MAHOROMATIC: Automatic Maiden, Season 1 (2001)

 

Format: 12 24-minute episodes on 3 DVDs

Rating: R (N, AC, GV)

Type: Sci Fi comedy-action-drama

American Production: Pioneer

English Dub Production: 

Japanese Production: GAINAX

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

A-

Writing:

A

Character Design:

B+

Animation:

B+

Artistic Merits:

B

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

A-

Song (last episode):

A

Opener:

C+

Closer:

A-

 

 

Humor Content:

A-

Action Content:

B

Drama Content:

A

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B+

DVD Extras:

B-

 

 

OVERALL:

A-

 

Synopsis

Mahoro, a cute, human-seeming combat android, was built by the super-secret organization Vesper to be the point woman in their efforts to fight off incursions on Earth by the alien group Saint. Though she has served admirably in this role for years, the end of her operational life span now approaches; she has but 398 days left, and only that long if she drops her peak combat mode. Given the option to live out her remaining days fulfilling a personal wish, Mahoro chooses to become a maid and winds up in the employ of Suguru, an orphaned middle-school student. Mahoro certainly keeps things interesting as Suguru adjusts to having a combat android for a maid as his friends and jealous teacher adjust to a cute young woman living under the same roof as Suguru. But Mahoro was created to be a warrior, and leaving behind a past such as hers is not so easy. . .

 

Quotes

      “I think dirty thoughts are bad!” (Mahoro)

      “Ryuga. To me, this fight isn’t about defeating you in battle, or finding out who the finest soldier is. It’s about my life.” (Mahoro)

 

The Long View

      Mahoromatic could have easily been just a typical anime series. It heavily uses common anime conventions and stereotypes, its story is a fairly predictable mish-mash of stock anime elements, and its basic premises - dressing a cute female combat android in a maid outfit, having a human-seeming young woman with super-human capabilities chastely cohabitating with an inexperienced but good-hearted young boy/man, an android built to fight off an alien invasion - are borrowed from other recent successful anime series. Mahoromatic rises above its competition because it brings these elements together into a package that is far greater than the sum of its parts. It is a special series that I rate among the best of recent years.

      Nothing distinguishes Mahoromatic more than its writing and direction. By infusing the story with an underlying sadness, the creators have given the series a surprising degree of depth for a storyline that may appear shallow at first. This is a story about coping with impending mortality that has been cleverly disguised as pretty girl animation. No matter how light-hearted the episodes seem, each one ends with the sobering reminder that “Mahoro stops functioning in xxx days.” Since Mahoro doesn’t want anyone outside of Vesper to know that her days are (literally) numbered, she must carefully work around any mention of what might happen a year or more down the road. These scenes are, at times, heartbreaking. No less effective are scenes where Mahoro establishes her motivations for what she is doing, which are multilayered; on one level she is seeking absolution, on another she is trying to find her place in the world, a place that she can call home and be truly happy in the time that remains to her. That Suguru really does need her - and for reasons beyond domestic help - is not lost on her, either. These are motivations that a viewer can powerfully empathize with, which can endear Mahoro to the viewer to a degree which other combat android heroines cannot. Of course, the Cute Factor doesn’t hurt here, either, nor does Mahoro’s generally sunny and enthusiastic personality.

      Another place where the writing of Mahoromatic excels is in the balance it achieves among comedic, dramatic, and action elements. Much of the series is genuinely and raucously funny, and there are enough action sequences present to remind you that this isn’t a tame slice-of-life series. Interspersed amongst the humor and actions are the story’s dramatic elements, which range from Suguru’s reflections about how his life has changed for the better since Mahoro came into it to flashbacks into both Suguru and Mahoro’s pasts to a story about ghost-hunting that may surprise you in the end. Occasionally the serious parts can even carry a true emotional impact; sentimental viewers may find themselves brought to tears on more than one occasion, and the last half of the final episode is an emotionally overwhelming powerhouse that should work on all but the most cynical of hearts. The way the climatic fight resolves may be ordinary and predictable, but the effect it has on the viewer is not, and the ending that follows is a thing of beauty. The entire 12-minute sequence doesn’t lose its punch even on repeat viewings and can take some time to recover from.

      Although the musical scoring of Mahoromatic helps by hitting exactly the right notes, the vocal performances are the other true strength of the series. The great writing wouldn’t achieve the impact it does if it wasn’t for some wonderful performances in the key roles, both in English and in Japanese. In an especially classy move the song that plays during the ending sequence of the final episode is subtitled rather than translated in the English version, thus preserving its heartfelt tone. (The silly little ditties that Mahoro sings from time to time are translated, although sometimes the wording comes out a bit clumsy – perhaps deliberately so.) The opener and its song are strictly run-of-the-mill, but the saucy “Mahoromatic Mambo” which closes each episode is a riot. Make sure you read the subtitled lyrics!

      Less prurient viewers will be happy to know that Mahoromatic is packed with fan service. All but one or two episodes include some amount of nudity, panty shots are frequent if you’re looking for them, and jokes about relative breast sizes abound. (Mahoro was designed to be petite to facilitate her role as a combatant, you see.) One episode concerns a whacked-out robot that strips off girls’ swimsuits on a beach, and the actions and fantasizing of Suguru’s teacher, an extremely busty and equally self-centered woman who is fixated on Suguru, can get extremely racy. Fans of really big guns, or of young women that can catch bullets between their fingers, will also not be disappointed. The rating is mostly for the nudity and racy content, though, because the total amount of graphic violence is minimal.

      The artistic merits of Mahoromatic are good but not especially remarkable. Many of the common anime artistic conventions and shortcuts are used, although the animation is fairly fluid in the rare sustained scenes.

      As a last point, Mahoromatic does not explain everything, such as how Vesper was able to create such an incredibly sophisticated combat android or why they made her to look like a young woman. (The reasons for some things that don’t seem to make much sense early on – such as why Mahoro chose to become a maid instead of something else – are suggested in later episodes.) The series also ends with Mahoro still having a couple hundred days of operational time left. It was popular enough in Japan to warrant both a second season and seasonal special, however, so the story of Mahoro and Suguru isn’t over yet.

 

DVD Extras

·       Company Trailers

·       Original Series Commercials/Trailers

·       Art Gallery (rather limited)

·       Clean Opener/Closer

·       Seiyuu Interview (third DVD only)

·       Alternate reverse case covers (second and third DVDs)

·       Paper dolls with several clothing sticker options (some of them parodies of other GAINAX titles)

 

Links

      Pioneer's Mahoromatic Home Page

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Mahoro

Ellen Wilkinson*

Suguru Misato

David Umansky

Slash

Lex Lang*

Ms. Shikijo (teacher)

Wendee Lee*

Ryuga

David Lucas*

VESPER Leader

Michael McConnohie*

Chizuko, VESPER Secretary

Tina Dixon*

Miyuki, Yuuka Misato

Michelle Ruff*

Rin

Midge Mays*

Toshiya, Commander Misato

Ron Allen*

Kiyoni

Dave Lelyveld*

 

      * - Also voiced several minor roles.

 

 

 

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