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My-Hime
Reviewer: Tong T. 12/31/2007

Synopsis:
Mai Tokiha is an ordinary high-school girl who has recently transferred to the Fuka Academy with her younger brother, Takumi. However, a routine boat ride and a chance encounter with a mysterious young girl changes everything. Mai discovers that she and some of her classmates possess the powers of HiME and must battle against mysterious creatures called Orphans and an ominous organization called the Searrs Foundation. Along the way she must face her own demons and understand what it means to love.
 
Review:
On the surface, My-HiME seems to be a typical shounen action/fantasy series. However, it is in fact a confluence of genres; combining the shoujo-esque motif of magical girls and fantasy amid shounen-inspired sci-fi and mecha action, with some romance and comedy thrown in for good measure. As such, it is both light-hearted and tragic, both an action-packed and an emotionally-filled ride from start to finish. And while the show isn’t particularly original, the world it immerses us in is interesting enough that we won’t want to leave for a good while.
 
My-HiME tells the story of a group of young women attending the Fuka Academy, each of whom possess the abilities of HiME (Highly-advanced Materializing Equipment) and fights against the will of the foreign Searrs Foundation. While the story is mainly told from the perspective of the main protagonist Mai Tokiha, it encompasses the points of views of many other characters including Mai’s classmates and teachers, foreign agents and even supernatural beings. Though the plot is straightforward, it is also filled with many twists and turns, some of which are predictable, some which are genuinely surprising. The assembled cast is filled with a copious number of entertaining and amusing characters featuring the wild and naïve Mikoto, the flirtatious but wicked Nao, the rebellious Natsuki and the quick-tempered and impulsive Haruka. Many of these characters have “stock traits” for sure, but each of their personalities are developed well enough that they remain engaging throughout the series. In fact, aside from the action pieces, it’s really these characters, rather than the strength of the narrative, that keep the show enjoyable from one episode to the next.
 
Though My-HiME is not a thematically rich show, it does contain the standard routine of themes ranging from the meaning of love and friendship, the nature of betrayal, the impact of loss, and the “passions” of youth. While the thematic elements of the show are not particularly deep, nor do they resonate quite as well as was perhaps intended, it is handled better than most series of its kind. In fact, there are several genuinely powerful or inspirational scenes, even if they are a tad melodramatic. Also of note is the progression of tone from a light-hearted comedy in the first half of the series to a much more serious and sometimes tragic drama (initiated of course by a major plot twist) in the latter episodes.
 
Visually, My-HiME is definitely one of Sunrise’s best productions to date. The animation is colorful, vibrant, and fluid. The fantasy set pieces, HiME powers, and quasi-sci-fi tech are all drawn and animated brilliantly. More impressive is the fact that I didn’t really see any lapses in quality from start to finish, which is quite an accomplishment for any action-oriented anime. The art and character designs are pleasing and the action sequences are spectacular (and there’s definitely a lot of action to be found here). The audio is top-notch as well with catchy music and an excellent Japanese language track. Unfortunately, the English adaptation leaves much to be desired. The English voices just don’t seem to fit the characters nearly as well as the original Japanese ones, and there are a couple of character voices that are downright awful. Bandai generally has high standards in the area of voice dubbing so it’s unfortunate to see such an uninspiring and disappointing dub. Unless you absolutely do not wish to read subtitles, I highly recommend sticking with the Japanese language track.
 
But alas, My-HiME has its share of problems, including one particularly gaping misstep. Like many other shounen anime titles, the story is centered on a small group of youths who must fight against the forces of evil. Similarly, ordinary people discover they have incredible powers that have the potential to change the world around them. Sure the specifics (HiME, Orphans, and the Searrs Foundation) are somewhat original, but the underlying concepts are the same as many anime titles that have preceded it. As a result the story seems a little too formulaic, and while there are genuinely surprising plot twists, the story itself harbors very little creativity. Another notable issue is the way the light-hearted/comedic aspects of the show are balanced with the more serious/dramatic aspects–or to be more accurate, how they really aren’t balanced. For a light-hearted shounen anime, My-HiME can be far too serious and tragic. On the other hand, for a serious anime, My-HiME can be far too silly and cartoonish. The result is a show that doesn’t seem to know its own identity. If taken separately the serious and the silly moments work very well, but combine them together and you get somewhat of a mess. To further confound things, the romantic subplots are somewhat disappointing, unsatisfying, and consequently seem a little out of place.
 
Still, this poor juxtaposition of conflicting tones is a minor issue compared to the way the show ends. And herein lays My-HiME's greatest blunder. I won’t spoil things for anyone, but the dénouement is nothing short of a deus ex machina. Not only that, but the sudden emotional undertones of the ending completely destroy any impact the previous scenes of tragedy or drama may have had. In a sense, the show undermines its own desired emotional impact by ending the way it does. Any dramatic impact the series may have had disappears, and as such leaves the viewer feeling a little betrayed.
 
Problematic endings aside, My-HiME is a surprisingly enjoyable and remarkably well produced anime which combines different genre elements to create an interesting world for the viewer to experience. While the story is somewhat forgettable and shallow, the impressive action sequences and excellent characterizations are more than enough to recommend this anime to action/fantasy fans.
 
Miscellanies:
The North American DVD release of My-HiME was handled by Bandai Entertainment. The 26-episode series was released in seven volumes, along with a special edition of the seventh volume which contains a series art box.
 
A five-volume manga series, based on the television series is also available from Tokyopop.

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My-Hime
My-Hime
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Review Title:
My-Hime
Alternative Titles:
My Hime, Mai-Hime
Type:
TV
Episodes:
26
Duration:
650 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2004-2005
Suitable For:
Teens
Genres:
Action, Comedy, Drama,
Fantasy, Magic, Romance,
School, Shoujo Ai
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