My-Otome Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, May 20, 2008



What They Say
Within the cursed valley of the cyborgs known as the Aswald, Arika and Mashiro are reunited. A dubious air hangs about the girls as they are faced with questions of an existential nature. Arika ponders the morality of a force as potentially destructive as the Otome, while Mashiro attempts to understand the necessary qualities of a leader. Before they can come to terms with their roles, the Valkyrie Squadron, an elite unite of Artai Otome are dispatched to capture Arika and Mashiro. Can Arika overcome her feelings of doubt and protect the Queen?

The Review!
Revelations and setup is the name of the game in the penultimate volume of the series which finally introduces Mai.

Audio:
The bilingual presentation of this series is pretty well done as each language track features a solid stereo mix done at 224 kbps. The show has a good mix of action sequences alongside the dialogue while also featuring a very enjoyable Yuki Kajiura score that is nicely expansive. The mix overall comes across well as it handles each of the elements without problems across the forward soundstage. It may lack a bit of oomph and impact in some of the bigger action scenes but it's a solid piece overall. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Similar to the My-Hime series, the show has a strong visual sense of color with lots of bold bright colors that stand out but don't dominate overall. The combination of this with some very fluid animation could be problematic but everything comes together in a solid way without any real issues at all. Aliasing and cross coloration is generally non-existent and colors are very solid throughout with hardly any significant noise or noticeable blocking. With an average bitrate in the sevens with lots of spikes into the eights, this is a great looking disc overall that really lets the content shine.

Packaging:
Though the show is working through some dark moments, the cover art is bright and colorful as it presents Mai in her combat outfit, Mikoto with a lot of confidence and a good shot of Natsuki in full headmistress mode. The character designs are very appealing and they all look quite good here with the coloring and overall background design. There's bound to be confusion with the series logo though as it's highlighting the My-Hime aspect more than the My Otome part but that's just part and parcel with how the series was created. The back cover has a good design overall with some of the symbols from the show containing artwork and the summary of what to expect. The discs features are clearly listed as are the episode numbers and titles. Technical information continues to be one of the weakest parts of Bandai's packaging as you have no clue as to what to really expect either in terms of audio or video. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
Considering how bad the initial menus were for My-Hime, these come across pretty well even if they are simple. A series of brief clips runs through the center while brightly colored red and blue borders are around it which also contains the various selections. Unlike the previous volumes there's now a bit of instrumental music that plays along to give it a bit more life. Access times are nice and fast and with no transitional animations it all moves about very quickly. The disc did not read our players' language presets unfortunately and defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this installment drop down a bit to just the latest amusing video segment entitled "Legend of the Fire Stirring Ruby" in which we learn the truth behind how Mai ended up in the Sprites Forest. Not quite as sexually provocative as some of the earlier extras, it does have a good bit of hot spring material and the kind of quirky humor that has been a part of these extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The sixth volume of the series resurrects feelings that we had during the release of My-Hime in that right now we should be experiencing the final episodes, not the setup of the finale. The seven volume releases have been hard to deal with for awhile since the final two volumes are often the ones that you want to see as quickly as possible as there is the build up to everything. My-Otome doesn't disappoint in this regard as we get a lot of information throughout these three episodes and the situation continues to escalate as Nagi's plans to utilize the Harmonium to build his new world move forward.

The episodes on this volume do a lot of the groundwork for the finale in that we see the pieces begin to move where they need to be. A lot of the work is being done by Nagi as he manipulates Nina to do his bidding. With Nina's love for her father and the way she feels betrayed over everything that's happened with Arika, she still can't bring herself to really cope with it and is easily used by Nagi. The power that she's gained doesn't hurt either, though there's reluctance to her use of it that shows through in battle. Nagi doesn't leave things just at that however as he instructs her on the final verse necessary to use the Harmonium which gives her far too much power, power that Nagi is able to bend to his will since her state of mind is so fractured now. Nina doesn't get an immense amount of screen time, but there are some key moments here to her growth and her past that will impact the finale easily.

Nagi's manipulations of the world in general is of secondary importance but it does get covered fairly well here. Using his position within the Garderobe now and the number of Otome candidates under his control, he's begun to set things in motion where the world will either bow to his will or there will be an immense amount of bloodshed as everything factionalizes. Having seen various members of the show deal in their home countries, such as Yukino, events play out in those arenas fairly lightly but in a way that works towards setting up the epic nature of it all as the world readies for a war not seen since the Twelve Kings days. The thought of such a level of violence and conflict is worrying for quite a lot of them but that only serves to factionalize more as some will fight against it while others will bow to Nagi in order to avoid it.

The most intriguing material however comes from a new area of the show as Arika and Mashiro have landed themselves in the Black Valley. While there are some intriguing moments where Mashiro sets thing in her mind about what she has to do in order to be Queen, particularly with the leader of the Aswald, it's when this pair ends up in the Black Valley itself through the aid of Miyu after a confrontation with Nina. The way Miyu has shown up in various scenes throughout makes more sense now as she introduces Arika and Mashiro to Mai, a legendary Otome who up and disappeared awhile ago with the Fire Stirring Ruby. Her past became larger than life and the reality of it is someone who is kind of silly, pleasant and not at all what was expected.

What's truly fascinating is that we get a much clearer picture about Mikoto who resides within the Black Valley with Mai. Or rather, Mai is her servant there as Mikoto is far more than we've seen before in the cat forms that have been running about. Her Crystal Princess persona has much the feeling of the cats but it also very reminiscent of her personality in the My-Hime series except she's far more content about her relationship with Mai as they've spent so much time together. The pairing of the two brings a really fun new element into the show where they're a different kind of senior to the women running around like Arika and Mashiro and even Natsuki. There's a connection to the past there that resonates well and it is admittedly very good to see Mai show up in this series at long last and in such an amusing way. A way that really fits her personality as well.

In Summary:
The sixth installment of My-Otome may drag a bit and cause you to lament once again that it's a seven volume series, but it's a set of episodes that does a great job in setting things up. Everyone has grown and changed throughout the show and their personalities are coming into their own as the situation gets more serious and complicated. With My-Hime having ended in a way that wasn't exactly upbeat in certain situations, I expect more of the same with the next volume and this one really does create that possibility. The diverse and large cast is always a problem for a show like this but they cover so much ground in these three episodes that you come away pretty happy and really intrigued to see how it will all be resolved. My-Otome continues to impress and engage me more than My-Hime did and the next volume can't come soon enough.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Legend of the Fire Stirring Ruby Aniamted Short

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: My-Otome