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Anime: Maken-Ki! (Season 1)
Genre: Action, Harem
Age Rating: Teen+
Music: Cher Watanabe
Author: Hiromitsu Takeda, Yōsuke Kuroda
Ecchi Level: Softcore (It was shameless.)
Got this one recommended to me by a friend on Facebook. And almost as soon as the anime started, I knew exactly what kind it was. And that’ll go for anyone on here who is even remotely a fan of anime. Gonna go ahead and put this out there, if you watch anime with any frequency, you’ve seen this one a thousand times. The entire thing is a trope.
So, to start off, we have one of the main girls in the anime, Haruko Amaya, going to visit a friend from her childhood that she hasn’t seen in forever. Aaaand just like that you can already see where it’s going. She enters his room and just like that, a boob grab joke. Shortly afterwards, we are informed through his own words that the main character, Takeru Ōyama, is a teenage pervert who is out to get himself an eyeful of sweater puppies.
Suddenly, Takeru realizes that this seemingly mundane coed school is more than he realized when girls start pulling out magical artifacts to do battle. So yes, thus far, we have groping gags, a perverted teenage protagonist, and magical girls (and guys too). Apparently, the students at this school participate in duels that use what are called “Maken,” which are replicated powerful artifacts.
And that’s about as far as we get with story. Sure, there are characters later in the story that allude to some dark syndicate that’s interested in the school, but they are barely ever shown in this season. Maybe they’ll come back in later seasons. Getting back to the point, Takeru seems to be one of the only students who has ever been rejected for getting a Maken. So like that, we’ve also got the “Chosen One” trope. And just after that comes Inaho Kushiya, who claims to be Takeru’s fiancee.
Now, the thing is, I have zero issue with harem (or reverse-harem) anime. In fact, when done well, I love them. But there are a few things that need to happen before a harem can be good. One is that the main guy/girl that is the focus of the harem needs to be interesting. And short of Haruko, who happens to be his childhood friend, none of the other girls involved with this one has any particular reason to like this protagonist. Inaho, a cat-faced girl who is adorable, but as dumb as a brick, apparently has some kind of history that even Takeru isn’t privy to.
Then there’s the usual short, flat-chested, tsundere named Kodama Himegami. Once again, no reason. Then Celia Ootsuka, no fucking reason. I don’t even require protagonists to have any kind of athletic or fighting ability in order to make a good harem recipient. It’s perfectly fine to have a powerless schoolboy in a romance vortex. But there’s very little that makes him interesting or worthy of such attention. That’s just bad storytelling, and perhaps even a self insert—if you look at the author of the original manga, you can absolutely see which it is.
I really looked for something good in the anime, but unfortunately, it was just a mess. The magic wasn’t explained beyond just calling it "elements," the maken weren’t explained, none of the character’s history with Takeru were explained, what exactly the organization Venus does, or really anything even remotely related to the main plot of the anime. It’s a bare bones story with character tropes all over the place, and supposed comedy with gratuitous tit-flashing to fill in the rest.
And my god, were there tits. The reason why this anime got a softcore rating above is not only because of all the bare breast flashes and groping, with your typical girl on girl squeezing thrown in. But also because the camera seems to gravitate towards the underside of skirts as well. And I’m not talking Sailor Moon type of superhero underwear, or even your typical odd panty flash. This was outright cameltoe camera focus. The outlines of their lady parts were in so much detail that I had to double check to make sure I didn’t accidentally pick a hentai to review.
Like I said in a previous review, I really don’t mind T&A in anime as long as it isn’t trying to mask other worse parts of the anime. But that’s pretty much all it does. The ecchi side of this anime was so frequent and jammed into places it didn’t belong that it can’t be seen as anything besides a cover up for the lack of story and the tropeish characters. And that’s not a good sign at all.
As for the rest of the anime, the animation was alright during combat, the music was fine, and the battles themselves were extremely short-lived. All in all, everything was fairly average about this anime except for the story and characters, which were seriously lacking. The amount of sexual content in it didn’t nearly make up for the rest. In fact, it was pretty obvious that it was ham-fistedly added into the anime to distract from the rest considering this season had a beach episode and a maid cafe episode.
If you’re looking for anything more in your anime than a festival of tits and close up panty shots, then I’d look somewhere else. The best thing this anime had going for it was its inclusion of a trans character, and the frequency with which we saw presumed lesbian girls. And even that was extremely watered down due to the poor voice acting on Gorou’s part. So even the best part of the anime had issues.
TLDR: As said above, you’ve seen it a thousand times. Weak "chosen one" protag with a harem of girls who have no place liking him, but do anyway. The story is bare-bones, the characters are all tropes, the battles are nothing to write home about, and it’s obscenely stuffed with extremely detailed panty shots and bare tits. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone really, unless they were looking for fap material. Otherwise, if you have standards, skip it.
Overall Rating: 4/10
SPOILER TALK: So yeah, Takeru is some kind of chosen one who has some kind of elemental absorbing power, which plays absolute zero role until the final episode. Like, he can’t even fight normally against your typical opponents. And speaking of typical opponents, Takeru isn’t just a pervert. But he’s also a sexist. Not your average, everyday “make me a sandwich!” moron. But rather a societal sexist who, despite witnessing first hand that girls in this school can not only battle, but outright destroy stronger-looking male opponents, still thinks that guys shouldn’t fight girls. That’s idiotic, and isn’t a good character trait.
Not to mention that despite being a bland, perverted teenager, he has girls hanging off of him. Haruko, maybe, seeing as she was his childhood friend. But the others? Bullshit. Inaho’s history has yet to be revealed, so I can’t really say much about her. But Himegami has zero reason. And Ceria had less than zero. Ceria literally walked into the school, saw him, and immediately fell in love. This concept is so ridiculous that it almost made me stop watching the anime.
Speaking of specific characters, I like how Inaho’s character seemed at first. An innocent and sweet girl who loves candy. But then it was revealed that she was just another trope, the girl who’s so sweet that she’s borderline stupid. Haruko was alright, but it only ever showed her using one maken. Himegami was so tropeish that it was painful. The goth lolita, flat-chested, tsundere girl who is interested in the MC, but would die before she said so. Ugh… Even the side characters are all tropes. Sexy nurse, hot female gym teacher, perverted side-kick, tomboy with a bandaid on her nose, etc. And I actually like some of these tropes. But they were horribly misused in this anime.
BEST GIRL: Most other times that it’s this hard to pick a best girl, it’s usually because they’re all so good. Unfortunately, this time around, it’s because they were all almost equally as lackluster. So, I guess this time around I’m gonna go with Azuki Shinatsu. I have a soft spot for tomboys, I liked her fighting style (primarily using her fists), and she seems to be the only one holding down a job as well as school.
BEST BRO: Gen Tagayashi. Honestly, he was the only guy in the entire show that didn’t annoy me. He wasn’t perverted, and he was a blacksmith. All around, he was pretty awesome.