Anime Review: Rozen Maiden Traumend

When I looked at the back of the box for FUNimation’s rerelease of Rozen Maiden Traumend, I literally laughed out loud. Of all the good things that review sites have said about the series, they selected one quote in particular to write on the box:

“Very Enjoyable” – AnimeOnDVD.com

Very enjoyable?

Very enjoyable is the type of thing that I would put in my review when I thought an anime or manga series was entertaining, but not necessarily all that great. For example, I’ve said that Venus Versus Virus and Venus Capriccio were both “enjoyable” series. So reading this quote on the back of the box read more to me like:

“Meh… it’s alright, I guess…”

But being a closeted fan of the manga artist group Peach Pit, I was very interested in seeing this series. So I popped in this 12 episode series to find out for myself that it was, in fact, very enjoyable.

Rozen Maiden Traumend picks up where the original series left off. Former hikikomori Jun is now going back to school, and his house is filled with the living doll Shinku and her lively “sisters.” But the peace doesn’t last for long as the dolls are pressured to fulfill their purpose in life – to battle each other until only one survives. Once a doll has won this battle game, she will become Alice and then will meet the creator known to them as Father. Can the sisters continue to ignore the game and live in peace, or is it time for them to finally destroy each other?

I don’t know why I love Peach Pit so much. Maybe it’s because of their characters, as each one of the dolls have their own unique personality and they’re all quite charming and likable. Maybe it’s the dynamics in their story telling, as Rozen Maiden mixes in both dark and light moments with great pacing and timing between the two. Or maybe it’s in their fanservice, as the female duo of artist know all the right buttons to push to satisfy their male readers.

Gothic-lolita is the weapon of choice for Peach Pit in this series, and they execute it well enough to make Rozen Maiden yet another guilty pleasure to this blogger. The fanservice is not so overtly sexual, but plays with the idea of an owner-and-toy fetish between the dolls and the humans. And most of the time, it’s not often clear who is the dominant one in the relationship.

But it’s possible that Rozen Maiden might be a bit too gothic-lolita. While something like Venus Versus Virus just dabbled in the style, Rozen Maiden absolutely exploits it to the n’th degree. It gets to a point that the idea of gothic-lolita becomes the central focus of the show, and it begins to overshadow the story and plot. Having such an overwhelming style is not good for an anime series.

I was also a little disappointed in the R1 release itself. Traumend was one of the last (if not the last) series that Geneon Entertainment released before going completely under in December 2007. In fact, Geneon only released the first DVD. FUNimation rescued the title in mid 2008 and finally released the final two DVDs later that year.

But even in this brand new box set, which contains the three previous discs into one case, you can tell that Geneon was reaching the end of their rope in this release. The cut backs are very evident as none of the credits are translated and extras are slim-to-none on all three discs. And the English adaptation must have also come at a bargain price as well…

While I’m watching an anime DVD with bilingual audio tracks, I tend to alternate between Japanese and English with each episode. When I first started listening to the Japanese track, I was shocked to find out a whole new element to the series that was not present in the English version.

Most of the dolls have very peculiar speech patterns that serve as part of their identity and their charms. Souseiseki uses a very gruff and blunt masculine tone in her speech. Hinaichigo talks very childish and frequently drops the nonsense word “unyuu” in the middle of her sentences. And Suiseiseki’s speech pattern of overusing the Japanese copula “desu” has gone on to become a huge internet meme.

I think that these patterns are actually a very important part of the Japanese version, yet none of this is present in the English adaptation. All the dolls speak normally with no particular speech patterns. I even flipped on the subtitles to find nothing there as well. While I understand it would be an odd thing to translate into English, I feel a little cheated that it’s not there at all.

* * *

The Good: Lovable characters, even pacing and storytelling, and guilty pleasure fanservice.

The Bad: Gothic-lolita theme too overwhelming, none of the Japanese nuances make it into the adaptation.

Final Verdict: Despite some very glaring flaws in style and production, Peach Pit provide yet another entertaining 12 episode series with Rozen Maiden Traumend. To quote a much more popular review site, it’s “very enjoyable.” ;-)

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