Reviewby Allen Divers, Mar 14th 2003
Mahoromatic - Automatic Maiden
DVD 1: Combat Maid
In the hidden war against the Saint, mankind has been saved countless times by an android named Mahoro. After her latest battle, Mahoro discovers that if she stays in her full battle mode, she has a limited time of life left to her. If her armaments are removed, Mahoro has a new lease on life and the freedom to live them as she pleases, at least for 398 days. So what's an android with a little over a year left to do? Enter Suguru, a young orphan, who hires Mahoro on as a maid. Poor Suguru has no idea about Mahoro's past life, or her deep connection to him. But he's not one to complain as Mahoro moves in causing suspicion from his friends, and jealousy from his home-room teacher. Now Suguru just has to decide if his beautiful 19-year old maid is really an android!
From the creative minds of GAINAX, comes a unique romantic comedy that plays an ecchi vibe right to the hilt. Based on the original Manga by Bunjuro Nakayama and DITAMA, Mahoromatic starts life as a serious action sci-fi drama, moving quickly into a quirky romantic comedy. Throw on top of that GAINAX's own brand of fan service, and Mahoromatic proves to be an interesting new title entering the North American market.
While a lot of other major titles are getting serious pushes with things like boxsets, Mahoromatic volume 1, Combat Maiden, makes its way out as a pretty standard release from Pioneer. Featuring the first four episodes of the series, Combat Maiden has all the standard extras for a Pioneer DVD release. Extras include a full color art gallery and a textless version of the opening. The entire DVD is 16:9 Anamorphic video, keeping intact the original widescreen appearance of the show. Combat Maiden also features two subtitle streams, one for translation of the Japanese soundtrack and the other for signs and songs translation.
Mahoromatic proves to be a very visually appealing series with strong animation and artwork. The animation shifts smoothly between strong action-oriented scenes, to more peaceful and often comedic scenes. There are even times when the two combine, creating an interesting mix of action and cuteness. The character designs by Kazuhiro Takamura do a good job of staying true to the original Manga designs and bring life to each character. The animation and artwork go above and beyond standard TV animation, pushing towards OVA quality. Of course, GAINAX also goes that extra mile to please the male fans. With a few running gags centered mostly on breasts, GAINAX seems to find every excuse to tease with typical fan service shots and beyond with quite a bit of nudity thrown in.
Much like the visuals, the soundtrack plays well with both the action oriented sequences as well as the more comedic moments of the series. The casts for both tracks are equally suited for the roles they play, with strong performances easily found in both. The English script follows quite closely to the original Japanese, making changes only when absolutely necessary for timing reasons. Working well with the dialogue, is the music that plays light for the cute and comedic bits and plays dark for the more serious action oriented bits. The character of Mahoro also does quite a bit of singing, giving both the English and Japanese actresses the chance to show off more than their acting skills. For the English actress, the songs are translated to English and fit quite well with the original meaning of the lyrics.
Mahoromatic the series proves to be a mix of two classic Anime genres: the action filled sci-fi adventure and the cute romantic comedy. While much of the emphasis is around the romantic comedy, the action adventure aspects only dominate the first and last episode of volume one. Aside from this mix, Mahoromatic falls into the cliché of one male being chased by many females. While quite a bit of the first episode is spent explaining much of the background story with why Mahoro was created, why she's been fighting the aliens and why she only has one year left, that background story is soon left behind as the focus shifts towards Suguru and how Mahoro's presence changes his life. The episodes following the first prove to be distractions pulling away from what could make Mahoromatic a strong Sci-Fi series. It's not until episode 4 that the idea of alien invaders is re-explored, but that turns mostly into an excuse for a combat scene with Mahoro in a bikini. The real emphasis here is on cuteness and even a bit of romance, despite some of the heavy handedness of the fan service.
Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden is a nice change of pace mixing a bit of sci-fi action with a lot of romantic comedy. While the heavy fan service may prove to be a bit of a detriment, overall the show proves to be quite engaging with a lot of witty dialogue and a strong romantic theme. The stories for the four episodes do come across as a bit random and the execution of the back-story is simply left behind. Still, Mahoromatic proves to be something worth adding to any collection.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : A
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : B
+ Cute theme and strong animation create a unique adventure
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