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"Rozen Maiden Traumend" Vol. 2: Dolls Are Serious Business

While I had mixed feelings with the first Rozen Maiden series, it had a unique concept and something of an open ending, so I was interested in eventually seeing how the sequel concluded things. (I say “eventually” because Geneon collapsed right as Traumend was beginning, meaning this series got delayed by a whole year!) Happily, the sequel seems more engaging, as the various dolls are beginning to question their roles and fates.

Rozen Maiden Traumend picks where the first series left off. Jun, an introverted teenager, lives with a few dolls that are actually alive and competing with each other in the Alice Game, a supernatural competition whose winner will get to meet and live with Father, their creator. Unfortunately, the Alice Game had no winner in the first series. On the other hand, it could be argued that the focus the first time around wasn’t so much on the victor of Alice Game, but on Jun’s mental state. In the first series, Jun suffered from crippling hikikomori syndrome, which left him unable to leave the house or even engage in much social contact. Thanks to the dolls, Jun has bested some of his shut-in personality, and is now able to go outside without much trouble. With his more outgoing nature, he also seems a bit more pleasant this season. Then again, it’s not like he gets a lot of screen time in these particular episodes, either.

My favorite episode on the second volume had little to do with the overall plot, ironically. It deals with the childlike Hinaichigo wanting to mail a letter to Jun (which is rather pointless since they live in the same house, but whatever). The mischievous Suiseiseki makes up a story to Hinaichigo that it’s dangerous to venture outside and that all mailboxes are carnivorous monsters. It’s reminiscent of something an older sibling playfully does to scare their naive young brother or sister, which makes for some good relatable humor. I also find it fairly humorous that when Hinaichigo asks Shinku about the outdoors, Shinku says she must beware cats, for they are dolls’ mortal enemies, yet when Hinaichigo encounters one moments later, it is helpful and provides her far quicker transportation to the mailbox. See that, Shinku? Just because you had a bad experience doesn’t mean all felines are out to get you.

But back to the main plot. In the sequel, we meet Megu, a bedridden young woman who is periodically visited by Suigintou, the antagonist doll in the first series. It turns out Megu is her “medium” (much like Jun is Shinku’s medium), and Suigintou plans to win Alice Game, not to attain god status with the prize of Rosa Mystica, but to use it to heal the ailing Megu. It’s a different motive to win than the first series, but it works, as she’s winning for someone this time, instead of herself. And because of her devotion to another, she’s more likable as well, even if she’s still intent on defeating the other dolls.

Meanwhile, this season’s antagonist, the ominous Barasuishou, makes her debut as a sign that Alice Game must soon begin again. And a new doll, Kanaria, challenges the various dolls as well. Through all this, Jun learns more about Father, the being who created the Rozen Maiden dolls, and starts to question why deadly combat is necessary to win his approval. Hey, great minds think alike; I wondered the exact same thing in my vol. 3 review. I’m hopeful these issues will be addressed in the last volume, and since Suiseiseki refuses to fight anymore, while her sister, Souseiseki, feels an obligation to fight, there should be some good conflict between the dolls.

Rozen Maiden won’t win any awards for animation, but the comic relief episode at least maintains some cartoony poses every once in a while (complete with SD mode), and the animation seems a bit more lively and fluid. I can’t say the other episodes on the disc were quite as good, though I’ve seen much worse. Unfortunately, the settings are mostly limited to the house and its environs in these episodes; there’s little of the visually interesting scenes where the gang travels through Jun’s mind, that we saw in the first series. Oh well, at least the dolls are cute no matter where they are.

As with the previous series, the extras are slim, with a clean close and trailers being the only offerings here.

Rozen Maiden Traumend‘s final four episodes should be a bit more interesting than the first series’s ending. Jun knows more about Father, and some of the dolls are starting to ponder their role in Alice Game as time runs out. There’s a bit more at play than last season, it seems. Will the dolls in Jun’s house stay friends, or will the pull of Father be too strong to resist? Stay tuned.

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