If you read my takedown of Motto To-Love-Ru, a flighty fanservice anime that embraced that decidedly dubious politics, then you might reasonably assume that I’d dislike Maken-ki!’s second season. But despite the two show’s numerous similarities, you’d be wrong – Maken-ki!, while miles from high art, is a lot of fun and comes highly recommended for anyone with a cursory interest in this sub-genre.
Like To-Love-Ru’s second season, Maken-ki! Two abandons any semblance of a serialised narrative. Granted, the first season was hardly Shakespeare – by the second episode it’s already indulging in the voyeuristic cliché of horny teenagers spying on their female classmates getting a “physical exam” that seems to revolve exclusively around breasts – but it, y’know, had a continuing plot. The high school setting had bad guys and secrets and special powers and a club (called “Maken-ki”) and a cursory interest in a continuing storyline.
Maken-ki! Two sidelines that stuff. It’s all about the fluff. The second season takes the already exaggerated tropes and clichés of fanservice anime and dials them up a notch. Take the first episode, “Magical Security Organisation”, which takes the familiar college-horndog premise of a lingerie thief and folds in supernatural powers, absurd detective work (centring on cup size, naturally) and Hunger Games references.
All this is utterly ridiculous, but it works thanks the show’s propulsive pacing, colourful animation and – most of all – its self-aware sense of humour. One late episode features a oversexed talking teddy bear – think Ted meets Trilogy of Terror – plotting to finagle himself into the core cast. “I’m going to crush you!” he threatens a potential victim, “and take your place as a regular character STARTING NEXT EPISODE!”
More often than not, the metahumour is directed at the innuendo that’s this show’s bread and butter. The series is densely populated with lines of dialogue lampshading the silliness of the material: “We need T ‘n’ A to sell DVDs!”, “Using my jugs as loofahs doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the fanboys insisted” and “What you’re describing is total anime. Like that would happen in real life!” (Also worth noting that jokes like these are helped along greatly by a surprisingly high-quality dub.)
So what about all that innuendo? This is a fanservice anime, after all, so it should come as no surprise that most of the single-serve plotlines provide ample opportunities for sexually-charged escapades. But while Maken-ki!’s putative protagonist Takeru might be more overtly lecherous than To-Love-Ru’s lily-livered Rito, the show itself typically emphasises titillation over straight-up nudity (unlike many of its competitors – see: DxD, Highschool). That first episode might centre on the theft of bras, for instance, but it only includes a brief glance of un-bra’d boobs in its final minutes.
Nonetheless, the show is legitimately sexy. Sure, its sexuality aims for about the level of a twelve year old who still digs silly cartoons but has just realised the appeal of huge tits… but that’s what they’re selling, and unlike counterparts that rely on cheap animation or character design, Maken-ki! spends serious effort in making its over-burdened ladies look fantastic. The quality of the animation is a significant step-up from the first season, with Chief Animation Director Akio Takami opting for a richer aesthetic. The girls’ bodies are glistening, juicy, ripe – and if it sounds like I’m describing a particularly enticing buffet, then the parallels aren’t without merit. While the show tends to underplay its nudity, there’s no denying that its female characters are lined up like meat for their audience.
That’s especially pronounced in this season’s OVA, which comes packaged alongside the season’s ten core episodes in the Australian Blu-Ray release. While the main season might emphasis tease over tits, the OVA dials the sexuality knob right from “innuendo” to “borderline pornography.” Though what do you expect from an episode titled – quite accurately – “Takeru Turns Into a Woman!? Naked in a Southern Island!”
Spent on a summer holiday (upon said Southern island), the show transforms its male protagonist into a lady and promptly unleashes the floodgates of nudity. Think about everything that you’d expect a straight teenaged dude to do when transplanted into and, well, that’s pretty much what you get…
While more overtly exploitative than the other ten episodes, the OVA is still quite entertaining beyond serving as masturbatory fodder for those with a penchant for animated nudity. Its sense of humour and fun fits in neatly with the rest of the season … except for the suspiciously out of place finale.
Maken-ki!’s tenth episode of the season, “And So, Toward Maken-ki”, feels more like a first episode than a last. It’s an origin story, detailing how the teachers had their own adventures and such. It’s not a bad episode at all, but its insistence on developing mythology and backstory feels curiously out of place in a season that otherwise ignored continuity in favour of light entertainment. Perhaps it simply allows for the third season – if one’s ever made – to realign itself to a more serialised story? If so, I admit I’d be kinda disappointed. Maken-ki! Two may be trashy and dumb and sexist, but it’s rare to find a show that’s this much fun.