My-Hime Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 25, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 02, 2007
What They Say
Hidden truths and forbidden desires are revealed as the Obsidian Prince finally awakens. As the HiME begin their final dance, a distraught Natsuki must face a wrathful Nao without the aid of her Child, Duran. However, in the face of defeat, Natsuki will be rescued by Shizuru, who comes to reveal a deep secret of her own. Meanwhile, Midori fights her own battle against Mikoto, while trying to reactivate Miyu who may be the only chance for the HiME.
After giving us a solid amount of enjoyable material for some time, My-Hime simply goes into overdrive here with copious amounts of payoff and revelations.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. In general this is a pretty solid track that has some good effects to its mix but is a fairly standard action show. 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.
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.
Though the hardcore fans may give some grief about cover choices for the series I still find most of them to be pretty solid. This installment gives us a new pairing and one that is fairly pivotal in these episodes with Shizuru and Natsuki back to back against the darkened skies and crumbling buildings inside the small forest. It has such a dark and somber look to it while still showing some very attractive designs that it is very appealing. 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.
The first visible sign that something is different with this release is that the static menus of earlier volumes is gone. Now we have a menu that has a static crescent across it where the series logo and selections are located while above is a slow moving set of twinkling stars. The other part of the crescent plays various clips from this volume with a bit of very eerie instrumental music. Navigation is a breeze and the access times are nice and fast. In the credits portion of the menu, it's revealed that Littlehaus has been brought in to do the menus and SpeeDVD for the authoring. This was previously done by Ocean who had some basic technical issues with the release that are now resolved. That means we have time codes and no problems with accessing subtitles or audio tracks both through the menus and on the fly.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over the first twenty episodes of the series there was plenty to enjoy and it had a number of nice little moments to it that helped elevate it above an otherwise average show. The animation was solid, the character designs attractive and the story wove in some small things that made it stand out against some of the competition. Where it really shined was in having something of a real loss built into it for the main characters and actually exploiting it. Instead of seeing them always saving their true love in the nick of time we saw them fail and lose those who meant the most to them. As this started happening the show gained a much stronger sense of self and conviction for its characters.
While the show does unfortunately drop to three episodes for the two remaining volumes, it's almost a welcome change considering both the pacing of these episodes and the amount of revelations and changes that are brought into it. Everything has been evolving to the obvious crescendo but there is something that is just a bit edgier and more intense in these episodes. The start of the volume is a bit difficult to get into because there's so much spillover from the previous volume but as it progresses forward the changes that were introduced in the last one come in to full effect. Seeing how Reito has moved so easily into his new role, one that he was practically destined for since he was first introduced, isn't a surprise. Seeing how he has fought against or why he was after Mai through one of the featurettes though adds a rather nice dimension to him.
Mai for her part in this ends up taking a bit of a backseat for these episodes but she has some key movements as well. Having lost Takumi she is now far more focused on attaining the power that may give him back. Though they had almost all agreed initially to not fight each other and find a way, the group has splintered considerably since then and Mai is on a real dark streak. The loss of Takumi was certainly bad enough but having it accented by Mikoto being Reito's brother sealed it. The people she cared for almost suddenly have been removed from her life and the things that she felt were reliable no longer are.
A lot of machinations are going on in the background here as the festival is lightly explored both in its history and its present. Notably, learning that this has all happened before and that it will happen again gives it a sense of déjà vu at first. But there are elements at work that want to ensure that this does not happen again and a bigger game is afoot. Mashiro and Reito have their own history which is just difficult to really put in context at first but there's also the Searrs Foundation's own goals as well as that of District 1 coming into play. You almost feel like Reito may have the upper hand on such things but with so much unknown history and mysterious groups involved it's hard to say if this confidence is unwarranted.
Where I think this set of episodes really shines is where it deals with some of the HiME girls who are now revealing their true selves. Natsuki ends up being rescued by Shizuru who harbors several secrets that are revealed here. Her nature has always been the most interesting of the girls since it was obvious, like Reito, that there was far more to her. But to see how it really goes here is something that can likely turn away some of those who liked the character since it seems contrary to her nature. She's more like Reito than has been revealed though in how she's kept such secrets about herself and only revealed them when there was no other recourse. The entire sequence with her and Natsuki along with the other two girls from the student council was some of the best material on the volume. It's drenched in angst but it doesn't feel overblown or whiny.
The animation for all of this continues to be strong with lots of clean looking detailed designs. The action sequences, particularly those with Mikoto, are quite enjoyable and have an epic sense to their nature when combined with the choral music. The series is based well in some of the basics of school age fantasy but it's been growing into something much larger for some time that does not feel out of place. The little moments, such as the other students feeling the impact of all the damage and the mysterious events, help to make it a much fuller show. In some ways, I think the show has become less of an action piece and more of a drama even though the amount of action material has remained the same or even grown.
My-Hime wasn't really on my radar when it got announced but it's intrigued me a lot since I first got my hands on it. There have been some very solid episodes throughout as its avoided playing to some of the clichés that fill so many shows. As it moves into its final arc and the big revelations are made it's becoming something more than it was in the past. While it wasn't exactly an average or forgettable show before, what's going on now is elevating it to a much more memorable piece of work. With only three episodes left there isn't a lot of room to maneuver but it all seems to be coming together well. The key for me will be whether they continue to be as decisive as they have been as well as carrying through on the elements of risk and danger that are inherent in being a HiME.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2