The concept of infinite Shinku’s is frightening.
What They Say:
Each decision we make in life leads us down a different path. Have you ever wondered what would be if the path not chosen weren’t lost to the chaos of the universe? For Jun Sakurada, just such an opportunity is presented to him in his darkest hour: a chance to communicate with a future version of himself who did not win the key and bring forth the Rozen Maidens, and a chance to fix the shattered remains of his own world.
For Jun-who-did-not-win, the messages from his younger self represent a beacon of light in his mediocre and disappointing existence. When the adult Jun discovers a box with parts and building instructions for a familiar red-dressed doll, the goal becomes clear: revive Shinku in his world to save both worlds from succumbing to the evils of Kirakisho, the seventh Rozen Maiden in a desperate search for a body and master. The Alice Game will become a war of dimensions as two worlds hang by the threads of fate.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is rather straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded at 224kbps. The series is one that has its minor moments of action in it, especially in the last couple of episodes, but for the most part it’s a pretty dialogue driven piece. There are some areas where through the mystery of the N-Field that we get the cast in unusual positions, but largely things come down to one or two people talking at a time and little in the way of placement for it as it favors a center channel approach. The action is where things expand a bit more, which is aided by the swell of the music in several scenes, and the opening and closing sequences add a bit more overall warmth to it as it gives it a bit bigger of a feeling. Overall, it’s a decent mix and one that’s free of problems but it’s also not one that really stands out all that much.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episode series is spread across three discs in a four/five/four format that gives each disc a bit of space to work with. Animated by Studio Deen, the series largely adheres to the designs of the previous series done by Nomad, but it also gets to make its own mark by the storyline here. Unfortunately, whether its the source materials or the encoding, the end result here is one that simply does not look good. The main offender is the amount of line noise in many of the scenes, particularly in the bangs of most of the characters and during a lot of panning sequences. It’s not a constant but it’s certainly there throughout and quite distracting. Adding to that is the color design for the series as it goes for a murkier palette and there’s a lot of noise that comes from it, particularly with the red of Shinku’s outfit and a lot of the other greens and browns. We also get some decent banding in a few scenes that’s part of the source in the background. It’s a transfer that’s reminiscent of what we used to get a decade or so ago more for older shows rather than what we normally get for new series today, even on DVD.
The packaging for this release brings us the show in a standard sized DVD case that holds all three discs with one against the interior wall and the other two on a hinge. The front cover is an appealing one as we get the image of Shinku with the deep greens and reds of thorns and vines behind her while framing it with some nice gold ornate work in the corners. The logo is kept to the classic style and that has a real taste of elegance to it as well. The back cover goes for a dark approach that works well as it uses the same style of framing of gold around it where we get a lot of nice shots from the show and a good breakdown of what’s included in terms of episodes and discs. Add in the premise being well covered and you know what you’re getting into. The remainder is given over to the production credits and the clean technical grid that covers everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice as we get three pieces that work off the same framework but adjust nicely for each on. The layout has the navigation along the left with big font listings of the episodes by name/title and then submenus for the language and any special feature options that may be there. Each disc uses a different color scheme to tie to the artwork, such as a forest green one with the first that focuses on Suiseiseki as we get a nice image of her along the right side. It’s standard static menu material but it works well to show off the character artwork and to provide a decent bit of variety across the discs. Submenus load quickly and easily and we didn’t have any issues with language setup.
The only extras for this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Adapting the second manga series from Peach-Put for the property, Rozen Maiden: Zuruckspulen is a thirteen episode series that was a surprise to arrive since it came seven years after the last couple of OVAs were produced and just under ten years since the first series. Gaps like that always feel unusual, but there’s a welcome chance to revisit a property that one may have liked before. And I did like the original Rozen Maiden series, especially as I had a number of friends who got into the ball jointed dolls because of it and got to understand that hobby fairly well. With this new series, it has its own challenges to face, most of which really come from the story itself as it works off of the ten volumes of manga that it’s based off of, but also the visual aspects as we get a different studio working on it with a different design aesthetic.
This series is one that’s definitely quite different in its goals and intention and how it’s going to go about doing everything. There’s an odd sense of things from the start as the first episode essentially feels like a condensed recap that’s been rewritten in a different way, compressed in terms of time elements involved, that ends up throwing us into a position where we learn of the seventh doll that’s out there, Kirakishou, who never actually made it into doll form physically but looks like one as she resides in that strange N-Field realm that the dolls travel through to get places. Because of the way events played out for Jun as he accepted the dolls into his life, the girls found themselves in disarray within the N-Field and Jun himself is hiding within it with Kanaria of all the dolls, trying to figure out a way to deal with Kirakishou and what she represents.
It’s got a very weird feeling about it as it takes a familiar but different approach to what we had before and with the compressed aspect of it, but it goes even weirder after that because it advances things by several years in a different timeline. With Jun originally getting the letter that asked him to choose to either accept the girls in his life or not, this is the one where he said no. And his life largely went forward in a quiet and introverted way. Jun’s now college age at a third rate college where he’s struggling to deal with being there as even in this place he’s an outcast. He works in a small shop of a bookstore chain where he likes a woman named Saito who works there while also having to cope with a manager that basically berates and mis-manages him while taking advantage of him the whole time. Jun is largely ground down here and it’s pretty sad and oppressive with how his life has turned out.
Things start to change for him though when he has to deal with a box of books that his boss can’t get returned and he discovers that it’s a series of magazines about how to build a rozen maiden doll. He’s not hugely interested at first, but the more he goes through the books, he realizes that he wants to do this and begins the process of creating one. His introvert ways makes it easy for him to start skipping classes and focusing on this as he puts the parts together and we also get some brief flashbacks to his youth where we see his artistic skill and its importance to him but also how it was something that caused him a lot of anxiety. Combine all of this with his continued interest in Saito and the way the two of them slowly interact a little more with each other, largely coming from her since she’s trying to connect with someone she thinks is one of those nice guys, and you get a decent understanding of who this Jun is, this character that didn’t get involved in the rozen maidens, the Alice Game or any of that craziness.
But this older Jun eventually does discover it as he finishes putting the doll together and Shinku comes to life. Which has her promptly turning him into her temporary servant. As it turns out, this is the Shinku that was thrust into the N-Field that has found a way to try and connect with Jun here to get the help they need to stop Kirakishou. And it even involves some conversation between young Jun and older Jun at times until it comes to them working together in person. But that takes time to get there as a lot of the show revolves around the slow build relationship that forms with this very isolated Jun and Shinku. It expands things some with Suigintou making her way into this world in order to carry on with the Alice Game, not realizing the stakes have changed. Suigintou takes pride in her being broken, but as she learns more about Kirakishou and what she really represents, it’s fun to see her turn a bit about what’s going on.
I really don’t know what to make of this series. At its core, the theme of it is about the unseen choices that we make in life and what they can do and represent. We see that play out with the way Jun’s life has gone and the final episode shows us a whole lot more of it, but that’s a kind of simplistic theme when you get down to it. The show proved very hard to get into from the start because of the way it worked the compressed reworking of what had happened before with the dolls and then excising pretty much all of them outside of Shinku and Suigintou for the bulk of the series. The focus on the older and largely lifeless Jun is supposed to be about how this breathes life into him, but he’s such a flat character that has so many opportunities pass by him that he doesn’t even acknowledge that you really have a hard time rallying around him. Shinku treats him the same as she does younger Jun, so there’s continuity there, but there also doesn’t feel like any real urgency on her part when it comes to figuring out how to deal with Kirakishou.
Kirakishou isn’t all that engaging of a protagonist in the series either since she, like most of the other characters, has a minor role for most of it before it picks up in the later half. There’s an appeal with her design, the thorns and the use of the N-Field with it being covered in oh so many doll parts, but the end result is that the character was just too one-dimensional for me. Rozen Maiden in its previous forms had a certain kind of logical consistency with what it was doing, but this one really feels like it’s working from a very loose approach. It also doesn’t help that if you were a fan of some of the dolls other than Shinku or Suigintou, you’re kind of out of luck here. Hinaichigo makes out the worst and Kanara has her moments but that’s about it. Souseiseki and Suiseiseki only get their time in the last couple of episodes. In the end though, it’s Jun that defines this show and the weirdness in the two versions of him talking across different splinter points is interesting, but it all plays back to that very simple theme about choices rather than a real exploration of things.
Rozen Maiden: Zuruckspulen was a series that was a surprise announcement, but it’s one that I think only a certain segment of fans will enjoy. In fact, I suspect that those without all the background of the other series will get more out of this than those who have invested in it before. There’s so much time spent trying to reconcile things in ones mind that you kind of miss out a bit on what’s going on here. But in the end, what’s going on here didn’t interest me all that much since the lead of college age Jun Sakurada just isn’t all that interesting. It also doesn’t help that there are encoding issues that can take you out of the presentation as well since you see the character designs moving when they shouldn’t be, or not as smooth in the line work as it should be. But in the end, it’s the story that counts and the one here is too drawn out and not one that I think fans of the original were looking for. It’s the first instance of this property to actually leave me feeling pretty cold about it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.