Maburaho Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 31, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2005



What They Say
As if high school wasn't difficult enough, Kazuki Shikimori is now dealing with life as a ghost! But that minor setback hasn't deterred Yuna, Kuriko and Rin from trying to woo him. Although it appeared Kuriko only had eyes for Kazuki, a mystery man comes into her life who might change everything. Not only that, it seems that classmate Nakamaru's genes may be superior to Kazuki's, forcing the girls to rethink their positions.

Shino, the enigmatic ghost collector, is still after Kazuki. Can he escape her cunning attempts to cage him? Plus, could there be new rivals on the scene for the girls to face? For Kazuki, being dead is the least of his problems!

The Review!
Maburaho moves forward a little bit more but for the most part progress isn't a key phrase for these episodes.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Keeping to the same style as the previous volumes, this cover provides the full color shot of both Morisaki and Rin in fight mode with their outfits being torn away while scantily clad images of Yuna and others are in the background. The back cover has one of the more controlling women from Kazuki's class posing alone along side several shots done as photos. The summary gives the basics of the premise and is followed up with the shows extras and a series of photographs from scenes from the show. 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 the episodes in this volume. Inside there's some gag stories about the school, tidbits about the characters and some four panel strips.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
The extras section has some fairly standard pieces here and the kind of extras I expect over the remainder of the series run. The art section showcase various pieces of production artwork set to a video gallery format and it has some nice pieces to it. The opening and ending sequences are also presented in their clean versions which continue to be one of the best standard extras since DVDs arrival. While no commentary is in this volume, we do get something of a first I think with a video interview with Fumiko Chino, the art designer for this and many other ADV series..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the shift a couple of volumes ago to Kazuki being a ghost didn't change my opinion of the series one way or the other, the latest set of episodes seems to show that the writers weren't quite sure what to do it with themselves as the show seems to be in something of a holding pattern almost. Of course, they do manage to find a few fun things to do but it's the kind of near-filler material that can either elicit laughs or anger.

The opening episode plays that up a bit as there's a chance that things could change dramatically depending on what happens as Kuriko appears to be seeing a man who might be proposing to her as he may have some genes that she wants now that Kazuki is sort of out of the picture. Elizabeth is really pushing this idea with Kuriko since the more people leave Kazuki alone, the more time she gets to spend with him since she's a fellow ghost. Kuriko's way of dealing with things has her all a twitter about her apparent date with this older gentleman and it's something that the others find out about so in order to try and find out what's happening, they all follow her on her date. Between Kazuki, Yuna and Rin as well as Elizabeth, the four of them just find themselves in more trouble along the way than anything Kuriko could be involved in and of course it's the kind of episode where what you think isn't what is really going on. It's a nice change of pace for Kuriko though but it continues to push the Kazuki is useless equation.

The episode that had the most fun for me on this volume was the second one that has a new round of testing going on at the school which is something that seems to be pretty normal. It's not a bad plot device either since it gets all the girls down to their underwear and how can you not sell a show like that? As it turns out, Kazuki's supposed best friend Nakamura now has the best genes available out there and he suddenly becomes the new celebrity of the day since everyone should want his genes. Nakamura naturally lets it all go to his head and he gets a power trip like nothing that Kazuki could ever do as all the girls in the class now wear bunny suits and the guys all wear the ninja-like stage-hand outfits from plays and all of them bow down before their new king of the classroom.

The last episode on the disc ended up being the one that made me wish the show was over quicker than it already is as the class has headed to Kyoto for a field trip to study various temples and other religious landmarks and sites. While there, Kuriko, Yuna and Kazuki end up becoming friends with a local girl named Morisaki who I turns out is involved in some kind of long feud with Rin's family. With a centuries long dispute at hand between the two families, Rin's arrival in Kyoto sets into motion the "Showdown in Kyoto" between the two. The class has spent most of the episode up until now ransacking the city by finding all sorts of ways to try and make money which has only infuriated their teacher. But now with an actual showdown at their disposal, they come up with some creative ways to make the money while the two women provide a surprisingly good fight sequence that mixes in plenty of amusing fan service as uniforms get shredded.

But even with the fun of that, the episode really felt the weakest of what felt like three filler episodes. The quality of the episodes animation and designs themselves don't drop in an overly noticeable way and the stories themselves aren't quite the kind of filler that you'll find in other shows, but things just seem to be like the wheels are spinning but nothing's really happening. The two minutes of actual potential new plot that could affect the series comes at the very end of the last episode here so it at least has the potential to go somewhere but with no real advances made in this set of episodes with Kazuki's problem and his acceptance of being a ghost has left things a little bland and up to the girls to really carry on their own.

In Summary:
Maburaho's second half continues to be an interesting experiment in changing the lead character dramatically in one way and seeing how it'll affect things. While this may work easier in manga since you can conceivably do more things it's a bit strained in the anime since the characterization of Kazuki doesn't exactly have you keeping interest in him. While most people are obviously watching it for the girls, he is the central anchor to which they are all there so having him even more, well, wimpy about it for the lack of a better word, it may provide some connection for people but it's not one that you really want to see a lot of it. These episodes cover a few different areas and I loved how Nakamura took to being king for awhile and his complete honesty in it, something that really made the episode work as well as it did. The show has been in a bit of a holding pattern for these episodes but it looks like that's coming to an end in the next volume which hopefully will be more entertaining overall.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,"The Art of Maburaho",Interview with US Art Designer,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: C+
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: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Maburaho