Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen – 02

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It’s fair to say the second episode was much closer to what I was expecting from Rozen Maiden: Zurückspulen than the first.

In hindsight, the direction this series was going should have been fairly obvious, though I confess I didn’t see it coming.  It certainly reveals the double-meaning of the “Rewind” title in a very clever way.  This episode was the very antithesis of the first in pretty much every way – rather than a blisteringly-paced focus on the original timeline we got a thoughtful, somber reflection on a new old character and the black hole his life has become.  If the premiere was the showcase of director Hatakeyama Mamoru, this episode belonged to writer Mochizuki Tomomi.

What we don’t have yet, of course, is an explanation of just why there are two of Sakurada Jun out there in different timelines – only that there are, and that the fork in the road was when that letter arrived and the boy chose to circle one option or the other.  Given what that young boy was like when Shinku came into his life, it’s not hard to imagine that what we saw this week was how things might have gone if she hadn’t.  As crazy and dangerous as his life became, it was the presence of the Rozen Maidens that jolted Jun from his hikikomori existence, one which could very easily have seen him as a college student with no friends and a depressing apartment, the subject of mockery from his boss and his fellow students for his lack of social graces.

I’m sure this episode wasn’t to everyone’s tastes.  To say it’s not a typical Rozen Maiden ep in tone is an understatement – there aren’t even any Rozen Maidens in it, apart from scattered body parts and a few pictures.  But this is the sort of material that Mochizuki-sensei simply owns – lots of silent, empty spaces  in the narrative and inhabiting the mind of someone uncomfortable in their own skin.  I thought it did a masterful job of painting the picture of an isolated, meaningless existence – a kind of slow death that’s probably all too common among members of Japan’s lost generation.  The only people this Sakurada Jun seems to have any contact with are his scumbag bookstore manager (Sudou Shou) and his co-worker Saitou (an excellent Takamori Natsumi).  She’s a timid girl working her way through theater school, and the only one who tries to get Jun to open up a little – mostly to no avail, although there are signs of a small breakthrough during a walk home from work.

Given all this it’s no surprise that Jun takes an interest in the strange “How to Make Girls!” book from an unknown publisher that shows up in the bookstore (I worked as a shipper/receiver at a bookstore, and I can verify that many weird things passed through that back room).  Jun clearly knows something is wrong – there are echoes in the Rozen Maiden instruction manuals that strike a chord with him, and when he sees the “Wind/Not Wind” question on a page, something stirs in him.  Even so it’s still a shock when he seems to receive an email from his middle-school self, telling him about the split in timelines and the Alice Game.  The younger Jun seems just about to tell the older about the danger he’s in when his mails are suddenly cut off (quite chillingly portrayed by Hatakeyama and Sound Director… Mochizuki Tomomi).

It seems as if in its own way this was every bit as much of a setup episode as the premiere, albeit done in a completely different style.  Now that the framework of both realities has been established the story can truly begin, and some of the mysteries be addressed.  It seems as if both Juns are “real” at least in some sense, though just how the one found – never mind emailed – the other is one of those mysteries.  It also remains to be seen whether the series will switch between the two realities and the perspectives of the two Juns, or focus on the elder and his quest to act on the warnings from his younger self.  With the talent this show has behind the camera I’m expecting something quite dark, psychologically complex and challenging – perhaps a series that will sufficiently diverge from the original RM stylistic template to displease a sizeable portion of the fanbase.  My expectations were quite high going in, and after this episode I’m more convinced than before that they’re likely to be met with something really interesting and atmospheric.

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  1. G

    I really liked this episode. It was miles better then the 1st. They should have put up on the screen in that 1st episode "What has gone on before" or some such so old/new viewers would know it was a recap episode and not how the whole series was going to be.

    From what I can see we have multiple universes or worlds connected by that Rosen dimension where that last doll with no body comes from (a central hub of some kind with other worlds/timelines that branch off from it and all are slightly different). If you were a fan of either Doctor Who or Fringe the concept is basically the same.

  2. R

    This is one awesome episode — I was hooked. It's pretty brilliant to see how Jun changed from feeling disengaged, spiteful and detached to becoming obsessed. His interaction with Saitou was wonderfully written, giving us glimpses of who Saitou is and showing us signs of the changed Jun.

    I have never watched Rozen Maiden before. Comments of the previous seasons were mixed, and — because of my preconceived notion of the story — I never found the interest watching some gothic lolita dolls fight or — even worse — how the human mediums develop romantic feelings for the loli dolls. I am drawn to the show now because of Mochizuki Tomomi. Clearly, his magic is powerful — I changed from being on the verge of dropping this show to feeling hooked in one episode. Well, I have to admit that I don't mind the zero appearance of the Rozen Maidens, but they definitely will be in the spotlight again soon. I think I can take that if the future episodes will be handled the way that it was for this episode, and I want to see more interactions between Jun and Saitou.

  3. It's true, as someone who isn't that much of a fan of the original RM and its sequel it doesn't bother me at all not to see the dolls for a week. I'd be very pleased if the series focused on Jun and Saitou for the rest of the series, though of course that won't happen. I suspect, though, that the core audience will feel considerably less charitable.

  4. R

    That's true; otherwise, the title should be changed…lol.

  5. A

    I love the original rozen maiden series but I find this very interesting. Time will tell which one I will like better. Kirakishou being there definitely gets me excited xD

  6. p

    Like you and many others here, my knowledge of Rozen Maiden before watching this show was limited to knowing that it has been a very big influence on anime and manga culture since the original manga's release over a decade ago. Like you and many others here, I also watched the first episode feeling somewhat exhausted at the director's frantic attempt at summarizing the entire premise of the Rozen Maiden universe in 20 short minutes.

    Which is why I, like you and many others here, was also surprised by how elegant and absorbing this second episode was. Director Mamoru Hatakeyama displayed an extremely rare sense of restraint here. The way he used silence and background noises also created a very atmospheric episode, which did wonders in creating a picture of (in your words) an "isolated, meaningless existence". I could have imagined dozens of different ways this episode could have panned out in the hands of different directors. Imagine, for instance, Akiyuki Shinbo, with his genetically-predisposed inability to stay still for even one moment, working on this material. Under Mamoru Hatakeyama's directorship, though, we get the opportunity to watch an unusually mature piece of work (unusually mature for TV anime, at least). It is probably the best TV anime episode I have seen thus far this past year.

    Needless to say, my expectations for this show have skyrocketed, thanks to this episode. At the same time, I feel a little worried. The show will only be 13 episodes long. It would be very unlikely, considering the plot-driven nature of this show, for there to be any more immersive episodes like this in the show's future. Which, if true, would be too bad, because it seems like this would be the perfect story material for 20+ episodes.

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