Maburaho Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 14 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Maburaho

Maburaho Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     May 16, 2005
Release Date: April 19, 2005


Maburaho Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


What They Say
High school student Kazuki Shikimori comes from a line of powerful magicians with extraordinary DNA and he attends the most prestigious school for wizards in all of Japan. It would seem that life is good for Kazuki.

Unfortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. He's not the most smooth when it comes to the ladies, his grades are poor, his athletic skill is next to none, and to top it all off, he can only use his magic eight times before he turns into dust!

However, three magical hotties have learned of his genetic secret and are all after him! Suddenly he has become the most "popular" kid in class. Are all these girls out to romance him, or are they only after his DNA?

The Review!
In a world where magic is the norm and your status is decided by how much magic you can use, when you've got close to none you're at the bottom of the barrel.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The 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:
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. The cover used here is from the second volume and it's one that I don't think works quite as good for a first volume, other than it has one of the girls in a very loli-style outfit with big breasts and makes it an easy sell, as I like the Japanese first volume cover better since it's aimed more at the first two episodes of the show. This cover does look good though as the illustration style is really slick and detailed and hell, Kazetsubaki is just plain attractive with those stockings. 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 the three lead girls fawning over a tiny Kazuki. Inside there's some gag stories about the school, tidbits about the characters and some four panel strips.

Also available on release was a disc + box version which can hold the entire seven volume series. The box is designed similar to one of the limited edition Japanes releases in that the background looks like a corkboard and it has all sorts of pictures from the show pinned to it all over. One of the main panels features a slightly raised image of Kuriko in her underwear while the other has a cute shot of Rin in a bunnygirl outfit. The spine panel features both Yuna and Kazuki together while the top panel has the three girls in their swimsuits, though they're more in super deformed mode than model mode. This is a good solid chipboard box that I think is nicely attractive both in design and in the choices made for the characters and artwork used.

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. Surprisingly, there's an actual error in the menu which is rare to see as the extras section is labeled "exras". Spelling errors in the subtitles aren't uncommon but it's rare to see a menu have them. 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 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. This volume also has a section of promotional spots from prior to its TV run. The fun extra here and one sure to cause the person in question some embarrassment since I haven't met a translator yet who loves to be on camera, Richard Kim talks about how he went about translating the series and some of the quirks of it and the words within. It's an interesting piece and one I hope see more of.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In seeing the trailers and the cover art for the series, and not really knowing anything about it, I was really dreading going into Maburaho as it screamed that it was just another harem comedy. The genre has fallen on such hard times and overexposure that there either needs to be something radically new or creative done to revive it so it can be exploited all over again. So I will say that as I got into the actual premise of Maburaho, which is a harem comedy, that it was enough to hook me into enjoying it more than I expected.

The setting for this tale is in a world different from ours but similar. The chief difference is that everyone in the world can use magic, something that was unleashed upon the citizens of the world back during a French revolution it seems as prior to that magic was the realm of aristocrats and the elite. In the intervening centuries, it's spread all over and everyone has the capability of using it. Naturally, there are different levels of power that people have and over time ones power, which is determined by the number of spells you can cast in your life, sets where you'll go in life. In the beginning, we're introduced to students at the Aoi Academy where some of the most powerful magicians of the country go and we see the school nurse, Dr. Akai, giving his examination to each of them where his little eyeglass shows how many times they can cast magic. Most people seem to range in the eight thousand to ten thousand range.

Interestingly, if you use up you magic, you turn to dust and scatter to the wind, so there's something to be said for being cautious with it even if you have a lot of castings left in you, especially at a young age. This is where our lead character comes in, a somewhat wishy washy young man who finds himself being suckered into trouble by friends at school. Kazuki goes to the Aoi Academy but he's not quite sure why he's there. While there are people in the eight thousand to what I believe is the hundred and forty-thousand range, poor Kazuki has only eight casting moments left on him. He's been weak from the start and has had to always be really careful with magic.

Kazuki is basically trod down upon, ignored or abused but he just suffers through it. He doesn't complain much but he is depressed. So when he arrives back at the male dorm only to find a very attractive young woman in his room changing, he doesn't handle it all that well. It goes even worse when he finds out that her name is Yuna and she's come to be his bride and move in with him. Actually, since they can't get married this young, she just intends to live with him as if they were married so they'll be in full practice for when they can marry. Yuna's arrival sets off a series of events that changes Kazuki's life irrevocably. While it's true that he has hardly any magical capability himself, he's part of a lineage of incredible magicians over the centuries and related to no less than fifty of the top magicians in Japan alone but also with links to countries all over the world. What's been discovered is that it's his potential that is amazing and that his offspring will be the elite of the elite with what kind of punch is packed into his sperm.

And in a world where magical ability determines power and status, practically every woman now wants his body so they can ensure their children and themselves a prosperous future. Most insisting of all are those families who have secured sizeable position and wealth over the years and need to make sure they hold onto it. For example, one family on the wane whose power is starting to falter, they order their extended family daughter Rin to procreate with Kazuki in order to bolster the overall family position. Rin, a traditional girl in the sword and kimono style, so dislikes the idea that she wants to kill Kazuki so that she can pretend she never had to do it.

Another family that gets involved is the massive conglomerate of Kazetsukbaki of whom their daughter Kuriko goes to the same school as Kazuki. She's a slightly over the top buxom blonde who likes showing her garters and stockings and though she has no real feelings for Kazuki will do what it takes to seduce him to her side. And in the middle of all of this comes Yuna, a young woman who has some old promise that she and Kazuki made when they were kids that she's believed in all this time. Slowly but surely, with the class, the faculty and friends, you get that harem build-up that brings in some predictable moments but also ones that aren't exactly so. For example, Yuna can't live with Kazuki because it's a segregated dorm. When an abandoned house comes into the story where a young ghost haunts it, you expect that to turn into the harem house where they'll all live together. Instead, things go in such a manner than the boys and girls dorms collide against each other and we instead get one massive co-end dorm. It simply wasn't expected to play out that way and changes like that are ones that creators find hard to avoid doing since it seems so natural. There are several moments like this throughout the first four episodes that helped make the show all the more enjoyable.

The designs in the show actually surprised me a bit as well. Going in, I figured I'd be completely bothered by the obviousness that they give to Kuriko but they make the character fun and interesting enough that she manages to push past the design. Rin's design goes for the traditional classical look so that they can use a number of gags from that direction and they certainly do. She's arguably the least defined of the characters in the course of the first four episodes though Yuna comes close but she makes out towards the end with some extensive time given to her and her past. Her design though, right from when you see her in the thigh high white stockings and undies, well, she won me over. For some reason the design and the pink hair just coalesced together into a character that while weak and in that humble/violent archetype simply clicked for me.

In Summary:
Maburaho manages to take the traditional harem format and works within most of the usual confines of it but also breaks free from some of it, at least so far, and mixes in some nice little twists with the magic and its social and power issues. The characters are surprisingly likeable and fun to watch even down to the typically weak and indecisive lead male in the form of Kazuki. The animation looks good throughout and it's a neatly vibrant piece at times that just comes to life so well. The secondary characters make a good mark on the show as well and help to flesh things out in creative ways as we get to know the premise. As a series opener, this is a good strong one that's still got one foot stuck in the standards of a particular genre.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing,Production Art,TV Spots,Interview with the translator

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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