Thursday 10 January 2013

Anime REVIEW: Medaka Box Abnormal

Medaka Box Abnormal

As anyone who watched the first season of Medaka Box will know, things were turned up a notch in the final few episodes and things seemed to move in a drastically different direction. Turns out this was just a teaser of what was to come, as the all-powerful Student Council President and her band of merry men return for a second season, this time titled Medaka Box Abnormal. Once again it ran for 12 episodes (between October and December 2012), animated by Gainax and based on the ongoing manga series of the same name.

Following her battle with Myouri Unzen, Medaka Kurokami is warned of and then subsequently invited to join the Flask Plan - a project to forcefully experiment on Normal students to turn them into Abnormals, humans with superhuman abilities. After seeking training from her perverted brother Maguro - a man whose abnormality allows him to develop the most suitable methods to bring out the greatest potential in an individual, the Student Council head underground to take down the Flask Plan - battling with a range of students with abnormalities. But when the group's leader and self-proclaimed "King of the World Oudo Miyakonojou vows to take Medaka as his bride and subsequently brainwashes her, will her friends be able to bring Medaka back?

Medaka Box Abnormal Maguro Kurokami
Medaka and Zenkichi meet up with Maguro

As mentioned earlier, this is a very different beast to the first season of Medaka Box. Gone are the self-contained, light-hearted multi-story episodes with tonnes of fanservice. Instead Medaka Box Abnormal opts for full-length episodes with an ongoing story, which is high on action and adrenaline (the comedy is still there though). Whereas the first season served to establish the characters, its here we begin to learn about just who they are, their backstories and what define them. We learn that Medaka hasn't always had that cheery disposition she seems to value most of all, her estranged family members and that she isn't the only "gifted" student in Hakoniwa Academy.

Medaka Box Abnormal Akune Kamen Rider
Turns out Kouki is a Kamen Rider fan, who knew?

One of the biggest failings of the first season was that the focus lay squarely on Medaka, with her usually being the one that saved the day. Thankfully Abnormal fixes this by devoting just as much, if not more time to the development of her council - Zenkichi, Kouke and Mogana. The latter two were especially in need of this, as following their entry into the student council the two began to feel more like set pieces than actual characters. Kouke's battle against Shotaro Ishinomori-inspired cyborg Itami Koga is a great boost to his character and an excellent episode in itself, as is Mogana's fight against the masked Mizou Yukuhashi. While ultimately it is still Medaka's name on the title so she saves the day in the end, the series finally feels like it isn't just all about her.

Medaka Box Abnormal Oudo Miyakonojou
Oudo Miyakonojou, the "final boss"

Medaka Box Abnormal also sees a wide cast of new characters join the fray, although only a handful are really notable (the ones being "battle of the week" types). The most important of these two are Medaka's brother and sister Maguro and Kujira (who has taken on the name Youka Naze). Naze is a particularly interesting character, presented as an antagonist and Flask Plan member rather than an aid to Medaka. The added family dynamic makes Medaka that much more likeable as a character. Oudo Miyakonojou is a great villain - arrogant but with the power to back it up. Although his real battle with Medaka is fleeting and somewhat of an anti-climax, the guy oozes personality and is perfect as the polar opposite of Medaka.

Medaka Box Abnormal Youka Naze
Medaka's estranged sister, Kujira/Youka Naze

Once again the series ends with an episode that's only loosely tied in the overarching plot, only this time it isn't quite as welcome. After episode 11 ends on a massive cliffhanger and Medaka comes face to face with a person from her past, the following episode chooses to introduce this character properly (Misogi Kumagawa) in an unrelated side-story. The episode itself is quite good and illustrates well just how psychotic Kumagawa is, but comes at the worst possible time...especially when there's no indication on whether the series will continue on for a third season.

While the opening credits are somewhat misleading to the contents of the show (they feature mecha, battle armour and an evil looking Medaka in what looks like a very uncomfortable costume), they still accurately depict the tone of the season. A proper ongoing plot, character expansion and heavier action make Medaka Box Abnormal far superior to its predecessor, only hiccuping in a few areas and then ending on a big cliffhanger. Fingers crossed for a season three, because it could be the best one yet.

1 comment:

JF said...

spoilers: This series never got a third season. Yup, it pulled a "read the manga to get the real ending." So if you wanna know how the series ends, read the manga.