"If you're going to be collecting genes, I'd rather have you do it in another room."
Sex and magic never paired so strangely as they do in Maburaho.
In this colorful, quick-paced harem anime, we follow Kazuki, an underwhelming teen magic user, who can only use his powers a limited number of times before he turns to dust. He becomes the envy of every other boy at the magic school he's in, however, when three gorgeous girls begin vying for him, due to the fact he comes from the most powerful line of magic users ever. Let the chaos-in-short-skirts ensue.
Little by little over the first two DVD volumes, Kazuki has been forced to use his magic, and we've reached the point where he only has three spells left at his disposal. While the girls – Yuna, Kuriko and Rin – try to discover a way to increase Kazuki's spell count, he continues to be one of the more frustrating male anime characters I've met in a while. I'll never understand these boys in harem anime. If I was Kazuki, I would have bedded all three of his suitors, and tried for all three at the same time to boot. But Kazuki resists all the advances, turns a bright shade of red, and talks about how it isn't right. Screw that buddy, get busy sharing your "genes."
The fan service in this third volume isn't always just playful and light: at one point Yuna imagines Kazuki with one of her competitors in a very intimate way, and the scene is nothing short of hot. While most of the busty bosoms and short skirt action is fun and there to raise Kazuki's angst and confusion, some of it is quite steamy and sexy, without humor involved.
We open this third DVD volume with an entertaining episode where Kazuki's girls take on a group of green spirits in a baseball game. If the girls win, Kazuki is allowed more chances to cast spells. If the spirits win, everyone spends eternity in hell. While fun, the game has an anticlimactic ending, and the actual plays don't invoke any of the baseball excitement Princess Nine managed (entire speeches are made out loud during plays, pitches take FOREVER to reach the plate even though they're pitched with magical speed, and a commentator is heard, even though he doesn't actually exist).
In episode 10, the girls and boy continue searching for ways to increase Kazuki's spell count, and get some insight into the background of a girl who suffered from the same ailment as Kazuki. This seems like a throwaway story, because we learn nothing about how Kazuki can keep from turning to dust after he uses up his magic, and everyone gets her panties in a bunch over an old oak tree.
Episode 11 involves a hilarious (and quite illegal) gambling game of rock, paper scissors, where the losers give up their lunches (and later their clothes). Kazuki's laughing, possibly insane classmate is the man to beat in this game, in an episode that's animated more loosely and borders on the offensive. Meanwhile, a still-sexy, but very evil copy of Yuna is wandering around, trying to kill Kazuki.
The last episode of this volume sees Yuna come down with a very scary illness, not dissimilar to what ails Kazuki. Will Kazuki bring his spell count down to zero to save her?
The 4:3 full screen video is above average, with the bright colors popping out nicely, and the browns, grays and dark blues remaining properly subdued. Sometimes colors are muted, depending on the time of day and the location, but for the most part everything looks nice and pretty. No noticeable problems on this DVD.
Give that English 5.1 track a spin! I'm a sucker for original language tracks, but ADV's swank 5.1 treatment trumps the Japanese 2.0 track on this DVD in several ways. Besides being a tad louder, music shifts around a bit more, dialogue is moved around here and there (multi-layered, very directional, and lots of tiny background voices thrown in at the rear channels), and ambient noises come through excellently (listen to those birds!). All the English performances for the girls are excellent, though Kazuki's English voice is just too whiny for my tastes.
A smattering of extras on this DVD, with "The Art of Maburaho" slide show, showing off stills of characters and objects with light-hearted music playing in the background; A voice actor commentary for episode 12 with DVD Producer Sandra Krasa and voice actor Tiffany Grant (Kuriko); clean opening and closing animations; DVD credits; and ADV previews.
The commentary is more serious than others I've heard from ADV, with Krasa and Grant talking at length about their thoughts behind the characters and the script. It's worth a listen, as they make a really lightweight anime sound more thoughtful and deep.
Menus are bright, colorful, and easy to use, and a preview of volume four can be found on the main menu. An insert is "The Magic Times," the school newsletter for the kids' school, and it's entertaining, with news stories, spell instructions and comics.
Maburaho continues to be a light, enjoyable foray into the magical and sexual. The characters seem like carbon copies of cute girls and confused boys we've met a dozen times before in anime, but the story's premise and the girls keep it fun. Recommended.