Reviewby Theron Martin,
BD+DVD - The Complete Series
School is once again in session at the secretive Tenbi Academy, where the students are being educated in proper use of their magical Elements in addition to regular studies. And the self-policing organization Maken-Ki is still hard at work dealing with Element-related delinquents, including cat burglars, undergarment thieves, and S&M freaks. That takes up far from all of their time, though, which allows them to also engage in hijinks that include the Student Council training a potential new recruit (Minaya), one female member posing as a guy to date another girl, helping Chacha and Kimi with manga and cosplay, and of course having a training camp that (naturally!) takes place at a beach. Throughout it all Takeru still gets alternatively pummeled and adored by multiple girls for his perversions (sometimes warranted, sometimes not) and gets nearly all of the eye and handfuls of boobs and butts that he could hope for.
Heavy fan service shows may have gotten more sophisticated in their characterizations and storytelling over the past few years, but that is only on the average. The classic big, dumb booby show still pops up on a regular basis because they still sell well enough on both sides of the Pacific; put enough T&A into the show and everything else becomes a secondary consideration. That is the only way to explain how Maken-Ki!, one of the most lame-brained series of the past few years, was successful enough to not only warrant a sequel but also have Funimation picking it up and dubbing it, too. Now that sequel has arrived on American shores in its glorious uncensored form.
“Glorious” is, of course, a relative term here, as in this case it mainly means that you can clearly see exposed nipples and characters orgasming from masturbation or other acts that fall just short of outright intercourse. (Funimation has given this one a TV-MA rating, and that should not be treated as a prudish evaluation.) Panty and butt shots, lingerie shots, groping, massive bouncing mammaries (at least two characters measure in the triple-digit centimeter range for breast size), excuses to strip down or destroy clothes, and all manner of lewd behavior abound, including at least one scene where several female characters are sucking on just about every penis-shaped food that you can imagine. Though the series technically accommodates all sizes and builds, those with more petite figures still seem like token presences in an environment that otherwise obsesses over huge chests. In a decided change from the first series, the fan service here sometimes takes on sadistic and even outright mean-spirited tones, the most odious example of which is the episode where Takeru's friend (and fellow pervert) Kengo winds up as the temporary principal and abuses his authority to a degree that would result in all sorts of sexual harassment lawsuits anywhere else.
Keeping the fan service and harem antics ramped up to the max is an absolute necessity because this season has nothing else to fall back on. The 10 regular and one OVA episode available in this release are entirely episodic in nature; even the occasional bits of seeming character development (primarily for Minaya) have no apparent lasting impact. The “inspired” individual stories range from one episode where Inaho's cat uses its own magical ability to transform the Maken-Ki girls into catgirls (and naturally it's mating season) to another about a randy teddy bear Himegami unwittingly buys to another about Takeru and the nurse Aki being handcuffed together on a deserted island to yet another where the perpetually-bandage-adorned Azuki winds up having to pass as a guy for a date with Furan, who is improbably unable to recognize Azuki. (And that Azuki can so completely hide her sizable chest like that is equally improbable.) Little of this has any spark of originality and none of it feeds into any hint of an ongoing story. Worse, several of these vignettes badly, painfully fail to entertain. The series does, at times, find some humor that works, and not everything is awful; the last regular episode, which is a flashback to the earlier days of Maken-Ki when the current teaching staff composed its membership, is probably the best, although that still is not saying much in a qualitative sense. Anyone expecting much of an improvement from the weak first season will be disappointed, though.
So much emphasis goes onto the fan service and random hijinks that the first season's prominent action component has been scaled back a bit. The supernatural battles still happen, but nearly as often as not in these episodes the flashy uses of Maken fall into the “punish the pervert (whether deserving or not)” category. What true battles do get carried out are generally shorter and less consequential and do not ascend above the first seasons' penchant for limiting the animation. (After all, devoting full effort to animating jiggle is far more important. . .)
In general, the technical and musical merits of the second series fall in line with those of the first series; in other words, nothing spectacular but at least better than the writing, though the opener and closer for this series are both upgrades. Staying on-model, which is arguably more important for a heavy fan service series than any other type, is an infrequent but still evident problem, though the AIC Spirits team tends to be more diligent whenever nudity is involved. These episodes add no new recurring characters, but the new character designs resulting from seeing the current primary school staff as high schoolers are a treat. The other added visual treat this time around is a number of specific references to other titles in the cosplay episode, including Strike Witches, Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, Is This a Zombie?, and Problem children are coming from another world, aren't they?
Funimation retains most of the English dub cast from the first season, though two prominent roles have updates: Anthony Bowling now voices Kengo (a necessary change, given the legal trouble that original performer Scott Freeman has run into) and Elizabeth Maxwell has taken over the role of Himegami from “Chloe Ragnbone.” Neither change makes a substantial difference, with Ms. Maxwell fitting in surprisingly smoothly given that other roles she's voiced (most notably Motoko Kusanagi in the recent Ghost in the Shell content) sound nothing like Himegami; she even comments in one of the included audio commentaries that she doesn't recognize her own voice in this. As with the first series, the actors and script writers pretty much acknowledge how dumb the content is and just have fun with it, which results in heaping amounts of Americanized slang for the sexual content and the odd pop culture reference or three. And as the Japanese dub did, the two male characters who change gender in the OVA episode both have actresses take over their roles.
Unlike with the first series, Funimation's release of the title does not have a Limited Edition option. Extras include trailers and commercials, clean opener and closer, and English audio commentaries for episodes 1 and 7. Both of the latter can be fun listens but neither provides substantial insight.
Overall, the second series is actually slightly more tolerable because it's episodic; that at least cuts out the clumsy attempts at forwarding plot. Even strictly on a fan service bases, though, I still cannot recommend the series. If you liked the first season than nothing here should dissuade you from continuing, but to me it is still a low-end performer as fan service titles go.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C-
Story : C-
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : C+
+ Flashback episode, does occasionally generate a laugh or two.
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