Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Apr 5th 2003
Mahoromatic - Automatic Maiden
DVD 2: Haunting Past
Every Japanese junior high is rumored to have at least seven ghouls running around at nighttime when everyone goes home. Suguru's class project is designed around investigating these ghouls, and Mahoro, unable to accept Suguru's superstitious belief, tags along to investigate with them. After that is the Dance of the Dead, which Suguru can finally enjoy despite the memory of his father's demise. Then a new teacher arrives, sent from the Saint Organization and designed to destroy Mahoro!
Studio Gainax, best known for Neon Genesis Evangelion, has a history of hiding deep and meaningful shows behind piles of fanservice. Mahoromatic, Gainax's latest entry in the “magical robot girlfriend” show, seems to have a lot of the fanservice but lacks the depth found in other Gainax productions. The series is your basic shounen romance; there's action, fighting, breasts, robots, crude humor, and oh yeah, breasts. There might be some depth waiting for fans of the show on the third disc, but volume two, while not completely horrible, is fairly vapid.
Mahoromatic is a tad on the schizophrenic side. On one hand, the show pretends to have some emotional depth by including an ominous timer at the end of every episode that counts down how much longer Mahoro has until she ceases to function. While this would be a poignant tool in a show about the mortality of love and the fleeting nature of our salad days, instead it's just sort of tacked on to the end of a series that seems to be mostly about naked fighting robot girls and obnoxious teachers with horrifying shouto complexes. This series manages to get the worst of every world imaginable as far as creepily abundant Japanese sex fetishes go; Mahoro looks like she's about twelve and frequently appears nude, so as to please the clamoring lolicom masses. The teacher character has gigantic breasts and also frequently appears nude, pleasing the breast fetish audience. The same hypersexualized character is routinely making very blatant advances towards young Suguru, who's in junior high school, so even shoutocom females will find something to titillate in this series. Considering it's supposed to be a light-hearted romantic comedy, the show is a tad on the oversexed side.
Unfortunately, the show's randy sense of humor overshadows what little valid content it does have. It isn't uniformly a bad show; episode episode, which features a bishonen robot sent by the Saint organization that's masquerading as a teacher at Suguru's school in order to assassinate Mahoro, has a few funny and enjoyable moments in it. Otherwise, this disc follows nearly every shounen romance cliché available. Episode five features a painfully unfunny excursion in to the school at night to find ghosts. If you've never seen Tenchi Muyo! or the countless other shounen comedy romance series that pull this trick, you might like the episode. Episode six rehashes the tired old Summer Festival plot, which has always existed primarily to squeeze the female cast members into festival yukata. Then, as the festival starts to disperse, the inept male lead and the cute, unaware female lead wander off into the forest to watch the fireworks and maybe make some fireworks of their own. Yawn. We all know Suguru isn't going to make a move on Mahoro this early in the series. Besides, who really wants to watch two 13 year olds make out, anyway?
Just what is Mahoromatic trying to say, anyway? The whole “magical robot girlfriend” genre has become extremely popular over the past few years, and Mahoromatic is certainly an excellent example of what one could expect to find within it. It seems to be saying that while women can be powerful and independent, they are also best placed in a subservient position to man, as though that's just the natural order of things. Mahoro is hyper-competent, extremely powerful and capable of doing amazing things, but she hangs around the house wearing a maid outfit and cooking breakfast. Japanese gender politics notwithstanding, it's hard to ignore the message Mahoromatic is clearly trying to send. It is a tad unnerving to see even the most powerful and capable women imaginable reduced to subservient sex objects. Basically, the show's message seems to be that no matter how capable a woman may be, she will still be beneath her man and subservient to him, flushing the last 100 years of progression towards equality down the toilet. Were I female, I would be extremely offended by Mahoromatic; as a male, it simply makes me sick.
As far as production values go, Mahoromatic is well-produced. The animation is clean and fluid, and the character designs, while a tad on the unique side, are crisp and stay on-model throughout the show. The music is suitably cute, as is the color palette, which add an odd aire of innocence to a show that is very blatant about having none. The DVD presentation is sharp and clear, and the disc itself has a few fun extras. Also included with the first pressing is a disturbing “paper doll” of the shoutocom teacher, complete with Colorforms-style stick-on clothing. You can see it either as a “fun” extra or a handy effigy of the most annoying character in the series, conveniently designed for easy burning.
All in all, Mahoromatic will no doubt please hardcore fans of the shounen romance and magical girlfriend genres. Anyone lacking the stomach for excessive lolicom and shoutocom undertones would do well to try Pioneer's other robot girl release, Chobits, which is far less insulting and disturbing. The series does start to show signs of quality after episode six, but the ecchi humor is still liberally sprinkled throughout the show, making it impossible to concentrate on the “good” parts. Essentially, Mahoromatic is not worth it.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Good animation, cute music, nuggets of quality buried beneath an unending sea of fanservice
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