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.
Guided by a star only they can see, a group of maidens known as HiMEs have begun to gather at Fuuka Academy. These young women have been endowed with dangerous supernatural powers that they can use to their heart's content, but there's a price: to wield them, they must put their most important thing on the line. Now, in the midst of school work and friendships, they find themselves caught in the midst of strange conspiracies seemingly related to the terrifying monsters that attack them. Is the power of the HiMEs strong enough to save themselves and the ones they love?
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