Mahoromatic Vol. #2: Haunting Past (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, March 17, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, March 25, 2003



What They Say
Created by GAINAX (Evangelion, Wings of Honneamise, FLCL, His and Her Circumstances), scripts and direction by Hiroyuki Yamaga (Wings of Honeamise), music by Toshio Masuda (Hand Maid May), character designs by Kazuhiro Takamura, and featuring an English dub by Bang Zoom (Vandread, X).

Mahoro joins Suguru on a nighttime "school assignment" to investigate the school’s ghosts, but they quickly find more than they bargained for! Later, Mahoro is asked to perform the Dance of the Dead in the town festival, and while Suguru enjoys the festival for the first time since his father’s death, his innocent evening with Mahoro may be cut short by a certain teacher...

Then, Mahoro’s past has been concealed, but a new teacher arrives with a mission from the malicious Saint organization: terminate Mahoro!

The Review!
After a rather bright and funny first volume, things get a bit more serious throughout these four episodes, though there’s still plenty of hilarity to be had.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. While the show has a few dynamic action moments, it actually features quite a number of dynamic dialogue moments where the directionality across the forward soundstage comes across perfectly as there are a number of characters and jokes running at any given time. The stereo mix here sounds very good and we noted no dropouts or distortions on either language track.

Video:
The second volume of Mahoromatic continues to sport a gorgeous anamorphic transfer that has fantastic colors with no noticeable bleeding, cross coloration or aliasing. Throughout the four episodes on this disc, I could find no issue that distracted me from its presentation. If this keeps up, this will become one of the easiest sections of the review to write.

Packaging:
In the “everyone be like Mahoro” mode, two of Suguru’s schoolfriends are dressed up as cute maids alongside Mahoro here and even blush slightly while showing off their outfits, set against a small blue sky and some nice outdoor garden. The back cover provides the episode numbers and titles (and the spine contains the volume number, a nice plus) as well as a small summary of what this disc is like. The discs features and extras are nice and clear as well as the usual production information. The insert has a great shot from the festival episode and opens to a nice two panel image of Mahoro curtsying in her maid outfit. The back of the insert provides the chapter stops for all four episodes. The cardboard standees continue here, including one of the outrageously large breasted teacher. In a more fanservice oriented way, the reverse cover has a soft but very warm image of Mahoro sitting on the bed with only the small top layer of her maid outfit on. Combined with the pink covers, the pinkish walls and her blushing, it’s a very good cover but one you can see why they didn’t use on the other side.

Menu:
The menu layout for the show is done up in an in-show theme with one of the military aspects being used as the central piece. Selections on the main menu are quick and easy to load and there’s only a brief transitional piece to the submenu. Returning from the submenus may be tricky at first, since you’re supposed to click in the direction where the main menu is – but there’s no real indication to do that. For example, in the extras menu, you click left to return, but there’s no pointer or icon to indicate that. I can imagine that being frustrating on both a standalone deck and a computer player.

Extras:
The extras are nicely filled out here with a few good bits. The ending sequences gets its textless version provided, anamorphic encoded as well. There’s a brief TV commercial spot included as well as a promotional trailer for the show. The last piece is 10 images in the art gallery, all full color with the first four or so being of the covers and insert material for this volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Now that the introductions and basic set up is behind us, it’s time to see how the show fairs on just simple storytelling and moving forward with the plot of Mahoro’s eventual demise.

Most of the episodes here are really episodic in general, though a new thread makes its way into things later on. With the first season being only twelve episodes, this works out well in fleshing out the cast and having a spot of fun with things. The opening episode is definitely proof of that as we have the usual group of Suguru and his friends going to the school late at night to investigate the two “ghost” story rumors that their school has for a school project. Mahoro tags along out of curiosity and to join in the fun.

The project changes dramatically when everyone arrives and all the girls but Mahoro leave, indicating that they’ll write the report and the boys can do the investigation. The boys continue to be afraid about finding the girl with red hair who kills others or the mysterious swimmer in the club pool who was killed years ago. But they all go in (complete with Mahoro in a Shinto priest outfit) and try to figure it out. What proves to be amusing is that the three girls are all taking part in messing with their minds by dressing up as the red haired girl and scaring everyone senseless. While it does get into the typical lost ghost storyline, there’s a lot of amusing moments throughout that really makes this a fun episode.

And with any series, there’s always a good chance of a festival episode happening so it’s little surprise when one shows up here. Mahoro gets really into the entire concept of the festival, especially after Mahoro gets selected to be the dancer for the event where she gets to be up on the high stage for most of the night. She manages to end up impressing most of those who understand the intricacy of the dance, since she goes three hours at a time without even seeming to be out of breath. The advantage of being an android, though the leering old men have no idea and are just loving the visuals of her in that yukata.

The episode also works well in furthering the relationship between Suguru and Mahoro as well as having Shikijo showing up to try and get in the middle of it all. While this is the main focus, we do get some time spent with the Vesper folks as the Saint forces seem to be ignoring some of the unwritten rules of their war by appearing in more general areas and causing disturbances, making it more difficult to cover up this secret war that’s going on. It’s not a huge point to the episode, but it’s something that helps flesh out the world in general and this mysterious war.

There’s some rather good action sequences to be had later in the disc as part of Mahoro’s past comes back to haunt her. One of her earlier opponents from Saint known here as Ryuga Toh, ends up coming back into her life by showing up as a teacher at Suguru’s school. As a teacher, he’s widely loved by the girls since he falls into the category of a very handsome man, but inside he’s just trying to keep his sanity as he has a hard time understanding how the human mind works. Ryuga’s goals are fairly simple, since he’s been assigned to just watch Mahoro. But he wants to understand the why of it all, and with the potential importance of Suguru based on his father, he begins a campaign of understanding to get to the bottom of matters. Of course, Mahoro is there at almost every step and ready to stop him.

If anything, while the action sequences are solid and enjoyable, the person who comes off the best here is Suguru. Through the investigation of him we learn more of what others things of him in these few minutes than what you could see in the past six episodes. It also gives some clue as to why so many people get along with him. While it’s a standard trick to do it in this way, it works well and works within the context of the view of those in Saint. After all, if you don’t know why Mahoro is really there, it does seem as if she’s there to protect something important, based on her own renown.

Things here are definitely getting darker overall from the first volume, but the comedy and nudity is still there and in full effect. Between Shikijo putting anyone and anything between those mammoth melons and the banter between her and Mahoro, there’s lots to laugh over. This is a fun little series that I’m enjoying quite more than I originally suspected I would, given its maid basis.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Art Gallery,TV Commercial,Promotional Trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mahoromatic