Maken-Ki could have been fun, were it not so dependent on worn-out tropes and tired clichés. While I have not read the manga on which the show is based, a cursory glance at its volume summaries reveals a plot that is much different from the severely-truncated version found in the animated series. Cherry-picked elements from the manga’s fiction and its characters’ backstories are thrown together in a slapdash manner, creating an unexciting and often nonsensical adventure. With such obvious problems, why would anyone bother with the show? For the nudity and panty shots, of course. Although gratuitous and over-the-top nudity ultimately defines Maken-Ki, the promise of exposed flesh is not nearly enough to save this lazily-produced addition to FUNimation’s catalog.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Takeru Ohyama, a young man with a perverted streak, has transferred to Tenbi Academy after discovering that the all-girls school has allowed boys to enroll. Far more interested in the high girl-to-guy ratio than the curriculum, Takeru is shocked to discover that Tenbi is actually a combat training academy that teaches students how to wield elemental magic and trains them in the use of special weapons called Maken. Haruko Ayama, Takeru’s childhood friend and vice president of the student council, serves as his guide to the school’s daily regimen. Haruko hopes to rekindle her long-lost friendship with Takeru, only to fall into fits of jealous rage as he attracts attention from other girls.
Maken-Ki also hints at something greater going on in the world: Yamata no Orochi, a dangerous dragon spirit with many heads, is on the brink of revival, and different factions are invested in keeping it sealed away or bringing it back to life. I was intrigued by Venus, the all-female mercenary group sent to Tenbi to determine if the school is involved in Orochi’s return, but my interest quickly gave way to disappointment as the majority of the group’s time is spent playing volleyball and matchmaker. The same goes for the Kamigari, a shadowy cabal of Maken users that manipulates students behind the scenes to further their own machinations. They’re usually shown sitting around and watching events unfold from a mysterious dark blue room.
Instead of telling a good story, Maken-Ki focuses on Takeru’s pervy shenanigans with the girls in his life. Each episode overflows with fleshy bits presented in reverent detail. Each girl’s breast size is featured prominently, along with the way she looks in the shower, wearing slinky lingerie, or with her clothes torn away during school sports and battle sequences. Title cards display the girls wearing next to nothing, and they fall into sexy poses as they seductively whisper the show’s title. There’s also a scene in the summer-themed OVA in which the female cast is caught and felt up by a giant octopus. The collection’s most notable special feature is a collection of short videos in which the main characters perform a variety of stretches and exercises for the viewer; the camera zooms in on notable body parts as the girls grunt and moan their way through a workout. Speaking as someone who appreciates fanservice from time to time, even I thought this was over the top. Maken-Ki actively pushes the boundaries of its rating, and the only thing missing is an anime version of The Man Show’s “Girls On Trampolines.”
Even someone who appreciates the female form will discover that Maken-Ki is lazy and derivative. The cheeky situations in which Takeru finds himself—from falling on top of girls to sneaking a peek in a bath house—have all been done to death. By relying on tired situational comedy, the series pushes style over substance, a tactic that fails because its style is not especially exciting. Maken-Ki is a thoroughly forgettable series, and anyone looking to scratch the itch for a sexy harem action comedy would be better off with High School DxD or Sekirei.
Maken-Ki: Complete Series
Directed by Koichi Ohata
300 minutes, Number of Discs: 4, DVD/Blu-Ray Combo Set
Company Age Rating: 17+
Related to: Maken-Ki by Hiromitsu Takeda