Maburaho Vol. #3 (of 7) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, August 11, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What They Say
Witches and Demons and Ghosts
- Oh, my!

With only three magic spells remaining before he turns to dust, Kazuki Shikimori is waging a war against fate when he’s tempted to use his powers. Vexing vixens Kuriko, Rin and Yuna each want Kazuki’s superior DNA for themselves, so they’ll try just about anything to save his assets including some pretty bizarre remedies -- like a trip to a magical hot springs and some questionable concoctions. However, one of Yuna’s attempts backfires in a rather dangerous way. And is Kazuki hearing things, or is that maple tree really talking to him? Will the girls be able to save Kazuki from himself, or will their efforts be nothing more than dust in the wind?

The Review!
As the girls continue to search for ways to increase Kazuki's spell count, something unexpected happens and the nature of the series potentially changes.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a fairly standard stereo mix that's used in a show where there's plenty of explosions and other high school escapades. With characters flying about, explosions going across entire sections of walls and windows and numerous other directional bits, the forward soundstage conveys this nicely and without any problems. Dialogue is nice and clean throughout it as well as getting some good placement such as when the cast is flying. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series looks to be one that has some high production values and exceptionally good coloring used on it that gives it very fresh and very animated feel. The transfer manages to capture a lot of this really well as the colors look great and vivid without any oversaturation or excessive bleeding. The colors maintain a very solid feel throughout and while there's a touch of macroblocking here and there in some wide color fields, they're essentially really good looking. Some cross coloration does seep through in the very edges of a couple of the characters hair and shows up sporadically but it's nowhere near on the level of distraction. An occasional panning or two causes some light aliasing but that's fairly typical. Overall, this is quite good looking and easy on the eyes.

The covers for this series make out good in that they managed to get the Japanese artwork but it's unfortunate that they couldn't use reversible covers since there's so many more volumes in that release. This cover plays up Yuna once more but in a bit of a twist based on the story as it's more of a "Dark Yuna" than anything else, so her already sexy nature is altered and bumped up a few notches as her shirt is torn and her skirt is coming wide open. Very tasty. The back cover gives Yuna some time alone along side several shots done as photos. The summary gives the basics of the premise and pushes the hottie factor a bit while listing the discs extras. The shows production information is clearly listed and the technical grid covers everything else in an easy to read format. An insert is included with this release that is done as a school newspaper with the front showcasing a lead story related to one of the episodes in this volume. Inside there's some gag stories about the school, tidbits about the characters and some four panel strips.

The menu layout is a cute piece where it has Yuna chasing Kazuki as she flies behind him and he runs "around the world" in a sense. It's done with very light and comical animation as a bit of funky little music plays along for a brief loop. Access times are nice and fast and with the basic navigation it's easy to move about. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets which continues to be a nice plus.

The extras section has what's likely to be the standards across the release excepting one or two of them. The art section showcase various pieces of production artwork set to a video gallery format and has some nice pieces to it. The opening and ending sequences are also presented in their clean versions which continues to be one of the best standard extras since DVDs arrival. The commentary track done for this volume is by Tiffany Grant and the series ADR director Sandra Krause, though they don't do it in the same was as the previous volume with the video portion included with it which is unfortunate. .

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After two volumes of basic comedy and plenty of fanservice, Maburaho starts to change slowly and then dramatically by the end of the volume with its mood and potentially how the series will play out. This comes as something of a surprise and is done in a way that you can't really get a feel just yet for how it will be when all is said and done.

One of the continuing running plots is having the girls trying to find a way for Kazuki to get more spell count added to his dangerously low level. He's still at three and that means he's just so close to turning to ash that it's not funny. I actually continue to like this aspect since it works nicely as a limiter for some people and has a price to pay for the magic, unlike a lot of shows that just have unlimited abilities that are continually expanded upon. Kuriko has found a hot spring that will supposedly do the job so she convinces Yuna to allow her to take him there while Yuna stays behind. This doesn't last too long and eventually the rest of the girls show up at the inn to try and stop anything bad from happening. The aspect of gaining more spellcounts is done in a very comical manner here as there are a couple of ways of doing it, from staying underwater for two years or risking a chance to be sent to hell. The fanservice level is pretty high throughout here as well as Kuriko does her best to bed him.

Another episode focuses on an antique relic that a previous student at the school had, a blue magatama, that could help infuse him with new levels of power as well. This leads to some research on the girl who was cursed with bad luck and had lost most of her family as well. It feels like a fairly standard almost filler like plot, but what it's doing is actually laying the groundwork for later in the show by talking about some of the strange sicknesses that people can get that affect their magic levels. This is also talked about in the news to some extent as the bodies of those who simply disappear continues to make news as does the lack of intervention or help by the government.

The real fun with this volume comes in a traditional storyline of the good and bad personality split concept. Yuna's father sent along some vials for Dr. Akai to work with in the hopes of helping Kazuki, or at least that's what Yuna thought that the vial was for, as she ends up inadvertently releasing a pathogen that has taken on her form but does the complete opposite of what she would in any given situation. So while Yuna is going around lamenting that the latest fix isn't what it should be since she doesn't see the pathogen come out, Dark Yuna is heading around school and causing trouble. The best of this is when she gets to the classroom and one of the students, the craftiest of them all, has out-gambled everyone in there of not only their lunches but of their clothes. Since Yuna is like his holy grail of girls, it's little surprise that he tries to go up against her as well.

The introduction of Dark Yuna and the way the pathogen aspect of it is covered brings some interesting new material to the plate and sets up Yuna for some nasty happenings before the end of the volume. The variety of magic related diseases is an interesting topic all on its own but seeing it worked over here as something that reduces spell count shows just how deadly it can be, since dropping to zero turns you to ashes. There's a fair bit of comedy throughout this and a lot of really good fanservice as the Dark Yuna just has much more appeal than her regular self, but as it shifts into a far more serious story for now it does a good job of balancing the two sides of the story. As it ends, and make sure you don't skip past the end credits and watch the full episode, it sets things up for an interesting change in the series that I'm curious to see whether it will be a temporary gag or something more long term.

In Summary:
There is plenty to enjoy with this volume that's similar to the previous two in terms of the basic magical based comedy and the fan service but they also change the tone of the show as it progresses on towards the end of this volume. This brings us to the halfway point in the series so it's really hard to tell where this will take things but it's the kind of change that can really change the nature of things. The show has been fun up to this point but it's future is less than clear right now.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,"The Art of Maburaho"Commentary by Tiffany Grant,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Maburaho