Better Off Dead: Maria Holic Alive

A second season of exactly the same thing.

No more, Maria!

What can I say about the second season of Maria Holic? Honestly, if you read my review of season one, you’ll pretty much know my thoughts about this series. Maria Holic: Alive! did nothing to change my mind, which is its biggest flaw, in my opinion. No characters show any growth from episode one in season one all the way through episode twelve in season two.

Kanako, personifying the experience of watching season two.

The second season is the exact same story as before: Kanako Miyamae is a yuri attending an all-girls Catholic school with the hope of meeting her soul mate. However, because she discovers that Mariya Shidō, a popular student, is actually a sadistic boy attending school dressed in drag, Kanako is forced to keep Mariya’s secret lest she be outed as a lesbian. Season two is full of one-off episodes just like season one, with inane storylines about Kanako wanting to lose weight and going about it in a ridiculously stupid way, or Kanako failing her tests and freaking out in a ridiculously stupid way, or Kanako getting the wrong birthday gift for another student and overreacting in a ridiculously stupid way. Meanwhile Mariya either stands by and scoffs or actively tries to muck things up for Kanako, and Matsurika, Mariya’s surly maid, does the same.

Perhaps it's all part of Mariya's evil plan... or not...

I don’t mean to sound so down on this series, but it was really a huge disappointment for me. The artwork is fantastic, and the music is lovely and very fitting. The setting is great, and the premise has so many possibilities. Yet none of those possibilities are explored, because both the characters and the storyline remain stagnant and mired in repetitive jokes. Seriously, who’s still laughing at Kanako getting a nosebleed by the twenty-fourth episode? Anyone? I got especially ticked off when new characters were introduced and it seemed like the series might actually go somewhere, such as when Kanako’s sister pays a visit. However, despite the promises of “to be continued,” nothing ever was, and by the next episode it was same old, same old again.

Father Kanae: "Here's the contract for starting season three." Kanako: "Dear god, no, no, NOOOOOOOOO!"

I can’t stress what a letdown it was to watch these flat and uninteresting characters go nowhere week after week. Mariya and Matsurika are bitches, Kanako is a moron, all of the other girls are blandly sweet and unassuming, and Father Kanae (the priest who shows up toward the end of season one) is completely clueless. I was very much enjoying getting to know Mariya’s brother (but actually twin sister) and Matsurika’s brother, but we barely saw them. There would be one interesting storyline that would forward the overall arc an inch, then three episodes of pure idiocy. This show had so much potential that I wish it had lived up to!

Not even God or her dog Yonakuni could save this season.

Watching season two was so much worse than watching season one that I almost dropped the series halfway through. If there were more than twelve episodes in a season I definitely would have done so. I watched season one on a netbook, so it wasn’t as difficult to read everything on the screen, but watching season two on a TV literally gave me headaches. I tried to read the subtitles, the side notes, and the background phrases all at once, over and over again, pausing so frequently that it took me double the time to watch an episode as it would normally. Finally I just stopped reading anything except for the subtitles, and that helped a great deal. Most of the time the side notes were just repeating what the subtitles said anyway.

This picture perfectly sums up the entire series: boring, uninteresting, nosebleed.

I really do see several similarities between this series and Ouran High School Host Club. Both have great art and great music, and both are high school comedies presented in a similar way. (Ouran has lots of side notes and background phrases, too.) Both series utilize jokes that rely on knowledge of Japanese culture and history, and both attempt to briefly explain said jokes in the side notes. They’re both colourful series with cross-dressing and gender-bending and all sorts of fun tidbits that usually make an anime comedy great. But Ouran was way funnier, in my opinion, and while there were episodes of tomfoolery in Ouran, the overall story made much better progressive strides than Maria Holic. Ouran was also less confusing than Maria Holic, and the few terms that I wasn’t already familiar with I easily looked up (thanks, Ouran, for introducing me to “moe”) as opposed to Maria Holic, which had entire segments that I didn’t understand and wouldn’t even know where to begin finding information on. Perhaps Ouran is simply better suited to a Western audience, or maybe it really is a better series. All I know is there’s no way I’d watch any future seasons of Maria Holic, dead or Alive.

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