Sekirei: Pure Engagement
Number of Episodes: 14
Production Company: Seven Arcs
Brief Overview: The battle to determine the supreme Sekirei continues, though there are some Sekirei masters who refuse to participate due to the dire consequences - Sekirei who lose also disappear forever.
Episode Summary: Things have returned to a state of relative calm in Minato's life, though he now, as an Ashikabi (a person who serves as a master to powerful super humans called "Sekirei"), he's left to deal with a houseful of Sekirei under his command. In addition to Musubi, who he met fatefully one afternoon in the city, he also controls Matsu, who has a perverted crush on him, Kuu, a young controller of plants, and Tsukiumi, a jealous individual in control of water. Together they tend to end up in compromising positions, much to the chagrin of their landlord, who forbids perverted activities.
With the first phase of the "Sekirei Plan," a tournament in which Sekirei and Ashikabi battle to determine who is the most powerful, completed and the second phase in full swing, the borders of the city of Tokyo are closed to all Sekirei and Ashikabi, though there are still those with plans to escape the city and avoid their own demise. A member of the disciplinary squad, after battling some potential escapees before setting her sights on Minato's group.
Thoughts: The original Sekirei series was one of the earliest I ever reviewed as part of S1E1, and also one of the earliest to garner me any amount of negative attention. The big boobs, overtly-sexualized powering-up or "winging" of the Sekirei and dopey male lead all set me off, big time. In the two years since, I like to think that my opinions have become more tempered, a bit more even-handed and perhaps more fair. I'm still not a fan of these types of shows, but there are plenty of ways to say that without blowing a gasket. This show presents a sort of double challenge, however; it's both filled to the brim with nudity, and it's also the sequel to something which, surprisingly enough, I decided not to continue watching. I've developed something of a litmus test for shows like this. The first question I have to ask is if the show would be left with any substance if all the bath scenes, barely-covered breasts and sexual humor were removed. The second addresses its status as a sequel; does the first episode of season two do a decent job of filling in knowledge gaps for new viewers and refreshing events for established fans? Or, alternately, is it interesting enough on its own to cause a viewer with little experience with the franchise to want to seek out the first season?
The answer to the first question, at least based on this episode, is that there are really very few scenes that aren't filled with goofy humor. If one didn't know any better, the first half of the episode might cause one to think that this show was just another silly harem comedy, the gimmick being that all the pretty ladies infatuated with the male character wield various super powers. The second half helps to repair things a bit, introducing a bit of character drama, some heavier dialog (some of which takes place in a shower with multiple nude females - I suppose maybe this scene cancels itself out) and some brief bouts of violence, but overall there are a lot of very large chests presented in various states of dress (and, of course, undress), sometimes being smashed into Minato's face. For me and those who share my particular levels of tolerance, this truly doesn't bode well for the rest of the series.
The answer to the second question is that this episode does a halfway decent job of catching the viewer up, but could have honestly gone a bit further to be more coherent. I think I'm being fairly realistic in saying that, because this series is a sequel, it's not really meant to create many new fans for the franchise, but instead entertain the fans it already has and please those of them who follow the manga. Yet, considering that it really has been a couple of years since the first season was broadcast, this episode could have done with a bit more exposition. There was plenty of time to offer up a "last time on Sekirei" style recap; the producers could have shaved a minute or two from the "Minato and his Sekirei accidentally get wrapped up together bondage-style" scene from the first half, because it was essentially useless to the story. Unfortunately, what I know about the plot and characters had to be quickly acquired from Wikipedia. There seem to be quite a few character relationships presented during the episode that have some history that plays into this season, but without even a tiny bit of context, the more serious and dialog-heavy parts of the episode are mostly (and frustratingly) confusing, rather than compelling.
Though the lack of plot explanation is annoying, if the animation had been really stellar, that might have been reason enough to check out more of the show. I recall watching a sakuga MAD on YouTube a few months ago that featured some animation from the first episode of season 1, and I recall being very impressed by it. There was some good battle choreography and a bit of personality in the movement of the characters, something which I had missed completely before. I expected that at least the first episode here would have something similar to offer, but instead this episode was plagued by a lot of really obnoxious consistency errors that had me gritting my teeth. Most annoying was the off- model anatomy. While many of the female characters have very unrealistic physiques to begin with, many shots had characters with arms that were too short or hands that were too small, odd-looking profile shots, and breasts which, instead of bouncing, were completely still as if molded from hard plastic. The effect just screamed "outsourcing," to me. I'm curious to know whether the various visual mistakes in this episode were partly due to the fact that it was broadcast as a preview a few weeks before the beginning of the season proper (note: the pre-airing wasn't the version that I watched, so I assume nothing was cleaned up in between the two airings), so perhaps the second episode might be more impressive.
To put it as bluntly as I can, this series seems like nothing more than perhaps an older-ages version of a shounen tournament battle series. Though there are plenty of series from that genre that are compelling and very successful, this show's fatal flaw, at least from the brief encounters I've had with it, seems to be that the characters don't have unique or well-developed personalities and can't really carry the series through its more frivolous periods. Minato is just another typical harem lead, scared of girls and wishy-washy in his convictions. Musubi is a ditz. Tsukiumi is a jealous bitch. There characters all have various personalities, but none have their own unique, fleshed-out personalities. That's a problem that plagues many series, but is only one of the many that makes me not really want to watch this one.
- For those who missed the first season but feel compelled to catch up, Funimation has the first season available at their video page.
- There are some major animation quality issues, mostly having to do with the character anatomy.
- There's very little review for anyone new to the franchise or those who may have forgotten the events of season 1.
- The characters have very poorly-developed personalities.
Recommended? No. The subject matter of the series isn't my cup of tea to begin with, and the execution isn't good enough to change my mind.