「禁断の女子寮」 (Kindan no Joshiryou)
“Forbidden Girl’s Dorm”
My favorite trap of 2009 Shindou Mariya (Kobayashi Yuu) makes his return to television airwaves right on schedule, suggesting that SHAFT may have “delayed” Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica to get Maria Holic’s sequel out on time. Whether or not that’s actually true is another matter, but I am quite impressed with how good Maria Holic Alive looks. It probably helps that it’s a legitimate jump to high definition, whereas the first season was only re-released as a Blu-ray box set this past February. Improved visuals definitely help for a series whose deadpan humor goes hand-in-hand with Miyamae Kanako’s (Sanada Asami) wild lesbian imagination. The artistry in some of those stills often helps me appreciate the unique style of humor, even when it doesn’t always click with me.
Incidentally, the rather silly premise of Maria Holic combined with the distinct style of SHAFT’s go-to-director Shinbou Akiyuki is what won me over by the end of the first season. When the series isn’t going for the slapstick type humor where Kanako is flying into walls head-first or swimming in a pool of her own blood because she got a little too excited over the idea of her friends Kiri Nanami (Kanda Akemi) , Inamori Yuzuru (Gotou Saori) , and Momoi Sachi (Shintani Ryouko) bound up, it tends to have an inexplicable charm to what I feel is a “clever” sense of humor. Sometimes it’s trying to be too clever with its subtle form of delivery, to the point that it’s not even funny to most people (myself included), so I can’t even confidently say what I always find amusing in this series.
What I can say is that Kanako naturally plays a big part in it, being the outlet for Mariya and his maid Shinouji Matsurika’s (Inoue Marina) constant ridicule as she desperately tries to find some dirt on them to return fire with. She almost never does and is more often than not a victim of herself, which further tips things in their favor. Matsurika in particular is truly something else though, with her straight-faced insults masked in polite forms of Japanese speech that leave both Kanako and myself perplexed over exactly how insulting she’s actually trying to be. This premiere episode was fairly light on both their input, after Kanako got ahead of herself when she wanted to see the legendary tree that brought her parents together, and ended up going through a bunch of “trials” in the old girls’ dorm intended to keep guys from Ame no Kisaki’s sister school away. Without Mariya’s active involvement, it was just Kanako unknowingly screwing herself over. Still amusing, but not to the same degree like when Matsurika made an appearance as a “helper” who Kanako “had” to summon.
Seeing as this is just the first episode, I’m optimistic that things will only get better here on in. I didn’t really enjoy the first season until the later episodes, so I’m actually more psyched about this show than I’m probably letting off. It’s a SHAFT production too. *gasp*
* Note: This episode featured a one-off opening theme by Sugita Tomokazu. The actual opening theme will be performed by Kobayashi Yuu.