The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Mai-Otome

Title: Mai-Otome aka My-乙HiME
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Sunrise
Format: 26 episodes
Dates: 7 Oct 2005 – 31 Mar 2006

Synopsis: Armed only with her grandmother’s tidbits of advice and a mysterious gem, Yumemiya Arika travels to the country of Wind Bloom to enroll in the prestigious school for up-and-coming Otome, Garderobe. Given the duty of guarding the leaders of nations across the world, Otome are bestowed with amazing powers. Along her way, Arika meets the number one first year student at Garderobe, Nina Wáng, and the country’s princess, Mashiro Blan de Windbloom in a strange encounter.

The Highlights
Main characters: Seemingly vapid at first, but develop a great deal.
Side characters: Poorly managed; used blatantly as devices.
Pacing: Fairly steady throughout; cliffhangers allow episodes to glide into each other.
Drama: Not quite as over-the-top as in Mai-HiME.
Music: Kajiura Yuki… need I say more?

Let’s get this out of the way at the beginning: Mai-Otome was never intended to be a sequel/spin-off/offshoot/whatever to Mai-HiME. Though Mai-Otome borrows character designs and idiosyncrasies, its alternate universe holds no significant connections with that of HiME’s, and as far as style and pacing are concerned the two series take rather different approaches. With that said, Otome improves on a lot of the negative features that dog HiME, but has its own unique set of flaws that lead it to be far less memorable than the instant-classic shounen action series. However it’s still a fun and enjoyable action outing in its own right.

The most significant difference between HiME and Otome are the way they pace themselves. While HiME is meticulously slow in its first stanza and blitzingly fast in its last, Otome flows at a steady pace throughout its course. In a sense, Otome’s plot more resembles a series of events, as opposed to HiME, which had a premise that, despite the fact that it took sixteen episodes to reveal, was conventional and unidirectional. What redeems Otome’s “series of events” plot is that the focus of pretty much everything that happens is the impact it makes on the main three characters, particularly Arika. However, the intense focus on its main characters comes at a cost to the rest of its monster-sized cast – a cast that is, ultimately, poorly managed. There are a few characters in HiME that can be accused of being plot devices, but in this series everyone outside Arika, Mashiro and Nina are either plot devices or a device for the development of those three characters.

With that said, it’s hardly misspent energy since the development of these three characters is profound. Much like HiME, Otome builds towards a dramatic final few episodes. However, this particular stanza lacks the raw intensity of the much talked about HiMElander arc. Also, given the fact that the characters have phenomenal superpowers, one can expect deus ex machina to assert its influence on numerous occasions. I suppose what stifles the chance for truly intense drama the most is Otome’s Disney-like fear of and aversion to killing off its recognized characters. The finale itself isn’t brilliant, but does an acceptable job of complimenting the rest of the series. In this respect, Otome is substantially better than HiME.

With respectable aesthetics, particular in the music department where Kajiura Yuki again brings her predictable brilliance to the table, and a set of adequately developed main characters, Mai-Otome is a decent addition to the shounen action genre. It may be an independent story from that of HiME, but it does require a working knowledge of Sunrise’s older series to understand a lot of the references. In fact, much of the fun of the first half of the series is seeing old characters in new roles. However, Otome is much more than just inconsequential amusement for HiME fans. Its intriguing mystery and exciting action packed story makes this a must for fans of HiME who aren’t looking for a sequel.

The Rating: 6
6/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

Top of page