Kanako’s birthday is approaching and she is determined that everyone celebrate it, so she drops as many hints as she can in the hopes that everyone will throw her a surprise party. Despite the numerous fantasies she entertertains leading up to the special day, once it arrives everyone acts normally. Could everyone have forgotten it no just kidding you’ve seen this plot a thousand times before of course everyone remembered.
Yes we’ve all seen the surprise party plot a million times in every possible form of media and yes we’re all completely sick of it (well I am at least) but…this episode was still incredibly entertaining regardless. It wasn’t as madcap and silly as Maria+Holic usually is (with the huge exception of the part in the second half where Mariya, Kanako and Matsurika end up in a secret underground pathway with a booby-trap fans will definitely remember from season one), and to be honest the first half was rather dull. Of course the first half was mostly just Kanako fantasizing although I will admit some of the stupid wordplay/puns she used when trying to drop hints (which…the subbers from the Anime Network completely neglected to explain way to go there guys, meaning these segments probably didn’t make a grain of sense to all the people who don’t know Japanese) were quite funny in a lame way but overall comedy wasnt this episode’s strong point. Luckily it doesn’t really need to be because it managed to succeed in an ‘aaaw’ kind of way…something that’s pretty surprising for Maria+Holic when Kanako is involved. I don’t know, it’s just nice to see something good happen to Kanako for once so I’m glad she got her party in the end instead of being trolled out of it as she would in probably any other episode.Plus Shizu and Rindo are back in and they’re always fun.
I do kind of wish the gag with the pendant from the end of season one could have been brought back up again, even only in passing, although this made a decent end on its own. (as funny as it ending exactly the same way as season 1 would have been).
Finally, I’m finished with the previous anime season!
Anyway, it’s apparent to pretty much everyone that Maria+Holic Alive really doesn’t, for the most part, hold a candle to the original Maria+Holic. I’m not sure what it is exactly about it but I think it’s more a combination of small things, rather than one big thing, that makes the difference. First there’s the notable drop in animation quality – there are episodes of Alive that are pretty appalling in this regard (episode 12 in particular, actually) whereas the original was definitely much crisper and cleaner and overall nicer to look at. The plots in Alive aren’t quite as funny or engaging as the first series’ plots (with some great exceptions of course) but I think the most notable thing is probably Mariya himself. It’s hard to believe that the sadistic trap from early season 1 could become so lacking in presence, to the extent that he’s actually now kind of…dull, even. Original Mariya was a horrible, twisted little bastard, but that definitely gave him a lot more screen presence, not to mention personality. Pretty much all he did in Alive was complain about Kanako now and then, and any time he did anything major he was helped by Matsurika anyway. On that note, Matsurika completely eclipsed both Kanako and Mariya in terms of presence. It’s not so much a bad thing with Kanako as one of the major jokes was her status as the main character but with Mariya it’s weird. This is actually an issue present in the last few episodes of the original series too, though.
But on the plus side, this meant more Matsurika, and the characters that became much more interesting than Mariya (Kanae, Shizu and Rindo) are always a lot of fun to watch. I originally wanted a second season of Maria+Holic solely for more Father Kanae and absolutely nothing he did in Alive disappointed me. Plus Shizu exceeded my expectations, so I’m pretty happy with that.
In all, it’s not a bad sequel and has plenty of good episodes among the dud ones. While it doesn’t match the original, it’s a worthy successor. I just hope SHAFT want to clean up the mostly crapy animation for the DVDs.
Out of 5,