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. Much like the others titles I mentioned though, it is a TON of fun.
Maken-Ki! revolves around the life of awkward and perverted teenager Takeru (Voice of Ian Sinclair.) When Takeru finds out Tenbi academy, a previously all girls academy, has recently become co-ed (he previously attended an all male school), he finds this the perfect opportunity to surround himself with gorgeous women and decides to attend.
Immediately when the show starts off, we are introduced to the Student Body VP of Tenbi academy... the beautiful, bubbly and quite voluptuous Haruko (voice of Monica Rial), whom is an old childhood friend of Takeru. Obviously due to what kind of series this is she still carries a flame for Takeru and the sexual tension between the two is made apparent right off the bat.
Arriving at Tenbi academy, Takeru is quickly thrown into the schools arena for an apparent challenge where he soon finds out about the academy's magic use of the Maken, a weapon that enhances ones magic abilities and is specific to each individual. Here in the challenge we are introduced to Himegami (voiced by Chloe Ragnbone), who takes an interest in Takeru when she fights him in the duel and notices a mysterious marking on his chest. During the duel, knowing Takeru is completely outmatched against Himegami, Hakuro decides to jump in only to be cut off by a girl named Inaho (voiced by Tia Ballard) who decides to save Takeru herself. She soon reveals her motives for saving Takeru, Inaho is ALSO a childhood friend of his but with a commitment of marriage from him.
At the end of the 1st episode, due to being engaged, Inaho decides to move in with Takeru to be closer to him, much to Haruko's chagrin. Just to spite Inaho (and wanting Takeru to herself), Haruko decides to move in with the pair. To top it all off, Takeru's opponent in the duel, Himegami, also moves in with the trio to find out more about Takeru. With the main characters introduced, this is where Maken-Ki! starts.
Don't expect much from Maken-Ki! as it lacks substance and 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. There are little slivers to an actual story outside the randomness of the series. 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 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. The cast performs quite well in the series with Ian Sinclair taking the lead of Takeru and performing well in the role. Ian has amazing vocal range, and 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 which is something that's becoming standard. 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 she can switch it up and her performances here and as Michiko prove that.
- Fun characters.
- Cliche. I'm sick of so many Tenchi retread series'. The typical plot 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 completely stale. I wouldn't be so tired of the Harem genre if it were not the exact same thing damn near every time, especially when a series has potential like this one.
- Wasted potential. Just looking at the cover I knew it was gonna be a heavy fan service title. The sad thing is, Maken-Ki! actually had potential to be great instead of good.
Video and Audio
Maken-Ki! is an absolute gorgeous show. The color palette is beautiful and crisp, the visuals are vibrant.
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 and clear with no noticeable dropouts or distortions.
Here we are given the typical FUNi special features with a little bonus.
- Episode 2 commentary with the lead actor, Ian Sinclair (Takeru), and Scott Freeman (Kengo.)
- Episode 8 commentary with Monica Rial (Haruko) and Tia Ballard (Inaho.)
- "Heartthrob! Maken-Ki! Secret Training" - All 6 parts are included, none of them are dubbed and they all run approximately 10 minutes. You think they would go the extra mile and dub these, but extra features for some reason never get the dub treatment.
- 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 a satisfying series. It had some fun characters, well written episodic stories and a nice ending that closed enough doors while also leaving some open for season 2, Maken-Ki! Two, which was just announced in Japan. I'm really looking forward to it! RECOMMENDED.