My-HiME Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Release Date: Monday, September 18, 2006
What They Say
Mai has discovered her HiME powers, but the burden of taking care of her brother and the responsibility of being a HiME are taking a heavy toll. Mai is especially afraid of using the powers of Kagutsuchi, because the beast unleashes such destruction that she feels she cannot handle it. Help arrives from an unexpected source as a new HiME appears, a self-proclaimed champion of justice.
However, not all of the HiME have good intentions, and one of the HiME will learn the true price of defeat during the annual Founder's Festival...
5 - Rain - Tears...
6 - The Passionate Age of 17
7 - Lost Kittens
8 - Precious Thing
While Mai comes to term with her new abilities and wonders just how proactive she should be about using them, another of the HiME discovers just how high the price of defeat can be‚€¶
Plenty of language options here, as usual for a Beez release, with Japanese, English, French and German 2.0 tracks available. I stuck to the Japanese track for this release. There's good use made of the sound stage for effects and background sound, particularly during action scenes, while dialogue for the most part is fixed to the centre channel. Music tends to feature quite heavily during battle scenes and adds to the atmosphere without getting to the point where it drowns out other sounds. There were no obvious problems.
Originally released in 2004, this is a 1.33:1 full-frame series. As for most Sunrise series, production values are quite high and the show mostly just looks great, with plenty of vibrant colours, background detail and fluid animation. The transfer seems to be free of any problems. Beez being Beez, there are some formatting issues with the subtitles (eg #quotes# instead of "quotes" or to mark sung lines), which seem to forever be a plague on their releases.
Nao, Shiho and Mikoto feature on the front over, posing on the steps of a shrine as Shiho looks a little flustered. The rear cover has the usual promotional paragraph, along with some images from the show and the disc's technical information. The packaging mentions German audio and subtitles being included, but these don't appear to actually be on the disc.
Menus are available in English, French, and Dutch, selectable when the disc loads. I used the English version. The main screen is a static image of Mikoto, standing outside the school dorms, with a series of clips from the show running along side her and cherryblossom falling past. An instrumental version of the opening theme plays throughout. Submenus are provided for episode selection, language setup and extras.
To start with, there's a 2-and-a-half minute slideshow of production art, set to a piece of the show's background music, and clean versions of the opening and closing animations. Four more mini-episodes are also here, featuring Mikoto, Shiho, Nao and Akane, although sadly for three of them the "English" subtitle track serves up French subtitles, so you'll need to use the dub soundtrack if you want to know what's happening.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
While Mai's out walking on one of her rare days off work ‚€“ someone's got to earn the money to look after Takumi ‚€“ she gets a strange feeling and an intimation that something's not quite right as a bus passes her. At first she passes it off as her imagination, but when the bus is later involved in an accident, she starts to wonder if there was a connection. Natsuki's also on the case, aware an Orphan was involved. It also seems there were signs of a battle at the crash site, meaning a HiME was involved - but if it wasn't Natsuki, Mai or Mikoto, then who..?
The steady stream of new HiMEs continues, with three more being introduced on this disc, not all of them friendly. Midori's easily the most entertaining of the bunch ‚€“ a 17-year-old (allegedly) school teacher who treats life as one big adventure and being a HiME as an excuse to play the magical girl for love and justice, she brightens up almost every scene she takes part in and works particularly well alongside Mai. She really is one of those characters you can't help but love.
Also new are Nao, a particularly mercenary girl who uses her powers ‚€“ and the hormones of unsuspecting men ‚€“ for her own advantage, and does her best to use Mikoto for her own ends as well, and Akane, a quiet young girl who works at the same restaurant as Mai and is head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend, Kazuya. They make a very sweet couple, but Akane's been hiding her abilities from him and it's beginning to put a strain on her.
This disc starts off normally enough ‚€“ the first three episodes cover the usual ground of covering the normal lives of the girls, before an Orphan makes an appearance, wreaks some havoc, and is defeated by the HiME, allowing life to return to normal again. Every so often, Nagi or Mashiro appear to drop a few cryptic comments in and Natsuki digs some more information out of her sources, but for the most part it all progresses predictably enough. Thankfully, the presentation and characters make all that a lot more enjoyable than if probably sounds ‚€“ events are nicely paced, the battle scenes are suitably dramatic, and everything just feels right. But don't let that fool you ‚€“ the show is doing its best to lull you into a false sense of security before throwing you a curve ball.
Episode 8 blows the predictable routine apart, and events here are all the more surprising for being so early in the series. The story here starts off as you'd expect - the Fuka Academy Founder's Festival has arrived, and seems to be pretty much like any other school festival you've ever seen in anime - until Mai, Takumi, Kanzaki and Tate fall through a weak floor and find themselves trapped in the caverns beneath the school. Kanzaki uses the opportunity to confess his feelings to Mai, but she's about to have other things to deal with as an Orphan appears. Meanwhile, above ground, one of the new HiME reveals her powers when another Orphan attacks ‚€“ but her battle has been carefully orchestrated and she's about the learn the high price of failure.
We knew the HiME were being gathered for a reason, but it's now become clear that the "bad guys" also have a foothold in Fuka Academy, and that it maybe hasn't been made entirely clear to the HiME what the price will be if they fail to live up to their end of the bargain. The cost of failure is extremely high, and with that knowledge suddenly the stakes are also that much higher. It'll be interesting to see the reactions of Mai and the others when they finally realise that. The events here also clearly underline that no-one in this series is really safe ‚€“ and that's a refreshing change. The way events played out in the closing scenes here left me staring almost slack-jawed at the screen, they were so unexpected. That's a quality I like in any series, and My-HiME pulled it off with style.
It's quite rare for any anime series to be truly surprising these days, so this volume of My-HiME scores bonus points for managing it ‚€“ it goes from fun and fluffy to deadly serious in very little time at all. The end result is a hugely entertaining volume, and there's now a darker undercurrent running beneath events that gives the series that little bit of an edge. Personally, I can't wait for the next volume. Definitely recommended.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Mini-episodes 5-8,Production Sketches,Creditless Opening and Closing Sequences
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2