All Good Things is the conclusion to the popular Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden series. The DVD Verdict court is trying this case without prior evidence; in other words, I'm jumping into Mahoromatic in the last act. I can report that this DVD does pretty much everything the right way. It is such a relief to truly enjoy a show without the usual annoyances that plague anime DVDs.
Facts of the Case
Three factions are in conflict: Management, Vesper, and Saint. I had serious trouble distinguishing between the three. These men (or man-like beings) and their man-like robotic instruments of destruction fight for some really vital goal (which I never fully grasped).
What is clear is that a young male orphan named Suguru is being guarded by a powerful combat android, Mahoro, who appears to be an attractive-yet-demure woman. She acts as Suguru's maid and caretaker. Although she is an android, Mahoro possesses the capability to love and act independently. She seems to regard Suguru with more than passing tenderness.
With them lives Minawa, a schoolgirl/android who considers Mahoro to be her big sister. The boy, the two androids, and a robotic cat make a picturesque alternative to the nuclear family. (Ironic, because between them they contain more destructive firepower than a nuclear device.) Their family will not remain happy for much longer. Minawa will be forced to betray Suguru, and Mahoro is dying.
One thing that really bothers me about anime is the unrealistic attempt to portray nudity while remaining artificially chaste. In Sailor Moon, for example, when Usagi changes into Sailor Moon, she sheds her clothes and whirls around naked—but she has no nipples or belly button, no ribs or hair. She is just an outline suggesting nudity without actually depicting it. It is so weird to see androgynous mounds where the anatomical details should be. You could argue that it isn't appropriate to show nipples in a show aimed at young children. I might agree or disagree with that stance, but it's beside the point: if you aren't willing to draw the naked girl, don't make her naked! Have her jump through a suit-changing rainbow or something.
Mahoromatic does not make that mistake. The women (and men) in this show have nipples, and they take every opportunity to display them for us. You may think I meant that rhetorically, but no: the women grab their breasts and say, "Look at my breasts!" This is precisely the kind of rebellious anti-androgyny I can rally behind. Even the dog has naughty parts, which is a change from the vaguely empty fluffy regions most anime pets display.
All Good Things gets other things right as well. This DVD contains five episodes for a running time of two hours. Bravo! We live in a world where anime fans are accustomed to seeing 75-minute run times or less, even when there is no technological reason for such paucity of content. DVDs like All Good Things offer value the right way, by putting as many episodes as possible onto the DVD without sacrificing video quality.
The video quality of this Mahoromatic installment is pleasing. The 16:9 anamorphic transfer stays relatively free of blemishes. The series uses a challenging and varied palette, contrasting realistic outdoor scenes (purple flowers, green leaves, blue skies, and shining drops of dew) against cartoonish primary hues (when characters get mad). Neither the realistic nor the cartoonish colors bleed, and everything is crisp and bright. Though All Good Things doesn't feature an overabundance of computerized effects, the series is rendered beautifully. There are occasional moments where single frames substitute for animation, but most of the time the animation is complex and fluid.
The DVD lacks 5.1 sound, but this is no slight, since the series was created in 2.0. The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are rich and surprisingly dynamic. I exhibit a slight preference for the original language track when given a choice, but it is a close call here. The tracks are remarkably similar in terms of content and inflection. The English voice cast really put effort into matching the timbre of the original voices. Both tracks have one thing in common—great voice acting. This series contains some dark and troubling themes, and thanks to the skillful portrayals, I really felt them. Even the requisite comic relief is handled with subtlety.
It is easier to act when given something worthwhile to say. In this, All Good Things avoids another anime annoyance—characters who repeatedly utter another character's name in mournful tones. Even the otherwise enjoyable Chobits is guilty of this; I heard the name "Chii" about 15,000 times in three episodes. In the last act of Mahoromatic, there is dense story ground to cover, and every character gets to participate with meaningful dialogue.
Dense ground, indeed. I might accuse this series of trying to fit too much in, but it is evident that the story has been planned in detail. So many threads were resolved in these last five episodes that I want to go back and see the rest of the series. Why were such drastic sacrifices made? How are these desperate people linked together? Where did this robotic cat come from?
(WARNING: The following paragraph contains major spoilers. To avoid these, skip down to the Closing Statement.)
As a resolution to the series, I think All Good Things does well. It brings a sweeping and dramatic conclusiveness to the action, an air of finality. There is, however, a dual approach to the ending that I thought was a bit of a cop-out. Mahoro promises Suguru that she will always be there, then she immediately fights Feldrance and blows herself up. Not a "whoops, I misplaced my torso" kind of destruction, but a full-out nuclear cataclysm. In a sort of epilogue, we see a 30-something Suguru who has dedicated his bitter life to hunting androids. This despondent ending is quite daring for a romance series. But wait…who are these two floating beings in space? One of them is Mahoro! She decides to come back to give Suguru some happiness. The real ending shows them wrapped in embrace, shedding tears of joy. I admit that I don't know everything about what is going on (like why Mahoro is hugging the Earth), but after the dark conclusion, this happiness feels tacked on. And if Mahoro could come back like that, why wait 20 years? In any case, overall the ending was dramatic and satisfying.
Geneon provides scant DVD extras, but why quibble when the show itself is so good?
All Good Things combines agony and joy, action and romance, epic conflicts and interpersonal struggles, and breasts. The animation is lush, the acting heartfelt. If the rest of Mahoromatic is as good as the end, I'd say its reputation is well earned. Despite the occasional maudlin misstep, Mahoromatic makes me regret that all good things must end.
Given that the defendant could lacerate my eyeballs with a flick of her fingertip, his honor is inclined to find her not guilty. Let this woman be happy!
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