My-Hime Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, July 20, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 11, 2006



What They Say
After all the trouble on campus, the students of Fuka Academy enjoy their summer break at the beach, but it's not all fun for everybody. Natsuki, Mai and Mikoto infiltrate an abandoned research facility to uncover some lost answers about the HiME. Some of the girls who either failed their finals, ditched classes or were just plain unlucky will have to attend a special make-up class: a bake-off contest hosted by Midori.

When class is back in session, trouble starts up again as a mysterious assailant is attacking girls on campus and Sister Yukariko is the main suspect.

The Review!
While this volume has a number of key moments to it, the bulk of the episodes are more laid back and character driven.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Originally we were going to watch this on our HD DVD player but had to shift to the Blu-ray player due to a technical issue. Our Toshiba HD DVD player did not display either subtitle track outside of the episode titles. No song or sign subtitles or the full subtitles worked outside of displaying the episode title and any dialogue subtitles that were on the screen at the same time. There is a fair amount of sound effects from the battles and ambient effects spread across both channels while dialogue is generally more center channel oriented. With the stereo mixes, there usually isn't too much that stands out but the tracks here do the job right and it's essentially problem free as we didn't note any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The design of the show is filled with so many rich and vibrant colors while still playing within a mostly traditional school realm that it's almost surprising at times how alive this show looks. The color design is a huge part of it as it flows across the screen but the fluidity of the animation is very well captured here in this transfer. While they do stray on some releases, My-Hime is done up with the credits left in their original form for both the opening and closing sequences while a translated list follows the very last episode in its own chapter. The transfer for the show itself though simply is clean and clear and looks to be free of cross coloration and aliasing as well.

Packaging:
One thing that helps push a title is of course fanservice so there's little surprise to see a cover that features a few of the leads in their small skimpy bikini's set against the water. It's a very blue heavy cover with some really nice shades and colors to it that combined with the clouds and the overall character designs is really appealing. Of course, it has Natsuki in a bikini so how can I not like it. The back cover goes for an interesting look with it being a couple of colors that shift and blend together in the center. The top half has the dark look with the story summary there while the center has a strip of shots from the show. The bottom half is a bit lighter which has the listing of the episode numbers and titles as well as the discs basic features and production information. They layout is decent and fairly standard for Bandai but they do continue to disappoint in having avoided seriously doing a technical grid all these years. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
The menu for the show is fairly simple but nicely done in a relaxing way as it has a good looking if somewhat softened image of Alyssa and Miyu together outside in a quiet moment while the menu has added some digital cherry blossoms to float by. There isn't any music to the menu but it has some twinkling from the chimes and sounds of nature that help it feel relaxing. The navigation and logo are along the right side and access times are nice and fast. As stated above, we had problems with the language section; on the HD DVD player no cursor was provided and the menu locked up completely, requiring the power cord to be pulled in order to restore the player. On our Blu-ray player, the disc worked correctly but it did not pick up our players' presets and instead default to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this volume is kept to the clean ending sequence which is very welcome to have. Listed on the back cover is the character featurettes which are included but are placed between each of the episodes as opposed to in the extras section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shifting between languages for each volume has made the connections to the characters a bit tougher but with this volume I'm back to my more preferred language. There is a lot going on with this set of episodes but it's a mixed bag as it tends to work more in the area of general character development and exploration. It does hit up some key moments of revelations and action pieces but by and large this is a set of episodes that's more focused on having some fun.

A lot of that fun kicks right off with the beach episodes where Mai is working as a life-guard. This alone feels like a noticeable change from most other shows where the cast simply shows up at the beach or is working the restaurants nearby, as it gives Mai more of a feeling where she's got some sense of responsibility and maturity to her to be able to take that position. Of course, her working when nobody else is on this break has her feeling out of sorts, especially since they all seem to show up at the place where she's working. On the plus side though, she does seem to be getting closer and closer to Reito as they talk a fair bit about things, but with Reito's style it's really difficult to pin down whether he's actually interested in her or he's just being his normal polite and warm self that he's wanting to display.

One of the best ways to create some new character friction or to expand upon existing relationships is to have an event where people are put together for something they're not all that interested in and have them work together. Since there've been so many things going on at the school lately, there are those who've been missing or skipping classes but that's not going to be let go. The home economics class in particular has been going badly so Midori puts on a special event where those students are paired up in groups and have to put a public cooking performance that will be judged by some students and faculty. Add in a few bleachers for on-lookers and you have a weirdly amusing event. Of course there are other things tossed into the episode such as an Orphan that causes chaos during the event but it's the character moments that are the best as we start to understand more of them. With as large a cast as there is here and still growing, any new moments where we learn their background and motivations are good moments.

The show does move forward a bit more in terms of laying out its plot and goals in this volume as a new threat seemingly appears on the campus. A series of attacks on the women late at night is causing a scare and it's put Haruka on the warpath to have it eliminated. She brings in her methods and numerous student "guards" to begin canvassing the campus in order to find out who is behind this. They even go so far as to install a curfew on the campus while working out of the chapel. The attacks are being treated in a couple of ways, with one of them being that it's just a series of attacks by a pervert whose gone too far while another has it being something about vampires going after the girls.

The truth is more interesting as it's actually a plan to find out which of the girls are HiME's by attacking all of them and getting the blood samples they need that could potentially prove it, since they aren't aware of the fact that HiME's have the symbol born into them. This means that the safest thing to do when attacked is not to fight back at all, which of course doesn't play well to some of these girls. But as straightforward as this is, there are some levels to it as we see more of who is actually behind it and how far they're willing to go in order to locate who the HiME's are. This storyline covers a couple of episodes and it intermingles with some good character bits, such as focusing a bit more on the interesting Reito/Mai pairing but also starting to push Yuichi towards realizing what his feelings are really all about.

No different than previous episodes, it's the small moments that are the most fun. A sequence involving Natsuki's sneaking to an island facility where events from the past are becoming relevant reveals a flashback scene to when she was much younger and her mother involved in the project, but it's a comical piece in general that starts off with a misunderstanding, a partially stripped down Natsuki and a priceless boat ride across the bay. Mikoto also starts to provide some growth for others as her outgoing and simplistic nature is infectious, especially with Yukino who starts to understand herself more after talking with her and spending a good deal of casual time with her. Haruka gets some good time on this set as well as her role gives her plenty of visibility and we see a lot of her power plays and attempts at being, well, relevant.

In Summary:
My-Hime still feels a lot like plenty of other shows I've seen over the years but there's still something about that feels a bit more polished and enjoyable, something where it's all clicking together very nicely and with the right execution, that it doesn't feel like I'm going through a rehash. The main show goes through plenty of events and areas throughout but it also provides for a bit of fanservice and humor in the featurettes that are between the episodes which do give more info on the characters but also appeals to some fans enjoyment of the racy material. This volume was quite a bit of fun but it took a good bit of time to get there after all the technical issues I had to deal with.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Featurette,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: My-Hime