The Alice Game gets underway when the final Rozen Maiden dolls arrive, much to Shinku’s chagrin.
What They Say
Jun struggles to find meaning in his life, as he adapts to his new reality among a collection of living dolls. This is the story of a young boy who locked himself away from his classmates, finding security in solitude. This is the tale of an exquisite doll, her only wish to one day become a normal human girl. The mortality she covets will be her reward if the boy and the doll can create a trust between them. Real life will begin for each if they survive the perilous Alice Game.
Contains episodes 1-12.
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. This collection contains the same discs that were released in single form, so there aren’t any changes to the transfer here at all. 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 in some episodes than others 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.
Rozen Maiden Traumend gets a decent oversized clear keepcase for its release which has spaces to hold four discs against both sides of its interior. The front cover is the best piece of artwork from the singles with Shinku and Suigintou together providing the bright and the dark side of the dolls. The ornate framing really fits in well with the show and adds a bit more class to it, something that characters like Shinku have always expressed. The back cover comes across much as the singles did with a few ornamental pieces scattered about properly and a good summary of what this season is about. There’s a small strip of decent pictures that highlights a little of what the show is about with its characters as well, but they’re small enough to not really show enough. The bottom half is given over to the episode breakdown, discs features and production credits along with a solid technical grid. No show related inserts are included but we do get a reversible cover. It’s designed like the front cover but has no text and each panel features a different character, such as the left focusing on Shinku and the right on Bara-Suisho.
Nightjar was 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 disc silkscreening 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 spread out across the three volumes, with the first volume offering up the clean opening sequence. The second volume extras is simple as all we get is a clean version of the new ending sequence. The last volume of the series ends rather simply with less than two minutes worth of TV commercials from the Japanese broadcast run.
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 puts forth the actual Alice Game as the remaining dolls have all arrived.
The characters have been fairly well groomed during that first 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 in the first third of the series 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.
As the show hits its middle arc, it comes across feeling a little off as it’s working through a couple of things while trying to keep it light at first. One episode does do a good job of reacquainting you with the cast though as it’s mostly about the fun. Souseiseki is being her usual polite self and is writing a letter to the grandparents thanking them for everything they did and that has Hina thinking she needs to do the same for Jun. With some truly awful handwriting, she puts it together only to be frustrated by Suiseiseki who doesn’t want to be left out. She starts telling Hina about the evil mailbox it must go in so she can go write her own letter and hand deliver it. It’s all quite fun and with Shinku watching over it all, it’s almost ideal for getting back into the characters and their relationships.
There are episodes after that do mix in the occasional bits of humor, but they tend to revolve around Kana’s encounters with the group. She’s continuing to try and “capture” everyone so they’ll obey her and come to her masters house but she’s terrible at it. She often ends up coming across as a joke or is simply incapable of doing any real damage. That she does this as Shinku comes to a realization about how dangerous the Alice Game is doesn’t help, but Shinku’s change in personality allows her to approach Kana in a manner that is very unlike Shinku. The way Shinku handles all of it is surprising to the other maidens, but as part of her growing changes since meeting Jun, it all makes perfect sense. These changes aren’t exactly subtle here but they’re not pushed hard either, so it does tend to feel natural overall.
Thankfully, there’s also a good bit of setup going on when it comes to the plans that Bara-Suishou is working on. Her manipulations seem to point to using Enju to achieve her goals and she’s manipulating the other maidens in the way that she wants. In particular, she’s pushing more towards the Alice Game to get them all fighting, something that eventually does push Souseiseki into deciding that she’s going to be the one to take the prize because “Father is crying” over not creating his perfect Alice doll. Contrasting this is how Bara-Suishou is also playing a game with Suigintou about what’s going on, pushing her lightly into resuming her conflict with Shinku to get the Game going again as well. What Bara-Suishou is up to isn’t completely apparent but she’s found the way to manipulate several of them with only the smallest of words.
With Souseiseki deciding to pursue the Alice Game in order to win it with some serious zeal, the group that’s come around Shinku has taken on a somewhat depressed feeling. Suiseiseki can’t believe what’s happened and she’s intent on trying to win her sister back over to her side, to stop her from taking this approach. Though she’s not completely in agreement with Shinku, she has come to appreciate her stance a bit more on not fighting in the Alice Game in order to achieve what Father wants. But with the way that Suiseiseki has been manipulated, she can’t help but to get involved and to want some level of revenge on Suigintou and Bara-Suishou for what they’ve done.
For Suigintou, she continues to be somewhat divided over what’s going on, but she’s become so attached in her cool and cold way to Meg that she has to carry through with her plan. Acquiring the Rosa Mystica’s she needs to save her life, the acquisition of one of them leads to a moment where Bara-Suishou is able to manipulate her further. Though Meg doesn’t seem to really change much once she’s given one of them, Bara-Suishou is able to convince her that she’ll recover better if she has more. With one of the maiden’s taken out already to get this Rosa Mystica, Suigintou is able to bring herself to finishing the job, even though it’s a job she is finding more and more distasteful.
What’s interesting about the situation is that as it progresses, we see a couple of the dolls lose their lives, or at least fall to a slumber because of how events play out. Some of them are quick and fast, such as what happens to Souseiseki. Her battle against Bara-Suishou doesn’t play out in a surprising manner in the slightest, nor with how Suigintou is so intent on capturing that Rosa Mystica. What proved to be a whole lot more emotional, and one of the best things about this season, was watching as Hina-Ichigo starts to wind down due to her power relationship with Shinku weakening. Going back to live with Tomoe briefly, the relationship that the two of them have – and has been largely ignored for awhile – comes across beautifully here in a way that’s very emotional and feels very honest. It gave the show the kind of intensity in emotions that it really needed and that has been largely lacking.
As is expected with this season, and how the first season played out, everything comes down to a battle with the remaining maidens going against Suigintou and Bara-Suishou. The manipulations that have been worked over become clear to Shinku and the others and they realize just how foolish they have been. There are moments where the obvious things are pointed out, such as about Father and the curious bunny, but by and large the last two episodes focus on bringing everything to a close through fighting. This is difficult for Shinku since she’s been trying to push the other approach, but when she’s pushed beyond her limits she doesn’t hold anything back herself. Which is a good thing since it leads to a very engaging fight sequence where you get the sense of how much power these little maidens really possess.
One of the things that felt weak with this season was the interpersonal relationships that the maidens have with Jun. The coming together of everyone in the first season and Jun’s dealing with his issues was something that was easy to connect and empathize with. With this season, he’s concerned about the well being of the dolls and is looking for a way to help out with that by learning from the doll maker, but his role feels understated and relatively unimportant in all of it. His reduced and seemingly pointless role diminishes him rather strongly and took out a bit of the heart of the series. When you have that in addition to the generally cool and disinterested Shinku, it doesn’t leave much for warmth. And most of the other dolls don’t really have that, especially in this season.
Rozen Maiden: Traumend worked through the tried and true method of bringing in more dolls. And it didn’t leave out one of them as Suigintou made a comeback here as well. With Bara-Suishou being a fairly uninteresting doll that’s kept mostly to the shadows and then having Kanaria in the show, it felt like too much. Kanaria being an aggressive Hina-Ichigo didn’t help either as one Hina-Ichigo is more than enough. There are some really strong moments towards the end here in the emotion department, but the main draw comes from the battles as everyone puts their all into it. Sadly, the connection that you felt with the dolls from the first season just doesn’t feel like it’s here this time around. It’s pretty, it has some neat ideas, but it comes across a bit more shallow this time. Even worse, if there are dolls you like over others, there’s a chance you may really dislike how little time some of them get here, or their fates.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, TV Commercials
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.