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Maria Holic Alive Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Maria Holic Alive - The Anime NetworkKanako’s high school lesbian dream life continues, nosebleeds and all, now in English and high definition.

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.

Kanako’s still in imminent peril of dying from the constant nosebleeds she gets from being over-stimulated by the presence of her fellow classmates. 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.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
While the original DVD release was a monolingual one, this new version brings us the original Japanese language track as well as the new English language dub in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is not one that really goes big or wild, but it has its key moments along the way that makes the use of the mix important, both with the louder moments but also some of the incidental sounds to make the humor work or the dialogue come across right. Both mixes handle things well and the music is the area that tends to be the most noticeable element overall, which works well since it has the widest and warmest usage. The series may not be hugely memorable in terms of its design, but it fits the show well and the encoding here is clean and clear throughout as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which is also where all the extras are. The series is one that looked good on DVD outside of a bit of banding, but it comes to life even more here with the what Shaft animated it. The colors have a richer and deeper feeling to them, a warmer approach for much of it, and the details are all the more visible and clean. It’s the kind of show where, especially on a larger screen, you can really savor it when you pause on various situations and just enjoy the attention to detail that they put into it. Colors are solid throughout, the gradients are significantly minimized though they’re still part of the actual source material and the overall presentation definitely brings out the quality of the show.

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 given a much smaller portion and Mariya really takes the strong position. We get Mariya and some of the others from the schools set 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 blue background. 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 for this release works the simple aspect with some nicely done static menus. The background goes with the blue style with some nice elegant designs woven into it while the foreground provides for some good character artwork, though they’re simple but nicely detailed pieces with them standing about. The navigation along the right uses the off-white from the back cover with a standard vertical breakdown of episodes by number and title, but it’s a bit smaller than usual and a little harder to read even on larger screens at a distance. The layout is fairly standard for Sentai Filmworks but it works well during regular usage as well as during playback through the pop-up menus.

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 really 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.

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 that 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 keep 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 and 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.

Similar to the first season, while the high definition upgrade is a big draw for me since I’m generally not a dub fan (though I’m glad for every one we get), for a lot of people the inclusion of a new English language dub is more important. Having watched the show a couple of times previous in its original Japanese, I did the same approach here as the first season and went back and forth between the tracks since they’re not locked. Essentially mirroring the first season, the cast in general is done in a fairly straightforward way for a lot of it as they deliver their lines well and hit their comedic marks just right. Though she has a reduced role at times in this season, for me the key character is that of Kanako since she’s the most outlandish of them all with how she interacts with others and within her internal dialogue that she often carries. Jessica Calvello definitely did that in spades and made Kanako a really fun character to listen to in this form, even if I’m still strongly connected to the original Japanese actress since that was my first introduction to it. It’s one of those tough roles to step into and fill, but Calvello definitely did it and did it in a way that should earn a lot of fans for it..

In Summary:
Mariaholic Alive hits some good notes throughout it and I definitely felt like it flowed better than when I saw the simulcast and this third viewing sort of cemented that a bit more. 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 just 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. While the season does move away from some of the key areas that made me enjoy the first so much, it’s definitely gotten a great treatment here with the high definition upgrade, the continued inclusion of the numerous Japanese commentary tracks and a very, very welcome English dub adaptation..

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Commentaries, Promos

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 25th, 2014
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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