My-Hime Vol. #7 (also w/special edition premium art box) (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, April 05, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 03, 2007



What They Say
The final dance of the HiME draws to a close as the last of the HiME battle each other. Realizing that Yuichi loves Mai and not her, Shiho attacks Mai, but Mai is unable to fight back because if either one of them is defeated, Yuichi will die.

Meanwhile, Natsuki summons Duran one last time to stop Shizuru's misguided rampage. When the victor of the HiME festival is determined, the full powers of the Obsidian Prince are released for him to destroy the world and rebuild it to his liking. But still standing in his way are Mai and Miyu, who strives to complete the last order of her programming. Will Mai be able gather enough power to defeat the Obsidian Prince and restore peace to the world?

The Review!
Taking the drama and angst of the previous episodes up a few more notches, My-Hime comes to a conclusion that feels a touch out of place.

Audio:
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.

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:
The final cover of the series is a good looking one as it brings in Mikoto, Mai and Natsuki together in front of one of the outdoor gardens. They're all in their uniforms which have a great clean yet strong look to them. Similar to the previous covers the backgrounds look great as well with the bright skies and green backdrops. 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.

After the first volume provided a box that wasn't a box to hold the discs, Bandai has corrected that volume here at the end. The original box was designed to hold the disc and shirt and it was almost garish with its overuse of orange. For the final volume of the series, a proper box has been done and Bandai has experimented once again. I have to give them credit for trying different designs to make something appealing though I can see potential complaints with this one. Designed so as to drop the keepcases in from the top lengthwise, the heavy chipboard box has the feel of a keepsake case. The top, which has a nice gold border with the logo in the middle, comes off and inside is a number of small photographs with shots from the show of the various characters. The main box has the symbol on one side and a shadowed shot of a couple of the girls on the other. The back has a really nicely done section with three of the leads together against the setting of the school with the gold border around it.

The front is where Bandai really experimented and could run into some consumer complaints. Set almost like a diorama, the background of the school and the numerous cherry blossom trees is set in about half an inch. In front of it where the box exterior edge is is a clear piece of plastic that has the whole line-up of the girls from the show. This gives it a really nice sense of depth and stands out a lot compared to other boxes. But it's also the weak link in the chain as such an area can be popped or ripped during transit via retail either via online orders or during shipment to brick and mortar stores. And depending on how rough some people handle their boxes it could lead to problems there as well. I love the box overall though and it's going to be a keeper for my shelves.

Menu:
Similar to the last couple of volumes, 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. The disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles. But at least they can be switched on the fly unlike earlier volumes.

Extras:
The main extra included for this episode is the directors cut of episode twenty six. The episode is provided in bilingual format so no shortcuts were made there. Having watched it just after the broadcast episode I'm admittedly hard pressed to see many real differences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When a series is done in a seven volume format, invariably the final volume contains the last three episodes. With the momentum for the ending beginning in the previous volume, what we're left with here are the final revelations along with some additional angst and action in order to resolve things. The way the volumes get laid out often leaves me feeling like we're seeing a rushed conclusion. Of course, it's nothing like the original broadcast but that's a completely different animal.

With the time close at hand for Reito to have his plans come to fruition, much of the time is spent with Mai either being manipulated or wandering around almost aimlessly trying to figure out what to do. As she is the central character, she spends most of her time early on here acting more as an observer as she meets up with the remaining HiMe and sees what kind of issues they're going through. With time running out before Reito has his way, the countdown continues for the pillars to grow. In this role, Mai is able to see a bit more of what makes certain girls here tick as well as being able to observe some of the final conflicts.

As the HiMe's have been pared down over time, the losses of others are making the remaining ones all the more intent on winning. Shizuru in particular has a real wicked streak to her during all of this but she's doing it all for the one she cares the most about. In her own way, Mikoto is doing just the same now that she's working for her brother. With the mix of their summoned fighters and their own skills, there are some beautifully scenes as this plays out. The early scene in the church with the nun has a real sense of tragedy to it. Shizuru and Natsuki's battles are intense after Natsuki manages to escape from her captor. Shizuru doesn't spend all of her time battling Natsuki either as she's intent on freeing Natsuki from that which seems to bind her the most.

The show has been filled with angst for awhile now, particularly when it culminated in Takumi's disappearance. There's an attempt to twist that feeling in this set of episodes as Shiho takes on a new role and actively works against Mai. The angst in the series as well as the loss that each of the girls starts to suffer has been a real attraction. As overblown as it has been at times, the girls have all felt like that they really have a reason to act and do so. At the same time, as some of them have begun to experience the losses not only of their loved ones but also their summoned beasts, they were able to go through some great emotional moments. That does put the show in a real quandary though as they either have to go through with it "for real" or give everyone an out at the end. Does story win over merchandising?

The ending to the series certainly isn't a surprise and the writers sort of put themselves into a corner with it. Since it could go a couple of ways but only two main directions, there's going to be disappointment among many people. If you wanted to see everyone stay dead and have the survivors find a way to live and grow from there, seeing the opposite happen turns it all into a good-feeling ending that doesn't feel true. But if you wanted to see everyone come back at the end to reinforce the whole love conquers all aspect, seeing nobody return would feel like a betrayal of trust. There isn't a lot of middle ground to really work with here in order to please everyone.

Though the ending disappointed me in not being able to really achieve a higher level, the series overall has left me quite happy. It's a show that I think does need to be watched in larger groups of episodes so those that will wait for a collection will enjoy this quite a lot. Some of the promise of the shows overall potential wasn't quite reached, but it was another series to me where the journey outweighed the ending. While there may have been a few too many characters involved, they were necessary in order to provide the kind of loss and realization for the others what kind of stakes were at play. Though there were a few that didn't get fleshed out quite enough, the production qualities of the series in terms of animation and character design made it far less of a sin than it would have been otherwise.

One of the best things about the show though has been the character featurettes attached to the end of each episode. Though short and just a series of stills, they provided some interesting insights into each of the girls in a compact manner while also showing off a variety of slice of life scenes. The internal dialogues of each of them in how they talked about things and people important to them added a lot to the show. Some of them were also a bit more mature feeling than the characters acted in the show but it added a really good dimension to them. It also didn't hurt that the already attractive character designs received some extra love with the stills both in quality and in setting. Some of them seemed to promote the love between the girls in some very strong ways which certainly caught the attention of those who would otherwise ignore such a series.

In Summary:
My-Hime's release has been one that has not been smooth. The show had a lot of anticipation going for it when it was licensed but early problems squandered a lot of it. From player incompatibilities, poor cover artwork choices, minimal extras and general authoring issues, the series didn't feel like it was getting the basic care it deserved never mind the love that the fans wanted it to receive. These issues were however all corrected midway and the end result is a solid one. With luck, we'll see an upgraded version of those early volumes in the future in some form. My-Hime has ended on a much more promising note than it started. These last episodes are quite enjoyable even though the series itself could have been a lot more.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Special Directors Cut of Episode 26

Review Equipment
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
MSRP: 24.98/39.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: My-Hime