Production Studio: AIC
Was this provided by the publisher? Yes
More Info: Anime News Network
Takeru Ohyama enrolls at Tenbi Academy, a former all girls’ high school that recently became co-ed. There, he is reunited with childhood friends Haruko Amaya and Inaho Kushiya, the latter of whom claims to be his fiancée. He also meets Kodama Himegami, who claims that she wants to kill him. Unbeknownst to Takeru, Tenbi Academy is a special high school for students who possesses powers known as Elements, as well as those who wield weapons known as Maken.
Any show that follows in the footsteps of other romantic comedy/harem shows should make an attempt to differentiate itself from similar titles in the genre. Maken-Ki unfortunately fails to do this right from the start. The biggest issue with Maken-Ki! is that everything the series has to offer has been done better by other shows. This is especially true in the first handful of episodes, which feature standard plot scenarios like physical measurement day, a trip to the hot-springs, and a date while being spied on. It isn’t wrong to rely on staple scenarios with few changes, so long as they are written well into the story. In Maken-Ki!, though, this is not the case. Scenarios come off as generic, with little creativity or effort made to give the appearance of differentiation from similar scenes in other shows.
An attempt to give the show some meaningful form of story arc is made starting with the fourth episode . Is it original? No, but it would have been a welcome change of pace, had it been properly developed. This is not meant to be, as the story is shelved after two episodes in favor of an Inaho-centric episode, followed by several episodes that focus on the arrival of the Venus unit. With the arrival of Venus, the show once again falls back on generic scenarios like the pool episode, and the ever-popular “who is the stronger group” episode. While properly introducing new additions to the cast is important, it should be done is such a way that it doesn’t completely hamper the progression of the plot. Near the end of the series, the abandoned plot line introduced in episode four is picked up again. Unfortunately, because it restarts so late in the series, it fails to get enough to time to be seen as more than a mere afterthought. Still, While the plot is a total bust, the series can still be fun when it wants to be. The water cavalry battle in episode nine is enjoyable and funny, especially near the end of the episode.
Character development is non-existent for most of the cast, barring Takeru who somehow manages to develop into more than the generic everyday high school male in the middle of an unlikely harem. He is still a hormone-fueled teenager at the end of the series, but we get a brief look into why he wants to protect those that can’t protect themselves. The female cast members, on the other hand, receive little (if any) development through the show’s progression. This is especially true of girls in Takeru’s harem, who remain relatively static through the series.
While the characters fall flat, the same cannot be said for the art of the series. The background art is not a not a top tier effort by AIC, but it is a strong showing nonetheless. The character designs are well-done for both males and females, with no character models being reused for the cast. As an ecchi series, Maken-Ki! packs each episode to the brim with fanservice, which is as much detriment to the series as it is an asset. Often, the fanservice is inserted into a scene that it does not need it, and often kills some of the emotional impact of that particular moment. The animation does take some shortcuts along the way, especially in episode seven, where the volleyball match uses dramatically drawn stills for the a good part of the action. The fight scenes are animated nicely, and while not on the same level as Cowboy Bebop, they are enjoyable.
The music, including the Opening and Ending themes, is functional at best and forgettable otherwise. The English dub of Maken-Ki! is very good, and is on par with the Japanese audio track. The performance of Ian Sinclair, who gives Takeru his voice in English, rivals that of Japanese counterpart Tomoaki Maneo. Other standouts in the English dub include Scott Freeman, Anita Neukar, Andrew T. Chandler, and Chloe Ragnbone who made her anime debut with the series. It should also be noted that this a locked subtitle release, which means that audio tracks cannot be changed during the episodes and the subtitles cannot be removed from the Japanese audio track (or added to the English track).
Extras included with this release include the first OVA “It’s Summer! It’s Swimsuits! It’s Training Camp!”, which kicks the already copious fanservice into overdrive, as well as the Heart Throb! Maken-Ki! Secret Training specials. Also included is the original teaser, Japanese commercials, and Textless openings and endings. In addition, there are two English voice actor commentaries for episodes two and eight. Neither of these commentaries are required listening, though they do provide some humor.
Maken-Ki! is an average ecchi series that does not rise above mediocrity. The plot is clichéd and weakly executed, the cast is two-dimensional, and there is way too much fanservice at times. For all of its faults, though, there are some rays of light. The fight scenes are fun to watch, the English dub is well done, and the series can be fun when it wants to be. Should you check out Maken-Ki!? In this reviewers opinion, no. There are far better titles that better accomplish what Maken-Ki! attempted to do. Those that do want to watch this series should do themselves a favor, and watch it streaming or rent it first before committing to a purchase.