Tuesday, 14 May 2013

まりあ†ほりっくあらいぶ/ Maria†Holic: Alive (season 2)

The second season of Maria†Holic was largely more of the same, but it was worthwhile watching and thoroughly enjoyable. A lot of the characters who had a limited role in the first season have an expanded part to play – Mariya’s sister Shizu is seen in her own school, with her own butler as a counterpart to Matsurika, creepy teacher Kanae becomes a comic staple and Kanako’s little sister appears towards the end to provide an adorable sincerity that serves as a great counterpoint to Kanako’s constant hysterics and histrionics.

Ultimately, the show once again boils down largely to Kanako suffering, usually through her own fault, and things are if anything a little more surreal than before. Kanako and the others brave the silly traps and games of a ‘forbidden’ old dorm, Kanako is put on trial, a 10-year-old boy arrives announcing he’s engaged to marry one of the girls (though let us not forget arranged marriages still exist), and in the last episode, Mariya and Matsurika show a softer side – after they are flushed into a strange underground passage from the school baths with Kanako and chased by expanding seaweed. Yup.

For all that it’s stranger than before, though, stylistically it’s a bit less playful – we get the same shoujo pastiche style far too many times – and I’m not a fan of all the fourth-wall breaking references. I never like jokes where characters show knowledge of being fictional, or that they’re in episodes, unless it’s a really obvious childish comedy like Rock Lee’s Springtime ofYouth. At the same time, though, the characters are in general treated a little more sympathetically and…well, fleshed out, which is welcome. Mariya shows a softer side, Kanako reflects on her selfishness, and…well, it’s amazing how much of a different person Matsurika seems without her maid headband. I also quite liked seeing Shizu as a boy, especially as her hidden side is much more pleasant than her brother’s.

At only 12 episodes, once again not a whole lot is going to happen, but I’m glad there was more Maria†Holic to enjoy and if a third season comes along, I shall be keen to watch that too. Also, I should make mention of the brilliant in-character intro song, which is the first OP in several years that I’ve actually enjoyed watching each and every time – not counting the little variations!

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