MAHOROMATIC: Automatic Maiden - Something More Beautiful (aka Season 2) (2002)

 

Format: 14 23-minute episodes on 3 DVDs

 

Rating: R (N, AC, GV)

 

Type: Sci Fi comedy-action-drama

 

American Production: Pioneer

 

Japanese Production: GAINAX

 

Grading

 

Premise:

A-

Story:

A-

Writing:

A-

Character Design:

B

Animation:

B

Artistic Merits:

B-

English Dub:

A-

Musical Score:

B+

Opener:

B

Closer:

B+

 

 

Humor Content:

A-

Action Content:

B

Drama Content:

B+

 

 

DVD Presentation:

B

DVD Extras:

C

 

 

OVERALL:

B+

 

Synopsis

      Note: This review assumes that you have already seen the first season and thus contains spoiler info about the first season. If you have not already seen it and intend to, you might want to stop reading now.

 

      In the wake of the first season, the months come and go as Suguru settles in to a regular life with Mahoro – or at least as regular as your life can be when your live-in maid is a cute, retired female combat android! His interest in the way humans lived sparked by previous encounters, the Saint android Ryuga returns to Suguru’s school to become a full-time teacher, but this time he has no hostile intent and thus becomes regularly involved in the hijinks of Suguru, Mahoro, and his friends. Slash has a tough time accepting this, so the two are often at odds. As if things aren’t lively enough, a new lifelike android (or, perhaps more accurately, a cyborg) in the form of the klutzy, diminutive Minawa comes on the scene. A runaway from a secret Illuminati-type organization called Management, she joins the Misato household and is adopted as a little sister and maid-in-training by Mahoro.

      But although Saint has seemingly undertaken a more peaceful approach, the same cannot be said of Management. Their scheming ultimately threatens Suguru, Mahoro, and all they hold dear. Meanwhile, Mahoro’s remaining time continues to tick down. . .

 

Quotes

      “Dirty thoughts are bad!” (Mahoro and others)

 

The Long View

      The first season of Mahoromatic (reviewed here) was a great success because it infused racy, light-hearted humor and well-handled action sequences with a sad undertone that occasionally produced powerfully heartfelt dramatic peaks and ultimately led to an incredibly emotional ending. This second season seems at first to be intent on ramping up the action and light-hearted fun; the sad truth about Mahoro’s limited time is barely an afterthought for most of the first two-thirds of Something More Beautiful (hereafter SMB), which progresses the timeline through the fall and winter holidays. As a result, most of the earlier episodes are little more than highly-entertaining fluff and filler, with the comedic peak coming in episode 8 when Suguru’s lively grandfather comes for a visit. The sentimentality of the first season is not lost, however, and pops up in these early episodes in the way Mahoro delights in simple things such as snowfall and in the way Suguru and his friends cope with the very ordinary problems of middle school-aged students; Suguru must figure out how to balance friendships with budding romance, for instance, while one of his female friends must deal with the not-always-pleasant consequences of being substantially better-developed than the other girls her age and one of his male friends shows the all-too-common awkwardness of a boy attempting to court his first love interest. One also gets the impression early on that the new character, Minawa, is dogged by the demons of her past, and this does become a factor later on.

      As with the first season, SMB turns almost completely serious in its last third as the underlying plot threads start coming together and building towards a dramatic peak. The heartfelt sentiment is just as strong (especially in episode 11) but overall the drama is much darker than in the first season as Management’s plotting kicks into full gear. Especially well-handled is Mahoro’s eventual revelation of her secrets to Suguru, her chilling penultimate confrontation with the Management android Feldrance, and the actions of Vesper’s Leader during this period of the story, but kudos must also go the writing team for the last five episodes in general. Although the series actually climaxes with the end of the 13th episode, the last episode is a brilliant add-on which deals with the long-term ramifications of what happens in the wake of the climax. This is one story where you won’t walk away wondering, “what happens next?” Whether or not you’ll find that episode satisfying is something any fan of Mahoromatic will have to decide for himself. On the downside, Mahoro’s constant warring with Miss Shikijo gets a bit tedious after a while, and a side plot about an assassination of a prominent politician late in the story seemed a bit weak. And yes, the subtitle for this season wasn’t idly chosen for cutesiness factor; “something more beautiful” is a phrase that does, in fact, come up with great significance at two different points in the series and helps to explain the motivations of a couple of key characters.

      The fan service that the first season was known for is every bit as prevalent in SMB, although it tends to come more in bunches. If you’re a fan of racy (and sometimes perverted) humor, then you’ll delight in scenes such as Suguru trying to keep his porno magazines hidden from Mahoro’s watchful eye or Slash’s “awful” fate at being given a bath by several naked teenage girls or one entire episode which centers around dreams and schemes concerning breast enlargement. The series rarely wastes a good opportunity to show some skin or female undergarments, but not all of it is purely puerile; Mahoro and Suguru once again end up naked in a bath together, for instance, but as with the first time it’s more a tender moment than a titillating one. Although the nudity and racy content are the main reasons for the rating, the action here is sometimes quite intense and there are a couple of scenes that get rather messy. The average 13-year-old could certainly handle this series if he wasn’t drooling over all the racy content.

      The technical merits of SMB are a bit of a drop-off from the first season and the main reason for the lower Overall rating. This is especially evident in the character design; many of the new characters in this season just aren’t that appealing in their look or otherwise don’t seem right. (Feldrance’s look and smile in particular bugged me; there’s nothing about his appearance or demeanor that suggests how dangerous he actually is.) In fact, the character design only maintains as high a rating as it does because it carries over the very good designs of the first season. The general artistry also isn’t quite as sharp, and it seemed like more shortcuts and artistic clichés were used this time around. The musical score, which is recycled from the first season, is still good but isn’t quite as effective at highlighting key moments as it was in the first season. The English vocal performances are still up to the fine standard set by the first season, however. The only performance I would even consider labeling as weak is that of Feldrance, but that might partly be because I so intensely disliked that character in general.

      The new opener for SMB has more of a pop-rock twang to it but is otherwise a distinct improvement over the first season opener. The closer, which takes a different slant than the one in the first season but still features SD versions of the three girls performing a racy song, is the equal of the one in the first season. And yes, the odd “Satellite Poem” feature at the end of each episode is back, with the poetry being of exactly the same style as in the first season. This time, though, the original Japanese writing is scrolled across the screen during the voice-over instead of the English translation.

      SMB fills in many of the gaps about things the first series didn’t explain – such as Vesper’s origins and how such an advanced creation as Mahoro can exist - while bringing the overall story to a distinct conclusion. (In light of that, I will be very curious to see how the “Summer Special” episode, which is due out in the U.S. in March, will fit into the storyline.) Even if you aren’t completely satisfied with the ending, anyone who was a fan of the first season should love this one, too.

 

DVD Extras

      The DVDs for the second season are more sparse on extras than those for the first season:

·       Company Trailers

·       Art Gallery (rather limited)

·       Clean Opener/Closer

·       Alternate reverse case covers

·       Mini-poster included in each DVD case

 

Links

      Pioneer's Mahoromatic Home Page

 

Principle English Voice Actors

Role

Voice Actor

Mahoro

Ellen Wilkinson*

Suguru Misato

David Umansky

Minawa/370

Willow Armstrong

Slash, Commander Daimon

Lex Lang*

Ms. Shikijo (teacher)

Wendee Lee*

Ryuga, Sub-Commander Gunji

David Lucas*

VESPER Leader, Yuichiro Konoe

Michael McConnohie*

Chizuko Oe

Tina Dixon*

Miyuki Sakura, Yuuka Misato

Michelle Ruff*

Rin Todoroki, 369

Midge Mays*

Toshiya, Commander Misato, Professor Mephilis, Dr. Hokaze

Ron Allen*

Kiyoni Kawahara

Dave Lelyveld*

Management Leader

Steve Kramer*

Feldrance, young Suguru

Mona Marshall*

Dr. Canan

David Orosco

Sera, Yoshimi Tanaka

Lia Sargent

numerous minor roles

Tony Oliver

 

      * - Also voiced minor roles.

 

 

 

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