The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Mai-HiME

Title: Mai-HiME aka My-HiME
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Sunrise
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 30 Sep 2004 – 31 Mar 2005

Synopsis: Tokiha Mai leads a tough life, compounded by the responsibility of having to take care of her sickly brother, Takumi, both financially and domestically. However, when both are accepted to Fuuka Gakuen, a remote, yet respected private school, they see it as an opportunity to change their lives for the better and enjoy a fun and normal school life. Unfortunately for Mai, between her dormant powers and the conspiracies taking place in the shadows of the school, this was never destined to happen.

The Highlights
Characters: Of themselves, nothing noteworthy, but the relationships between them were exceptionally well done.
Plot: Surprising… in a good way; fast paced towards the end, with lots of twists.
Ending: Surprising… in a bad way.

Mai-HiME takes its time, slowly and meticulously setting up a complex web of bonds and relationships between its large cast of characters, all the while keeping its cards very close to its chest. And then, with hardly a warning, everything gets blown apart with such intensity and veracity–it had me glued to the screen. Every episode had me hankering for more and more. Then, as I entered the final episode, thinking it could not get any better… it doesn’t. Instead, I was left stunned with one of the most anticlimactic finales I’d ever witnessed.

Mai-HiME can be difficult to bear in its early episodes. We’re given what look like filler episodes at first. The general atmosphere isn’t terribly serious or urgent. But, despite the fanservice and general inane tomfoolery, these episodes are done with reason that serves the drama in later episodes. The reason is to establish both the characters and, more importantly, their relationships. The intensity of the drama in the later episodes is testament to how well this was done in the earlier episodes.

About two-thirds of the way through, Mai-HiME reveals its hand. The twist that sparks the Balkans-like tension between the characters to explode can be accused of being a tad plot-device-ish, but it isn’t important in the larger scheme of things. What’s important was the fallout that followed. And what a fallout it was. Love, betrayal, hatred, distrust, manipulation, conspiracy, paranoia; all the ingredients that make a fascinating story are here. Plot twists come with such frequency and potency, many of which I would not have predicted in a thousand years, yet none of them ever being beyond belief in the context of Mai-HiME’s universe. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be scared to blink, lest you miss something. Also, the suspense between episodes can drive a man insane.

It’s a shame that the ending was such a slap in the face. Every thing was being built up exceptionally well, and a strong ending could have made Mai-HiME a real contender for anime of the year, or, at the very least, an extremely memorable experience. Instead, we’re given what is essentially a cop out, and, in the eyes of many, an insult to one’s intelligence. It had me questioning the point behind the series. It’s a pity. A good ending would have been a sweet, sweet icing on an already delicious cake. Instead the icing was sour, and I probably would have enjoyed the cake far more without it.

Pry enough, and you’ll likely find a fair list of plot and character holes. My suggestion is, if you really want to enjoy this series, don’t. Instead, let yourself enjoy the ride. It’s a wild one, the likes of which only comes rarely. Mai-HiME spends the majority of its time carefully setting up the pins, making sure they’re all in the right position and secretly connecting them together with the fine wire of relationships. Then, it winds up, and bowls the ball with a massive ferociousness and velocity, knocking down all but one of the pins. But, rather than going back and picking up the spare, Mai-HiME puts the ball into the gutter. To me the most disappointing thing about the gutter ball was that it wasn’t even aimed in the right direction.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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