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Mahoromatic Ultimate Collection Anime DVD Review

16 min read

Androids, maids, big boobs and little boobs. And some Gainax bounce. What more could you want?

What They Say:
Mahoro has just 398 days left to live. A military android created by VESPER to combat the alien menace of the Saint, her operational lifecycle is winding down. With just over a year to go, she is given the choice to retire from active service and do anything she wishes in her last days. Her unexpected choice, however, is to serve as maid and bodyguard to a very surprised teenage boy!

But Suguru Misato isn’t just any teenager. He’s the son of Mahoro’s former commander and is already in the crosshairs of the aliens. Mahoro isn’t any ordinary combat android either. Using captured Saint technology, her creators may have given her something no android has ever had before: a soul.

Contains episodes 1-12 of Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden, episodes 1-14 of Mahoromatic: Something More Beautiful, the Summer Special OVA, and episodes 1-2 of Mahoromatic: I’m Home!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty standard in that it comes with the bilingual tracks encoded at 224kbps. It uses the original dub as created by Geneon Entertainment while the addition of the new OVA brings in the new dub with the same cast. The mix for the show is pretty good as there’s a fair bit of action throughout along with some very good sounding music as well. The action scenes make out the best with directionality and placement, but there are some good ones with dialogue as well where there are various characters placed across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001 and 2002 and a release in 2009, the transfer for this twenty-six episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The release also brings together the two OVA/specials in the collection, bringing it to six discs total. The bulk of the show looks quite good, even if the animation is looking a bit dated and old now, but there are a few small problem areas. The main areas come in the dark blue or black backgrounds where we can see a fair bit of noise in the TV series, particularly in the first episode. This eases off as it goes on a bit since it tends to work with brighter colors and those come across very soft and pleasant looking as intended. There’s a bit of line noise in a few scenes as well but overall it’s a solid if unexceptional transfer.

Packaging:
While this is labeled the Ultimate Collection, it doesn’t get ultimate packaging as the six disc set comes in a stackpack case with all the discs on top of each other. I’d have preferred a Ltiebox or something else that took up less space than this. While the packaging isn’t my taste, the cover artwork is good as it goes with the classic image of Mahoro sitting on the grass with Suguru’s head on her lap as the shot is taken from above. There’s a lot of white here between their otufits and the white bands along the top and bottom. It may be a lot but it looks really good as the colors stand out all the more and it has a sweet innocence about it. They do make it clear along the top what’s included which is really nice as well. The back cover reaffirms the material included and it has a decent summary of what the show is all about, which isn’t as hard to do as it might seem when trying to cover this much material. There’s some good shots from the show that covers a variety of characters as well. The production information covers a lot of things since it has a few different works included here while also including the English language production information. Add in a solid technical grid that covers everything well and accurately and you have a good looking cover. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design is very simple and straightforward with a piece of static artwork of Mahoro for each volume with soft pink background. Each volume has an vertical listing for episode selection for each of the six on the volume while to the right it has the other selections, such as extras and languages on the first volume and trailers and languages on the second volume. Submenus load quickly for what little you need to use them, especially as the extras are listed at the top level with no submenu, and each disc correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The only extras included on this on release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences for each season which can be found spread throughout the set where they’re appropriate..

Season 1 Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga which began its run in 1998, this 2001 series from Gainax was part of their big push to become relevant again when they decided to launch a number of shows. At the time, the maid fad was hitting a high so having Gainax come in with their particular style, nipples and all, only reinforced the vigor with which many fans went after such shows. Maid shows have thankfully abated heavily since then, even in the adult genre, so revisiting this title some seven years after its original airing is an interesting thing.

This first season, which runs twelve episodes, certainly plays better the second time around for me. The maid aspect doesn’t feel as though it’s everywhere since few shows released now do it and the collected format helps the show feel a bit smoother in its narrative. Mahoromatic revolves around a combat android named Mahoro who was created nine years earlier by the organization known as Vesper. They’re engaged in a secret war with a race of creatures known only as Saint. The reasons for the war are eventually given towards the end of the season and it does leave a lot of vague aspects to it, but for those on the human side, they only know the warring side of Saint and have been working hard to combat it. Mahoro has been something of a crowning achievement for them and has accomplished a lot, but her lifespan is almost up if she continues to serve as a combat android.

Because of her past performance, she’s given the option to either serve out her remaining thirty-seven odd days in combat mode or to retire and spend about a year as an ordinary person of sorts. Mahoro’s choice is easy as she has something she feels she must atone for. Some time earlier, in an encounter with Saint, she was forced to kill the Vesper commander Misato as he was taken hostage and destruction was ensured if she didn’t shoot through him to get to the Saint operative. Mahoro’s felt guilty about this ever since because the commander’s son, Suguru, lost his mother a few years earlier and now she’s taken his father as well. So she takes the option and heads to Suguru’s home where he lives alone in his parents house.

Taking on the role of a maid as a way to atone for things, she’s able to get into his life fairly easily by pretending to be an eighteen year old young woman who has spent a lot of time abroad and is quite excellent at cooking and cleaning. Mahoro is also rather prudish in some ways as she chastises Suguru’s interest in large breasted pornography, but some of that may come from her design which is smaller than average. Yet even as she chastises him, she’s very open about herself physically, partially due to the way she likely doesn’t think about such things since she’s an android. Suguru is unsure of her at first, but the idea of living with such a cute girl who will take care of the house certainly is appealing. And their first encounters point to both of them being more than they seem, which in some ways intrigues him in a subconscious way.

Mahoromatic takes on a fairly predictable route during a good part of this after the introductions. Suguru’s classmates are interested in her to varying levels with the boys all agape and the girls not all that happy. Well, except for the one that completely adores Mahoro’s worldly cooking skills. The one most upset by Mahoro’s presence is a teacher named Shikijo who has huge breasts and is all interested in shaping Suguru’s sexual future in a very creepy way. That aspect was bothersome the first time around and it’s still creepy here as she has ideas of how she wants to treat him and she wears the skimpiest and tightest of outfits as she tries to gain his attention. In fact, she had a lot of his attention until Mahoro showed up and that has led to her resenting Mahoro even more, especially since Mahoro is so small chested.

With the decent sized cast, we get plenty of basic school days material such as summer trips, a fall trip to the mountains, the fun of school and events where the teachers get involved. But amidst all of these things there are some really interesting elements that come into play. Mahoro has a fair number of flashbacks to when she had to deal with Suguru’s father, both positive and negative, which has shaped how she views the world. Her training is amusing but it’s even more amusing to see how she came by the maid idea. And into this we also get the introduction of Slash, a panther-like companion of Mahoro’s who aids her in her fights. Thankfully, there aren’t too many fights, it’s not like a Saint monster of the week kind of series which is a big plus in it favor. When we do get something like that, it’s almost surreal but very interesting to watch, especially in retrospect.

The one main Saint character that comes into play in the second half of this series is Ryuga, a combat android himself. He’s been given a different mission of sorts by the leader of Saint, Matthew, and he intends to have a rematch with Mahoro since he was so badly beaten the first time around. Ryuga goes for a different approach this time as he tries to understand what Mahoro is doing, so he becomes a teacher at the school and asks a lot of questions about Suguru. That puts Mahoro on edge and Suguru picks up on it all since he’s instantly distrustful of Ryuga from the minute he met him. The trio does bring everything to a conclusion at the end of the series, but it’s a nicely done story arc as it brings together a lot of things in a fun and engaging way, particularly with the origins of Saint.

Season 2 Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the popularity of the first season, particularly during the big maid boom fad of the time, it wasn’t a surprise that a second season would come along. Something More Beautiful follows the second half of the manga fairly well by all appearances outside of the ending which is rather quite different here. For the bulk of this season however, what we get is essentially what we had in the first season but with a bit more edge and an additional maid. It follows the model of why tinker with success, but then throws a Gainax curveball at the end to give it all a little bit more.

Something More Beautiful deals with some larger issues overall while still keeping to the core storyline of having Mahoro and Suguru living together as she spends her final months of operational time. As the two are living happily together and dealing with their friends, the background organization known as the Management is moving to secure their plans for the future. Management has been involved in guiding human history for quite some time and they’re now in the position of manipulating both Vesper and Saint for their own ends, mostly in that they want to use both to spread out into the stars and to guide the galaxy at large much as they have humanity. Of course, neither of those two organizations know what Management is really up to and they’ve been locked in their own back and forth for nearly forty years as they sort out what Saint really means to humanity.

Within Management, there’s various power plays going on and one particular doctor/engineering type has decided that he’s going to try and rise up in the ranks by acquiring the data that makes Mahoro such a skilled combat android. His own androids haven’t measured up but he’s intent on using them to secure his goals. To do this, he sends one of them, a younger model called 370, off to where Mahoro lives to move in with her while acquiring the data. 370 ends up being taken in by Mahoro and Suguru rather easily, though Mahoro realizes it’s probably a trap of some sort, and the give her the name of Minawa and she becomes a strong member of the family and of those around her. Minawa is doing all of this for a promise she made to a fellow model of hers where they both want to live to gain a heart so they can truly understand the world. With her superior telling her he’ll give her that, she’ll do whatever she has to.

Much of these episodes revolve around the introduction of the soft spoken Minawa and her integration into the group dynamic. She fits in well enough and she has that younger sister feeling going on with Mahoro, made all the stronger when she’s enrolled in school. It’s there that the amusing relationship plays out as a minor subplot with Hamaji falling for her and she learning the ways of social interactions with him. Of course, they play up her pratfalls and clumsiness in cute ways to make her more endearing, but the relationship between the two is certainly fun to watch as it’s much sweeter than all the other relationships that are trying to establish themselves overall. Minawa doesn’t really bring much new to the show, but she’s not the disastrous kind of addition that she could be when such characters are brought into an established show.

Something More Beautiful has a very similar feel to the first season when it comes to the amount of action in it. The first season focused on the back and forth with Saint and some of the flashbacks to past events, but here it’s more into working the angle with Management and those that are manipulating them to achieve their goals. This tends to become more involved as the season goes on as the stakes get higher, but there are some decent moments early on, particularly when they first set up the meeting between Minawa and Mahoro. And much like the first season, a good chunk of this season focuses on the character relationships. Some of it is viewed through Minawa’s eyes, but there are also explorations of how things are growing and changing. The three girls who are friends with Suguru talk about how they know they can’t really get to him like they want, though it doesn’t stop them from wanting to. And even Shikijo has some minor moments of growth here as she deals with the ever changing situation and the way Suguru is growing up.

Watching this series after so long has certainly been interesting. The first thing that struck me about it was that it does look like an older show with its softer look and the character designs. It’s hard to remember that at the time of its release, this was really fluid and vibrant looking, it had that newness about it that you would expect. It’s also interesting watching shows like this after seeing follow-up series by Gainax. Some of the things that Mahoro does in combat reminded me a lot of Yoko from Gurren Lagann, just with smaller guns and a smaller chest. I was also surprised that the maid aspect of it didn’t bother me as much as it once did and it felt like it fit in better when watching it over the course of a day. The series holds together better in this way than it did when we originally saw it as three bimonthly DVD releases.

Summer Special Content:
If there was one thing about the TV series that ended up irking about half the audience it was the end of the series. Many complained that it should have ended an episode early since they didn’t like what had happened to the cast and the changes that were made. I don’t know the reasons behind making this particular Summer Special (other than money obviously), but it’s easy to see this as an appeasement to the fans who did not like the dark (yet really expected) ending.

This episode takes us back into the heart of the series of the second season where Minawa is a steady fixture in the Suguru household and everyone is enjoying life to the fullest. And that includes young Suguru and his male friends who are reveling in their study of dirty magazines, something that Mahoro is steadfastly against. Dirty thoughts are bad is her basic mantra, and through an amusing flashback to the past with Suguru’s father, we learn exactly why she’s like this and why she takes it to the extremes she does with poor Suguru.

Unlike past instances though, Suguru and company are prepared for their impending doom as they’ve got another stash of dirty magazines. Mahoro has decided enough is enough and recruits not only the other girls but also Ms. Shijiko to help catch the three boys and their goods. The girls are all set since it’s a bit of fun, but Shijiko looks at it as an opportunity for Suguru to end up without any books and then be so hard up for lack of them that he’d be all over her. You got to love her train of thought. So while the girls get their plans together, the guys split up the goods and head off in separate directions just before Mahoro launches her attack.

This is just a pure comedy episode with lots of dirty bits to it. There’s a good amount of fan service, especially early on with all the girls in the bath and showing just about all of it. As a plus, they’re ‘rendered’ well in that not all of them are the same size as was evident in the TV show and even Shijiko gets brought down to something closer to reality. For fans of fanservice like this, this episode pays off handsomely. Lots of skin, very nicely animated, complete with perky nipples. It’s just like the old days only shinier!

I’m Home Content:
Coming some six years after the Summer Special and the Something More Beautiful series, the team came back for one more outing that resulted in this two episode OVA release. The show figures into the main series as another little side story, taking place around the 270 days left mark, as the girls in Suguru’s class are trying to enlist Mahoro to help them with the school festival project which is a maid cafe. She’s excited to help, takes it too far and generally makes a good time of it all as the girls make suggestive outfits while Mahoro plays it straight. There’s a lot of fun that comes from the setup of it and the second episode runs with the execution by having the festival itself, which lends itself to the girls all getting their own time with Suguru during it. It also throws in a little action related to Maniwa’s insertion into the group recently so Mahoro gets to shine in combat mode. There’s not a lot of depth here but it is a very fun little return to a property that I enjoyed years ago and get to experience again.

In Summary:
After the release of individual seasons, the Summer Special and now the new release of the I’m Home OVAs, this complete collection really does earn the title of Ultimate Collection. When the series was first released, I definitely liked it even as it was part of what was going on at the time with so many maid shows. It was something that at the time felt like Gainax was selling out to the trends rather than making the trends. Revisiting it now some ten years later after its original broadcast, both seasons have proven to be a bit more fun than I remembered and I found myself appreciating it more without the wait between volumes. It’s not high art to be certain, but it is good fun storytelling with some solid character designs, plenty of cute fanservice and nipples. Gainax doesn’t skimp out when it comes to that and I certainly appreciate it. This release and the first season from Sentai Filmworks is worthwhile as this is a show that should be kept on the market and available for those who haven’t seen it before. That they’ve gone the extra distance here to make sure that not only are the Summer Specials included but also the pickup of the I’m Home OVAs from 2009 just makes it all the sweeter. This is a must-have collection if you’ve never seen it before as it has a whole lot of fun.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 10th, 2012
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 725 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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