Jumping into an already-established series with its second season is difficult. I haven't seen the original 'Sekirei' series, so starting season two, 'Pure Engagement,' was extremely difficult in the beginning. There are nearly a dozen characters with strange names, many of the characters look the same, only differing in hair color and style. Even after ready synopses of the first season, 'Pure Engagement' was initially very hard to follow, but after a few episodes I got right into it. The ongoing story constantly refers back to major events in season one, but it usually replays those same scenes in black & white, making it easier to follow.
The central character of 'Sekirei' is a 19-year-old boy named Minato. His directionless life is given a meaning and purpose in season one when he discovers that he is an Ashikabe – a human with a superpower-like ability to bond with angelic alien females known as Sekirei. There are 108 Sekirei in Tokyo and each one has its own Ashikabe. An Ashikabe may bond with multiple Sekireis, but a Sekirei can only have on Ashikabe. By the time season two starts, Minato has bonded with five Sekireis, all of which are extremely jealous.
Each Sekirei has its own special powers and must compete in a massive game known as "The Sekirei Plan," which is basically a 'Highlander'-esque competition where "there can only be one" remaining in the end. But just because they're part of a death-filled plan, it doesn't mean that all of them are killers. Many of them are friends with one another and dread the day that they actually have to fight and kill each other.
Being a Japanese animated series, of course, there's quite of bit of sexual content and innuendo. Having five large-breasted women being deeply in love with the same "master" sets up quite a bit of that content. But unlike the last anime series I reviewed, 'Heaven's Lost Property,' the sexual content is not the driving force of this animated series. 'Sekirei' features more nudity (they actually animate nipples in this series), but it's placed within a strong original story – not the hormone-induced perversions of a teenage boy. In reality, it's the opposite. The Sekirei characters are so innocent, naïve and childlike that they're like kids learning about sex for the first time. They have no idea what's going on and Minato is such a good guy that he's never going to abuse his position and take advantage of them. Where the sexuality bothered me in 'Heaven's Lost Property,' it didn't in 'Sekirei.'
After a few episodes that set up the grand plot to 'Pure Engagement' and we get into some cool and unique subject matter. As the Sekirei find and meet their Ashikabes, they must "emerge" (meaning, find their Ashikabe-inspired inner power of love) in order to become ready for The Plan. The more that Minato's Sekirei emerge, the more grave their situation gets. By the time we near the end of 'Pure Engagement,' we're thrown into a huge plot that's comparable to The Joker's chaotic plot in 'The Dark Knight' - Minato and his Sekirei must make their way to a specified location in the city, but all of the other Sekirei and Ashikabes have been turned on them, promised grand rewards if they thwart them along the way. The climactic final episodes are extremely exciting, like something you'd get from a major summer blockbuster.
Although it's possible to watch 'Pure Engagement' without having seen the first series, I don't recommend it. You don't get the connection with some of the characters that you need, so they don't have the necessary impact that they should.
From what I have seen from season one, it appeared to have a decent finale - but compared to the ending to 'Pure Engagement,' is looks like nothing. The ante has been upped and there's a lot more at stake this time around. If you enjoyed season one, there's no reason why you shouldn't enjoy season two even more.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
FUNimation has given 'Sekirei: Pure Engagement' a five-disc combo pack release – two Region A/B/C BD-50s and three DVDs. Both Blu-ray discs begin with FBI warnings, Aniplex and FUNimation vanity reels, commentary disclaimers and one trailer each. The trailer on disc one is for 'Heaven's Lost Property,' disc two is 'Yamada's First Time.'
It's hard to screw up the picture quality of clean animation, but 'Pure Engagement' isn't as good as other FUNimation releases. Sure, it has the same 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encode and 1.78:1 aspect ratio, but there are a few areas in which it lacks.
Perhaps it's solely due to the style of animation used, but 'Pure Engagement' features a constant hazy effect as if there was a smoke cloud or dust blowing through the air - the equivalent of a strong soft focus. It's lightly visible in the foreground, but the farther away background objects are, the stronger the effect looks. This haze causes colors to be washed out and dulled, never appearing as vibrant as they should be. It also occasionally forces some colors to bleed. The most noticeable nuisance is how much bright whites tend to strongly outshine.
The lines of animation are sharp, but movement isn't as smooth as it should be, at times appearing to choppily pass across the screen. This flaw isn't as noticeably distracting as the haze effect, but your eyes quickly adapt to both of them. As per usual with FUNimation's recent releases, banding pops up a few times each episode.
The audio quality, however, is stronger than any I've heard in an anime series yet. All channels are almost constantly alive with English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track.
'Pure Engagement' opens with a brief recap of season one. As it shows some of the more action-packed sequences, it immediately becomes evident how much love was put into this mix. The whole room comes alive with 3D effects from a 2D program. The music is rich and well balanced, the effects sending objects seamlessly flying across the room. Each effect is rich, layered and dynamic, coming across as fresh and original, never generic. Bass is a major player, LFE shaking down the house throughout.
When no action is taking place, the mix lacks ambient environmental sounds. It's almost like being in a grocery store when the elevator music goes out – it's a little bit eerie. But this lack of effects isn't a constant and it's completely made-up for during the sequences of action.
Although it carries that high amount of nudity that I don't care for in animated series, 'Sekirei: Pure Engagement' isn't super pervy. It features a very strong story and plot that doesn't revolve around the sexuality, so it's very easy to get wrapped up in it. The intense and action-packed plot of this second season rivals that of a large-scale summer blockbuster. I'm not sure if it's a transfer issue or an artistic decision from the animation standpoint, but the picture quality is distractingly hazy, so much so that it removes the vibrancy of color and causes bleeding. But the audio quality is nearly flawless, utilizing almost all channels with complete consistency. At times it's lacking in ambient environmental sounds, but most of the time it's a perfect example of depth and imaging. If you enjoy a good adult anime series, 'Sekirei' delivers the goods.