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.
For this viewing, I took in the English 2.0 dub. The Japanese audio is also available in 2.0. As always, I lament the lack of a 5.1 mix, but as this series is all about dialogue and silly gags, it doesn’t really detract from the experience. The audio is clean with no dropout on the tracks, and while dialogue stayed centered, there was some directionality across the two channels.
The transfer for this release looks pretty clean. I did not notice any particular technical flaws, and the colors show up bright and colorful. There were some really nice, differing designs throughout this title, and the characters all had unique looks. I have nothing really to complain about here.
The three discs come in a single amaray case with center insert. The front cover has a cast photo in a classroom with Miss Dorm Leader lording over them looking menacing. Along the back are some screen shots and a series summary, with a chibi version of playing with Yonakuni. It’s a nice design that shows an accurate portrayal of what you can expect from watching.
The menus have a basic, but functional design. Along the left are a couple of the girls from the series with the episode options and submenus set to the right. It’s clean, and the selection cursor is easy to see.
The only extras you will find in the Special Features section of the discs are clean versions of the OP/ED and some Japanese promos. However, in the language selection track, there is a selectable track that has Japanese commentaries for each episode in the set. This is a really nice bonus, though I found it a little tough to follow the action on the screen and the commentary at the same time when I did the spot checks. If I watched the series a few more times and got to know it a bit better, I imagine this wouldn’t be much of an issue.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I enjoyed the first season of Maria Holic well enough, though I found the humor to be somewhat repetitive by the end of it, and I really did not feel the need for any more. So I am not going to pretend that I was looking forward to Maria Holic Alive when it arrived on my doorstep. I will say, though, that I did enjoy this season somewhat more than the first.
After her first few months at Ame no Kisaki high school, Kanako has the lay of the land. She has a solid group of friends, and though she’s a little weird, she fits in fairly well. You know, except for the part that she continues to have romantic fantasies about all of her classmates and consistently makes her sick from blood loss due to the constant nosebleeds. And Maria refuses to make it any easier on her; Kanako’s cross-dressing roommate continues to maintain the pose of a beautiful, demure young girl, and he uses those girlish charms at every opportunity to pull one over on Kanako. But despite all the setbacks, Kanako continues to press forward in the hopes of finding her one true love.
My issue with the first series is how much of the humor ended up revolving around Kanako’s incessant nasal explosions and just how much blood she tended to spill when her fantasies got the best of her. While these jokes still run rampant in this series, I do feel like it’s branched out a bit, giving it some much needed variety. I particularly liked the episode where Kanako was on trial for trying to eat Yonakuni in a moment of madness during a diet binge. The whole episode was a parody of the Phoenix Wright games, complete with Matsurika’s OBJECTIONS! I thought it was really well done, and the whole mockery of a court room was pretty funny.
I think the other reason why I might have liked this series better is just that I was already comfortable with the characters and the story. The first season took me a little while to adjust to, but I was able to jump right in with this one as I already knew what to expect. So when Kanako would have one of her over-the-top freakouts, my reaction was more of “this is what Kanako does” rather than “what’s this girl’s damage?”. Being settled like that from the start allowed me to just roll with it and have a bit more fun with it than I would have.
Finally, Maria continues to be an interesting character. He loves to torment Kanako at every opportunity, but it is tinged with a real desire to be helpful too. He keeps Kanako from making a huge mistake at Sachi’s birthday, and he takes charge later on when Kanako begins to feel that nobody likes her enough to remember her birthday. Despite the fact that he always uses these moments of kindness to get Kanako to drop her guard and torment her farther, he is always trying to keep her on the right path.
I found the first season of Maria Holic to fluctuate between amusing and tedious. Maria Holic Alive tends to be a bit more of the former than the original series thanks to some character development and some more variety in the humor. I wouldn’t suggest that it’s fantastic, but I certainly enjoyed it more this time around. It’s not a bad way to pass an afternoon. Mildly recommended.
Special Features: Japanese Commentaries, Japanese TV Promos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation.
Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles.
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 25th, 2014
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System