First Impressions: Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen

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 Watching this episode, I kind of felt like David Bowman in the Stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey

OP: “Watashi no Bara wo Kuuminasai (私の薔薇を喰みなさい)” by ALI PROJECT

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It’s been a long time since I’ve watched any Rozen Maiden anime – even longer since the events of this episode were covered – and I’ve never read any of the Peach-Pit manga on which it’s based.  To top that off I was never a huge fan of the series to being with, but more of a casual viewer, which means relatively little detail has stayed with me.  So an episode like this, which seems to condense pretty much all of the first season (though I don’t think there’s much of Traumend, the second full season) into 22 minutes, was bewilderingly fast to say the least.  I’m not going to bother even trying to recap the plot – if they couldn’t successfully do it in an anime episode I sure as hell can’t in a couple of paragraphs.  Hopefully you know the material better than me, and there are resources to check out if you don’t.

Setting aside the question of whether or not this was a good way to start is difficult, because without knowing where this season is going it’s hard to know what this premiere needed to accomplish.  The translation of the German title is “Rewind” which is vague enough to allow any possibility, pretty much, and the re-design and re-casting of MC Sakurada Jun certainly implies this will be something of a sequel to the first series at the very least.  Being as it’s written by the legendary writer/director Mochizuki Tomomi, I have pretty high expectations for the new material I assume will begin next week.

If anything should have been clear from watching last Spring’s underrated Sankarea, it’s that Deen is capable of producing a great-looking anime and director Hatakeyama Mamoru (or Omata Shinichi – I have no idea why he’s alternatively listed under both names) is capable of producing an anime of great style.  Sankarea had issues – mostly connected to the one-cour length – but Hatakeyama-sensei did a masterful job with visuals and atmosphere.  He’s a SHAFT veteran and seems to embody the best elements of the SHAFT style without the excesses, and he’s the other half of the reason why I singled out this show as one to watch this season based mostly on staff.  And with Mochizuki-sensei’s hands more or less tied in the premiere, it’s Hatakeyama’s work that stands out.

While I never considered it a great series, there’s no question that Rozen Maiden is an important one.  In terms of look and theme it’s one of the more copied franchises of the 2000’s, a trend-setter in the realms of goth and moe which flowered into great prominence in anime in Rozen Maiden’s wake.  Those earlier series were made by Nomad and this one by DEEN, but it retains much of the same look in terms of the character designs and backgrounds.  In these hands though, I don’t think the franchise has ever looked better – Hatakeyama excels at the juxtaposition of beauty and disturbing imagery, and as such I think he’s a perfect fit for this series.  At it’s best Rozen Maiden is a story that’s both cute and creepy, closer to a horror series than the visuals would have you believe.  There’s a reason it’s been copied as much as it has.

On balance, there’s a pretty big gap between how this episode worked on its own terms and what I think it says about the show’s prospects.  I don’t like starting series with recap episodes, especially as this could be a one-cour show (length has not been announced), but I assume it was deemed necessary given the length of the hiatus.  Simply put this was too likely fast to be satisfying to veterans or coherent to newbies, but I think it showed off that Zurückspulen is going to be a beautiful and stylish series, and I have full confidence that Mochizuki will deliver the goods story-wise.  All the characters of import are back, centering on lead Rozen Maiden doll Shinku (Sawashiro Miyuki) and hikikomori Sakurada Jun (originally and in this episode a 13 year-old played by Sanada Asami, seemingly starting next week a young adult played by Ohsaka Ryouta).  None of the Dolls’ places in the character hierarchy seem to have changed, really – among them my favorite is the tragic tomboy Souseiseki (Morinaga “Mako-chan” Rika).  In a sense it really seems as if the series actually starts next week, and I suspect I’ll have a much better handle on what to expect after that episode – but despite the awkward opener, my high expectations are undiminished.

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ED: “Alternative” by Annabel

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  1. J

    If Katanashi saw how freaking adorable Hina-Ichigo was, oh boy. 😛

  2. i

    I never watched the rozen maiden series, thinking because of its constant presence in Saimoe that it was like Hand Maid Mai where an Otaku fantasy that figurines come alive and fall in love with their Otaku owner.

    The OP alone knocked that out, reminding me of Another (which it should as the same singer did it). Despite that some much flew past that I never understood anything. It leaves me with a conundrum: watch all previous material before moving to this season of Rozen Maiden (unlikely I'll have time to do that) or drop it, which is something I'd not do as I like horror anime as much as Josei anime. Thus I'd like to ask, "Is this a good horror series or a mix of horror with moe, comedy and harem hijinks?

  3. It's the latter, IMO, but with more horror than it looks like based on appearances.

    What – that premiere didn't make you feel totally caught up with everything that's happened with the franchise??

  4. i

    Would you compare it to Shiki/Another/Higurashi or maybe Gosick/Dantalion no Shoko? I really like the former(s) but not the latter(s). I felt it was more to the latter(s) but if I'm wrong I'll keep watching.

  5. Z

    If you're expecting horror you will likely be disappointed. RM has an undercurrent of horror (living dolls, a certain 1st doll *spoiler* etc)but is closer to an elimination game with drama and comedy aspects.

  6. Definitely not in the Shiki/Another/Higurashi vein. It relies on creepy atmosphere and cognitive dissonance more than outright horror. It is closer to Gosick/Dantalian but not really in that vein, either. I would give it a couple more eps and see if the new story grabs you at all – at the very least, I expect it to look great.

  7. S

    If you actually wanted to watch the previous material you could probably get away with just watching the first season since I think that's mostly what this season is a sequel to. Season 2 was largely anime original (For example, the main villain of the season) and I believe that the OVA was as well. Personally I really like the show so I'd say give it a shot, but that's just me. Hopefully this season goes well.

  8. X

    I was dissapointed in the new Rozen Maiden… turns out the story doesnt continue- it starts all over again with some changes… Im not so sure I want to see the next episode…
    But the OP is amazing! Ali Project created wonders again And I do want the videogame coming in the fall

    Id say it was a 5 out of ten…

  9. S

    The reason why it doesn't continue is because the anime went off into anime origional world so this first episode is an attempt to fix that and set the story again. Personally I found it a bit confusing, mainly because I had no real idea who the characters were.

  10. G

    I enjoyed the previous series and its OVAs. I felt this 1st episode was really only for fans of the show. Anyone just watching this series for the 1st time would be totally lost as the episode made no sense except to those that already know the series.

    I'm not sure that was the smartest thing to do here. Perhaps they either should have spent a couple episodes catching up or announce at the beginning of the episode that it was a recap of what has gone on before. On another note I'm sad at what what happened to Hina-Ichigo. This series can be cruel.

  11. h

    It sounds as if I watched about as much of the original series as you did. It never really clicked with me. But that means this recap episode was just what I needed. I feel a lot more in sync with the story now, even if I don't grasp all the details.

    As a fan of Mochizuki's reverse-chronology script for Touka Gettan, I'm prepared for just about any kind of Zuruckspiel he comes up with here. Starting next week….

    I'm in complete agreement about the look of this version. Very nice indeed. Since Deen did Simoun, I know they have enough talent there to do a good job when they're allowed to.

  12. R

    Too many gothic lolita floating around…

    I don't like loli, but I really like Mochizuki Tomomi's House of Five Leaves, and that's the only reason that I would check out the premier. With a story that is focused on those loli-looking dolls, I don't think any exquisite art or music will win me over unless we will see some multi-faceted round characters having meaningful purpose in a well-told story. This will be a battle for me, but I will take the challenge and explore the next couple of episodes.

  13. I

    It's best to think of this as Episode 0. All the earlier Rozen Maiden anime content deviated (very widely at times) from the manga, so they basically did a retcon+recap episode of the highlights of the first 43 manga chapters (!!!) in ~22 minutes.

    I expect this to bite them later, but I at least see (on paper) why they thought it'd be a good idea. If only to clue people in who've seen the preceding anime that what they know about Rozen Maiden isn't all relevant. I think it hurt more than it helped, though.

    Guess we'll see next week.

  14. G

    I can pretty much guarantee they lost some new viewers who had never seen the series with the way they presented this 1st episode. After reading comments on RC and other sites new viewers that wanted to give this a try said it was too confusing and decided to drop it. Its a shame they did not think this decision thru.

  15. H

    I guess I'm about the only person who thought it was pretty darn clear. I've never seen anything about Rozen Maiden before, but I wasn't confused by anything, just saw that there are things that haven't been explained yet. I thought this episode did a good job explaining what the main factors of the show are, and the primary relationships. I wasn't really expecting an introduction to all 7 dolls in the first episode, nor the (apparent) deaths of two of them, but I also thought it was an effective way of drawing up sides and setting up the power struggle.

    I'd stayed away from the series before because it had such an accumulated weight. To me, this was actually a pretty good introduction.

  16. S

    After seeing this episode. should be named recap of the wound Jun in 22 mins or less. I suspect they have done the same thing the redone of FMA did. started the serries with the motion people have watched the original, did some fix em up episode/s and continued where things left off, in this case the true 7th doll and paradox universe created on the writers strike some time ago

  17. m

    This is a season 3 but more like the manga. I love the story because it focus more on dark theme and battle scenes. This isn't scary but it is a beautifully made anime. I can't see any flaws so those who judge this 2013 Rozen Maiden badly, oh please, You haven't watched and understand this anime.

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