Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Jan 22nd 2004
Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful
DVD 2: Hectic Holidays
It's holiday madness for Mahoro, Suguru and the rest of the Mahoromatic crew as the season turns festive! First, it's Christmas-time, and a gift exchange reveals more than just a bevy of unwanted presents; there's real feeling involved between Hamji and Minawa. Then, a New Year's celebration turns nasty when Mahoro and lusty teacher Shikijo battle it out in a badminton contest! There's never a moment's peace for Suguru when Mahoro's around.
Thanks to the groundbreaking smash hit mecha series Neon Genesis Evangelion, an incredible amount of unconditional goodwill has been given to Studio Gainax on behalf of their fans. To many, the studio can do no wrong, even when they turn out something hackneyed and lame like Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful. Many have lauded the series as being some kind of genre-bending miracle, a show that brought something different to the beloved and reviled robot maid genre. While the first Mahoromatic certainly had quality elements that made it slightly different from the other shows like it, the sequel series tosses most of that out and winds up being little more than a rushed, poorly-written retread of the first series. The second volume has, quite literally, about five minutes worth of story in it. The rest is a clichéd, undercooked ‘madcap adventure’ showcasing characters that are very hard to like.
The second volume makes up the middle of the series. Geneon saw fit to release this relatively short show across only three volumes, including five episodes on each DVD. The amazing thing is, normally this is where the story would kick in; for high-concept shows like this one, the first five episodes or so are generally episodic filler, and the rest is focused on an arcing story that concludes the show. For Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful, this concept has been thrown out, the second volume is nothing more than lame holiday episodes amounting to little more than a string of repetitive jokes. There's very little story to speak of. Suguru's grandfather shows up, lusts after all the women Suguru has managed to surround himself with, and tries to peep on Mahoro and Minawa. There's a Christmas episode, a New Year's episode and a Valentine's Day episode, and none of them involve anything more complicated than a few sexual misunderstandings and some fan service. If you were hoping that this series would emulate the first one and at least give you a story to follow, you'll be sorely disappointed.
The big problem with Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful is that it's a comedy that just isn't funny at all. The humor is all very stagnant and stilted. Every joke is centered around some character's ridiculous overreaction to a mundane event. Someone gives Suguru a porn magazine for Christmas, so Mahoro takes it and gets upset. One of the girls who hang around Suguru spends about five minutes of the New Year's episode waxing poetic about the quality of Mahoro's special curry recipe. Suguru's lust-ridden, top-heavy homeroom teacher shows up, causes trouble, smashes her breasts in someone's face and then promptly goes away. Forgive me for not holding my sides with laughter; I'm crying on the inside. The characters are all strangely sedate, and speak in monotones, except when they're overreacting to something uninteresting. The Christmas episode in particular features a lot of lame jokes about nothing in particular. Who finds this show funny? Every action, every word of dialogue, every plot development is so ridiculously predictable, it's like the scripts were written by a machine that was force-fed every holiday episode from every other half-baked romantic comedy out there.
The show retains its disturbingly sexist leanings, too. Mahoro remains the super-capable, highly intelligent combat android that would rather cook and clean for some loser guy than be a respected and powerful woman. Added to the mix in the sequel series is Minawa, a self-loathing, subservient jailbait maid who looks like she's about ten years old and spends most of the series talking about how worthless she is, since she has no heart and can't feel anything (except, apparently, self-pity). Nobody ever seems to reassure her. The message here is that even the most capable woman belongs at home, cleaning and cooking and being a sex object. Minawa's endless self-hatred adds a fairly disturbing footnote to that message about domestic female depression. We spend an inordinate amount of time watching these two bathe each other; I'm not sure who gets all hot seeing Minawa's frequently bared pre-teen chest, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to meet that person. Why doesn't Mahoro use her awesome combat powers to help clean up the galaxy? Why does she use her amazing intergalactic transport to get a special turkey for Suguru, instead of using it to travel to exciting places? Apparently, she'd rather wear a fetish costume and scrub the floors. Welcome to 1955, people.
Gainax seems to have dumped this thing out on the cheap, too. The animation has taken a step backwards from the first series, using highly minimalist backgrounds. The character designs aren't any different (although they do seem a bit simpler somehow), but they're a lot more static this time around. We spend more time hearing people talk. Mahoro almost never actually fights anything, there's little machinery on display. This volume seems to be particularly mundane, as there's hardly any science fiction element to these episodes at all. If it weren't for the tacked-on alien subplot shoehorned in to the top and bottom of the later episodes on the disc, uninitiated viewers might think that watching Mahoro cook is all there is to this show. Truthfully, they wouldn't be too far off the mark with that conclusion.
The dub is grating. The voices aren't bad, but every character is forced to speak in an annoyingly flat monotone. They all seem to be spitting out their words as fast as possible, so everything comesoutinaquickstreamofwordslikethis. There's little to no emotion behind the line readings; in fact, each line sounds exactly like the last one. It doesn't help that so little of consequence takes place in each episode. The characters don't sound excited because, really, who's going to get excited about receiving a pair of mittens for Christmas or going to shrine for New Year's Day? The voices seem to match the characters, but the acting just isn't there. The actors seem totally unenthused; they're on autopilot. They could have simply rearranged the dialogue from the first series and inserted it into the sequel, and I doubt anyone would have noticed.
We all understand that Mahoromatic is supposed to be a fun, lighthearted romantic romp. It's one of the few tolerable entries in the maid fetish subgenre, and in the first series, Gainax's melancholy countdown to the end of Mahoro's life added a sweetly macabre twist to the proceedings. Here, the weight of Mahoro's life clock seems to be gone, and the show is going through the routine motions of every other maid show out there. If you're a completist, then you can't pass this up. For everyone else, volume two represents a steep decline in the already-questionable quality of the show. If it were any lighter, it'd float away.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : D
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Fun for fans of the show.
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