Today, I’m going to be reviewing a high school harem fan-service comedy series featuring extremely powerful, hot girls and eight million panty shots.
I love originality.
Yeah, expect lots of not-so-safe for work images.
Maken-Ki! follows Takeru Ohyama, a student who has just enrolled at the formerly all-girls school Tenbi Academy, which has recently become co-ed. The school is, therefore, full of girls with massive amounts of power, who are protecting the world against the evil Yamato no Orochi, a big serpent demon thing that lives in a mountain right next door, who will become active when someone reaches the correct emotional state. Also, one of the characters has a sword she can’t use unless it’s up against a worthy opponent.
I LOVE ORIGINALITY.
Fortunately for Takeru, his childhood friend Haruko Amaya is in the year above him, and welcomes him in with open arms. Somewhat less fortunately for him, another student, Kodama Himegami, wants to kill him. So that sucks.
Another girl, Inaho Kushiya, insists that she and Takeru are engaged, despite the fact he doesn’t remember her. Naturally, she explains herself quickly and they laugh off the misunderstanding.
Sorry, I meant to say ‘she doesn’t tell him and he never finds out on his own.’ Sigh.
Anyway, Takeru joins the security council of the school, named Maken-Ki. You see, the Maken of the title are strange magical objects that give people the power to do various things. One person’s Maken lets them make stuff really big, while another allows them to draw anything to life.
You might have noticed by now that I’m not really discussing much of the main plot. And you’d be right! That’s because THERE ISN’T ONE.
Oh sure, there’s something about some evil organisation called the Kamigari, and there’s Yamato no Orochi. The problem is they only start to get involved properly in something like the ninth episode. In a series of twelve episodes!
So, considering that spoilers aren’t really an issue here, I will now spend a large chunk of this review reciting a series of notes I made while I watched the series.
- One of the teachers at the school is the nurse. She has huge boobs and speaks with a sultry voice. One of her lines is “Nice to see you hard… at work”. Send help.
- One of the girls refers to her breasts as ‘sweater puppets’. What is it about the word ‘sweater’ in a euphamism that makes everything hilarious?
- During a montage scene, we see Inaho – sweet, innocent Inaho – who could have been doing ANYTHING when they cut to her, wiping after using the toilet. SEND HELP.
- The hot nurse falls on top of Takeru while getting something from a cupboard. I swear to god she is drawn as wearing a sanitary napkin.
- Venus, a highly trained all-female special forces team who join Tenbi for whatever reason use their skills so that one of their members can go on a perfect date with Takeru.
- The boys want the pool to be co-ed, so they challenge the girls to a ‘chicken fight’. The members representing each sex are ‘randomly selected’, which means ‘the entirety of Maken-Ki versus the two main boys and a bunch of randoms’
- This randomness is highlighted when one of the announcers literally says “The nurse just took out some random guy, but he’s not a main character, so who cares?”
- The Maken-Ki members have no money to go on an expensive school trip, so they all decide to work in a maid cafe. Haruko trips and spills cream all over herself, because of course she does.
- Takeru also has a job at the maid cafe, and somehow doesn’t know who the MANAGER is.
- Did I mention all this maid cafe stuff happens in the second to last episode of the series? THEY NEVER GO ON THE TRIP.
- All the teachers talk about the good old days when they were at Tenbi together. Men and women. Before it was co-ed. What.
Basically, what I’m getting at is that this series is pretty directionless. And as far as tasteful fanservice, well…
Those words don’t really go together at the best of times. I’m almost certain that for every single panty shot, the artists simply drew a vagina, then added a couple more lines and painted it white.
Now, I’ve been pretty hard on Maken-Ki! I would argue that I was just in doing that (this is a court, after all). But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the positives of this series.
First off, the art and animation are very, very good looking. Clean lines, colourful imagery, very good character silhouetting, vivid emotions on characters faces, the works. I mean, say what you want about WHAT they’re animating, but at least it looks good. Almost surprising considering the team behind Maken-Ki! are part of the company that made the P4 anime, with its weird Oompa Loompa orange people.
There’s even one episode where there’s a massive tonal shift from light-hearted comedy to actually rather sad backstory, and the formerly warm, sunny scenery changes to storm and rain. It’s like it’s trying to be Clannad for around 20 minutes. At least until they finally break and fill the last couple of minutes with pure fanservice, like a pressure cooker exploding under the strain of restraint and spraying beef stew everywhere. Mmmm, beef stew…
What was I talking about again?
Secondly, the English dub for Maken-Ki! is phenomenal. Ian Sinclair nails Takeru, taking great pleasure in the sillier lines he has to read and hamming it up, but also bringing levity to more serious scenes. Monica Rial does well as always as Haruko, even if she sounds a little too old for the character. Tia Ballard, Cherami Leigh, Brittney Karbowski, Jamie Marchi and Alexis Tipton are all as entertaining as they usually are, but in my opinion, the real shining star of the dub is Chloe Ragnbone as Kodama Himegami. Now, Chloe Ragnbone is obviously a pseudonym, and who can honestly say who she really is?
Well, quite a few people actually. Chloe Ragnbone is generally accepted as being a pseudonym for Cassandra Lee Morris, an excellent actress and fellow journalist who happened to play my favourite character in the English version of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the doughnut-loving sports addict, Aoi Asahina. As Himegami, she inflects just the right amount of attitude, and really injects some life into a character who is essentially a walking cliché in the world of anime – the petite one with small breasts, a bad temper and fancy dress style. In fact, I’d go so far as to say Cassandra Morris’ performance makes Himegami my favourite character of that type in anything I’ve seen.
One last green leaf in the otherwise barren forest that is Maken-Ki! is the humour of the series. Now, this is a largely subjective opinion, but I found the comedy of the series legitimately funny and it made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. There, I said it.
But now we have to talk about the final verdict. I’ll make it quick, and hopefully painless. Maken-Ki! is by no means a good series. It just isn’t. But is it something I can confidently say everyone should avoid like the plague? No, no it isn’t.
You may recall during my Majikoi review when I spoke about the plot being a rushed, boring mess that detracted from the enjoyment I got from the slice of life comedy? Well, Maken-Ki! takes that idea and runs in the opposite direction. NOTHING happens during the series. But in this case, you start to realise very quickly that without a plot, the series has nothing holding it together – it’s just a bunch of slice of life comedy. Really funny, well-done slice of life comedy, but totally inconsequential.
So here we go. My verdict of Maken-Ki! is…
Though the plot is absolutely meaningless and practically non-existant, the comedy and excellent voice work contained in the series make it hard to completely avoid. Maken-Ki! is the very definition of a brainless watch on a lazy afternoon. Like a bottle of Coke or the film Commando, it’s not exactly good for you, but it goes down pretty smooth. Just don’t watch it around your girlfriend.