What They Say:
When Shinku arrives in a box at Jun Sakurada’s house, he has no idea how much his life is about to change. That’s because she’s only the first of several magical Rozen Maidens who are going to invade the secluded life he has made for himself since he stopped attending school. Unfortunately, fixing everything that’s wrong with Jun is going to have to take a back seat to making sure that Shinku survives the Alice Game, a competition that pits Rozen Maiden against Rozen Maiden for the prize of becoming a real girl, while the losers’ life essence is drained and they become lifeless toys again. Now, in order to win this deadly game, Jun and Shinku will have to find a way to work together. But to do that they’ll have to start trusting each other first! Get ready for a whole new kind of ‘guys and dolls’ as ‘action figure’ takes on a new meaning in ROZEN MAIDEN – THE COMPLETE COLLECTION!
Recorded in both Japanese and English DD 2.0, the soundtrack has an atmospheric quietness. When coming from TV speakers, the soundstage has spatial separation. While the theme music tends to be the fullest sound, English dialog seems to be a bit more frontstage than some of the Japanese dialog. There were times I questioned if the dialog had been artificially muted as I had an odd feeling that I needed to adjust the volume. This could be scenes engineered to give a slight distortion to create auditory mood. Either way, the Japanese soundtrack seems to have softer dialog than the English track.
With Rozen Maiden originally aired in 2004, Rozen Maiden: Träumend in 2005 and 2006, and Rozen Maiden: Ouvertüre aired at the end of 2006, all episodes are presented in widescreen, anamorphic 16×9. No artifacts were obvious from a normal viewing distance. I did notice several scenes when a long curved line had an aliasing effect. As the artwork offers broad areas of solid colors, the effect seemed rich and saturated, very good for a DVD.
The 26 episodes come on five discs held in a standard size keepcase with two hinged leaves with hubs on front and back and a fifth hub on the inside back cover. Each disc has been printed with an image of Rozen Maidens: Shingu on disc 1, Shingu and another Maiden on discs 2-4, and Suigintou on Disc 5. The artwork is clean and appears to be cropped from previously released original art.
A reversible cover is the best feature of the packaging. On one side, the front cover has the Sentai Selects brand across the top with a large image of Suigintou and Shinku standing with arms crossed and determined expressions. The spine has the title in white font on a frame with a bust of Shinku at the bottom. The back cover is busy with roses framing a violet banner including the three series titles and number of episodes in each. The font is a contrasting red and black outlined with white. The summary is written in small white font on a dark background made less clear by faux filigree. Ten scenes from the series appear at the sides.
Special features are written in tiny font below the summary, and the credits, copyright, and technical grid have high contrast and are easy to read.
The reverse side offers a more fluid and representational image with painterly character designs. The front cover has a large image of Shinku looking past the viewer, her hair flows and she holds rose petals in her right hand. The top half of the spine has a full body image of Hina-ichigo. A frame with the title covers her from the waist down and is centered on the bottom half. On the back are images of Souseiseki, Suiseiseki, and Suigintou. The titles and episode numbers of the three series are printed over Suigintou’s dress, and all company logos and copyright information is printed on the bottom ¾ of an inch. This presentation offers a calmer, more fluid visual that reflects the calmer elements of the show.
All menus have a character portrait framed with colored filigree on the left, and on the right episodes stacked vertically with simple and clear black and red fonts. A rose icon is used for selecting. Disc 1’s menu features Shinku and Hina-Ichigo, 2 Shinku and Jun, 3 Shinku with Suigintou, 4 Shinku and Souseiseki, and 5 features a sad Shinku.
Contains clean opening and closing animations
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Rozen Maiden Complete Collection offers two very different experiences in one set. The first season offers a tale about a middle school hikikomori who has to learn to function for the sake of others, and the second season and OVAs offers a story from the point of view of the supernatural dolls.
When I first watched season 1 on the 2008 season 1 boxset, I didn’t feel the need to buy the second series. I thought that the story had reached the limit of the hikikomori arc and that any further story would be a tiring retread. I was wrong. The shift in the series to follow the development of the supernatural dolls not only changes the series to a mystery/drama, it builds the character depth in the first series by amplifying the personalities through world building.
Season 1 offers a timely story about a young man, Jun, who has become a hikikomori, a shut-in who controls his anxieties by never leaving home. His interaction with the world comes in the form of ordering junk novelties and returning them to the seller. One of his packages contains a doll, Shinku, in a Victorian style red dress and bonnet. Upon winding Shinku, he forms a contract that makes the doll his responsibility and allows her to feed from his energy. What follows fits the standard shonen cycle.
Shinku is one of the Rozen Maidens, dolls given a life force, Rosa Mystica, by their maker Rozen. The maidens have been sent into the world with instructions to battle and collect the others’ Rosa Mysticas. Only when a doll collects all the Rosa Mysticas will she become a real human girl. Through the first series other dolls come to interact with Shinku, and they team up to face common enemies. But from the beginning, we know Jun’s character will be the center of the primary action.
Jun sits in his room and, with a nasty attitude, orders his older sister Nori around. She tries her best to placate him, but her concern for him doesn’t translate into helping him. When Nori says something supportive, Jun snaps back to shut her up. The viewer can tell he feels embarrassed both by his situation and his sister’s attempts to help him. When Shinku enters Jun’s life, she orders him around. At first, the doll seems to be a convenient foil for Jun’s behavior toward his sister, but as the series progresses, her behavior becomes much more complex and goal oriented. Jun has little choice as he can either help Shinku and himself or allow Shinku to operate on her own, risking his own life.
Nowhere in the series does the threat to Jun feel real. Instead, the real drama comes from watching Jun face his fears and interact with others while learning about and supporting Shinku. The series has three primary settings. First is Jun’s home. The dolls and Jun spend most of their time in a very realistic and domestic space. As settings go, it allows the character interactions to develop more naturally, even when cartoon situations develop, the domestic space stays small enough that the scenes feel like children have let their imagination spill over in reality.
Our second main setting is a world of imagination, the N-field. Every person, and doll, creates their own psychic world, and by passing through a mirror or a reflective puddle, the dolls can move through the N-field. Throughout the original series, the mirror hidden away in a closet acts as a definite threat. This setting becomes more significant when Rozen Maiden: Träumend begins and the focus of the show moves to Shinku. I’m not sure it would be fair to call the second series a magical girl anime, but characters’ participation in the Alice Game becomes the primary thread of the show. This time, Shinku has to come to terms with her direction in life and decide whether or not to follow the rules she has been dealt. As the series goes on, each doll must choose her path and determine the worth of returning to Rozen.
Rozen Maiden operates in a thinly veiled psychoanalytic world. The creepy desire that drives the dolls is to return to father, to be held and feel his warmth. This seems to play off Carl Jung’s theory of the Electra complex. This is the female equivalent of the Freudian Oedipal complex. This theory states that a girl will compete with the mother for the father’s love. Since there is no mother for the maidens, they compete with each other to become a real, physical, and mature girl. When Shinku starts to question the rules of the competition, she seems to mature and feel both in control and accepting of her sister dolls. Other heavy-handed symbols include the antagonistic doll made without a torso and left incomplete and Laplace’s Demon, a trickster who both undermines and moves the dolls forward on their journey. Another vein of Freudian thought is Lacan’s mirror. Not to get sidetracked, the mirror and reflective surfaces that allows them to travel through space and time allows the characters to confront their selves in a psychic landscape. While this symbolism might not mean much to most viewers, it will make much of the show creepy for those who have or will read psychoanalytic theory in college.
Rozen Maiden’s world has a depth and complexity that makes it special. The first season follows a traditional arc as the antihero learns to grow up and be a useful part of society. The second series builds on the personalities of the dolls and takes it down an action/drama path. While a certain audience may like one season more than the other, the strength of the series is that after watching the second season, the dolls’ personalities, drives, and actions become clearer when reflecting on the first season.
I’m not sure if this is the best series for someone wanting to be passively entertained, but it is a great collection for those who might want to savor the the rose-colored complexities.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing Animations
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 14th, 2016
Running Time: 650 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.