Maken-Ki! joins the likes of Is This a Zombie?, Freezing, and High School of the Dead, being yet another fan service show with a weak plot and almost no substance, but much like the others, it is a TON of fun.
Maken-Ki! revolves around the life of teenager Takeru (Voice of Ian Sinclair.) Takeru has decided to attend Tenbi academy, when he finds out it has been changed to coed (he previously attended an all male academy.) Immediately when the show starts off, we meet the Student Body VP, Haruko (voice of Monica Rial), whom is an old childhood friend of Takeru, and who also still carries a flame for him. Soon after arriving at Tenbi we are introduced to the rest of the key cast, first is Inaho, the self proclaimed fiance of Takeru, who also knew him as a child. Inaho decides to move in with Takeru to be closer to him, much to Haruko's chagrin. Lastly, we meet Himegami, who takes an interest in Takeru when she fights him in a duel and notices a mysterious marking on his chest, she also moves in to find out more about Takeru. With the main characters introduced, the story starts.
Maken-Ki! really doesn't have much of an overarching plot to the story other than all of the women being obsessed with Takeru, it is your standard Harem. Basically each episode of the show consists of daily activities at Tenbi academy. For example, 1 episode takes place entirely with the main characters working at the academy's maid cafe, while another is focused on a volleyball match. The closest thing to a main story line Maken-Ki! has is a 2 episode arc that starts at the end of episode 11, where Haruko is kidnapped.
The worst thing about Maken-Ki! is that when I was watching the first few episodes and they were describing the Maken and all of the elements, I thought to myself that this show had a lot of potential that I knew was not gonna be fleshed out. All of that takes a back seat and instead they go for the unoriginal Tenchi like plot line, focusing primarily on Takeru and his relationships with the girls.
The dub cast performs quite well as usual from FUNimation. Ian Sinclair takes the lead of Takeru and performs well in the role. To be quite honest, I had my doubts going in after hearing Ian as Toriko, I just didn't think he'd be able to do the nerdy higher pitched Takeru justice, I was definitely wrong. Ian has got amazing vocal range, his performance here is exactly why he's quickly becoming one of my favorite Voice Actors, he easily gives the best performance of the cast. The other standout for me is Monica Rial. She blew me away with her work in Michiko & Hatchin, and in Maken-Ki! she performs as Haruko very well. Not many give her a lot of credit for her range, but her performances here and as Michiko should disprove the haters.
- The Animation. Especially in the OVA, the animation in Maken-Ki! was stellar.
- The Dub. As per usual from FUNimation, they deliver their standard fantastic dub work.
- Fun characters.
- This is probably an unpopular complaint... but I'm sick of so many Tenchi retread plot lines, where one person lives with 5 members of the opposite sex and they're all vying for his/her attention, it's been done to absolute death. Tenchi, Is This a Zombie?, Please Twins!, Shuffle!, Maken-Ki!, the list goes on and on. They're fun, but stale. I wouldn't be so tired of the Harem genre if it were not the exact same thing damn near every time.
Video and Audio
Maken-Ki! is an absolute gorgeous show. The color palette is beautiful, vibrant and crisp.
For Audio, we're given the choice between the original Japanese Stereo, and an English 5.1 Dolby track, as usual I watched the 5.1 track and it was fantastic. The audio was clean.
Here we are given the typical FUNi special features with a cool little bonus.
- Episode 2 commentary with Ian Sinclair and Scott Freeman
- Episode 8 commentary with Monica Rial and Tia Ballard.
- "Heartthrob! Maken-Ki! Secret Training" - All 6 parts are included, none of them are dubbed and they all run approximately 10 minutes.
- U.S. Trailer.
- FUNimation trailers.
- Japanese Commercial
- Original Teaser.
- Textless opening and closing songs.
The Limited Edition set also comes with a nice chipboard art box that fits well for the series.
In the end, Maken-Ki! for me was extremely satisfying. It had great characters, well written episodic stories and a nice ending that closed enough doors while also leaving some open for a season 2, which was just green lit in Japan. I'm really looking forward to it! RECOMMENDED.