Reviewby Bamboo Dong,
Mahoromatic - Automatic Maiden
DVD 3: A Warrior's Fate
Wrapping up at episode twelve, the third volume of Mahoromatic concludes the first season of Gainax's popular series. Whereas almost the entire series up until this point had been filled with largely random and cheerful scenes, these last four episodes are laced with the ache of the past and the agony of having to decide between duty and personal desire. To give justice to this set of episodes, Pioneer showed their marketing finesse and presented fans with a release that follows their traditional trend of just knowing how to come up with an impressive DVD package.
Weighing in with a fan-pleasing heaviness, the DVD comes with the paper-doll outfit inserts that graced the first two Mahoromatic discs. With seven sheets of different outfits ranging from the cute to the decidedly sketchy, casual and perverted fans alike can enjoy dressing up the Mahoro and Shikijo punchouts that came with the first volume. Amusingly enough, two of the sheets let you dress up Mahoro as Evangelion's enigmatic Rei, and the teacher as the rambunctious Asuka. Whether fans choose to take this as an amusing sign of Gainax's good humor, or as an uncanny confirmation of all their musings about the allegorical similarities between the characters, it's still one of the highlights of the inserts. In addition to the doll outfits, Pioneer also put in one of the regular episode-listing inserts featuring a mini-poster of the characters in skimpy swimsuits. As if the fanservice wasn't emphasized enough, the DVD cover flips over to reveal an alternate picture of Mahoro plopped down on a cushion wearing nothing but an apron, satisfying all the fans who want to make their anime shelf look like a porn collection.
The actual DVD itself is also stuffed with a nice assortment of extras, most of them gathered from the Japanese release of the series. Among these is a featurette containing actor commentary by Ayako Kawasumi and Fujiko Takimoto, the Japanese voices for Mahoro and Suguru, respectively. Both women sit down and chat about their impressions of the series, talking over their favorite scenes, how they think their characters changed over the course of the season, and the scenes between their two characters that they thought were the most impacting. While this feature isn't particularly useful, it's still a fun item to have. The disc also includes a set of Japanese trailers for the series and a color art gallery. The latter is comprised of mostly screenshots and the images that were used for the mini-poster and covers. Sadly, many of the screenshots are rather blurry and don't sport the high resolution of the series at all. The cover images are also rather small and faded, rendering this image gallery feature rather meaningless.
Of course, while the addition of trivial things like galleries and paper doll outfits may be a fun surprise for purchasers of the DVD, the main reason to buy it is the disc content itself. In this aspect, the third volume of Mahoromatic is definitely the high point of season one and a good reminder of what Gainax can do when it puts its mind into it. The final battle between Mahoro and Ryuga is dished out within the last three episodes, interceded with long-winded flashbacks and a sequence of dreams that that vaguely reminisce of the last two episodes of Evangelion in the way that they're presented, and also the voicing effects that are used (i.e. echoes and crowded vocal layovers timed a certain way). This is a far cry from the normally light-hearted and largely perverted episodes that preceded this volume, and it does very well for the show. Regrettably, even with all the action and suspense that was building up, the actual climax of the battle is a bit unsatisfying. Regardless, the emotions that are revealed afterwards do much to further the character relationship development between Mahoro and Suguru, one reason why the ending is as oddly satisfying as it is.
Naturally, being guided by the talented hand of Gainax, the action-packed storyline is only enhanced by the visuals. The artwork is clean and crisp, and the backgrounds are beautifully drawn. The part that deserves the most praise, however, is the props used, namely the weapons. If there is one thing that Gainax has fun with (besides drawing breasts), it's drawing guns. The weapons used in Mahoromatic are not only accurately scaled, but also incredibly detailed, which deserves a gigantic thumbs up. Accompanying the firepower, the action scenes are fluidly animated, with the feeling of movement well portrayed through the impressive stills. However, when the characters aren't in a form of skirmish of some sort, the animation takes on a more sluggish form. For example, when the characters are on a regular everyday outing, the animation will start to get chunky to conserve the budget.
One thing that the production didn't skimp on, though, was the voices. The Japanese voices are remarkably done, with every character nuance being carried out to the fullest detail. The action sequences are especially well done, with the characters able to scream and yell without it seeming like they're restraining themselves at all. This is also where the English dub excels. During casual scenes, some of the female voices sound forced, especially Mahoro's, whose high-pitched squeaking tries too hard to be cute. When the fights break out though, the naturalness of the scenes comes out. The secondary male characters are the exception, though, performing splendidly every time. The actor for Ryuga and Slash, in particular, are amazing, and give just the right masculine punch to their roles. Annoyingly, the voices can't actually be identified, as the actors are listed in the credits without their role names next to them. Unless viewers are very familiar with all of the actors' voices, then, there's no other way to figure out who is who.
Mahoromatic is definitely a show that can appeal to, and turn off, a wide range of viewers. On the one hand, it's filled with rampant breasts and pedophilia, on the other hand, it contains great action scenes and emotional lines that could make a weaker person melt. The thing is, none of this really crops up in full swing until the later episodes at all. If you've been turned off by this series because of the sketchiness, rest assured, it's safe to watch again. From here on out, it packs a lot more drama and action. Well, all the breasts are still there, too, to please the people who can admit that that's one of the reasons why they started watching the show to begin with. Either way, it's without a doubt the best volume of the series out to date, so if you've ever wanted a good chance to get back into the series again, this is it.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B
Animation : C+
Art : B
Music : B
+ Mahoromatic gets more emotional and serious in this season finale
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