Maken-ki! Two Review

This is review number three hundred and nineteen. This anime is part of the Winter 2014 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is Maken-ki Two. Yeah, the second season of an anime released in 2011. That sounds like a fun idea, right? Oh, wait. This is an Ecchi anime. What the hell. Anyways, it has boobs….and boobs….and some more boobs. Seriously though, this is a pretty good show. The first season was my 49th review. The second season is now my 319th so that’s pretty awesome. You can tell how far I’ve gone from how I wrote those two reviews. I used to do really short reviews. I no longer do them. Let’s read on.

Story

Tenbi Academy is a private school where students with the power of the elements gather. There are also many here who use their element to cause trouble. The school, considering this is a serious problem, decided to form a group led by students from the Leadership Committee, the Magical Security Organization. Using sacred treasures known as Maken, they stop those who use their element for illegal activities. The people call these students Maken-ki

–  Opening narrative

Taking the Pants Off

I honestly thought I was done with this anime. Who in the hell thought Maken-ki needed another season? Out of all the shows that badly needed a continuation, someone thought Maken-ki deserves it more. I’m slightly hopeful though because old shows are getting continuations long after they aired. This opens up possibilities for other shows you actually want to get another season. I don’t remember much about the first season of Maken-ki. That’s really the problem here. The first season is forgettable. I consider it garbage Ecchi because it had low quality animation, no story and a ton of fan service to make up for its embarrassing existence. The one thing I remember about the first season is that the very first episode had twenty one panty shots. I actually counted it because it was gawd damn insane. I think that’s all this anime served up. It just had panty shots and gigantic boobs and a main character lucky enough to grab a few from time to time. It’s your standard garbage Ecchi where you only watch it for the big boobs and the sexy characters. Anime standard has gone up since the first season aired though. Even the quality of Ecchi has changed since TNK studio now gives us uncensored High School DxD for free. Maken-ki actually aired back in 2011. That was when anime started upping the ante. This was the year of Hunter X Hunter, the two anime I have given a perfect score so far, PA Works started breaking ground here, UFOtable unleashed Fate Zero here, and this was the shifting point for light novels to slowly become saturated. The industry started to play around with concepts in this year and basically left garbage Ecchi in the dust. I honestly thought this one would just stay buried forever but here we are now. For some reason, we got another season of Maken-ki. Now this review would be your standard rant about how awful this anime is. I mean really, garbage Ecchi isn’t something good you should enjoy because it’s just cheap sh*t. I was ready to hate this show. Unfortunately though, I actually enjoyed this anime. I still remember the first season. It was painful watching it because it was just a heavy glop of Ecchi that a very enthusiastic TPAB tackled head on. I thought the second season would be the same but it’s somehow different. It has a clear direction, the Ecchi is understandably reasonable (for its genre) and I actually liked the cinematography of this show. Someone saw the first season, realized it was sh*t and then decided to improve upon it. Maken-ki two is actually a much better presentation of the same garbage Ecchi and it is good. I’m not sure exactly why I liked this anime but I guess I have the following paragraphs to convince you and myself as well.

I forgot about the premise of this anime. Thankfully, the anime has a refresher narration opening each episode. Apparently, the characters are part of a committee that stops rogue people abusing their super powers in their school. They aim to act as police for the school and capture the culprits using their element for wrong things. I think Maken describes the weapons the characters have. I also think that only special people can actually obtain weapons or something. The premise is not really important because the first season is really just tits and ass for twelve f*cking episodes. I do think the first season had one overarching story where the characters fought some notable bad guy or something. I forgot how the show ended though. But that’s alright because the second season didn’t pick up where the first season ended. The second season actually doesn’t have any story in it. Each episode is stand alone as it tackles some random thing the committee gets involved in. It’ll usually be your standard criminal abusing his element but it slowly devolves into something incredibly dirty. The second season decided that the plot is not important. It didn’t even try. Instead, it just balances out an episode by having the characters handle a situation while also serving up some heavy portion of fan service. This approach does work effectively though because you don’t have to take the show seriously. You can just enjoy the anime for what is. It’s a stupid Ecchi show full of well-endowed girls. It’s not a boring show about well-endowed girls though as each episode actually has a story to give it direction. If the story gets too boring, the Ecchi swoops right in to keep the anime in balance. I know it’s not much but I often fall asleep when I watch shows with no plot but I think the anime realized this as well. It created a smart pace so the audience can enjoy everything the show has to offer.

The episodes are still badly forgettable though. I give some points for keeping me invested in the episodes but they’re often predictable and just plain dumb at times. That’s alright though. The anime realized this as well. The forgettable episodes does mean trouble especially if you’re presenting a series that doesn’t have an overarching story. It’s not just stupid. It can also be very shallow. The Ecchi somehow saves the day as well though. Since the show doesn’t take itself seriously, the episodes are often setup into two kinds. The first kind would be your typical stupid Ecchi laden episodes where the characters are often caught up in a random incident that turns into something much more dirty. An example would be the first episode where a criminal is using his element to steal bras but it turns dirtier when the characters realizes that he moves up one bra size for the next victim.  For these episodes, just think of the most juvenile and dirty concept you can conjure up and then the anime would run with it. It sticks to this central theme to keep the episode fun to watch. For the first episode, it tackles the ever growing boob sizes and a plethora of well-endowed girls poorly victimized. This is tied in with the episode’s story of trying to catch a criminal and also happily ties in with the garbage Ecchi concept the anime serves up proudly. The episode themes also get exciting as you progress. There’s an episode where the characters are turned into cat girls where they’re all sexed up and in heat fighting the animal urges they acquired. There’s an episode about cosplay where girls are tied up and choked with their own costumes. With the show not taking anything seriously, the episodes are really just dumb fun that you can actually sit through. I remember the first season. The overarching story kept things serious but the Ecchi is stupid. It’s hard to get into the show’s mindset when it’s just being a generic fighting garbage Ecchi like the shows that preceded it.

If the show isn’t sticking to a central theme then the episodes would often focus on a character. Maken-ki had a lot of characters and the first season never bothered to introduce any of them. If they did introduce them then they did a bad job of it because I don’t recognize any of the characters. Anyways, for the other episodes, it would often be about the members of the committee caught up in their own personal misadventure with the others rallying for them. The main goal of these episodes is to properly explore the characters while also put them in very dirty situations. I actually think this was inspired because what better way to introduce a character than to have her tied up while in a bikini. It’s still stupid but it was able to handle the large cast and actually keep episodes interesting. The show is actually smart trying to take the focus away from the harem the first season had. Instead, it put the spotlight on the rest while also maintaining the status quo of the first season. There are episodes about a character who hates men. I didn’t even know a character like that existed in the show. The episodes introduced her very wonderfully though as it got a bit personal but also loose enough for the Ecchi to have a go at her. There’s an episode about a character that likes stuff animals, one about training to become a student council member, and one about a character having amnesia. The episodes have direction, it introduces the characters well and also balances everything out with the dirty content. I really admire how this show was presented. Nothing is out of place and it’s even more surprising when you realize this is a garbage Ecchi anime. These shows are never good but I guess this is an exception. Well, it’s not exactly that great but it is watchable contrast to other shows like this.

The characters are all one dimensional. The second season took advantage of introducing the characters though when the first season didn’t do any of that. It still had a lot of chances to make the characters look good despite sticking to their defined roles in the show. Overall though, the female characters of this anime only have two functions. They’re either heavily objectified or they’re fighting someone with their Maken. They just move along those lines but they do more of the former than the latter because…of, well, the Ecchi. I will now spam this space with ten pictures of girls heavily objectified to prove my point.

mkenki50

I also took a lot of screenshots so I have to put them somewhere in this post. The male characters also have two functions. They either just go with the flow of the story for that episode or they’re getting excited watching the girls get objectified. If an episode has the girls chasing down a bad guy then the boys will follow along but often not contributing to the chase. They do a much better job with the latter where they’ll get nosebleeds, give us very perversely happy looks seeing the girls do something dirty or they’ll be beaten up for acting like perverted monkeys. I am quite happy seeing the main character downplayed in the second season. He has a much importance as the other supporting character which rarely happens. Anime often have two guys but only one gets a harem. This is to satisfy a wish fulfillment realizing the audience can rebel in a fantasy that they can be the one guy that gets all the girls while the other guy gets zilch. This is not the case here. The main character noticeably has two girls fawning over him but the supporting character also has a cute relationship with a girl of his own. I think I cried a bit when this cliché is broken for this anime. I don’t like the main character. I still remember him from the first season. He was a bland f*ck in an anime that’s hard to enjoy. He’s only importance is that he is the pen*s the harem likes and nothing more. I’m glad the second season toned the harem down and found other ways to make the show enjoyable.

The two seasons of Maken-ki is understandably different from one another because two different studios handled a season. The first season was presented by AIC and directed by Kouichi Ouhata. AIC is a very old studio with varying range of work. Some of them are really well done while others are extremely bad. The first season of Maken-ki falls under the extremely bad group along with shows like R-15 and Okami Kakushi. One notable thing about very old studios though is that they often have a hard time getting a strong foothold in the industry when transition happens. AIC has some very strong hitters back in the late 90s and the early 2000s but slowly lost grasp of what makes them special because of the changing times. A studio that was founded in an era of hand drawn animation would really have a hard time maintaining consistency when they’re up against new studios flaunting impressive CG generated shows. You can’t count them out though. They have impressive range of really great shows like Gai Rei Zero, Special A, Humanity has Declined all the way to Wandering Son and you can bet they’ll produce more great works down the line. The first season’s director also gave us Ikkitousen and you can see both shows are presented the same. Serious shows with dumb Ecchi pockets. It worked to a degree with Ikkitousen but it was just awkward when the same thing was done to Maken-ki. It just didn’t fit right and it certainly ruined the experience.

The second season is handled by a different group though. Xebec gave us Maken-ki two, for some reason, and it was directed by Hiraku Kaneko. Xebec is also a very old studio but they specialize in one thing: Ecchi shows and anime with a lot of sexy characters in it. They remained consistent simply because they stick to what they’re good at. If you see a Xebec logo in your anime then expect it to have very sexy characters. Yes, this includes DNAngel. They do a lot of garbage Ecchi though like Hen Zemi, Ladies versus Butler and To Love Ru. They basically built a legacy off the same thing TNK Studio is currently trying to gain notoriety on. Xebec does a very fine job with its Ecchi shows though and Maken-ki is a good fit for them. I know Hiraku Kaneko by heart because he directed Manyuu Hikenchou. This is an Ecchi anime that has a story. It has a balanced presentation as well. The show has clear direction as the serious story and the stupid Ecchi is able to work together. Hiraku knows how to make really good Ecchi shows and the second season of Maken-ki is no different. You can tell this director is talented because of how thoughtful he was in delivering the second season. He could’ve easily given us another garbage Ecchi like the first season but he didn’t. He made it better and he actually improved the experience. He should do more works like this because he clearly has amazing talent for it that no other director can match. With Hiraku, you can actually say you enjoyed the Ecchi anime’s plot and not refer to the boobs which is mind boggling. As for Maken-ki though, let’s just end it here. While I welcome the idea of another season, let’s just stop while we’re ahead. No more season three please, thank you.

Sight and Sound

Hiromitsu Takeda’s character design is pretty iffy. I don’t like how bulky his characters look. While I do understand that they are disproportioned because of their boobs, their height is also a bit off for me. I decided to take a peek at the manga to realize just how bad the design was that the anime can’t quite adapt it properly. It soon became clear to me though that Hiromitsu is one talented f*cker and his manga designs are actually incredibly realized. The anime is the one that screwed up. The proportions are beautiful and the design has enough detail that you’ll be first drawn to the face before you notice the gigantic boobs the characters have. In Ecchi standards, Hiromitsu’s design is actually pretty flawless and pretty incredible realizing how sultry the characters look while also making sure the panels are clean. In the manga, the characters are often posed making the drawings harder to pull off but Hiromitsu seems to do it with ease. He can retain the beautiful face, the sultry body and add enough details to make every panel a real work of perverted art. He also draws from different angles and it’s really mind blowing. Granted, I don’t really read Ecchi manga but I do think Maken-ki is a smart choice to be your gateway to it. The manga is also pretty plot driven despite still being absolutely stupid. I understand what the first season is trying to aim for though and I do think they were doomed from the start. Maken-ki is one of those manga that is hard to adapt. It basically functions better as a manga. If you turn it into an anime with its blatant Ecchi and plot driven narrative then you’re going to fail hard. Every character is utilized in the manga and there’s just no way to properly present it. The second season pretty much abandoned the plot and focused on something else. It was a smart move because the manga is deceptively complex. On the downside though, true Maken-ki fans might’ve been bummed when they realized the second season didn’t even try to match the manga’s awesomeness.

The second season did one thing right though. It captured Hiromitsu’s vision in presenting Maken-ki. The manga often utilize a lot of angles and aerial shots. The perverted moments are often given such care and detail that it’s pretty mind blowing. The second season tried to capture that. I think right from the start, you can tell, the cinematography of the second season is really amazing. It employs different camera angles to certain scenes. One dull scene would often be presented in different ways from the front view, side view, back view and even a shot that moves sideways and such. You can tell certain scenes are really given extra care and attention. The camera work really stayed true to the manga’s complex angles that made the story telling pretty top notch. The animation is where the show excelled though. Certain scenes like when the girls call forth their Maken or random perverted scenes would often have high quality animation. The color pops beautifully while the movements are smooth and the effects are dazzling. It’s a different kind of eye candy from an Ecchi anime. The animation is not consistent though. Some scenes have high quality but other scenes still looked as sloppy as the first season’s animation. It’s not something so bad that it ruins the appeal of the animation though. I think that’s a big reason why the Ecchi scenes are fun to watch. They’re often presented with high quality animation that it’s often hypnotizing. Obligatory GIF at the bottom.

Regarding the Ecchi, the first season had a lot of panty shots that it really defined the series. For some reason, the second season actually restrained things a bit. The panty shots are now blocked. They aren’t censored but they are intentionally blocked. I have mix feelings about this because I’m kinda spoiled by TNK Studio’s High School DxD and Kenzen Robo Daimidaler where the fan service is in your face and awesome. The fan service for the second season is given in a different manner. I think this is a good thing because it was able to shake off the garbage Ecchi tag the first season had on but, c’mon, give us what we came here to watch for in the first place. The panty shots are gone now but the fan service is still strong. It’s in the form of very dirty situations like two girls wrestling each other or the girls popping out of their bikinis. It still had the really edgy dirtiness you’d expect from Maken-ki but I guess it’s done in a more refined way. It understands that the audience wants dirty scenes but it doesn’t want to give low brow cheap ones. Instead, it gives us steamy scenes in a more imaginative way. I think you just have to see it for yourself to better understand the quality of Ecchi this anime is sporting. Luckily, I’m about to spam this space with a lot of Ecchi screenshots so prepare yourself. There are scenes where the girls are just objectified like being tied up and sh*t:

There are scenes that simply talks about boobs and various boob related fan service scenes:

And there are some random girl-on-girl scenes that just looks awesome:

There is the occasional panty shot but not those detailed ones where the lips are imprinted in them and there are also a few scenes where our main character gets lucky but the following scenes above are more prevalent. I think it’s a way to give the show a different look and it does work in a smart way since it often ties in with the story for each episode. They still look random but, at least, it doesn’t operate in a stupid way where the main character is singled out just for a random Ecchi scene. I can’t say that the anime needed it as well. While I do miss the panty shots, I still think the dirty scenes are strong enough to not just entertain but also be more memorable than the ones in the first season.

The anime’s OP song is “Fly Away” by Mizuki Togashi. It’s your typical OP about someone saying that love should be cherished or something. It’s a pretty generic song with some uninspired lyrics. I dunno. I’m no expert but I just didn’t enjoy the song. It does have some unintentional double entendre that I did enjoy because it relates nicely to the anime. The OP sequence is pretty great though. The animation is pretty great and it gave us a small montage of the episodes you’ll see in the show. It also displayed the Ecchi proudly and nicely capturing the kind of dirty content this anime have. The anime’s ED song is “Baby! Baby!” performed by the entire cast. One girl sings a version per episode. It’s just like the Op song though. It sounds generic and uninspired but I think the novelty of the large cast singing their own version makes it special in a cute way. The ED sequence features the characters in bikinis flaunting the complicated poses you can actually see in the manga. The colors look dull though. The manga’s version is a lot more impressive. Anyways, it climaxes into one of the girls getting her top removed then a shot of all the boobs and things just go weird from there. Just go watch it for yourself. It’s pretty worth it.

Overall Score

7/10 “It’s a balanced Ecchi show with a great cinematography. It’s entertaining in a dumb way but also deceptively smart in its structure.”

This is a surprising follow up for an anime I consider so mediocre it hurts. The second season changed my opinion though as it gave us strong episodes with a lot of wonderful Ecchi servings. The plot is still subpar and the narrative is stupid but the animation balances things out. If you enjoy Ecchi then you’ll love this show. It’s a restrained Ecchi with very little exposed but the well-endowed girls will keep you happy for its ten episode run. I hate the first season with all my being but for this second season, I do recommend it.

 

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