This anime did a lot of things right, but we’ll always wonder what could have been.
Production Company: Xebec
Vintage: Winter 2014
Nipple sightings from other Xebec produced anime:
To Love-Ru, Kanokon, Ladies versus Butlers, Softenni, RIN – Daughters of Mnemosyne, Sorcerer Hunters, Upotte!! (OVA), Hen Zemi, Blue Seed Beyond, Argevollen
Other notable / recently relevant mainstream anime from Xebec:
Tokyo ESP, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, Love Hina, Negima, Lagrange – The Flower of Rin-ne, Martian Successor Nadesico, Pandora Hearts, Shaman King, Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Zoids
Noriko Shitaya as Haruko Amaya
Noriko Shitaya is also well known for her roles as:
Sayuri Yahagi as Kodama Himegami
Sayuri Yahagi is also well known for her roles as:
Hitomi Harada as Aki Nijou
Hitomi Harada is also well known for her roles as:
Thoughts on the anime
You might want to grab a cup of coffee for this one.
Maken-ki! Two arrived with massive expectations. It was arguably the most anticipated ecchi anime ever. It combined Xebec’s growing legend in the ecchi genre with the infamous Hiraku Kaneko, a director who took ecchi anime to new heights with Seikon no Qwaser and Manyuu Hikenchou .
Despite the first season (produced by AIC) being disappointing to some, the manga and characters remained highly popular and most of the grumbling for the first season came from AIC’s character design and art style (the first season had the same character designer as Escaflowne . Seriously). A sequel was seen as a way to redeem a somewhat botched first season for one of the best ecchi manga currently running*. Very few ecchi manga would elicit more excitement with a follow up effort than Maken-Ki! would.
*I actually thought the first season was awesome, but that’s just like, my opinion, man.
Apparently this wasn’t enough, because Xebec even brought in Akio Takami to handle the character designs and fanservice extras. Takami had previous made a name for himself by handling the same role in Kanokon and Ladies versus Butlers , which had arguably the most fapable fanservice extras of all time (he also did the character design for Upotte!! and oddly, Shaman King ).
Maken-Ki! Two was the “Dream Team” scenario of ecchi anime. If there was one thing this anime did fantastically well, it was building up hype among ecchi fans.
That hype was then kicked into overdrive when the pre-series OVA was released in the Spring of 2013. With huge doses of nudity, extra kinky antics and gorgeous art, it was arguably on a higher level of awesome than a typical episode of To Love-Ru Darkness .
Even during the Fall 2013 season which featured nine TV series with nudity (probably a record), all of those ecchi shows just felt like a way to pass the time until Maken-Ki! Two debuted in January.
Then the show actually happened.
It was good, not in the anime sense but in the fanservice vehicle sense. It was sexy, but ultimately it didn’t even come close to realizing its full potential.
Other than some background character development in episode 10, no new characters were introduced. The existing characters from the first show were trimmed or minimized. Tragically, the list of characters to disappear included the pop star / idol character Syria, one of the better characters from the first series. Usually a follow up season increases the number of characters. Maken-Ki! Two was the rare sequel that actually cut down on the number of characters substantially. Looking back, I honestly wonder if this was done intentionally to keep costs down since fewer characters would mean paying fewer seiyuu.
The TV episodes themselves were episodic, with all but perhaps the very last episode feeling like filler episodes where each episode focused on a specific girl or two. There was the Aki episode, the Himegami episode, the Haruko episode, and so on. Filler can be just fine in ecchi if it’s sexy enough or clever enough, but with the exception of the Himegami episode this method never really seemed to pay off.
I still have nothing but respect for Hiraku Kaneko, I think what little you could be impressed by in this anime is likely tied to his talents. Namely, his talent for quality art, drawing boobs that defy physics and for portraying sexuality without the slightest shred of dignity.
The weird part that I can’t figure out is how Akio Takami’s character designs looked so good in the main episodes (and in his other anime) but looked so sloppy in the Maken-Ki! Two fanservice extras. He’s solely credited for producing those and I honestly wonder if he actually animated all those shorts all by himself given the lack of quality.
The idea behind the extras was basically the same as Kanokon and Ladies versus Butlers . Those anime had legendary fanservice extras, so why change the formula? Honestly, I think it was a pretty good idea, but the one thing they seemed to forget was that the production values of those extras were every bit as good as the anime they were based on. But this time around, the production values in the extras came nowhere close to the rest of the anime, and there were times the art quality got downright ugly.
This whole show had a feeling of cutting corners, including the fact that it only went 10 episodes. But the one place they should have avoided cutting the corners the most were the fanservice extras. Ultimately, 90% of the people who watch shows like this are watching for the T n’ A and not much else, and when most of the boobage comes from the extras, it’s kinda important not to mess that part up.
While there is certainly much to criticize, I’ll cut this show some slack since most of this show’s mistakes had a common source: money problems. Ecchi just doesn’t sell anymore, outside of a few hits here and there. Right now there’s roughly a 15% chance that any given nude ecchi series will sell enough blu-rays to not lose money. Companies still want to make ecchi titles, but given how unsuccessful the genre has become that now means finding any way possible to lower costs and reduce risk while attempting desperate new ideas. Sometimes those new ideas can be fun, but even some of the more innovative ecchi anime have failed to sell decently over the past year. It’s been really tough sledding.
A lot of what held Maken-Ki! Two back was the necessity to experiment with the unknown and to get by on less. Given the financial reality this show faced, I think we should be pretty happy with an anime that still produced a 103 minute fanservice compilation and nearly a half-hour of total nudity. Even if a lot of the sexy stuff was not as sexy as it could have been.
I think if they could do this anime over, they would have made it a true sequel that followed the manga, while trying to make every episode feel as much like episode zero as possible (episode zero was the only episode to be directly based on chapters from the manga). That preseries OVA was so amazing, if they could have replicated that 12 more times while adding in better looking extras this series would have had a very good shot at the kind of sales numbers To Love-Ru and High School DxD have enjoyed.
Or maybe not, but it would have deserved the success.
To make it in ecchi right now, the only way to win is to swing for the fences. Maken-Ki! Two had some smart ideas, but Xebec only gave a half hearted production commitment. It was rewarded with half-hearted sales.
Thoughts on the fanservice video
Fairly typical edit. Lots of blu-ray changes to document. I think that was my favorite part.
Still a toss up between Himegami and Aki.
I guess I’ll go with Himegami, since her episode was probably the best one (excluding the OVA), and Aki’s episode was the biggest letdown. Himegami had arguably the best fanservice extra too, though to me it pales in comparison with her “training session” extra in the first series.