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This Entry, The Joke's On Me

For April Fool's day this year, I am going to talk a bit a miserable failure to finish my most recent anime.  In earlier versions of the previous entry about Chobits, I mentioned moving on to Mahoromatic next, as it seems a logical progression in the whole romantic-comedies-heading-in-the-direction-of-robot-girls schtick I seemed to be up.   I have since removed mention of Mahoromatic from the entry.  Surprise!

What happened?  Gainex happened.  This studio is somewhat infamous for weird reinterpretation decisions and sometimes gratuitous fanservice.  Their treatment of making the Mahoromatic manga into a anime thoroughly repelled me, to the point where I simply could not continue past halfway through season 1.

A short summary then:
  • Suguru Misato is a geeky (130 IQ) junior high student everyboy living in Tokyo, alone, because his parents are dead.  A decent fellow, he does not succumb to the cheesecake he is regularly subjected to, but that is about all I can say about him.
  • Mahoro Androu is an elite combat android inexplicably manifest in a junior high girl's body, created by a secret paramilitary force to secretly fight off an alien invasion that has been going since the 80s.  Due to her absolutely wonderful personality, her doting superiors allow her to live as a civilian for the rest of her existence, which amounts to 398 days.  She chooses to serve Suguru as his live-in maid, partly because (unknown to Suguru) she killed his father in a standoff with aliens and she wants to make it up to him, partly because she is such a charitable soul that she wants to stay busy and committed to a worthwhile endeavor even in her final days.  (Not, as some people seem to think, because this anime is promoting the idea that women are happiest when in the kitchen or doing housework; Mahoromatic objectifies women in most other ways, but not this one: see Saori Shikijo.)
  • Saori Shikijo is a woman in her mid-20s who is an absolute travesty to women everywhere - nay, human beings everywhere.  Though she teaches in junior high, she perpetually obsesses over her own gorgeous figure, arbitrarily decides to compete with Mahoro for Suguru's affections, regularly gets drunk off her ass, and (even when sober) loses herself to her dirty-minded fantasies as she dry-humps Suguru (a minor) in the middle of a crowded department store while wearing little more than a string bikini.  Why do Suguru and friends let her hang out with them?  Why has she not been arrested yet?  Because rule of sexy, she's there because she has big boobs and they have a tendency to escape garments on camera.  If Saori was completely removed from this anime, it would have been significantly more bearable to anyone whose brain is not mostly running on testosterone.
  • And also Suguro has some high school friends his age and a cousin and stuff but who cares they're just barely fleshed out supporting characters with some vestigial boob potential.
  • In the second season, Mahoro's little sister Minawa shows up to live with Suguru and be his maid too, has a load of personal problems, but is otherwise a gratuitous loli and yet another reason for me to never want see the second season.
I don't know who this anime was made for.  The genre is classified as "seinen" (older males), and the manga was serialized in a publication whose main readership is 18 years and up.  At times (especially later in the series) it gets dark and even gory with the sci-fi trappings of interplanetary conflict.  Somewhere in here is the trappings of a decent romance.  However, on the way there, we're subjected to puerile scenarios that look like they're targeted for people with a 14-year-old sense of humor.

For example, in episode 4, a giant mechanical crab monster escapes from an American warship (they had hoped to reverse engineer it) and ends up on a beach where Suguru, Mahoro, and his school chums are.  Apparently damaged by American meddling, it proceeds to systematically strip the swimsuits from all the girls on the beach.  So they're all running around naked and fearing for their lives while I am imagining the cheesy 80s college humor movie music going on in the background.  Mahoro engages it in a battle so badly choreographed that I wonder if they hired Kennedy Cartoons to animate that bit, but touchingly Suguru puts his life on the line helping her aim her gun when the giant crab monster blinds her.

The episodes I have seen seem to do whatever it takes to show us  tits.  Episode 1: Let me wash your back, master.  Episode 2: Saori wants in the bath, too!  Episode 3: Whoops, the bath exploded, lets visit the Japanese bathhouse.  Episode 4: Lets go to the beach... but first, the bikini store!  Episode 5: Turns out Saori likes the skinny dip in the school pool at night.  Episode 6: Oh dear, it rained, and now my summer kimono is all see through.   Yes, most of these are tired trope settings (bathhouse, lingerie store, high school, summer festival) but with the fanservice turned up to 11.
Mahoro's catchphrase: "Ecchi na no wa ikenai to omoimasu" ("I think that dirty thoughts are bad")
Research tells me that episodes 7-12 undergo a major change in tone, away from bawdy slice-of-life, where Mahoro's military past catches up to her and she is forced into a fight an alien Android despite being retired.  It may become something more resembling gritty Sci-fi, to the point where it is actually sort of weird there is a goofy romantic comedy happening at the start at all.  If that is the case, these first six episodes do not represent the series at all.  Unfortunately, after enduring the first half of the first season, I just don't trust it enough to try.   For that matter, I have a hard time caring about these characters because, with the exception of Mahoro and Suguru, they're not at all important or needed for the plot to work, mostly foisted as sex objects. 

I probably should care a bit about Mahoro, because she's just a wonderful person (which undermines her android credibility somewhat) but the fact of the matter is she's going to die, it has been stated by her engineer at the beginning of the series that she has exactly this many days left to live, and she knows this.   Apparently her and Suguru are going to fall in love over the course of the anime, and that's just downright tragic.  The fact she is going to die is irrevocable, with only reincarnation offering a potential for a happy ending.  The anime hammers the viewer with how many days she has left to live at the end of every episode in big bold letters.  So each episode is essentially communicating, "Hey, wasn't Mahoro the sweetest, most courageous being you ever met in this episode?  She's still going to die, though."

If I was not already bouncing off the anime pretty hard from the gratuitous fanservice, I am brick walled by this unnecessary finality of the only character that made it worth watching.  From what I have seen so far, I would give Mahoromatic a "Not Very Good" (5/11) on the Anime News Network rating.  However, in average, it actually scores reasonably well, at about 7.5 (half way between "Decent" and "Good).   I have some theories about this:
  • Maybe the latter half of season 1 is great.  
  • Maybe this anime is just intended for another audience than myself.  
  • Maybe Gainex fans have flooded the scoring system and gave it about 2 more points than it deserves.    
  • Maybe a lot of the fans of the manga rated the anime by mistake.
Perhaps I will steel my depleted frontal lobe and wade into this locker room of immaturity to find the truth... but I hope I have made clear why I really do not want to. So I cheated and read the last 100 pages of the manga, instead. As it happens, the Mahoromatic manga had a pretty great ending, I could see why there was a demand for an anime based off of this property.  It is a pity Gainex decided to "improve" things, souring the much needed catharsis from the manga with ambiguity.  Maybe, after being told by their bosses to implement that much tits, they came to hate their viewers, and this was their way of getting revenge.
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