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Rozen Maiden: Ouverture UK Anime DVD Review

8 min read

There was a reason why Suigintou and Shinku hated each other in the series. This explains what that reason was. Also features Shinku hiding from a cat.

What They Say:
Journey back to 19th century London and the birth of the Rozen Maidens to witness the cruel and tragic origin of Rozen’s first doll, and how, even when left abandoned and unfinished, she still fought her own way to the Rosa Mystica and the Alice Game! But leave what you think you know behind, for this is Suigintou’s story, and what she has to say may surprise you.

The Review:
Audio/Video:
The video quality throughout the OVA is high for a DVD release, with the characters and animation looking clean and crisp throughout the running time. I didn’t come across any issues whilst viewing the series in either English or Japanese dub for either the audio or the video. I did however notice that the subtitles aren’t always correct and occasionally make little sense, an issue which should really have been looked over before the release. The audio is also consistent in both dubs, with no notable errors or feedback, whilst the voice acting is always clearly audible over sound effects and background music. There are only options for English and Japanese 2.0 dubs however, with no 5.1 options.

Menu:
The menu for Rozen Maiden Ouverture is a relatively simple one, featuring the artwork from the front of the DVD cover of Suigintou, the logo for the series and a bar containing the options available on the release in white. Each of the tabs is highlighted yellow when selected, allowing for easy tracking of the cursor. The ending song for the OVA (Utsusemi no Kage by Kukui) plays on repeat on the main title screen, whilst the sub menus are silent. The menu for episode select features another image of Suigintou whilst the setup menu includes an image of Shinku. The trailers option goes straight into the trailer reel, whilst Play All does pretty much what it says it will do. Everything on the menu works as intended and, whilst simple, does what it needs to do effectively.

Extras:
Nothing. Seriously, there are just a couple of trailers for other shows. That’s it. Not even creditless openings or anything.

Content:
Rozen Maiden Ouverture is a short OVA which is designed to show the back-story behind the relationship between Shinku and Suigintou. During the main series of Rozen Maiden, it is obvious that the two dolls had known each other prior to the events which occur during the show, but it is never explained what exactly happens or why there is a bitter rivalry between them. The first episode mostly keeps with the same kind of themes and feel of the early episodes of the series, a few action sequences with some light hearted comedy, such as Shinku hiding herself in a closet after a cat takes a bit too much of an interest in her. The episode concludes with Suigintou meeting with Shinku, introducing herself and promptly ending.

It isn’t immediately clear as to why the two dolls don’t get on until the very climax of the OVA, with a good portion of the second episode revolving around Suigintou and Shinku’s relationship building up as friends, with Shinku helping Suigintou out. However it doesn’t last, with truths being revealed and fights occurring, eventually leading to Suigintou believing that Shinku betrayed her about everything that she ever did and never cared for her. Not being the sanest of dolls, Suigintou doesn’t take this too lightly, fights ensue and the reason for their rivalry becomes clear.

Told entirely from the viewpoint of Souseiseki, everything that needs to be concluded gets done, explaining the history both to the main character of the series Jun, and to the viewer.  Due to the focus on Shinku and Suigintou’s relationship, they take the centre stage for the majority of the OVA, with the other dolls and Jun making little more than cameo appearances. The exception to this being Souseiseki, who plays a somewhat larger role in the story, being included in many of the action sequences. Despite having appearances from all of the other characters, the almost exclusive focus on developing two of the most important characters within the series is not only an interesting story in itself, but also adds a lot to the rivalry present in the original series.

Not only is it arguable that the information and development present in the OVA, released a significant amount of time after the main series even when it originally aired, should’ve been included in the main story, but it’s also some of the best material in the franchise as a whole. After watching the whole of the first season, you probably just thought of Suigintou as any other ‘tragic’ antagonist type character, something obviously happened but there’s not much reason as to find out why or what it was exactly, it was just enough to know that she really doesn’t like the other girls. This two episode OVA alone changes that. It gives Suigintou development and many layers of it at that. Not only does it develop her character by giving her a reason for her to dislike Shinku, but it also shows that she wasn’t always like that, showing the events which led up to the collapse of their friendship and the events which occurred. Not only does it develop Suigintou’s side of the story, but it also gives Shinku a legitimate reason to dislike her in return, something very much untouched upon in the main series other than the simple action of self defence. The overall tone of the OVA is also a lot less bright and positive in comparison to the series and, for the story, this works well.

There are a few standout issues with the OVA though, which have quite an impact on the score I will be giving it. One of the main problems here is the length of the OVA and, whilst this allows for the key plot points to be put forward and the necessary elements to play out, there could’ve been a lot more done with it. The ending of the OVA seems like a bit of a Deus Ex Machina, with Suigintou and Shinku just starting to fight each other before being cut off and forced to slumber almost immediately by the appearance of Laplace, being told to await the next Alice Game before they can continue. It seems like there should’ve been more to it but it was restricted by the episode count, which is disappointing as it had a lot of potential for more exposition and some awesome action sequences. Talking of action sequences, the fights in Ouverture are both a strong point and a negative at the same time. Obviously a lot of the OVA’s budget went into the fight sequences as everything plays out with lovely, smooth animation quality, being visually impressive throughout their time span. The first of the Souseiseki fights is by far the longest, at around a minute and a half, and the only one which exceeds around 20 seconds. This is especially evident as mentioned before by the finale of the OVA, which builds up for an epic fight between Shinku and Suigintou just for it to simply not happen at all, making the viewer crave more without being able to provide anything to sate that need. This leads into my other significant complaint about the OVA, that being the pacing. For an OVA about Suigintou and Shinku, it seems a little odd that they decided to have the two characters meet up for the first time right at the end of the first episode.  The amount of exposition and development in the second episode felt a little bit rushed within the time period, whilst the first episode dragged a little with scenes which didn’t feel particularly necessary. If the characters had met around the halfway point of the first episode and the plot progressed as it does from there on, it would’ve allowed for the later parts of the second episode to be expanded upon and developed, whereas with the current pacing they feel a little rushed and compacted.

In regards to the technical aspects of the show, the quality is a bit higher than that of the series. The animation is clean throughout, with no noticeable off-model shots or animation errors (at least this time Suigintou doesn’t have six fingers) whilst the art style of the OVA remains the same as the series. All of the background music is reused from the main series, with no new compositions or music aside from the opening and ending themes. Voice acting is also very solid throughout, with the English dub being very much listenable and well performed.

Overall, if you’re a fan of Rozen Maiden, this is definitely worth the time to watch. It adds a surprising amount to the series despite its length and, on top of that, also has some of the best quality writing and directing in the franchise. Even for those who watched Rozen Maiden and thought it was OK, I’d recommend giving it a shot, partially because of the length and partially because it’s a step up in quality, especially if the comedy or other characters attributed in any way to reducing your enjoyment of the series. It has some pacing issues and an extra episode or two could’ve helped out too, but for a two episode OVA it did a good job in adding that little bit extra to the Rozen Maiden franchise, further developing one of the most interesting characters within the series and expanding the history of the dolls and the Alice Game a little more. Whilst I would recommend watching at least the first series of Rozen Maiden before picking up Ouverture, I’d also recommend it for fans of Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) and Gosick.

In Summary:
Rozen Maiden Ouverture is designed to add a little more depth and background to the rivalry between two main characters in the series. Not only does it achieve this aim, but it manages to surpass expectations whilst doing so.   Despite its length and some pacing issues, it manages to construct an interesting and effective story which adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the central conflict within the Rozen Maiden franchise. It does rely on some prior knowledge to the characters and plot of the series but for those who have enjoyed the main story, this OVA is very much worth the short period of time it takes to watch.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B-
Video Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-

Released By: MVM Entertainment
Release Date: November 5th 2012
Running Time: 50 Minutes
Price: £11.99

Review Equipment:
23” Samsung HDTV, Creative speakers and Sub, PlayStation 3.

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