Rozen Maiden Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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

Rozen Maiden Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     May 21, 2007
Release Date: May 29, 2007


Rozen Maiden Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
This is the story of one young boy who couldn't get along with his classmates and decided to drop out and never return... This is the story of an exquisite doll who wished to one day become a normal human girl... This is the story of one young boy and an exquisite doll and their adventures as they strive to help each other in overcoming their fears and the very real dangers of the Alice Game. However, in order to do that, they must overcome their distrust of each other.

Contains episodes 1-4.

The Review!
When Jun ends up with a doll that's actually alive in his collection of oddities it's really just the beginning of a doll-harem.

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 Hina and the other Shinku. The original logo is along the spine here as well.

The insert features artwork from the second Japanese cover and opens up to a nice looking two panel spread of several of the girls featured in this volume. The back of the insert provides a rundown of the release dates for the six volumes that the series will be released across.

In addition to the disc only release, a disc+box release is also available. While Geneon's boxes have been attractive at times they generally tend to be a bit more conservative in comparison to some other companies. This release does follow that tradition a bit in that it's a standard heavy chipboard box but they made some mild tweaks that really accentuate it well. Covered in red felt, the borders and the character artwork is all done in gold. The two main panels each feature a different piece of character artwork that just catches the eye beautifully. The designs of the dolls certainly stands out in general but through this method that just shine. The spine and top panel have just the logo on it with the words Limited Edition all of which is inside an elegant border. It's restrained and refined in appearance that gives it a great feeling.

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 opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Peach Pit, Rozen Maiden is made up of two twelve episode series. Being released across six volume from Geneon Entertainment, the series is likely to be quite appealing to the growing doll community in the US but also to those that enjoy a bit of harem style shows with a twist.

Rozen Maiden revolves primarily around Jun, a second year middle school student who hasn't had the best of times during his scholastic period. Events left unsaid so far show that he's suffered at the hands of others and become rather introverted because of it. So much so in fact that going outside of his house is a major strain on his frame of mind. To compensate, his older sister Nori handles most of the family needs since their parents are abroad for work. For Jun, he primarily indulges in his hobby of buying oddities online that are tied to the occult or superstition and laughing at them before sending them back. Jun's being the younger sibling has him feeling fairly dominant which is made even more possible since Nori tries to please him so much as she wants him to go back to school.

One of the items that Jun gets in is a chain mail kind of letter that asks him if he'd wind it or not. Not really caring what it is since he doesn't intend to do anything, he follows the directions after indicating that he'd wind it and forgets about it. In the confusion of an argument with his sister he ends up tripping over a case he doesn't remember arriving. To his surprise, inside is a very elegant looking doll with a beautiful outfit. Winding it up and not making the connection to the letter, he's then greeted by the doll as she introduces herself as Shinku and promptly slaps him. Thus begins the relationship between the two as she sets up a master/servant relationship with Jun.

Surprisingly enough, the series seems to be built around the Highlander concept. There are multiple dolls like this out in the world that are all seeking servants to live with. The each have distinct personalities and they each have very different powers and abilities. The goal among them that they must perform for their Father is to defeat each other in battle. The last one standing becomes "Alice" which presumably means that they can become a real girl. Dolls that lose the battle end up going to sleep in their current form and aren't able to interact with anyone anymore.

Naturally, Jun's not sure about all of this but the arrival of a cutesy doll that's intent on causing him pain has him swearing to serve Shinku before he realizes the scope of it. Shinku's quite the amusing character since she carries herself with such poise and minimal concern for her servants. She does bring about situations that end up helping them in the long run but she clearly views herself as the superior being and is intent on winning the Alice Game. A lot of the humor in Shinku tends to come from her size and how she looks in various situations. While you have Jun running about and overreacting, Shinku is sitting there calmly on the couch watching a puppet program. She seems to have no qualms introducing herself to other people either which just freaks out Jun even more.

Along the way the show adopts a somewhat standard harem situation as more dolls are brought into play, as well as their servants. Unlike a lot of other harem shows though, the dolls don't have the same kind of claim on Jun that you'd imagine. There's more of a respect relationship that slowly grows as each of the dolls have their own goals and desires, few of which Jun seems to really be ideal form. So far at least it doesn't end up with a series of dolls that all want Jun for their very own. Even Shinku comes across as indifferent to him as long as he serves her needs and gets her closer to her goal. To her Jun simply needs a lot of work but has some potential.

With the kinds of dolls that are out there in the real world it's little surprise that the ones here are detailed and attractive. Attractive in that they're far too cute and have their own elegance to them. Having several friends who participate in the ball jointed doll communities and interacting with the dolls myself, it's quite easy to see the appeal of them. Shinku comes across as the most detailed here in her design and animation which is a given but the others come across quite well also. Hina is fairly typical but Suiseske has a really good design about her that ties well to the personality. The animation in general for the show is one where there isn't a ton of fluid animation to it as it's dialogue driven but when it hits the action scenes it really shines well while playing up the cute factor. The main battle between Shinku and Hina worked really well because of the way it plays the cute factor with a real hint of danger to it.

The one oddity to the series that really piqued my interest when it started off was the opening sequence. While the animation is solid and the layout of the animation just as good, it was the combination of the multitude of roses and the lyrics that reminded me heavily of Revolutionary Girl Utena. That set the stage for the series in a surprising way as it had a lot of imagery that was really reminiscent of it when tied to the music. Another surprise to the release is the design of the opening and closings in general. While Geneon has provided translations of the opening credits, they left the end credits in Japanese and provide a translated breakdown at the end of the four episodes. It seems odd to do half of them but seems to figure in to some other recent series where translated credits seem to be shifting to either the menus or the end of the program, something that I hope to see more of.

In Summary:
Rozen Maiden doesn't come blazing out of the gate but it does come out with a very solid opener. There is plenty to be curious about here as the back story that's slowly being filled in is interesting if familiar. The hooks of the designs and the relationships between the cast works far better early on here however. Though some aspects of it are plainly obvious about how they'll progress, others are much more curious. The nature of the dolls and the harem-like aspect can let the series play with the concept nicely and do some neat things that would be harder to do with "real" women. With both TV seasons being licensed and release together this removes a good deal of the uncertainty about it. Rozen Maiden has a solid premise and the execution is spot on, making me want to see more of it to see if they can pull it off.

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

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.

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