Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen and its cinematography
I’m currently studying for a mid-term test for my film class, and I wanted to practice analyzing shots without watching the same damn movies over and over again, so I thought I’d just do a post looking at some of the cinematography and mise-on-scene in the first episode of Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen for fun since anime is what made me want to study film anyway. This is a really well-made series that is very visually inspired and has some very breathtakingly beautiful shots and sequences scattered throughout the series.
I do recommend everyone check the series out. It is technically the 3rd season of the Rozen Maiden franchise, but I went in blind and didn’t have much problems following what was going on so I say it works fine as a standalone series. Except that the first episode (the one I’m looking at in this post) tried to summarize everything that happened in the first 2 seasons and things got kind of confusing. Give it at least 3 episodes though, since once the first episode is over the series starts in proper; and it gets really, really great.
Even if the 1st episode was kind of a bad attempt at a recap it still had some really great cinematography that set the standard for the rest of the series so yeah.
Anyways, obvious spoilers for the entire first episode, but whatever. (Note: not all the shots are in chronological order. I put similar shots together, etc.)
This neat little sequence where Shinku ‘comes to life’ after being wound (left) is lovely. It features a close-up of Shinku’s face, with a continuous blur and bright white light – I suspect it portrays Jun’s confusion at seeing the doll come to life, since the entire sequence is from his POV and the blurs make it seem like he is continuously blinking his eyes in shock. Also, as compared to the shot before that had mostly muted colours and neutral lighting (right) this other shot it features some extremely saturated colours to give the shot a very surreal feel – as the audience we know something magical has just occurred.
This next sequence first features a medium shot of Shinku’s face (right), before a cut occurs and we get an upwards panning shot of Shinku from a low angle (left) – which clearly parallels her asserting her dominance over Jun as she commands him to give her tea. I did wish the effect was more extreme here though, as if she is towering over him despite her size, but eh, this isn’t supposed to be Citizen Kane anyways.
Next, Suigintou enters the fray, we get rapid acceleration of the shots, each cut is short and quick to give the impression that fast-paced action is taking place, even if we don’t see clearly what is going on (great use of limited animation). Before this, we’d get eyeline shots of Shinku and Jun, but now the tables are turned; a shot-reverse shot of Shinku and Suigintou, with Shinku being shot from a high angle, and Suigintou from a lower one; parallel how Suigintou is powering over Shinku.
Great transition here using a graphic match; Shinku’s closed eyes fade to coming that of a doll’s eye (left) – reflecting the workshop, the shot we get at the end (right).
2 very pretty shots here; both of them make use of deep space to represent being in a memory (right) and being in an entirely different dimension (white). There’s also the use of echoes to further help us as the audience see that the doll is not where Jun and the rest are.
In both shots here we see the use of extreme close-ups that crop out parts of the dolls’ faces – this is to increase the tension of the shot. In particular the shot of Shinku on the left creates a dark, claustrophobic effect to show her fear upon seeing the fate of one of her doll sisters.
Ugh, I love this sequence. It makes great use of harsh backlight to cast a shadow over the twins , and the camera slowly pans downwards to put them out of focus; and we immediately see a giant hand (Suigintou’s) dominate the shot as she grabs Souseiseki’s rosa mystica and essentially extinguishes her life force. As that happens we here a click sound and the whole screen goes dark. There’s a really ingenious use of shadows here; almost feels like a puppet show, similar to the stuff we got in Revolutionary Girl Utena!
Soon after, we get to Hinaichigo’s (left) bit of the story. It’s clear she’s being abandoned by her owner Tomoe, and the previous sequence of her being locked away into the deep dark chest where she and the rest of the dolls sleep in. She’s completely trapped in darkness (as seen by the vast, negative space in the background), in despair, similar to how Shinku (also in a vast, negative space of black) is ‘trapped’ by Suigintou, and Suigintou says, “You’re trapped. There is nothing but despair”. Indeed Shinku seems to be trapped in a pit of darkness, just like Hinaichigo.
As Hinaichigo encroaches into Kirakishou’s field (left), Kirakishou’s long hair begins to creep over to Hinaichigo’s end (kind of reminded me of this famous scene in Hyouka, although that scene was of course romantic while this is supposed to be creepy), and it looks like she’s literally being trapped by her sister’s hair. In the next shot, as her body is being devoured by Kirakishou we get white thorns completely devouring Hinaichigo, kind of similar (in form) with Kirakishou’s hair. The shot also clearly traps Hinaichigo’s body – it is surrounded by the two thick clumps of hair; and we see the shot from Kirakishou’s POV. Very effective, and highly disturbing body horror if you ask me.
The surreal bits end on this shot. The huge white rose in the background, and the web of thorns – they were basically a representation of Kirakishou, along with her hair, shows Shinku also beginning to understand her position after finding out about Hinaichigo. The shot foreshadow her, along with the other sisters all playing into Kirakishou’s big trap, literally stuck like insects in a spider’s web.
That was quite fun. I effectively wasted 2 hours but I guess this post does help me revise for my film test…heh. Procrastination at its finest. Anyways, I do highly recommend the series, it’s very good once you look past its shoddy first episode (which already had such wonderful cinematography!!!). It was one of the major surprises of last year for me and remains as one of my favourites of 2013. If you do end up watching the first episode let me know if you noticed any other interesting shots (I found quite a lot of them actually but this post is getting waaaay too long!)! I’d really like to hear how other people saw and perceived these moments.
Also, please let me know if you’re interested in seeing more posts like these, though I can’t promise that I can post that much, and am only doing so right now since I’m on a short one week break from school.