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Maria Holic Alive Complete Series Anime DVD Review

9 min read

It’s back to school with Kanako as she does her best to hold in the nosebleeds and get close to all those girls she wants to have her way with.

What They Say:
Some things never change: Ame no Kisaki, that famous and exclusive boarding school, STILL doesn’t accept boys, and Kanako, Kisaki’s most romantically unfortunate student, STILL doesn’t accept them either. (They give her the hives. Literally.) Sadly, that means that Kanako’s STILL trying to connect with ANYONE of the same sex, and having the usual horrid luck. She’s STILL in imminent peril of dying from the constant nosebleeds she gets from being over stimulated by the presence of her fellow classmates. And she’s STILL forced to endure the tragedy of sharing a room with the school’s most beautiful girl who is, of course, STILL a guy in drag. Poor Kanako! She came hoping to find love and happiness, and all she’s found is misery, frustration and a level of desperation so great that she’ll even take a chance on a sleepover in a dorm filled with deathtraps. But what YOU’LL find is non-stop hilarity as the girl least likely to succeed refuses to give up, even if it kills her (and it probably will,) as Kanako’s quest for love continues in MARIA HOLIC ALIVE! The Complete Series!

The Review:
Audio:
Mariaholic has only one language track on it with the original Japanese track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. Like most shows of this nature, there isn’t a lot here that’s noteworthy when it comes to the sound design as it’s a straightforward dialogue piece that has a fair bit of shifting as it moves between the characters. When several are on screen at once there is some good placement to be had and occasionally the depth works out well but by and large it’s a rather plain but problem free stereo presentation that handles the dialogue well. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions of this track during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This show is twelve episodes long and is spread across two discs in a six/six format, plus extras that take up a good bit of space on each volume as well. Mariaholic has a pretty distinct look to it and the animation is solid so the transfer is key to making it look great and they did a very good job here. Colors are strong, very vibrant throughout when required while black levels look to be well maintained as well. There’s are a few gradients that pop up at times and some mild noise in a few backgrounds where some colors break-up more than others, but by and large it’s a very good looking show that has nothing significant wrong with it.

Packaging:
While I really liked the cover artwork to Mariaholic, Mariaholic Alive shows off some of the problems with the show on the front cover as the generally considered lead character of Kanako is nowhere to be found. We get Mariya and some of the others from the schools et against a darkened backdrop that has parts of the school campus visible, and there are a few smiles but it feels weirdly disconnected from the overall atmosphere brought in by the background. The back cover is the same basic layout of the first one with different colors as it has a white background with a green cross that also has a smaller pairing of secondary characters along the middle. The summary runs across both of them with three pictures on each side as well from the show to add a bit more color to it. The disc and episode count is clearly listed above a cute shots of the show. The bottom half of the cross is given over to the usual items such as production credits and a technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover here.

Menu:
The menu design is kept simple here where there is character artwork in the form of half of Mariya along the right side and half of Matsurika along the left side The center of the menu has a good looking episode selection piece with the special extras features section below there. There’s some good consistency across the menus on both discs and the layout is simple and effective. There’s no language selection option but subtitles can be turned off on the fly and with only one language defaults are pretty pointless.

Extras:
The extras are strong in this release for fans of the creative team and all those involved in the production as each episode has a commentary track with it that must have been hell to translate, so extra props are seriously required here for all the work that went into it for that many episodes. In addition to that we get some of the original Japanese promos and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After I had taken in the first season of Mariaholic and rearlly enjoyed the way it let the lead female character be all pervy like the lead boys often are in harem style series, I was keen on seeing the second season, hoping for more of the same with some mild tweaks or new characters to help expand it. I was looking forward to it enough that after watching this, I was very happy to see that Mariaholic Alive was getting its season simulcast. Unfortunately, the simulcast of it was a difficult watch as a lot of what I liked was either excised outright or reduced greatly in favor of greater focus on the esoteric humor that does work, but in smaller doses. The lack of Kanako for much of it is even translated into the cover here as she’s barely on it at all and not even on the front cover.

So while I didn’t come away from the season with positive feelings, and in fact was quite glad when it was done, I was really curious to see if my feelings on it would change with a marathon session over the course of a day. To my surprise, my feelings on it did soften a good deal, finding more continuity across the episodes than I saw before and feeling that the humor worked a bit better overall. I won’t say I was a complete convert and behind it like I was the first series, but I didn’t feel as put off by it as I was. What this season does, focusing more on the summer side of the school life of the girls in the series, is to showcase them a bit differently but still kee p to some of what makes them who they are. But with the focus of Kanako taken off, since she’s now been there for a few months, it feels like it’s lost its main motivating factor.

In fact, Kanako has some time where she’s actively taken out for an entire episode so that she can focus on catching up on her studying. She’s doing so poorly in her grades after a few episodes that there’s a chance she won’t be there much longer and has to really buckle down. We get some fun with that as she struggles with it, but we get a follow-up episode that shows what happened during that week away where everyone else goes through a lot of adventures that she has a hard time figuring out when she comes out of her seclusion. It works well enough when watching it back to back like this, but I was frustrated by the experience during the original viewing since I wanted more of Kanako and everyone else.

To make matters worse, because of some of the things she gtes involved in, there’s an episode where for 95% of it she has a mask over her mouth that’s taped shut with a big X on it. This comes at a time when one of the other girls she’s into has a young arranged marriage husband show up, something that he takes seriously but she never did, thinking it only a joke among old men. There’s fun in watching Ryuken deal with the earnest young boy who is still more interested in stag beetles than her, but seeing Kanako do her best while being unable to talk to try and break things up and get in his way is a lot of fun. But I also wanted more of her dialogue to try and accomplish this since she goes so over the top so often.

That’s not to say the show doesn’t do some fun stuff with Kanako at times, which is good since it’s the main draw for me here as most of the other characters, including Mariya and Matsurika, kind of grate on me rather easily since they’re smug and condescending in their own way. Her pursuit of girls is a lot of fun, from learning that she can’t be allowed in the public bathing areas because of how she gets excessive nosebleeds that turns it all red to an even with kimonos where she practically quivers over the idea that she can see the nape of the girls necks. The cruelest of the segments here is when the summer swim meet is coming up ant Kanako is all set to see not only those in her class but also the upperclassman as well in their swimsuits. Of course, it has some good lead-up to it, but it cuts things short rather abruptly and it’s without any real payoff for the most part.

In Summary:
Mariaholic Alive hits some good notes throughout it and I definitely felt like it flowed better than when I saw the simulcast. The show has its good points when it comes to what Kanako gets involved in and some of the troubles she faces, but it also puts a lot of diversions into it, such as a whole court case style episode and some extended time going on about things that seemingly have no sense. And the cast, primarily in the form of Matsurika and Mariya, really abuse her verbally in a way in the final episode by juts telling her how everything is her fault in the end. She has her issues, but it just felt more mean than it needed to be, even considering what Kanako is like. When Kanako gets a chance to cut loose it’s a lot of fun as her perverted nature shines through. But the show just didn’t have enough of it for me to be as much fun as the first season was. Beyond that, the production values are definitely strong with the animation, the sharpness of the writing and the performances, but it just veered away more from what I was interested in.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentaries, Promos

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 26th, 2012
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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