Mao-chan goes on too long. It’s based on a clever notion and is executed with considerable charm, but the writers weren’t inventive enough to keep it consistently interesting through 26 half-length episodes. The story meanders through many standard anime situations: the sports festival, the beach episode, the hot springs episode, the bunny suit, the maid uniform. They’re not complete wastes of time — the beach episode is one of the better ones, in fact, though not because of the beach — but they mainly serve to let us spend time with the girls rather than advance the story, and Mao and Misora aren’t particularly interesting characters. The series would have been better overall had it been shorter and more focused.
The cute alien problem is resolved at the end, though I would have liked some explanation beyond the statement that the not-so-cute aliens behind the kawaii menace were “surprisingly reasonable.”
Taken one or two episodes at a time, Mao-chan is pleasant fluff suitable for all ages. There are a couple of aspects I particularly like. One is Sylvie, the representative of the naval forces. She has an eccentric view of reality similar to Osaka’s, but unlike Azumanga Daioh‘s space case, she’s quick, sharp and self-possessed. The other is the soundtrack by Takayuki Hattori. It’s mostly solo piano music reminiscent of collections for intermediate students, and it enhances the “young person’s guide to alien invasions” feel of Mao-chan. Here are a few examples:
Some more screen captures: