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.
Mai HiME started out feeling like a 6 in my mind, with its interesting but fairly dull story, seemingly average characters and all around, an average magical girl type feel to it. Once the second half hit, though, it skyrocketed up to a 9 easily, and that’s where the score will stay. If you watched a little of Mai HiME and gave up because you thought it was boring, dull, or too girlie, please think again. Though misleading, the end is so tragic and moving that you’ll be glad you finished it too. Don’t get hyped up by the ending because it’s not as bad as people make it seem to be, and don’t pass up the chance to watch this wonderful series. From the music to the visuals to the great characters, Mai HiME is a great watch all around.
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.
As a whole, My-Hime is easy enough to recommend to people who enjoy large ensemble casts, a little bit of fanservice, and some nice action scenes. However, those looking for a consistent, intelligent story may be frustrated by the large amount of filler at the beginning of the show coupled with the disappointing end. As a whole, I enjoyed the show enough to not regret watching it, but the shows' numerous flaws prevent me from actively liking it.
The story gets off to a strong, albeit somewhat cliche start, slowly introducing us to its ever-expanding cast of characters and the world of Hime. Our protagonists are thirteen young girls chosen to protect the school from Orphans, mysterios creatures that roam around the campus and are considered a threat to humans. But here comes the nasty bit, by using the powers they've been endowed with, they need to put their most precious person on the line. While this is indeed an overused formula, My Hime took a different approach, evolving into something much darker as the story progressed and incessantly shocking its audience with plot twists it delivers without scruples.
The first episodes are rather light-hearted, providing only subtle foreshadowing of what's to come in the latter half of the series.While this approach ensured the final episodes to be as shocking as possible, some may also find it very off-turning, for the amount of padding out resulted in some rather silly episodes and, at least in my opinion, it could've spent notably less time developing its characters, which weren't that complex in the first place.
The first half is a colorful medley of engaging action, mushy drama and mild fanservice with some rather obvious shoujo-ai overtones to round it off. And while certainly does not sound promising to more serious watchers, once you turn off your brain and push your suspension of belief to the extreme you might find yourself enjoying this anime!
Why I mention suspension of belief is because the shows is riddled with quite a few plot holes and unanswered questions that cover some major aspects of the series. It's pretty obvious that the directors decided to direct all of the viewers' attention on its characters, thus leaving a handful of loose ends.
Well, here I shall adress what in my opinion the biggest issue of the series. THE ENDING. To say it was dissappointing would be downplaying it. It was absolutely underwhelming and unsatisfying in every way imaginable, single-handedly undermining all the built-up and the bombshell of emotions the last few episodes had managed to achieve.
But boy, can it be dramatic! By the 20th episode, the light tone is completely gone and one is suddenly being bombarded with emotional overflow and jaw-droppingly powerful moments of pure tragedy one would never expect after the 20 episodes of goofing around.
The overall look of the series is fairly pleasing to the eye, with bright colors, fluid motion and glossy action sequences. Considering this show is almost 10 years old, the fact alone that it's still better that most of what comes out nowadays is an achievement in and of itself.
As for the soundtrack, it was composed by the ever-so-great Yuki Kajiura, so I don't think much needs to be said. While it may not be quite on the level of .hack//Sign , My-Hime's soundtrack serves to enhance the mood, rather that generate it (which is the case with the latter-not that's it a bad thing :) ). The OST on a whole sports but a few truly memorable pieces, but each tune perfectly accompanies the scene and is right up there with animation in overall quality.
The characters, being the heart of the series, are quite a colorful lot. Mai stands above most heroines in this type of shows, being neither too whiny nor too brassy. She is also very indecisive, constantly doubts her decision and wants to lead a normal life instead of being a Hime which makes her relatable in a way (even though I wanted to punch her for some stupid decisions she was making, but nevermind ^^; ).
I won't even bother to explain each character in detail, for the simple reason the sheer number of them notably exceeds the usual 3-5 prominent characters. While the central part of My Hime's cast are only Mai, Natsuki and Mikoto, there's a whole flock of secondary character in store that just wait for the time they shall finally step into the limelight. Developing more than 10 girls in a 26-episode series is no easy task, but Mai Hime raises to the occassion, giving each character a fair share of development. Still, most of them are rather simplistic and not all that compelling. The real problem, however, are the baddies of this show. What are they motives? Why do they persist in them? It's seems as if the creators didn't care to rationalize their methods and just assigned them to play out their roles.
Overall, Mai Hime is a roller-coaster ride that manages to be both exciting and emotionally engaging, though only if you decide not to take it too seriously. However, it's also notably flawed on many levels, which keeps it from reaching greatness and being something truly special. Still, it's exceeded the boundaries of its genre, so give it a shot, you might very well love it!
FINALLY, A GOOD MAGICAL GIRL SERIES:
A lot of people are not big fans of Magical Girl anime, mostly thanks to Sailor Moon, and thanks to the fact that a lot of the other Magical Girl anime out there, like Mermaid Melodies, are basically rip-offs of Sailor Moon. However, every once in a while you might come across a Magical Girl anime done right. My-HiME is one of those anime. My-HiME, which actually translates to "My Princess" is one of the first anime shows I had ever watched, not including Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or Sonic X, and I gotta say: even after watching about 20 more anime, My-HiME still remains in a VERY high place in my top favorites. My-HiME is actually more of a Mystical Fantasy-Romance Drama than a Magical Girl anime because even though the magical aspect of the show is there, the focus is never directly on the Magical Girl aspect but is pointed more towards the characters' reactions and relationships, which is a big reason why I like this show so much.
(45%) STORY: 8.9/10
My-HiME (in a shocking twist that has never been seen in anime before) takes place in a prestigious school called Fuka Academy, which is a large system of schools consisting of an Elementary School, a Middle School, and a High School. In this school, rumors are always floating around about strange things happening. The setting of the first episode is quite different than in most anime in general. Our main character is MAI TOKIHA. She and her brother TAKUMI, who has a heart problem, are transfer students on a cruise liner to Fuka Academy. Shortly after they are introduced, MAI sees a red "spec" next to the moon that TAKUMI can't see. During the course of this episode, we are introduced to many of the main characters, and I use the term "main characters" very loosely, mostly because almost all the characters are main characters. Asside from MAI and TAKUMI, we get MIKOTO MINAGI: a little catlike girl who is always carrying a black sword around and claims to be "looking for her brother", TATE YUUICHI: a teenager who already goes to Fuka Academy and is a member of the student council, SHIHO MUNAKATA: a middle school girl who always follows TATE around and always calls him "brother" even though they aren't related, NATSUKI KUGA: a serious, lone-wolf teenager who has a pair of oddly-shaped pistols and a wolf-like monster following her around who appears to be trying to kill MIKOTO in her first appearance, and NAGI HOMURA: a "young looking" smart-alec who serves as a sort of referee, similar to "RYUK" from Death Note, throwing in comments here and there. Take note that I'm only describing these characters as they FIRST appear. There is tons of information that I'm leaving out of these character descriptions. Anyway, we soon find out that MAI, MIKOTO, and NATSUKI, as well as many other unknown girls are "HiME" which, in the anime, stands for "Highly Advanced Materializing Equipment". HiME are special girls selected by fate who are granted special powers allowing them each to materialize weapons known as "Elements", and summon a huge monster known as a "Child", as well as being the only ones besides NAGI who can see the "HiME Star", which was the red spec MAI saw in the first episode. As far as the MAI, MIKOTO, NATSUKI, and the rest of the audience knows, these girls have all been recruited to Fuka Academy to fight monsters called "Orphans".
The first story arc is th one that turns most people away from the show. Mainly because there's not much going on, aside from the first episode. There are a couple semi-filler episodes. I say "semi-" because these episodes do include major plot points, so you can't skip them because they're boring. That's not to say that I thought they were boring. For me, I was so interested in figuring out what these "HiME" were that I wanted to keep going. There is one plot-hole that really bothers me more than it bothers most people. In fact, from what I've seen, most people ignore it, and it's: "Who (or What) the heck is NAGI?". This show does a great job in giving every character, except NAGI, some depth, which is a huge plot-hole for me, because he is a very important character throughout the show as he's usually the one who explains all the plot elements. In that regard, precisely because of this plot-hole, he is my most memorable character. Don't get me wrong, this plot-hole, in no way, ruins the show for me. It's kind of like the "Holy Office of the Index" in 11Eyes; it didn't ruin the show for me, but it did leave me with a few questions. Anyway, after this, we get a huge, unexpected, and dark plot twist that no one saw coming, not even the Main Villain. Obviously, I can't go into much detail here, but I will say that you will be introduced to a couple great villains. From the end of that story arc onward, it gets darker and sadder by the episode. Many of these scenes are worthy of CLANNAD. The ending of the anime is the deciding factor for most people who watch this show. I thought that it was alright. It definitely wasn't enough to make the show bad. It's usually dependent on your favorite type of ending.
My-HiME takes a different approach to the Magical Girl genre. Normally, when the characters have their transformation scenes, their entire outfit changes. Also, the magical familiars are always materialized and are small cute animals or something. But, in My-HiME, the characters' weapons materialize without the use of the transformation scene. Instead, the transformation scene is used to summon thegical familiar. Also, instead of the familiar being a cute little animal, the familiars are huge, intimidating monsters with imense power. MAI's is KAGUTSUGHI himself, which in Japanese mythology, is the Spirit of Fire.
(45%) CHARACTERS: 9.7/10
I don't think I've ever seen a better character cast in any other anime. Well, except for My-Otome, but that's just because it has the same great characters and more. Every character is memorable, they all have great personalities, and EVERY character plays a major role in the story. Even characters that I thought I would hate in the beginning made me sympathyze and care for the once I saw their back stories. That's another thing. Nearly(in other words, except for NAGI) every character has a backstory. In fact, in every episode except the first one, the after-credit scenes usually have backstories or something about one of the characters so that you will understand their personalities and sympathyze with them. Some of these scenes also explain plot-points, except for who NAGI is. The problem with these scenes is that they usually consist of motionless, highly fanservicy imagery, but at least it's something. By the way, that's not saying that this show has excessive fan service. It's about as fan servicy as 11Eyes which, to me, was very low. But anyway, this is definitely one of the best character casts in amine in general.
(10%) ATMOSPHERE: 8.5/10
The animation for My-HiME was fantastic. This anime was made in 2004, ten years before the making of this review, and it still looks great. As for the character designs, this anime is set in a high school, so it is okay for the designs to look generic, however I did not see one generic-looking character. You can definitely tell the difference between the characters. In fact, i don't think I saw one pair of characters with the same hair color. When they were present, the action scenes were great good. There wasn't anything really outstanding about them, but I was able to keep up with what was going on, and once you get farther into the anime, the action scenes have great motivation to them, so that saves it. The designs for each child were really cool. On the other hand the designs for the orphans were weird. Just the way some of them shape-shifted and morphed was just ugly and awkward-looking. The music was half-and-half. The soundtrack was outstanding and is my favorite one to this day, just barely topping 11Eyes and Fate/Zero (Made by same composer). The soundtrack was composed by Yuki Kajiura, so of course it's going to sound great. From the tear-jerking and emotional track Ensei to the dark choir effects and electric guitar of Kagutsuchi Kourin, this soundtrack is one of the only ones that I can remember certain individual tracks. On the other hand, the opening and ending themes were easily forgettable. The opening isn't misleading or anything, it's just not exciting or dramatic, which is the kind of opening this show should have had, in my opinion.
I strongly reccomend this anime for anyone who likes Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Character Development, Betrayal, subtlety, and great DRAMA.
This anime was going well for a while until I noticed that it was just one more average entry of its kind.
If you don't mind traditional brainless anime with schoolgirls that have superpowers and monsters that seem to only affect them and nobody else, then go ahead. It's more of the same but done more prettily.
I really like the animation here. The fights, explosions, character designs and their "pets" designs as well. It's a shame that the rest wasn't up to my taste, because I love wolves, and there's a cool lady that has a mechanical wolf as her "guardian". I would love to play her in a fighting video game or something.
So yeah, this is another anime where characters fight other characters by using guardians like in "Kiba" or er..."Pokemon". But their pets are interesting enough for you to enjoy the battles.
The plot is just full of typical anime schoolgirl subplots with romance and betrayals and then you get monsters that attack the school and nobody bothers to explain why the sudden appearance of a monster is not properly covered in world news. I see this often and it just bothers me. If they are as surprised to see a giant monster attacking them, why is the world not reacting to that? Why is this somehow kept only to Japan? The rest of the world just goes "that's weird but that's Japan, y'know?” It's the same reason why I dropped "Blue Seed". Grrr.
The exact moment I dropped the series though, is when one main character unleashes her full guardian's power and takes out a military satellite in space, which causes her to drop back to Earth with nary a scratch. Yay, everything's possible! Ugh, that's it for me. That's too high an escalation of powers for me to find the fights engaging. It took a while for "Dragonball Z" to fly around and blast planets, no?
Like I said, this is just an average anime with the most common clichés of anime, and I have moved past the stereotypical and want something smarter and frankly, better. Leave this for the younger ones or those with a wider set of guidelines for anime enjoyment.