Shikimori Kazuki has a problem. In a world where the ability to use magic is paramount, and as a student in a school of only the most elite magicians, he is almost completely unable to use magic -- he has a mere eight charges before being burned up like a magic missile wand in a D&D campaign.
However, the girls at his school are after a different kind of wand ... for it turns out his "genes" carry the distilled potential of the world's greatest magicians. So now, the scions of Japan's most powerful magical families want in his pants, and to top it all off, he's got a girl living in his dorm claiming to be his promised wife.
Well, I'm running down the road
-"Take It Easy", The Eagles
There, folks, is the most succinct summary of Maburaho, which might have been easier to swallow if it were a hentai dating sim. However, it's not, and it rhymes with ahou for a reason.*
Maburaho is such a by-the-numbers, committee-produced piece of crap that it's just painful to watch. You know, someday, I'd love to see a show where the nebbish loser hero walks into his dorm, finds an undressed girl, has his moment of OMGWTF, then nonchalantly walks past while saying, "Wazzup beeyotch!" This isn't that show. This could never be that show, because these characters are idiots.
Now, I could give a little slack to the very repressed and downtrodden Shikimori Kazuki (played by a reassuringly dorky Sakaguchi Daisuke / Blake Shepherd)-- he is an "average Joe" who we are supposed to sympathize with, because much like, oh, Mahoro, he's got somewhat of a limited lifespan. Unfortunately, the pathos surrounding his condition is blunted by his desperation in using his "charges" to save the main female lead, the irritatingly selfish and oblivious Miyama Yuuna. I can't tell whether seiyuu Nabatame Hitomi sucks, or is simply doing what she is told, but either way, her character is about on par with the lead from Final Approach, every bit as insistent about being what most Americans would label as being a creepy stalker girl ("I'm your wife now and YOU MUST ACCEPT IT!"), though less martial. (Not that this helps). Jessica Boone comes off a little better here, though again, there's only so much decent dubbing can do to mitigate the damage.
The other girls aren't much better. We have gold-digging upperclassman (and inexplicably corporate VP) Kazetsubaki Kuriko, notable largely for her brazen attitude and her humongous breasts (okay, more Gainax than Eiken here). Oddly enough, she is voice-acted by Matsuoka Yuki, usually known for roles like Osaka and Asahina Arumi -- she is totally different here, and frankly, nowhere near as charming. On the dub side, Tiffany Grant easily outdoes her counterpart, since she seems to have more experience while roles of this type. Taciturn samurai-wannabe Kamishiro Rin (played by Inokuchi Yuka / Kim Prause, though as few lines as they had, she could've been played by Big Mouth Billy Bass) goes for the "traditional" approach and alternately wants to slice up Kazuki to save herself the trouble ... or size him up as a potential bedmate.
The rabid insistence of the rest of the female student body to "get his genes for the sake of their families" seems like a really broad satire on the whole Asian dating culture scene, where garnering a good husband as a credit to one's clan has been important for centuries. Of course, a lot of Westerners find this mindset insulting and degrading on an individual level, and frankly, this retelling of that whole trend isn't particularly helping much. Part of the whole problem is that Kazuki's concerns about wanting someone to like him for himself are drowned out by the manic "get in his pants" theme. It's less comic than ... depressing.
On second viewing, I previewed the English dub, which actually made things go down a lot easier, though the consistent mangling of Japanese names is dismaying. It just seems odd that while the quality of the English voice acting is higher in the dialogue, it's balanced out by all the stumbling over names over three syllables long (Kazetsubaki, Nakamaru, etc), which don't come naturally to Americans who aren't trained in Japanese, and are hard to fit into the lip-flaps. Translator Richard Kim and ADR Director Sandra Krasa deserve mad props for trying very, very hard to make this an enjoyable experience, as it's not their fault this show just plain bites.
As for the animation itself, there's really nothing much to complain about. It's a tad simplistic, especially in terms of background and actual frame rate, but it is glossy and colorful, and there's not a lot of actual action except for the little detail that this anime features more explosions than a typical day working for Al Qaeda.
And sure, I could go on about the other substandard technical specs, like the heinous OP/ED themes by the annoyingly nasal Ichiko, but I'll just leave you guys with the plot from episode three.
A little girl ghost (maybe about seven) named Elizabeth who is apparently a holdover from the Holy Roman Empire, gets entangled with the main characters in a typical moronic TV-show sitcom plot involving the demolition of her adopted mansion by samurai sword. Her most prized possession, the armor of her beloved parent, is destroyed, and she goes wacko-ballistic, so Kazuki blows off a charge to save Yuuna from her.
Then Kuriko shows up, and LO AND BEHOLD, her boobies are exactly like those of Elizabeth's mom, and Elizabeth glomps her, fondles her, practically latches onto her teat, and says, "You're my new mommy."
I have never seen my PSII vomit a DVD so violently.
While Maburaho has obviously crashed and burned at this point, I will continue to watch this to see if it can pick itself up again.
Boobs and explosions? Where can you go wrong? Apparently ... all SORTS of places. I'm not denying there's an audience for this sort of stuff ... but that audience includes no one in our household! However, you can effectively add one star for the dub, which bumps this up from unwatchable to merely mediocre. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Loser fanboys who don't mind watching utter tripe as long as they fill their daily quota of bouncy boobs. Erm, I mean, slapstick violence and fan service put this squarely in the teens and up category.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (3/24)
Maburaho © 2003 Maburaho Production Committee
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