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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mahoraba ~Heartful Days~ - Review

Mahoraba (not to be confused with Maburaho) is about a college student named Shiratori Ryushi who wants to become a children's book artist/writer. He moves to an apartment in Tokyo which is managed by his second cousin Kozue Aoba. The apartment he lives in is filled with other residents each having their own unique personality, but the most interesting person of them all is Kozue. Not knowing herself, Kozue has a personality disorder and switches personalities when she receives a shock.

Mahoraba is really interesting. It has a very casual pace that seems to work well throughout the series. I've heard from many people that the manga greatly accentuates each character, but the show alone seems to do a good job. While the manga adds depth, some information seems almost irrelevant or just really close nitpicking. Regardless, they're both quality works and worth a look.

The colors in Mahoraba are very cool yet distinct. One thing about this anime is that it's very color oriented and each color has a distinct meaning. Even in names it's noticeable how Shiratori's name means white bird and Kozue's last name has the word blue. Things like that come up often and help push the story along, or rather keep the viewers from being too confused. I'm not sure if it has any direct effect on the characters inside the story, but it adds a nice touch to the overall work.

Music is very light but has its moments. It's very clean and instruments are very distinct. There are some additional tones for mood changes, but it seems pretty level. It fits with the anime and gives it that airy feel. Each side of Kozue's personality does have their own theme which is interesting though it seems to be a bit lacking in that there isn't really any variations.

It's a surprisingly small cast and even in the school, it's not really noticeable that there are many other students. There's an episode just to buffer the tertiary characters while secondary characters get their own episode. In terms of character development it seems very formulaic and rigid. I don't have any specific qualms but it seems slightly amateurish or too simple to me. It's effective but not really the best choice in my opinion. I do like the crayon side stories before each episode though. They're cute, very light, funny and help open episodes very well.

As I said before the story progression is very rigid and organized. You can literally take an episode and apply a label to it. "This is the episode that you're introduced to Kozue's 3rd personality. You get a thematic joke." "This is the episode that they develop her 3rd personality, it starts off with the pre-developed thematic joke to identify the character..." There's nothing particularly wrong with this kind of approach but it really isn't my favorite. I'm a fan of subtlety and this goes against all of that. The director has no problem being very blunt and I'll respect that. It does however seem to pace itself quite well and never at any point was I thinking "Oh this episode is just filler and negligible." Even such episodes had something that would be referred to later on or developed and so any "brief introductions" always became bigger in some degree.

In my opinion, this is a good way to break the ice in terms of Shounen/Shoujo anime. There are probably better examples, but this is very light, and easily viewable. It doesn't get too heavy which is good for those interested in testing the waters.

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