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DVD Review

DVD cover

Rozen Maiden Traumend
Volume 1


Starring (voice): Asami Sanada, Miyuki Sawashiro, Noriko Rikimaru and Sakura Nogawa
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: PG
Available 12 July 2010

Jun is working hard to catch up with his school work so that he can return to classes. Life couldn't be any better. But despite the happy days everyone spends together, something seems to be bothering Shinku. Could it be the arrival of two new adversaries? When all seven Rozen Maiden dolls assemble, the peaceful life everyone had been living up to this point will end and the battle of life and death known as the Alice Game will commence. Shinku has already turned one doll to junk. Will she able to do that to the rest of her sisters...?

The six episodes that make up the first volume of Rozen Maiden's second season show us a series in transition. The writers attempt to adopt the formula that made the first season so appealing, with the dolls getting up to some fairly inconsequential mischief around the home while a mysterious threat is foreshadowed throughout. But this time the format is only partially successful. While the six episodes on this disc are amongst the funniest of both series, something crucial is missing.

That something is Jun. Throughout season one his psychological rehabilitation was the invisible structure that held all the series' more bizarre elements together. His struggles added depth and realism to what would otherwise be mere disposable fantasy. Throughout these episodes this aspect of the series is entirely absent. Jun spends his days in the library or at his desk, cramming in as much as he can to catch up with his classmates. In the first season he haunted his home as much as the dolls, wasting away the hours with daytime television and silly games as the world went on without him. Without him in the mix, and with his sister Nori also able to get on with her life, we're left observing what happens to the dolls as doubt and desperation start to sour their relationships with each other. It remains engaging but lacks the spark that made the first series something special.

The Alice Game - the mystical battle in which the seven Rozen Maiden dolls compete for the right to become 'Alice,' the mythical and idealised 'perfect woman' - is increasingly moving to the foreground of the story. In a well judged twist, Shinku (always Rozen Maiden's most interesting and engaging character) becomes haunted by remorse over her role in Sugintou's fate at the end of the first season. As the dolls and their creator gather for their final showdown she and Souseiseki seem to be harbouring misgivings about the whole enterprise.

In this they are to be commended. I'll go out on a limb and call the Alice Game nothing short of a fools' errand, a retreat into inhumanity, the pursuit of a fictitious ideal. The dolls are supposedly fragments of 'Alice,' the perfect woman who exists only in the head of the Rozen Maiden's mysterious creator. They subsequently view themselves as 'imperfect' and in need of 'completion.' But have they been deceived, and is there an alternative?

At one point Jun catches Shinku reading 'The Psychology of Alchemy and the Unconscious,' a fictional book that nonetheless can only be a reference to the work of Carl Jung, a psychoanalyst who devoted an enormous part of his career to interpreting the unconscious mind using various occult, mythological and symbolic tools. One of Jung's most robust theories involves the 'anima,' the parts of every man that they cannot come to terms with. Because these characteristics must be reconciled for a man to become a complete person they are depicted as female and can become projected onto real women who are perceived as possessing those traits. He then plays out the psychodrama of his own completion through relationships and wonders why none of them ever work out in the manner that he'd hoped. In simple terms, the relationship is never a real relationship: it is the man looking at himself in a mirror and not recognising himself, a man attempting to fuse with the lost and disowned parts of himself.

Of course, all of this is grossly unfair to the poor women who have to live with men who are trying to figure out who they really are. And in a similar way, the Alice Game is grossly unfair to the hapless Rozen Maidens, who seem destined to compete with each other in a battle whose objective is homogeny: the loss of their individuality in the attainment some kind of cold, distant perfection, a form of blandly remote godhood.

In this respect Rozen Maiden still has something useful to say about sexism, femininity and how women must retain their sense of self in the face of the expectations and projections of the male dominated society around them. One is left wondering whether the series is building up to the mother of all Winnie the Pooh endings, in which these artificial women come to terms with being manipulated by their creator and abandoned by Jun, a young man who may no longer need them. Rozen Maiden is primarily about what happens when people no longer want or need their creations; when they abandon their children; when they throw away their toys; when they discard their old projections and fantasies; when they throw away their old relationships; when a person perpetually drafts and redrafts, cutting away everything that doesn't hit the mark. How does the discarded material feel about being discarded? How do the dumped feel about being dumped? How do the neglected feel about being neglected? And how far would they go if they were given an opportunity to regain their status?

The dolls of the Rozen Maiden series must either reject the immature game set for them by their creator and find a way of getting along, or tear themselves to pieces trying to achieve the unachievable. This was their predicament at the end of season one, and the first half of season two hasn't advanced the situation in the slightest. It's still an intriguing premise. Let's see some resolution.


Seth Cooke

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