Rozen Maiden Ouvertüre (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 51 minutes approx.
Slotting chronologically between episodes six and seven of the Rozen Maiden: Träumend series, this two part OVA heralds the return of the incorrigible and irritating living gothic Lolita dolls known as the Rozen Maiden, and their long suffering “medium” Jun Sakurada. The story provides a history lesson of the feud between fifth Rozen Maiden Shinku and the disturbed villainous Suigintou.
When Jun buys Shinku a brooch to liven up her attire, Shinku throws an almighty strop and flings it back in Jun’s face, like the snotty little madam she is. Witnessed by one of the other dolls, Souseiseki, Jun is taken aside and learns the reason why Shinku reacted the way she did. Back in late 19th century London, Shinku was in the possession of a young girl named Sarah while competing in the deadly Alice Games. One night a frail, ashen faced doll, Suigintou, materialises through the mirror portal into Sarah’s room searching for Father, the creator of the Rozen Maiden, claiming to be the first one of the group. Shinku noticing how incomplete Suigintou is, missing both a solid torso and a Rosa Mystica but takes pity on her al the same, nurses her back to health and teaching her how to walk. However Suignitou takes Shinku’s pity as an insult and recalls how she watched father lavish more love on Shinku than he did for her, demonstrated by the brooch he gave Shinku.
Aside from a few moments in the first episode set in the present time line where all the Maidens make a quick but still deeply grating appearance, the tone of this mini arc is very dark and embraces the gothic themes hinted by the artwork and overall veneer of the franchise with relish. The opening scene of the first episode is both touching and eerily unsettling as we witness a half constructed Suigintou lying in a heap on a shelf along with the other discarded doll parts, watching helplessly as Father lavishes all his care and attention on the other Rozen Maiden. An extremely powerful opening to set the scene for what is to come, only to spoiled by the juxtaposition of the helium voiced horrors and their selfish, bratty treatment of former hikikimori Jun in his own home. Thankfully, as mentioned above, this is the only time such scenes appear in the two episodes, yet they still manage to serve as a potent reminder as to how ghastly and insufferable the Maiden’s characters are. Moe Gothic Lolitas they may be, that still doesn’t excuse their abrasive personalities, especially for the main protagonists of the show.
With that off my chest, let’s return our focus to the main storyline. As simple as the basic plot is, two episodes just didn’t feel enough to tell it, seemingly reaching its climax a little too soon. This may seem like a spurious conclusion to reach since this side story has a place within the timeline of the Träumend diegesis, i.e: en route to the ultimate conclusion to the entire saga yet one is left wanting more. Suigintou’s transformation from a literal broken doll to all powerful nemesis is one area that needed more time to evolve, while we could have witnessed a tighter bond between her and Shinku grow thus making the rationale behind Suigintou’s resentment more potent and deeper emotionally. There is no denying that Suigintou’s story is a tragic one but by rushing to the pivotal transformation point, it feels more superficial than substantial. However, despite the time constraints, it is handled well enough to make the intended impact to finally understand Suigintou’s position as the nominal villain of the Alice Games and provides sufficient explanation for her hatred towards Shinku.
The animation and production of this OVA is handled once again by Nomad, under the direction of Kō Matsuo and the god news is that, unlike the Träumend series in which the animation quality dipped substantially towards the end of its run, no such budget constraints blight these two episodes, and stand proudly as the best looking and best rendered instalments of the franchise thus far. I rarely mentioned the voice actors but credit is hugely deserved for the prolific Rie Tanaka, who emotes every last drop of pathos and suffering out of Suignitou, adding much to the eerie visuals of the disassembled but still sentient doll yearning for her creator’s attention. Stirring stuff indeed.
Having not been a fan of the two previous Rozen Maiden series I approached Ouvertüre with some trepidation, but can admit to being quite surprised by this OVA collection. Arguably not a prudent starting point for anyone unfamiliar with the franchise but for the established fans, an integral and enlightening supplement to the saga which neatly fills in some very important gaps in the story, but could have benefited from maybe one more episode for maximum impact.
English Language 2.0
Japanese Language 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Ratings – ***
Man In Black