What They Say:
Takeru enrolled in Tenbi Academy because the girl-to-guy ratio is, like, three girls for every guy. But this bevvy of bombshells is actually a school where teens beef up their combat skills using a magic power thingy called a Maken. Redheads with wicked high kicks, shocking blonde bullies, and aggressive brunettes are everywhere. And every time there’s a brawl, their clothes tend to disintegrate.
Distracted by all the bouncy brawlers, Takeru has a hard time concentrating on his training. Things get sticky when the hornball can’t figure out how to use his Maken. If he doesn’t find his mojo quick, he’ll be dumped by the school of his dreams – or destroyed by an attacker who’s after his magic power thingy!
Contains episodes 1-12 plus bonus episode “It’s Summer! It’s Swimsuits! It’s Training Camp!”
The audio presentation for the show is fairly standard for FUNimation in that we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets bumped up to a 5.1, both of which are encoded in the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show has the tracks locked so subtitles are set to their particular language unfortunately. The show is one that is really quite busy and active throughout, both with dialogue and with the action side of events. When the dialogue is running, there’s often enough characters on screen to make it fairly engaging across the forward soundstage. When it shifts to the action, it definitely works well to make for a strong mix since the impact hits well and there’s a good dynamic to it all. The English mix adds a bit more bass to things and the rear channels get some effects to it, but your mileage may vary depending on your setup. The show has a lot going for it with what it has to offer and definitely a lot to like.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with ten on the first and three on the second, which is also where all the extras are as well. Having watched the simulcast before, this feels like an entirely different show with just the way the colors look alone. There’s a really good bit of vibrancy to it and the colors are fantastic with a solid feeling throughout them. It’s a show that definitely stands out in this regard but there’s also a good bit of detail to be had as well as you dig into it and see some of the backgrounds and character designs. There’s a good bit of variety to the character designs and the show as a whole is very bold looking, which translates quite well here to make it an eye-catching looking series.
The limited edition packaging for this release is quite good as we get a bright and colorful but not garish heavy chipboard box that holds two Blu-ray cases inside. The front of the box gives us the core girls in their school uniforms with some obvious panty-service abound while we get a tiny version of Takeru in the middle of it all. What a place to be. The back of the box gives it focus over to just Haru from the original Japanese character covers and that works nicely since she has her sword out and there’s some good detail and design to it all. Within the box we get the two Blu-ray cases where four more pieces of the character art dominates as the two front covers are used well and the back covers do the same. They all use the same backgrounds though Syria’s cover has an explosion of pink that rather fits her. The cases both have artwork on the reverse side which features four of the lead girls in various states of skimpy attire against a pure white background. They definitely ratchet up the fanservice here and are hugely appealing. Unfortunately, there are no show related inserts included here but the reversible covers make it palatable.
The menu design for Maken-Ki is the type that certainly works well enough for this kind of show but is also one that doesn’t show a lot of heavy lifting done to design it. With a simple navigation bar set along the lower center of the screen, we get the basic selections that are easy to navigate and quick to load. It’s done with blues and pinks that certainly pops and looks good when placed against the animation itself. The rest of the screen uses clips from the show that blend into each other nicely as we get some good character moments as well as a lot of action and fanservice that sets the mood right. It’s not exactly something that stands out or uses some great static artwork or anything, but it fits for the show. Submenus load quickly and we didn’t have any issues getting around during normal usage or through the pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are impressive and scary at the same time. The standards are here of course as we get the trailers and promos and the clean opening but we also get all thirteen clean closing sequences, which is really nice to see done so well. We get a pair of new English audio commentaries that have the team talking about their experiences on the show and the fun of it all, which is definitely silly fun to be had and made me wish for a video commentary. The really big extra though is the six part secret training videos, which runs for an hour total in high definition. This lets the six main girls each spend quality time from Takeru’s POV as they work him through different kinds of physical exercises. It’s strangely alluring and entirely scary to watch as it plays out because it is standard slow exercises movements filled with fanservice. Gallons of fanservice. I’m certainly glad it was included because it needs to be seen but I’m also hoping that the translator and timer for it survived the experience.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Hiromitsu Takeda as appearing in Dragon Age Pure, Maken-Ki! Is a new series with animation by AIC, which means at least the characters are going to be pretty and have a sense of bounciness about them. The original work began in 2007 and has ten volumes compiled so far so there’s a bit of material to work with, enough so that what’s here really feels like a prologue and gives me hope that the second season has more story meat. The series introduces us to the the first year student at the newly co-ed Tenbi Academy, Takeru, getting accepted into it. What helps is that someone he knows goes there, the pretty and voluptuous Haruko. The two follow that usual childhood friends kind of angle with silly sexual tension thrown in as would be expected, which we get right from the start. And being AIC, there’s no shortage of upskirt shots of Haruko here either, especially considering the lack of length on said skirt.
What Takeru quickly discovers upon entering the grounds of Tenbi Academy are two very important things. The first, and arguably the most important, is that it’s filled with girls who have equally short skirts and they’re often being blown about in the wind or easily viewable from the right angle. The other is that the students at this school are able to use magic. It’s not something that Takeru really registers right away as he’s more overwhelmed by the number of cute girls and their very active lifestyle here. Even the school principal has a large chest to her that would make a normal person tip over on a regular basis. When Takeru hits the opening ceremony, he starts to get a better clue about things though as she talks about how each student will have to figure out what Element they need to use and what kind of Maken will fit them best in order to maximize their abilities.
What the opening episode does is to shove all this right into Takeru’s face and to show that the number of women here will definitely be a challenge for him, as you have those that want to defend him and those that want to hurt him. Justifiably so since he accidentally kissed her earlier in the episode. Takeru’s pretty confused by everything as it goes on and it’s fun to watch those like Haruko get upset over how things unfold, especially when Inaho arrives on the scene and professes some real love for him. We get a good look at the basic personalities of the characters here and the basic setting as well, so there’s not a lot in the way of surprises to be had. Maken-ki! Battle Venus sets up a fight/magic/fanservice series as you’d expect and it does so in fairly straightforward AIC tradition.
And much of this season really does follow this kind of mentality. The show does want to work a larger storyline, which comes in at the twelfth episode before the OVA that’s included here, but even that’s more just a prologue to what’s to come. Introducing in very small doses, we learn of the Kamigari group that wants to take over and/or destroy the Tenbi Academy so they spend part of the series introducing their own players into the show, some of them controlled without knowing what they’re doing while others are straight on operatives. They have their core mission of trying to get Takeru to access his true potential as a Maken wielder, but they’re finding it hard to do. And naturally some of them become a little too familiar with him and with the school in general, though none openly defect. Sadly, the Kamigari group doesn’t get a lot of depth and it’s only made clearer towards the end, but it sets up enough for the second season.
And I am rather okay with all of that. Part of me doesn’t expect a really big story show with a series like this, especially in its uncut form where there are no obfuscations when it comes to the fanservice. Nipples ahoy, indeed. What I do like is that there is a sliver of a story that’s being used, but it’s kept to the background or largely unaware to the main cast. That lets the main focus rest on the characters in a pretty silly high school action comedy without any real rules to it all. It’s a show that really is just a lot of fun, provided you don’t mind or actively enjoy outlandish fanservice. With Takeru being a perverted young man, though mostly within the bounds of reason rather than something that’s above and beyond into a truly stratospheric absurd level, we get to see him adjusting to life in a school dominated by girls after several years of an all boys middle school. There’s pent up energy and he finds a friend along the way in Kengo to somewhat compete with but also work with.
Naturally, the cast expands along the way and we have a number of young women that are interested in Takeru for different reasons, particularly as his underlying power is revealed and dealt with, and they’re most the usual archetypes. But the show manages to make them fun because of their personalities and the great looking animation (and fanservice) so that you can find a couple that you can latch onto. I admit to liking Haru easily enough as the childhood friend who is glad to see her friend come to the school but has to contend with the fact that he’s definitely more pervy than before. And I rather liked Himegai as the uptight blonde who fears him for what his power may be but is also intent on making him her own as she discovers more about him. And naturally we round out the core trio with Inaho, a young woman that Takeru had saved from harm many years ago that has a marriage promise with that he can’t remember.
While some of the episodes bring in some of the action for it in relation to the Kamigari group that is prodding Takeru into activation, a lot of the action and humor comes from just the day to day existence in school with characters like these. There’s a wonderful sense of fun and outlandishness to it all and just the fact that it doesn’t really care what others think. Yeah, the fanservice gets ridiculous a times with the size of the chests and the absolutely skimpy outfits that come into play and situations that force the girls to be undressing or parading around in underwear. But where so many series try and play it coy while wanting to do more, Maken-Ki just embraces it. I wouldn’t want it in a lot of series, but when you design a series around it, it’s best to truly run with it and just enjoy it. And Maken-Ki does just that.
Maken-Ki was a series that I enjoyed during its simulcast run and I’m certainly glad it did well enough in Japan to earn an upcoming second season. Rewatching the show here with some distance from the simulcast definitely reminded me why I enjoyed it, especially since we get the uncut version here in all its fanservice beauty in high definition that looks fantastic. There is a story here that does weave throughout the season, but mostly what I got out of it was a lot of silly fun that involves a lot of girls, a few guys and a true dedication to designing and animating undergarments. There’s something to be said for such dedication. Thankfully, Maken-Ki does give us some fun characters to work with and it doesn’t skimp on the visual quality, making it a fun experience throughout. FUNimation has a strong package here for the show as a whole and just seeing the effort that went into the extras alone makes it worth supporting. For fans of the show, it’s an easy recommendation and for those that want a lot of high school comedy fanservice material, it’s even easier to recommend.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary for episodes 1 & 7, Heart-Throb! Maken-ki! Secret Training 1-6, Japanese Commercials, Original Teaser, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: A- (for the effort of the translators and timers!)
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: November 12th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.