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.
Review contains major spoilers. It is advised not to be read by those who haven’t seen the show or those who intend to do so.
Animation is done by studio Sunrise, which means there will be cool robots, mosters and explosions. Directed by Ohara Masakazu who also made The Girl who Leapt through Time, and Accel World. Hardly a talented individual.
The best way for someone to enjoy this anime is to perceive it as an otaku fan catering dark fairy tale. As long as you are willing to allow your emotions to be constantly manipulated by the looks of cute girls, overblown drama, and improbable resolutions just to have a happy ending, then you will definitely like it as so many thousands of people did so far. On the other hand if you try to see this as some sort of mature, cryptic, deep story of manipulation of ideals and the dark side of love then you will most likely want to smash your screen.
My HiME is very good at keeping you interested in watching, as it keeps changing the apparent formula every now and then. First it presents things as if it is about a dozen girls with superpowers, teaming with monsters in order to protect their land from other roaming monsters. Even if you don’t like the premise, the show keeps bombarding you with a dozen different date-sim girl archetypes, light ecchi comedy, as well as names from mythology that make you wonder if there is more behind all that and you start comparing each monster with the psychology of its master. By the time you get to know all the girls and their basic backdrop (and truth be told they all have somewhat interesting meat around their bones) WHAM the story suddenly changes to a death tournament. The girls now need to fight each other until There Can Be Only One. The winner gets a wish fulfilled by some alien star entity, the losers die and/or have their most loved person disappearing as penalty (thus they can’t just give up or go kamikaze because their most cherished person will die).
After the story gets darker, the fuzzy initial impression is replaced by a far darker atmosphere and suddenly seemingly important characters start to die like flies. This feels so shocking that you just need to see what happens next. This is no longer some date-sim premise, nor a mahou shojo variant. This is a death match against your very own friends and the deaths of characters the viewer liked so far create further wowing and interest to see what happens next.
And then the finale comes and… well… it’s just an excuse to have a happy ending. Not just one where more than one girls survive. Come on, it is obvious what the wish will be all about and if you have a bit cunningness you would see it coming since the start. Yes, time resets and it is as if nothing ever happened. Everybody is alive again, the viewers rejoice that their favorite girls are still their imaginary wives, and the fandom is free to write a billion fanfics about them without feeling out of place because they should be dead.
As you understand, the dark overtones of the anime are just cheap tricks to mess with your emotions. They surprise you with the death tournament and you go all OH NO POOR WAIFU, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? And then the ending comes and you go YES MY WAIFU IS ALIVE AGAIN; BEST ANIME EVER! Of course, if you are a viewer with taste for good storytelling, chances are you will just say “Oh, so everything was pointless and we were all fooled to think something important was going to happen. I just wasted my time on this.”
Thus it really is a fairy tale for otakus. All the shock factor in the series is just a very cheap method of the scriptwriters for luring in all those who are used to simple anime and not in seeing main characters die. And then they reward them in the end by Dragonballing them back to life so everybody is happy. How nice! And how immature for the same reason. Where is the responsibility of your actions if you can negate them with magic? That makes you feel bad for caring about them in the first place. It will even feel like you were cheated to care about something completely pointless.
But you know what? If you shut off your brain none of what I mention here matter. The production values are good, the girls are colorized, there is one waifu for all tastes, there is action, betrayal, death, magic, happy endings. Shallow entertainment but offered in spades.
And to all those of you who liked it, don’t miss the chance to watch “Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica” and “Clannad After Story”. Same treatment. But in case you want to see how good the premise could have been, don’t miss the chance to read the Battle Royale manga. Now that is a story where it matters when someone dies.
And now for some excused scorings.
ART SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 0/2, Conclusion 0/2
CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 1/2
VALUE SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: Historical Value 2/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 2/4
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 3/10
Analysis: Art 0/1, Sound 0/2, Story 1/3, Characters 2/4
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!
I don't care that this is not a complete review. The ending is so depressingly atrocious. Watch the first 24 episodes and enjoy an ok anime, and make up an ending instead of watching the last two GARBAGE EPISODES. That was some Grade A Cancer.