Maken-Ki! is an action-comedy anime series produced by AIC and falls into a genre that those familiar with anime would call ecchi. In between it’s few moments of story progression and character development you will find yourself bombarded with excessive amounts of panty-shot fanservice, nudity and an unoriginal harem story.
The story begins with lead male Takeru Ohyama enrolling at Tenbi Academy, a private prep high school that has recently converted from all-girls to co-ed, opening it’s doors for males to pass the entrance exams. After enrolling thinking it would be his easy access to a plethora of pretty girls due to the male to female ratio. He eventually reunites with childhood friend Haruko Amaya, who shows him around school. However, he quickly learns that things are not what they seem and this is no ordinary school. Tenbi Academy is for students who possess magical and spiritual energies called Elements and who wield crafted weapons known as Makens.
Students at the school settle their disputes and show superiority by engaging in action packed duels with one another using their elements and Maken abilities. While his own ability and Maken has not presented itself at first, Takeru soon finds himself surrounded by girls, including Inaho Kushiya, an attractive girl who says she’s his fiancée, and Kodama Himegami, a popular blonde who says she wants to kill him. Leading to a love triangle story and a quest to uncover his past and discover what his dormant abilities may be.
Sounds pretty great right? But unfortunately it often fails to hit the mark and spends far too little time forwarding the plot-line mentioned above to make it an addictive, must watch series.
The series starts out very strong, with the first 2 episodes introducing the characters and their interesting varied Maken abilities. I was quite invested in the plot that was set up here but unfortunately from that point on the pacing of the show slows down considerably. It’s not until the final 3 episodes or so of this 12 episode series that it dives back into the actual story this show had set up. With the middle episodes only moving the plot forward very slightly with their opening or closing minutes while spending the majority of the episode setting up sexy fanservice filled side stories and cramming in every high-school anime trope storyline into the middle section of this season. We get the beach/swim suit episode, the hot springs scene, the episode where it suddenly becomes a sport anime and an episode that focuses on two of the lead characters on a date while the rest of the cast watches on jealously as they do in a harem anime.
And while I have nothing against these types of episodes in anime, there is a reason they have become a popular trope after all, Maken-Ki! does nothing to make them different or original in any way and spends so much of the run-time in the short 12 episode season just jumping from one fanservice scene to the next fanservice scene.
I don’t want it to sound like I’m hating on this anime because it has nudity and fan service-y moments because that’s just not the case. It’s just that there are so many other anime in this genre that manage to have these themes while also telling a great engaging story. It almost feels like Maken-Ki is the product of two minds, one that wanted to tell a kickass supernatural action anime set in a high school and one that wanted to inject nudity, panty-shots and extended side stories filled with not much besides ecchi moments into every scene they could and this unfortunately takes away from the core story they set up early on rather than complement it. Which has resulted in a story that feels barely told, full of unanswered questions and unfinished plot points by the end of the season.
Although it has some problems, there are also quite a few things that I did come away from Maken-Ki! really enjoying. It has great English dub performances, led by Ian Sinclair as Takeru, he’s one of my favourite voice actors of recent years and really brings the character to life with his performance. The character designs and background art by AIC is also top notch. Even though this series was originally produced in 2011 it’s designs and animation hold up incredibly well in 2018. And the thing I liked the most about the series, it’s characters, they’re great, each with their own quirks and flaws it’s just a shame more time wasn’t spent developing them a bit more as I really wanted to find out more about the mysteries of their pasts. Hopefully they are fleshed out further in the following season because the only thing that has me interested in seeing more of this series is getting answers for plot points that are still unresolved at the end of this set.
The home release set comes completely uncensored and contains both the English dub and original Japanese audio tracks. As for bonus features you get a lot here. We get the OVA beach episode ‘It’s Summer! It’s Swimsuits! It’s Training Camp!’, episode commentaries from the English cast for episodes 1 & 8, the standard clean opening and closing themes, Japanese commercials and and extra disc containing ‘Heart-Throb Maken-Ki! Secret Training’ 6 short workout exercise episodes, each presented by a different girl from the series. One for fans of the fanservice genre for sure.
Season one of Maken-Ki! is an anime that starts and ends strong but runs into a fair few problems in between. Too often it trades story line for sexy fanservice when I would have preferred a better balance between the two. It has a great cast of likeable characters and my curiosity for what is to come for them next is the reason I am looking forward to jumping into the second season. Here’s hoping the pacing issues are resolved in the future and they try to tell a more focused story to take this from being an average series to a great one.
A review copy of Maken-Ki! Complete Season 1 & 2 was provided by Madman Entertainment for the purpose of this review. So stay tuned in the near future to see our review of Maken-Ki! Two!