I’ve been putting off this review for a few days now, because I haven’t been able to think of a good place to start. Normally I’d start out the story section with a longer version of the synopsis listed above, but it’s hard to do so without spoiling the twists and turns of Mai HiME. Thus, I’ll have to go about things a little differently this time...
Mai HiME starts out feeling like a typical (though darker) magical girl type series. We are introduced to a variety of characters who all attend (or will start to attend) the same prestigious academy. Some of these characters seem to possess strange innate abilities that are somehow linked to an ominous red star that hovers alongside the moon. Of course, where there are special powers, there are monsters! The magical girl element comes into play due to these monsters, since the girls tend to be kicking monster ass for the majority of the first half of the series. Interspersed with the monster mayhem is a great deal of character development and slice of life situations in general, much of which is lighthearted. These early episodes reminded me quite a bit of Stellvia, which also combined action and plot with a number of light school kid type scenes. One entire episode, for example, is based around a cooking contest.
I’ll admit, these first episodes were decent, but nothing extremely spectacular. You could tell there was something up with the monsters - some plot point that hadn’t been introduced yet - but nothing tangible at that point. I found myself becoming steadily bored... until episode 8 hit. Without a doubt, most people will talk about it being a turning point, a sort of wake up call that makes you think "wow, maybe there is more to this than first meets the eye". In this episode, something quite dark and serious happens, which is definitely reminiscent of the rest of the series, that’s for sure.
The actual "OMG DAAAARK" aspect kicks in a little after the halfway point, and stays downhill the entire time. Think of X TV, but with younger folks, and you have Mai HiME’s second half in a nutshell. Then again, it’s not completely the same... the plot is different, the stakes are different, and the pacing is different. Still, though, it’s damn similar, and really caught me by surprise. Instead of staying a fairly neutral (borderlining dull) magical girl slice of life deal, it becomes something very dark, very serious, and very depressing all at the same time. The story comes out of nowhere and is rich, detailed, and amazing. Twists and turns abound, characters grow, live, and die... and in general, it makes for a moving experience.
But what is the actual story, you ask? I can’t tell you, it would ruin the fun. Just trust me on this one... the beginning is NOTHING like the end of the series. If you dropped it after a few episodes out of boredom, and enjoy tragedies, I urge you to pick this back up. Very seldom have I seen anything that comes out of left field to surprise me like this did. It went from an original score of a 6 overall, to around a 9, and that says something. There are only a few things I think didn’t fit well in Mai HiME. First, there’s the pacing of the first half versus the second half. I’ll admit that I was a bit bored in the first half, and part of that was because of the almost unnecessary character development or frivolous episodes. Then again, after getting to the second half, I really appreciated all of the work that was put into making the characters grow. Remember Kenshin TV? Many people including myself hated the first 20 something episodes, but found they were an invaluable addition once Kyoto arc hit (since they helped build up the relationships and such in our minds). Mai HiME is no different; these slower scenes helped us become attached to the characters and thus, made the tragedy involving them that much more sad. The second thing that I really didn’t enjoy was the fan service, but I really don’t think it was as prevalent as some people say. The main offender was definitely the breasts that jiggled unnecessarily every time one of the girls would stand slightly different. Trust me, as a female, real breasts really don’t do this unless the person’s breasts have been replaced with flimsy plastic molds full of jello. Now, admittedly, the jiggling didn’t happen ALL the time, thank god... but still was enough to make me annoyed. Other occasional ecchi bits were thrown in, such as one of the girls accidentally having her skirt fly up, but these scenes tended to actually be genuinely funny. It wasn’t flaunted like a harem comedy, and was infrequent enough to not become a focal point. I’m not sure why people complain about it as much as they do, because I didn’t find it to be very bad (and you are talking to someone who doesn’t like ecchi at all).
In general, Mai HiME’s story started out really slow but interesting, and became something amazing that I’d recommend for anyone. If you like darkness and tragedy, the story will be right up your alley. One thing I will mention is the ending, which although might have been a bit too cut and dry, was still decent, even though everyone else seems to say it’s terrible.
Like the audio, the animation is top notch. Colors are brilliant and vibrant, and the level of detail is high. Backgrounds are gorgeous pretty much everywhere, including the panning overhead shots of the school. Fighting scenes are definitely beautifully choreographed, combining shots of the monsters attacking, the girls transforming (not always the same, and definitely not cheesy), and their companions fighting back. All of the monsters themselves were wonderfully designed, looking creepy sometimes and downright scary other times.
Character designs were good as well, though there were a few I had problems with. Namely, Mikoto looked like a small animal (though she acted like one as well). Besides that minor fact, the rest of the animation was stunning and interesting to watch.
Did you like the music from .hack//SIGN? Madlax? Avenger? Guess what? The woman behind Bee Train was in charge of the music in Mai HiME, and that spells one thing: perfection. Well, in this case, near perfection... but who’s counting? Absolutely gorgeous ballads accompany most scenes, especially in the second half of the series when the tone becomes dark and foreboding. The intro and outro songs are catchy, but definitely not a must-have as far as which songs I’d want on the soundtrack; this literally is the only reason I marked the section down.
If the music needed to be lighthearted and fit the tone of the slice of life feel (of the first half of the series), it did so, marvelously. During fight scenes and in general, the last half of the series, Bee Train’s signature music shone through with haunting pseudo-opera type vocals and deep dark synthesized beats (combined with orchestral instruments). I can’t say enough about the music; it was amazing. Though Mai HiME’s plot was amazing by itself, the music really helped with the mood and feel, and made my viewing experience so much more enjoyable. And hey, unlike other series that Bee Train does the music for (hack or Madlax, anyone?), this won’t put you to sleep!
One really major thing I must point out, though, are some of the voice actors. One of the girls sounds like a man, and Takumi sounds like a 20 year old adult, and he’s only 14! The first time I heard him talking I could have sworn he was Mai’s older brother, until he started calling her oneechan. Everyone else’s voice actors played their parts just fine, though.
Mai HiME’s story is as strong as it is because of the characters, so it should be easy to see why this section is rated highly. We are introduced to a variety of characters who all have their unique roles and personalities, and they all fit together very well... well, most of them at least.
First, we have Mai. Why does everyone hate her? I hear this all the time and really have no idea why. The only argument I’ve heard is that she’s angsty or whiny but I really disagree. Mai has had a crappy life but still manages to stay positive since she’s had to raise Takumi. All she knows is her hardship and thus, when she goes through more hardship, it seems only natural that she’d react the way she did. Truly, I think Mai is a very realistic character; maybe people just didn’t like her because she wasn’t a stereotypical anime girl, who knows?
Other characters include the cold and reserved Natsuki, the optimistic little brother Takumi, and a whole mess of others. Each has their own quirks and grows on you in time, even though at times it seems like there are too many characters to keep track of! The interpersonal relationships between all of them make the tragedy of the latter half of the series that much more compelling and moving, and you easily will feel sorry for what the cast has to go through. Even the villains have their own likeable (or hateable) characteristics. I think the best part about the characters is how deep they were, and how much they were developed. Each character seemed to have something in their past that was stirred up in the present. These dark histories always seemed to give the characters more depth, and helped you to empathize with them a bit more (especially once the tragedy hits). I don’t feel like there was any sort of weak character except one: Mikoto. She truly was one of the most useless characters I’ve ever seen, but that’s the designers fault for giving her the temperament and appearance of a forest creature. She didn’t walk; she bounded like an animal on all fours. She didn’t talk about normal stuff, she spoke in third person like Pai in 3x3 Eyes. She was obsessed with food, constantly looking chibified in nature (distracting and unnecessary). She also clung to Mai like a 3 year old. All in all, her character annoyed the hell out of me and quite frankly I wish she hadn’t been involved at all.
In general though, a very strong cast of characters.
The creation of My-Hime most likely started with Sunrise designing an anime from the ground up. The show would boast amazingly entertaining melodrama, some fantastic action scenes, and hordes of famous seiyuu - in other words, the basic groundwork for Best Show Ever.
There was just one chink in the entire concepts armor: when all was said and done, the animes story called for a ridiculously large amount of characters. Alongside Mai, the primary heroine, the storyline needed droves of supporting characters in order to be fully fleshed out.
As a result of this decidedly bloated cast, the project gained an enormous amount of inertia. Most anime can get by with one or two episodes to introduce the characters and set up the story, but My-Hime needed something much more lopsided just to get the gears in motion. The question, then, was how to keep the 15 or so expository episodes from being deathly boring. Sunrises "solution" to this dilemma was three-fold: fan-service, obligatory action scenes in every episode, and some of the broadest, most generic comedy that Ive ever come across.
Unfortunately, while this approach seems to have worked wonders on the whole of the community, the beginning is some of the most tedious tripe that Ive personally ever had to slog through. Pretty colors, lame jokes, and improbably stacked high-school girls can really only take a show so far, and in this case they fail to take the show anywhere at all. I normally would never have bothered to continue watching something so bland, had it not been for a friend that insisted that the show improved substantially.
Fortunately enough, he was right; amazingly, the show pulls together and becomes something actually entertaining and worthwhile. The final half is a blissful cocktail of angst, action and romance, and there is something almost epic in the way that the huge cast of characters all independently battle against their fate. Near the end, the anime reaches the kind of dramatic crescendo that is usually reserved exclusively to the top echelon of anime.
Regrettably, My-Hime's story possesses far too many flaws to actually be considered as such. The most important is the aforementioned reliance on generic ecchi in the beginning of the show. In addition to this, however, the final episode reeks of deus ex machina, and feels contradictory to where the story had gone up to that point.
Nevertheless, when all is said and done, the immensely entertaining second half somehow manages to redeem the narrative as a whole. Although sitting through the first part was an absolute chore, I ultimately came away satisfied.
This is some of the better animation released in 2004. Action scenes are colorful and creatively choreographed, movement is fluid and realistic, and the character designs are all fairly appealing. There isnt anything groundbreaking here, but there certainly isnt anything to be ashamed of, either.
Yuki Kajiura actually manages to pump out something halfway unique in this one, and still delivers a superb soundtrack. The show is also filled to the brim with famous seiyuu. Normally in an anime, Im happy if I can recognize one voice actor; for Mai Hime, I was able to identify four. Needless to say, the voice acting is all basically flawless and is the one redeeming part about the characters.
Sadly enough, the characters are a total mess. In short, there are just too many characters to realistically develop over the course of 26 episodes. This would have been fine if most of the characters were relegated to supporting roles, but the bulk of individuals that could be considered "protagonists" makes the cast as absurdly top-heavy as Mai herself. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that most of the characters seem to carry an extremely damaging "top-down" design; instead of creating a story around a cast of characters, the characters appear to have been designed to fit specific roles in the story. Because of this, they feel very much like products on an assembly line: cliched, tiresome and lifeless. Only the fantastic voice work manages to somewhat redeem them.
Oh man, where to begin with this one. Ok, the story. For the first half, as others have said, this anime was pretty bad. Well, only the first few episodes were genuinely horrible, what with the ecchi and mahou shoujo elements. But once you got used to the mahou shoujo and they let up a bit on the ecchi, things settled into a tolerably watchable comedy. Then things start to get a little trippy, what with some people dying and the conspiracy theories heating up, along with a few WTFBOOM explosions. Then Mai-HiME plunges headlong into deep melodramatic tragedy, which is actually pretty good. It's melodrama, sure, but it's still fun. Don't expect too many normal people among the cast, since there's only about four sane, emotionally well-adjusted characters in the humongous gathering of like 20 girls and their assorted crushes. But it's still kind of interesting to watch everybody else go nuts from the pressure of certain spoiler-tastic circumstances. The show starts writing itself into a corner and I was seriously interested in how they'd end this thing. And it turns out they end it in about the second-to-worst way they could. It's ridiculous. It invalidates the last ten episodes or so. It made me roar with laughter along with shouts of "Is this seriously happening?!" Just make up your own ending instead of watching this one. But who knows, you might even like it, it's just that this type of ending has never cut it with me.
The animation was pretty good. Some of the Childs looked pretty awesome and there's some fun action scenes. However, expect lots of random bath scenes. It seems like Mai takes a long bath just about every day. But whatever.
I did like the soundtrack for this show. I've heard better, but not very many. It fits the tone pretty well and there's a few standout tracks that blow your mind the first time you hear them, even if they do get repeated every episode. Voice acting is pretty good too.
The characters are fun to watch, but you can't empathize with many of them. They're just too messed up half the time. There are a noticeable lack of normal, relatively simple relationships in the show. I think there was one back in the beginning though. One. Out of the twenty-odd relationships. But whatever. And what was up with the main love-polygon?
So in short, this is a show that could've been awesome, but they really bungled some stuff. If you just want to watch some top-heavy girls looking sweet while they kick butt, then you'd like this show. If you love tear-jerkers, you'd like this show too. But a work of art it ain't.
Mai-HiME is one of those that you might pass over at first glance, especially if you only catch a few episodes at a con or an anime group. And while it's technically of the magical girl genre, the first episode hints that there are some different things in store for this series.
Hime is Japanese for princess, but in this series, it also stands for "Highly-advanced Materializing Energy" and is basically the girls' main mode of power. They materialize their weapons and "child" which is name for a magical creature that helps fight alongside them. Mai is the main character, a girl who is transferring to a new high school with her sickly brother. Mai is a HiME, one of the 12 (actually 13) girls who can see a red star next to the moon, that no one else can see. The secrets of that star, their powers, and the forces at play behind the scenes who seek to control the HiMEs' destiny will all be revealed over the course of the series. The HiME's are being gathered for the "carnival" but for what purpose? What does it all mean?
Before I go any farther, I do want to mention that while this series initially has the girls fighting against random monsters, there are two main plot twists(among many) waiting for down the road, one of which you might see coming. Episode 8 will be your big turning point, where you start to see that this series won't be your typical magical girl show (and will be the first of many times where your heart is jerked around). So while the first half of the show might seem a bit too oridinay and nothing special (some might even find it a bit boring), the second half more than makes up for it. And indeed, you find you need that first half to set up the characters and their myriad complex relationships, to make the second half all the more compelling.
So my advice is to stick with it, if you don't find it appealing at first!
Good enough. Despite being a magical girl show, there is no transformation sequences, and not much stock footage. What little there you find is easily ignorable as it's short (just some of the weapon summonings and child attacks, but they take up only a few seconds at most). There is some fanservice, but it doesn't overpower the plot. Other than that, there's nothing to really detract, although it does feel a bit more "modern" rather than the typical anime visual feel.
I rather liked the opening theme, but other than that, nothing really stood out. Of course, nothing really detracted from the show, either. Decent music can be forgettable, but these tracks blended in well enough that you might not notice much of them, but they fit the moods well enough.
There can be quite a few, but the show does a fairly decent job of focusing on development on all the mains and msot of the supporting (who can end up turning into mains). One thing I will mention, is to pay attention to Akane, who works at the cafe Mai goes to work at, and Akane's boyfriend Kazu. They can be easily missed, but they'll become important.
Other than that, Mai HiME is at it's best when it takes the magical girl genre and deconstructs it. The bonds the girls form early on is extremely tested later, and the results of that is... well, it's done incredibly well. You really feel for these characters and what they go through, and you really understand how and why they feel the way they do, and the reasons behind their actions.
I don't think you'll be disappointed. Even if the first half doesn't appeal to you, the latter half will grab you and squeeze HARD. I wish I could tell you more, but really, I can't say too much without spoiling it. Suffice it to say, if you'd like to see a darker take on magical girls with realistic emotions and relationship changes, give this one a try.
The only complains are the seemingly average episodes in the beginning, and the fact that I still have a few questions that weren't answered too well. Some may count the ending as a minus, but I don't. You'll have to see for yourself to know for sure!
It starts like any other ecchi-comedy, with schoolgirls and cheesy love dilemmas. It maintains this geeky femininity...and then suddenly digresses into a plethora of human emotions!!! Wow, what a tease. I am impressed and satisfied, despite the rather average score I'm handing Mai-HiME.
Tokiha Mai tries to be the best older sister she can be. Her younger brother, Takumi, faces a fatal heart disorder, and all she can do is protect him.
On a boat ride to school, a girl floats on top of the water, and a star that Mai can see, which no other but what a HiME (Highly-advanced Materializing Equipment) can see shines brightly in the sky...
I can't really complain about the plot. It's original in a way, and somewhat expected as well. A lot of the elements in it seem to add a "fantasy" adventure that never occurs within the series itself. The series instead routes itself into the daily lives of "super-powered" females, and into their problematic love lives. While this is a good premise, I feel the story imitates very much the themes and emotions in ecchi-comedies such as Love Hina, Mahoromatic, and Kono Minikuku mo Utsukushii Sekai. I didn't feel any particular attraction to this chunk of the anime at all.
And then at about 2/3 of the way through, a real story begins to form. The fate of the HiME's is explained, and the "character breakdowns" occur. This sort of deep analysis of sacrificial love and friendship appeals no matter how unoriginal it may be. It earned the story most of its points in my case, at least.
On a side note: the ending is waaay too unrealistic, but acceptable.
Overall the most interesting characters are Mai, Mikoto, and Akira. Everyone else had a dryness in their characteristics that left them dull and crippled emotionally. Even when the series became absolutely serious, stupidity reigned supreme amongst the supporting cast. For example, I seriously could not appreciate Shiho - her lack of common sense and personality listed her as one of my most hated shoujos in anime altogether. I didn't care too much for the nun, either.
As I had mentioned, though, Mai, Mikoto, and Akira make worthy characters for the story. I really liked Mikoto the most (strangely enough, since her structure and attitude aren't really any appeal to me in real life); I think her flaws as a character developed a purity unlike many of the shoujos I've run into in anime so far. Mai is great as well, although I feel she lacks direction quite a bit through the story. Akira needed some more time though to become the best, but it could've been done.
The character designs are very sexy, I should say. I felt the need for a Mai-HiME hentai everytime I watched episode 4...hehe. I really appreciated the designs of Mai and Natsuki. The animation takes a style very much like an average anime, using the flow of action and gorgeous landscapes in traditional ways. I will say, though, Mikoto takes first place as the coolest "female weapon-handler" in the history of super-powered shoujo anime - I love how an oversized weapon can be chucked around by a little girl like that. Unfortunately, with the exception of Mai, none of the other HiMEs have any gorgeous weapons like Mikoto. One of them has a really cheesy one in addition to that as well.
I love the opening, Shining Days by Minami Kuribayashi. It's cute, and in it's own way a song meant really for anime lovers. However, the ending song, Kimi ga sora datta by Aki Misato is in it's own playing field - it has an emphasis on emotions that gives dramatic heartfelt to this crazy title.
I should also say that the background music has many similarities to Noir, in that there are a lot of fast-paced dance beats, which usually occur during fight sequences. There are a lot of quirky, cute tracks as well, but they are nothing compared to some of the beats built up in this title.
Overall Rating: (7.5/10)
I would strongly recommend this as a first title for people who have seen Sailor Moon! This is a great outlet into the realm of shoujo anime, since it packs itself with hair-raising duels and explosions, while maintaining an overall cute appeal. I wouldn't, however, recommend this to the common otaku looking for something touching. It has the elements of insight, but not enough to really entertain the thoughts.
I should warn that the series loses a lot of interest about halfway through. It settles into a rather plain routine of comedy, but only for the sake of character development. I find it important to at least get past that point before deciding on hating this anime entirely!!!
It's an anime you'll want to love, and yet you'd feel happy hating certain parts of it as well.