Another season begins and of course the first I must write of is probably one of the most atrociously executed shows out of all of them: Maken-ki!. It’s a harem fight manga adaptation that takes place in a high school involving special powers of which the protagonist is a strange wildcard whose surrounding circumstances are a fascinating mystery! Fascinating! The manga is the brainchild of Takeda Hiromitsu (Tsundero) and it is being adapted by director Ohata Koichi (Burst Angel, Ikkitousen, Genocyber, MD Geist) while the series composition is the charge of Kuroda Yousuke (Gungrave, Hellsing Ultimate, Infinite Ryvius, High School of the Dead, Honey & Clover, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Trigun). Did I mention we get character designs by Yuki Nobuteru (Angel Cop, Paradise Kiss, Heat Guy J, Seikon no Qwaser)? What an interesting staff!
As the title of the post suggests, I am going to go over the shows qualities in as deliberate and purposeful a way as the director has his camera work done.
As a fighting harem fanservice show, one of the few important attributes is the charisma of the heroines. Towards this end, we have the rather proven veteran of Seikon no Qwaser, whose designs haven’t always agreed with my particular tastes but it is impossible to deny their effectiveness. Unfortunately, Maken-ki! doesn’t come off as well, but perhaps not at the fault of the character designer, but of the uniform!
What is the problem anyways, you ask? Better than I explain, you should simply see!
If only the problem were that simple. Those breasts are rather excessive, but that is too simple of a problem and ultimately a matter of taste. What’s really egregious are those shoulders! Look at them! Broad! Square! Bulky! MASCULINE! Yes, this is the heart of the true problem: the large breasted women of Maken-ki! (a large majority of them) have awkwardly large torsos, awkwardly small heads, and awkwardly masculine shoulders! They are literally crossdressing men with huge breasts attached to them. Even worse! The size difference between head and body gets so bad sometimes (especially in cases like 3 & 6) that the head really does look like it’s been simply attached to that monstrous body! It’s terrifying?
With the square shoulders, a lot of the effect comes from the uniform, which feature puffed up shoulders. For whatever reason, with the large torsos that Yuki Nobuteru’s designs yield, the uniforms cause an unusually broad, square set of shoulders to form. This is quite disturbing at times and significantly exacerbated by the at times shoddy key framing that’s abundant in cheaper productions like these. On the other hand, the issue with heads not being a part of the body naturally, I’m going to have to just blame again the shoddy key frames that were probably outsourced. The yield is an odd show where the heroines, who should always be attractive, can become repulsive at a second’s notice. This is particularly true for large sidetail childhood friend and I’m too old to be cute fiancee mystery sky woman, along with all the teachers.
Simply said, it is THE UGLY of Maken-ki!.
However, not all is lost. The ugly just means it hurts Maken-ki!‘s ability to be effective fanservice for any fans of large breasts who aren’t some weird F-Cup Trap fetishist person. This leaves many things to still be enjoyed in this show! Seriously!
Silly Cool Things Happen
The life blood of such anime is the stupid things that happen rather than the serious things. The first two episodes were actually quite lacking in this, but the third episode delivers, times two.
The Side Characters
Though by and large the main heroines are abject failures, the side cast is actually decently varied and though not very unique, the archetypes are stuck to closely enough that they are at least not ruined.Not a preference of mine, but she’s actually sized within rational limits and despite being a seitokaichou character, doesn’t play the straight man, really. Well executed design (the purple eyes is an excellent choice here) plus the Legend of the Galactic Heroes reference doesn’t hurt. Her ahoge really balances things out well for her. She’s jealous lesbian too. Wow they really fucked up her shoulders in this still frame.
Her breasts are rather big, but she escapes the problem usually, and she’s a pretty strong example of the archetype. Pretty simple charisma, picks fights all the time, and is cocky for the right reasons.The leopard print bikini she debutes it is a sin against the eyes, but she speaks in a rural dialect so it’s OK. Obviously for the guys who dig dark skin and white hair. He’s not actually that amazing, but sufficiently amusing.
Harem fanservice just can’t work without gags. With no gags, you’re just boring. Unfortunately, Maken-ki! misses the mark with most of these early on but once again episode 3 is something of a redeemer for this. It also grows stronger as the side cast is introduced and there are more pieces to play with in the gags.
Did you notice yet? The faces are pretty well drawn, and often well chosen too. Perhaps I’m paying it too much attention, but the quality of the faces drawn in this show thus far is actually of a pretty high standard. Plus, there’s quite a few amusing expressions.At the very least, the faces compares favorably to everything else. Some expressions are particularly wonderful, especially those of…
Himegami KodamaShe’s basically the best character in the show and the only interesting character of the 3 main heroines. Coincidentally she’s petite enough to be entirely unaffected by the uniform/manly shoulders. Born of the illustrious line of blond, twin-drill-tailed tsundere lolis, Kodama features a lovely range of entertaining expressions and harbors a random revenge plot–rather than actually being tsundere, mostly–on the protagonist… but she’s not actually plotting to do anything because she’s not willing to take revenge unless she’s sure he’s the culprit. Essentially she’s weirdly unusual and entertaining and basically as close to perfect as you get in this show. And even though she spends much of her time ragging on the protagonist for being a peeping tom and punishing him for it, she doesn’t do it because she doesn’t like him looking at other women, but simply because she thinks it’s unsightly, cowardly, and a crime. Naturally, then, he isn’t the only target. If you ever watched Kampfer, Kodama is essentially the ultimate marriage of all the good things about Kampfer Akane and Shizuku crammed into the vessel of a twintailed blonde psuedo-loli with a revenge subplot to allow her to take part in the MC’s harem without actually being attracted to him for at least the early parts of the show (maybe even through the mid section). Like I said, basically perfect, except for…
Kodama’s hairIt is like having an odorous piece of fresh cowpie on your strawberry shortcake instead of the strawberry. What the fuck.
It is not like the hair itself is bad, but it simply does not work with the character. Her eyes are far too sharp and her demeanor far too sarcastic and sedated to warrant such an energetic, busy pseudo-quad-tail set up like that. It just doesn’t work that way. I doubt anyone will disagree that when she has her hair down she’s at least 10 times better. She’d be practically perfect otherwise.
God damn it.
They could’ve went with a less stringy, more conventional twintail too, or something that didn’t pop up so much. But no. Nooo.
There are various things that really ham up even the most basic staging of the mise en scene and pacing that are ridiculously embarassing. So embarassing, in fact, that I sometimes swear it HAS to be on purpose.
For example, take the opening 6 minutes of the show. It almost assurdly was intentionally made to be as dull as humanly possible. It is literally a groan fest all the way through.And basically it trudges along with this awful exercise in dullness until… It’s not a terrible idea on paper, trying to lull the audience in a state of complacency with normalcy and then smashing it whilst you smash the protagonist’s reality. Unfortunately, here, the execution is absolute garbage, and instead it just feels like you wasted a good 6 minutes watching absolutely nothing happen and suffering through ridiculously tiresome dialogue. Holy shit.
But it doesn’t end there, as episode two has probably the most grand example of incompetent editing/composition. First, we have some big ooooo revelation so they switch into exposition mode.Going well so far… … and flash forward to the characters bench warming. And here, shit all happens, literally nothing. Like, actually nothing. THE SHOW CUTS BACK TO EXPOSITION And they explain some stuff, because it is back to exposition taimu. Interestingly they don’t flashback and reuse animation, but instead animate entirely new maken fights from scratch while explaining the situation.
AND THEN THEY FLASH BACK FORWARDAnd then they cut to a parallel scene to do more exposition… Then, finally finished, it cuts back to filler about the guy looking for a club. … what the hell was the flash forward FOR? Ugh.
Finally, though impossible to express here, the show uses an excessive amount of shaky cam for absolutely no reason, it just happens. Just because they like it or something dumb like that. Like, the camera will fix on someone doing a monologue alone: SHAKY CAM. MC is on the screen: SHAKY CAM. Hey look, it’s some breasts: SHAKY CAM. Just watch the show and look for the camera being all wobbly in any one of the shots. It literally happens all the time.
Sometimes it’s just plain retarded
Like, sometimes the things that happen are just plain dumb.And of course, there’s the usual, plain bad production values that creep into anything not heavily key framed. And of course, you get awful gags. And it wastes time on some of the must dimwitted dialogue ever. But what probably is the worst part, and subsequently the part most likely to make the show so bad it’s good, is…