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.