn't exactly a lot of action here yet as it's still mostly in the setup phase, but there are some fascinating and creepy moments. The most notable is the little presentation that Bara-Suishou gives when everyone comes into the N Field where she uses dolls to show how Shinku could effectively win the game. That just unnerves everyone, Shinku especially, and reinforces the bond that the four dolls have with each other now that they've lived under Jun's roof. There isn't a real big happy family bond kind of moment, but they've all worked and fought with each other enough now that there is something there that wasn't when it all started.
It's the more subtle moments is where the series really shines when it comes to the bonds. Jun and Shinku gained some new understanding with each other during the first season and each of them has progressed in their own way. They've also grown a bit closer together, even if Shinku doesn't show much emotion in general. The way Jun comforts and works with her when it comes to her nightmares is wonderful. The pair of them sitting in the dark together or just by his desk while he's working feels so natural for them. Some of the best material however comes from the interaction between Suiseiseki and Jun. The Alice Game has her in a bad position as she has no master and is in desperate need of one to truly unlock her powers. While everyone is telling her to strike a covenant with Jun, she steadfastly refuses. Their relationship has always been contentious on some level but it's working out in a great way here.
Rozen Maiden doesn't break new ground yet with this season but it is moving forward with the overall mythos of it all. The introduction of two new dolls does come across as a bit too much too quickly but there are only so many episodes in order to tell the tale. The Alice Game is something that will put the cast in general in a bad predicament since everyone in their hearts wants to win but to do so means doing something truly awful to people they've grown close to. The end result is that Rozen Maiden is continuing on with what has come before and it's very enjoyable, done in a classy way and entertains greatly. Though it may not have wide appeal, it's a solidly done series that's worth checking out.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver 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.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rozen Maiden