Traumend draws to a close on some rather somber notes as the Alice Game gets underway in full and deadly force.
What They Say
To achieve the ultimate goal of becoming "Alice," a Rozen Maiden must defeat each of the seven other dolls and absorb their Rosa Mysticas. Consequently, a doll that loses its Rosa Mystica ends up becoming an ordinary lifeless doll. Will Shinku be able to realize her dream of a world without fighting or will the desire to fulfill Father's dream destroy them all? Welcome to the Alice Game, and the sad fate of a Rozen Maiden.
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. It’s only appropriate that Shinku and Bara-Suishou take the final cover as their fight is what everything culminates in and they look good here with detailed designs and some really solid colors. 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 while the other side has Souseiseki. 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 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 second season of Rozen Maiden comes to an end in a rather surprising way, partially in that they “take out” so many of the maiden’s along the way. This season has felt a little off in some ways from the start, a good part of that being that Suigintou is around after the events of the first season. Then bringing in Kanaria as well as using Bara-Suishou as the doll behind the scenes has given it a very unusual feel. Toss in that rabbit character as well and some of what made the first season so engaging doesn’t feel present.
After Souseiseki decided 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
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.