The continuation of the Rozen Maiden saga makes the Alice Game a now inevitability, the remaining two dolls and the return of Sugintou showcase a unique, if somewhat confusing, first half to the second season.
What They Say
The sequel season to the first in this seriocomic anime series picks up after the psychological reawakening the once-beleaguered outcast Jun Sakurada. Jun fell headlong into the world of Rozen Maiden, in which sentient dolls compete in the deadly Alice Game in the hope of meeting the their creator so that they might become full-fledged human beings. As the Alice Game comes to a conclusion in the 12-episode TRAUMEND saga, the series takes on a somewhat darker tone.
Done in a standard 2.0 format, I listened to the English track for this review. It's quite a decent audio, albeit seemingly quite weak when compared to the Japanese audio when I listened to in the previous Rozen Maiden discs '" which is unusual as it is usually the other way round. Whether it was due to the change in studio I'm not sure, but whilst the audio itself is fine and there are no problems regarding the transition to video, it's definitely lacking which is a shame as there are some great moments in the last episode which would have benefited from a stronger English audio.
The video for the most part was fine '" working in collation with the audio, and the visual quality was decent '" and it's done full screen rather than wide screen which makes it a bit clearer, and the glitches I had in the first disc of Season 1 have all but gone. However considering the nature of the series maybe the widescreen format would have worked better especially as the series is taking a much darker tone now. As it is, the combination is not out of place regarding audio and subtitles so as a simple video, Traumend #1 doesn't have any problems, but you get the feeling it could have been so much better.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is very basic, and very oddly plays the opening from Season 1 on the disc instead of the new one from Season 2 (again done by Ali Project) with a shot of Shinku and Jun. The selection is very basic, yellow lettering on the dark red background for Play All, Episodes and Set-Up. In what seems to now be a dying breed, again there is no scene selection and also it was hard to navigate slightly as the yellow on red was harder to see than expected.
There were no extras on this disc.
Rozen Maiden was a very interesting series which got better as the series got along, with gothic lolita themed dolls in a murderous game combined with humans getting involved '" it was both confusing and captivating and the finale was excellent. However there were many unanswered questions, such as the nature of the Alice Game, and the fact only 5 of the 7 dolls were mentioned. The first volume of Traumend '" the second season '" does well to answer many of those questions, but also gives us a few more.
First of all, Jun seems to have recovered mostly from his trauma, and is returning to studying to prepare to return to school, with the help from Tomoe, and some non-help from the dolls who are still around. Shinku however seems quite upset about something, due to some dreams she's receiving from what appears to be a White Rabbit '" something to do with the mysterious 'father' Rozen. It all stems when she defeated Suigintou so she returns to the mirror to see if she can find herself '" instead she finds the mysterious Barasuishou '" the 7th Rozen Maiden doll, a cold hearted doll who none of the other dolls met being the newest '" which Shinku sees as a sign that Rozen wants the Alice Game to commence.
The two have a brief scuffle, before Shinku returns, wondering what to tell the others. She ends up taking it out on Jun, who decides to take masters into his own hands and with the help of Tomoe, finds a mysterious doll makers shop where unknowingly to him, may have a connection with the dolls.
Shinku does admit that she's met Barasuishou to her friends, which means that just one other doll is missing. Cue Kanaria, the final Rozen Maiden doll who is'quite an oddball. She wants to fight all the dolls and take their Mysticas and considers herself a genius, but in reality is definitely not the brightest tool in the shed. Her appearances in episode 3 basically revolve trying to enter the house, fail and repeat with comic timing. The dolls even when they find her can't even remember her name, so it changes from super-serious and mysterious to comic and silly (even has the return of Detective Kun-Kun, we even get Shinku in Kun-Kun cosplay!). It's a swift change of place which both gives the strength and weaknesses of the show '" it's good at what it does in both story-telling and fun, but it's very inconsistent which detracts from the plot.
The other dolls get a chance to take stage for the second half of the series '" Suiseiseki in particular as she realises that she wants Jun as her master to get more power. This is made obvious when Barasuishou attacks all the dolls, her powers being very overwhelming, Suiseiseki enters a convent with Jun so that he now has the energy to power up Shinku, Hina-Ichigo and Suiseiseki. Ironically, this episode and the next one also has a few good moment for Souseiseki, as she is clearly the older sister of the group, and pretty much helps both Suiseiseki and Shinku and even Jun in their problems, and really shines her as the one doll that I can agree I like through and through. Hina-Ichigo gets an episode as well, but it's more of the comic nature, as she tries to send a letter to Jun as a way of thanks, and after being confused by the EVIL Suiseiseki, and Shinku showing an amusing fear of cats, Hina thanks to Tomoe gets her letter sent. Again, switching from serious to comic in one episode is a bit confusing to say the least. Even Kanaria's antics and meeting her master, whilst amusing, doesn't really add much to the story as a whole as of yet.
The final episode however hits everything back to what I liked in Season 1. We get the return of Suigintou and whilst the explanation of her return isn't exactly clear cut, it does bring in some excellent new story. We have the emergence of all 7 dolls, Suigintou meets with Barashirou, but perhaps most interesting of all is that Suigintou has entered a convent with a sick girl named Meg who has lived with a terminal disease since 5 '" she is definitely a bit out there due to this, and called Suigintou her angel, who will take her life. This brings a whole new dimension to Suigintou as you can see, deep down she doesn't want to drain Meg's energy to the point that she dies, despite her wishes '" and this is shown when he meets Shinku again. Shinku, bothered about her dreams and that she turned Suigintou into junk, is surprisingly happy when she sees her alive. Suigintou, who wouldn't have hesitated to have struck Shinku before, doesn't seem to want you and just leaves her alone, claiming it was just a 'warning'. In Season 1, she was very callious to say the least, but just from this return, Suigintou has got more character development in this episode than in the total of Season 1. And the apology Shinku gives nearly had be tear up as it was sweet and Suigintou was completely caught off guard.
So far, it's definitely been hit and miss. The misses have been the inconsistency of the episodes switching from serious to comedy. The new characters are as different as night and day, Kanaria being a goofy ditz whilst Barasuishou being the new big bad, but neither have really had the effect that Suigintou did in the first season. Also some of the episodes were derfinitely weaker, the Hina-Ichigou one in particular was pretty pointless because it didn't add anything to the story in terms of character development for Hina and wasn't particularly funny either, which Kanaria's had her moments, and her doll otaku master is hilarious, they've still not been particularly memorable '" whilst Barasuishou hasn't really done much to establish her reasoning for the Alice game starting, and whilst there are hints from both that mysterious doll shop and Shinku's dreams, it seems to be more confusing than informative.
What the show does well is being able to add the true element of darkness to the story. The return of Suigintou and her new master Meg adds a real sense of character to Suigintou, and we don't know how this will lead, but this new conscience for her will definitely cause problems and troubles for her. Shinku continues to be a good lead '" and whilst Jun isn't shown too much in the story so far, they continually mention his transaction from shut-in to returning to society through it, mainly thanks to Tomoe. The other stars are the Seki sisters, Suiseiseki's love/hate relationship with Jun culminates in a new convent as she admits that she always wanted this, and Souseiseki shows herself as the rare calm mind of the dolls that is a big sister to everyone, even Jun at times. Suiseiseki doesn't lose any of the goofy and evil nature she had in the first season, but she's slowly developing into another trustworthy partner, which could be interesting considering the nature of the Alice Game'we'll see what happens.
Rozen Maiden Traumend starts almost the same way as Season 1 did, albeit with a lot more of a dark edge. It combined storyline, characters and comedy in an intriguing way, though not always successfully. The new characters don't really make much of an impact, but most of the old cast are as fun as ever, Shinku with her new worries and her dreams combined with the Jun/Suiseiseki convent and the return of Suigintou adds a good dimension to what should be a climatic second half of the series. So far, not bad at all.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV '" Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers '" Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.