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Maburaho Complete Collection Thinpak Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Maburaho Cover SmallA surprisingly decent show that still could have been better.

What They Say
High school student Kazuki Shikimori attends school at the elite Aoi Academy where students learn the intricacies of using their magical powers. Blessed with highly sought-after DNA Kazuki is cursed. He can only use his powers eight times until he turns into dust. Enter three magical hotties Yuna, Kuriko, and Yin. These lovely ladies join forces to help Kazuki increase his magical powers. But are they after his heart or his DNA?

The Review:
For this viewing, I watched the English dub version, which is presented in 5.1. The surround directionality is used minimally as the dialogue stays centered. However, understated background noises like chirping birds coming from the back speakers do add a pleasant sense of atmosphere to the proceedings. The Japanese track comes in 2.0. Both tracks feature crisp, clear sound, though the lack of any real directionality on the 5.1 track is a little disappointing.

Shown in the 4:3 aspect ratio, this series features some really nice visuals. Being a fairly recent show, the transfer is very clean, with no instances of pixelization or color blending. Though there was nothing that really stood out as being exceptional, the character designs were well varied, and all aspects of the show were bright and colorful. I liked the way that the character designs tended to match their personality types: Yuna looked innocent, Rin was conservative and traditional, and Kuriko looked like a vixen.

The box for Maburaho prominently features a number of the female characters, endorsing the fanservice nature of the show. On one side is a picture of Rin holding her sword with her traditional garb falling off. The other side features Kuriko and her ghostly follower Elizabeth, with a Chibi version of Kazuki attempting to climb Kuriko’s ample bosom. The spine of the box shows Shino. Every side of the box, excepting the bottom which has the technical data for the set, also has the show’s logo. Interestingly enough, nowhere on the box is Yuna or Yamase, arguably the two most important females in the show. Inside the shrink wrap is also a paper insert that has a few screen shots from the show along with a brief description of the show and the phrase “Harry never had it so hard!”, set in front of the same image of Rin that appears on the box.

The fronts of each box also feature pictures of the girls. The first disc has Yuna in her school uniform holding her hand out with a heart containing Kazuki in it. Yuna is also on the second disc, this time in a karate outfit holding a baseball bat. The third box has an image of Ms. Hirosaki and Shino standing back to back. The fourth case displays the fight between Rin and Sayumi Murasaki. The final disc has a picture of Yuna and Yamase holding hands. The logo is displayed on each case near the top. Again, these images are designed to promote the fanservice in the show.

The backs of each case have a few screen shots from episodes appearing on that disc along with a listing of the episodes and episode titles on the disc. Underneath the episode list is the technical information and DVD credits for the disc. There is no disc or show summary on the individual discs. All-in-all, much like most ADV sets, the packaging is very well done.

The menus for each disc are simply designed. The background is a cloudlike mix of pastel colors grading from dark at the top to white at the bottom. A song from the show plays quietly while the menu is on screen. At the top of the screen is written “Please select and episode to play” in dual tone yellow followed by the episode numbers written out in letters (without titles) beneath. The episode listings are clear in color but given shading that makes them appear three-dimensional. At the bottom of the screen is an option to take you to the languages menu. The last disc also adds options for ADV Credits and Trailers for other shows.

Just a few trailers on the last disc. Nothing special.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As a person who has a love/hate relationship with harem comedies, I approached Maburaho with cautious optimism. It certainly had an interesting concept for a harem comedy, but would it deliver? Ultimately, Maburaho ended up being a fairly fun romp that paradoxically surpassed expectations and failed to live up to them.

Maburaho is the story of a young man attending the Aoi Academy, a prestigious high school for gifted magicians. In a world where everybody can use magic, only the best of the best can get into Aoi Academy. Kazuki Shikimori, however, does not appear to possess any of the qualities necessary to attend such a school. Like many things, appearances can be deceiving.

When a person is born, he or she is born with the ability to use magic a certain number of times. If that spell count is completely diminished, the person’s body turns to ash. Students at the Aoi Academy are born with spell counts ranging in the thousands, if not tens-of-thousands. Kazuki, however, was born with a spell count of nine. By the time that Maburaho starts, he only has eight spell castings left. This leaves Shikimori as an almost non-magic user in an elite magician’s school.

That begs the question: how did Kazuki Shikimori end up at Aoi Academy in the first place? While the Shikimori family does not have much prominence in the world of magic, there have been quite a few powerful magicians who have married into the family in the past. Kazuki just happens to be the focal point of the genes of some of the most powerful magicians in history; in fact, when used, his magic is the strongest in the school. Any child of Kazuki’s has the potential to be the greatest magician ever. Enter Yuna Miyama, Kuriko Kazetsubaki, and Rin Kamishiro, and later, Chihaya Yamase: three women determined to become Kazuki’s bride, no matter the cost.

The characters in this show are varied and well done, though at the same time they are somewhat stereotypical for a show of this type. Kazuki is your typical, lovable loser. He’s too nice, and yet does not have any real positives to put forth. Yuna is caring and innocent, though also emotional and jealous of any attention Kazuki gets from other women; she truly cares for Kazuki due to a chance encounter with him when they were children and is not just after him because of the status he could bring her. As the show progresses, her caring only increases, but her jealousy also starts to turn to violence. Kuriko is initially only interested in bedding Kazuki so she can have his child, though genuinely begins to care for him in the later stages of the show. Rin, trained in the samurai arts, is conservative and traditional; she is only interested in Kazuki because her family has ordered her to pursue marriage with him. Like Kuriko, however, she also develops feelings for Kazuki. Yamase is Kazuki’s childhood friend who has loved him for a long time, yet cannot convey her feelings to him. While these character archetypes can be found in just about any harem comedy anime, their personalities are well developed, lending a sense of realness that makes them easy to accept.

The voice acting in the show is top notch and only helps to accentuate the character’s personalities, particularly with the girls. Jessica Boone shows some nice range as Yuna in all of her various emotional states. Tiffany Grant makes Kuriko sound like a real vixen, and Kim Prause gives Rin the quiet dignity that only a samurai would have. The voice I really liked though was Luci Cristian as Yamase. Out of all the girls, Yamase is the most normal, and I appreciated Cristian’s efforts to make Yamase sound like a typical, intelligent, teenage girl.

The first episode of the show lays the groundwork for what appears will be an interesting show, as I found myself interested in the subplot of Kazuki’s limited magic potential and how the creators would handle it as the show progressed. Unfortunately, the show seems to lose its way a little bit after everything has been set up. Maburaho spends quite a bit of time dealing with class representative Yukihiko Nakamaru and the rest of Kazuki’s scumbag classmates of class 2B, the outcasts of Aoi Academy. They are jealous of the attention that Kazuki has quickly gained and sought ways to bring him back down. If they can make a little money off of it as well, then all the better. However, the subplots dealing with the classmates only distract from what was otherwise in an interesting main plot, and though by the end of each episode their schemes have backfired, the payoff was not interesting enough to make up for the lack of progress on the real plot.

Once the show starts going, it quickly becomes apparent that Kazuki is going to blow through most of his magic allowance in short time, as he is forced to use his magic for various reasons in almost every episode. Once we get into it a little way, the show turns its full focus on Kazuki’s rapidly dwindling magic stock and the dreadful consequences should he use it up. In what was a surprising, yet welcome, twist, the mid-point of the show sees Kazuki actually uses up the last of his magic trying to save Yuna from a devastating illness that would have killed her otherwise. The scene of Kazuki holding Yuna’s hand in the hospital and her being forced to watch him expend that last unit of magic she had tried so hard to get him to save is a powerful highlight of the show.

Kazuki does not disappear, though. His magic is powerful enough that while his body turns to ash, he is able to remain in spirit form. The second half of the show is dedicated to the girls trying to restore Kazuki’s body and bring him back to life. Unfortunately, yet again, the show seems to lose its way a bit here again. A few episodes are dedicated to introducing Shino, an important character for the second half of the show, and Kazuki trying to accept and adapt to his new situation.

Ultimately, it’s Shino’s presence as the antagonist that directs the girls to find the way to restore Kazuki: when he turned to ash, his ashes were scattered among the four girls, and they have to return them to Kazuki by making their heart’s one with his. While I was not exactly a fan of this plot device, when this is discovered, the show picks back up again and ends with a satisfying and powerful conclusion.

The short of it is that Maburaho starts well, has a good twist in the middle, and ends satisfyingly. The comedy is good, if typical, and the two biggest dramatic portions of the show are really intense. The irony is that while this would make for a great show in most cases, what comes between the beginning and middle and the middle and end drags down what otherwise would have been a really good plot. While I am mostly happy with the outcome, I am also upset with the unrealized potential.

In Summary:
While much of what is seen in Mabruaho is paint-by-numbers harem comedy stuff, it was done very well and was engaging in the parts that matter most: the beginning, middle, and end. It’s portions in-between that dragged the show down for me, enough that it’s left a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth. This show should have been better as a whole then it ended up being. There is probably not enough here to recommend it to those who generally avoid harem comedies, or more accurately there is enough to turn them away, however, those who do enjoy harem comedies, or are interested in checking them out, would probably do well to check this show out.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: April 3rd, 2007
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Phillips Magnavox TP3285 C129 32″ TV, Samsung DVD-V5650 Progressive Scan DVD w/ DD/DTS, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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