The Alice Game begins again as Rozen Maiden returns, but with a very unexpected twist. Will you wind up enthralled or not?
What They Say:
A Single Decision…Can Change the world.
Every choice we make leads us down a different path… but is it possible for the actions taken on one path be used to affect the choices made in another life?
In his darkest hour, Jun Sakurada receives just such an opportunity: a chance to communicate with a future version of himself who did not wind the key and bring forth the Rozen Maidens, and to fix his own shattered world. For Jun-who-did-not-wind, the messages from his younger self are a beacon of hope, and when the adult Jun discovers a box with parts and building instructions for a familiar red dressed doll, the goal becomes clear: to revive Shinku in his world and save both worlds from succumbing to the evils of Kirakisho, the seventh Rozen Maiden.
The Alice Game becomes a war of dimensions as two worlds hang by the threads of fate in ROZEN MAIDEN: ZURÜCKSPULEN!
The set comes with a Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 track and an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track both at 48kHz with a bitrate the generally stays between 2.0 and 2.4Mbps. I chose to listen to the English track for my viewing. As this is largely a dialogue-driven show, most of the work is done by the center speaker. There were no dropouts or distortions during playback. Dialogue was always clear and there were never any problems with volume or levels.
First airing in 2013, the show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78.1 (16×9) in 1080p HD using the AVC format. The video is crisp and clear without notable artifacts or problems. One feature, not a bug, of the series is the deliberately subdued color palette of the show. You do not need to adjust the color on your display. If things look a touch washed out or lacking saturation…that’s by design.
Packaging, Presentation and Menus: B
The show is spread across two discs, the first containing episodes 1-9, the second, episodes 10-13. The discs are picture labeled, with Suiseiseki on the first disc and Hinaichigo on the second (there is no rhyme or reason why these two dolls in particular receive this honor). The cover features a full scale portrait of Shinku with her winding key, which comes as no surprise since she has served as the franchise’s poster child…er…doll since the beginning. The back features an array of pictures, including a slightly larger one of Suigintou, to the left of the catalog copy, with the technical grid below. The case itself is your pretty standard Vortex Eco-Lite, with the side flap fastener and the disc hubs built into the front and back insides of the single-width case.
The menus are very simple and straightforward: the episodes are directly accessible from the main menu on the left side of the screen. On the right is a static promotional image. The OP theme plays in the background on a loop.
The only extras, included on Disc 2, are clean versions of the Opening and Closing and the usual Sentai trailers.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After two anime seasons, Rozen Maiden and Rozen Maiden: Träumend, the last one airing in 2006, it might seem that there would be no more anime adaptations from Peach-Pit’s manga Rozen Maiden. But that was before the manga duo embarked upon retelling their tale from another perspective in 2008, which eventually led to a third anime series from the franchise, Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen (the last word means “rewind” in German), based upon the new manga series. For those who have never seen anything related to the franchise before, the first episode of this new series serves as a recap for the original: Jun Sakurada is a shut-in who stays home from school and passes the days aimlessly. One day he gets a mysterious letter that merely asks “Will you wind?” or “Will you not wind?” On nothing more than a whim, Jun decides to circle the “Wind” option and the next day he is presented with a mysterious case. Inside is a fairly large ball-jointed doll dressed in Victorian (goth-loli) style, all frills and lace. Jun uses the included key to wind the doll which then comes to life…and proceeds to upbraid him for being a loser and not making a good cup of tea. This is Shinku, the fifth Rozen Maiden, a group of living dolls created by the enigmatic dollmaker Rozen. He created seven dolls who are intended by him to take part in a contest, the Alice Game, where they will battle to become the perfect girl, Alice.
In this prologue, we learn a bit more than most people who were only familiar with the two earlier anime series would know, in that doll no. 7, Kirakishou, the true seventh doll, is an astral doll, having never been given a physical body. She has now been luring the other Rozen Maidens and their masters into the N-field, the nether plane where the dolls battle and the only place she can exist. The prologue ends with Hinaichigo, the sixth doll, being eaten by Kirakishou. But all Rozen Maidens have a power core that allows them to be alive, their Rosa Mystica, and Hinaichigo manages to send hers to Shinku before it could be absorbed by Kirakishou.
But that’s all prologue and largely things that people who have some familiarity with the story already know. At this point we leave Rozen Maiden and enter the alternate world of ローゼンメイデン (Peach-Pit switched from romaji to katakana in the title to denote the change from the original series to the new one). For there is a world where Jun Sakurada did not choose to wind. In this world, Jun did eventually grow out of his hikikomori state, took an entrance exam and entered college (though without ever attending high school). But he’s become a very withdrawn and sullen young man with no apparent friends and working a dead-end job as a part-timer in a bookstore that is managed by a pimply creep who hits upon all the young women who work as part-timers at the store. The Jun who crawled out of the hole all by himself seems stuck in a world of setbacks and troubles.
Where things come into contact is when Jun gets a strange text message…from his younger, middle school self. The Jun who wound Shinku needs help: he’s been trapped in the N-field by Kirakishou. The only one who might be able to free him will be Shinku…but she too is trapped in the N-field. However, there is a way to bring Shinku into this alternate Jun’s world, by creating a replica Rozen Maiden body and temporarily transferring her Rosa Mystica into this temporary vessel. The hope being that Shinku can use this temporary body to develop a plan to reenter the N-field, free Jun and her own original body. The only complication is that Kirakishou learns of this alternate world…
If all of that is a hopelessly wordy and confusing pile of exposition…well, then this might not be the place to start with the franchise, even if you prefer high definition video and more recent animation over what was made last decade. For much of what passes in this show will only make any sense if you are already familiar with the franchise and the deeper story (the confusing mess that it is). And as it is…this series does not tell a complete story in itself, as it was made mainly to advertise the new manga series in progress which itself came to an end a year later in 2014. So, if you are coming into this thinking that you will get a final resolution to all of your questions about the Alice Game, this is not what you need (you’ll have to read the manga).
What then, would be anyone’s reason to watch?
What Zurückspulen has to offer is a bit more Rozen lore, a bit more interaction between the dolls, and a different perspective on the larger franchise. It was an interesting idea to “rewind” things back to the start and imagine a world where Jun Sakurada had never become involved with the Rozen Maidens and the Alice Game. Then, to bring the two worlds together as events in the “main” story collide with this branch world where Jun never wound Shinku as a middle schooler. As it happens, it also works out that Unwound Jun’s life begins to change as he interacts with the dolls (more dolls than Shinku eventually come to visit this world) and this in turn seems to help him interact more with the people around him. He had never mentally left the head space that put him inside his room as a child. (This series is notable too for revealing the reason for Jun’s original social isolation in middle school, an event touched upon, but not detailed, in the original anime series). But he seems to be taking steps to finally escape, the way the middle school Jun managed to escape thanks to the actions of Shinku and friends. There is a complete story here, but it’s not the story of the Alice Game and how it will finally finish. That is left on a cliffhanger yet again.
Another way in which this experience was different is that the dub was produced in-house by Sentai. The first two seasons, originally licensed by former distributor Geneon Entertainment, were dubbed at BangZoom! Entertainment, as was the OVA Ouvertüre, which was released by Sentai. The recasting is fairly good overall, with the new voices matching the characters quite well.
It’s hardly a masterpiece, but if you are a long-time fan of the franchise, it is probably required viewing, especially since at this point, no more anime will be made. If you know nothing of Rozen Maidens and the Alice Game, this is not where you should start if you wish to learn. You should wind all the way back to the beginning, with the first season, which is available as set with the second season from Sentai, on DVD.
In a world far away, Jun Sakurada didn’t wind when he was given the chance. Even though Jun has lived in a world without Rozen Maidens, he cannot escape the dolls and their conflict when the Jun who did choose to wind asks for his help. The seventh doll, Kirakishou, is trapping her sisters and their masters in the N-field, and Shinku comes into the Unwound World to escape from Kirakishou. Can the Rozen Maidens escape from the machinations of their youngest sister? Do you even understand anything that I’m saying? If not, then you must either start from the beginning (which this isn’t) or spend your time otherwise.
Content Grade: B+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 20th 2016
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Features: English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English subtitles, Sentai trailers.
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.