My-Hime Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: My-Hime

My-Hime Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     March 27, 2006
Release Date: March 28, 2006


My-Hime Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Before coming to the Fuka Academy, all Mai Tokiha wanted was to live an ordinary high school life, but that's the last thing she's going to get. It turns out that Mai is a HiME, one of twelve girls with super-natural powers that are gathered at this school to fight the Orphans, demons that dwell around the school. A secret organization has other plans for the HiME than just demon-busting and Mai and the other HiME will have to risk something precious to protect the ones they love.

The Review!
Arriving at a new academy on a pair of scholarships, Mai and her younger brother find that they've been invited for less than up front reasons.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. We did sample some areas of the English language track but both are fairly straightforward action oriented stereo mixes. 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 opening cover almost has a "yellow brick road" feel to it as you have the three main characters from the early episodes in their school uniforms walking towards the viewer. Having really enjoyed the show and the designs, revisiting the cover afterwards makes me appreciate it a touch more now that I know who they are. The outfits look good, the colors are spot on without being too vibrant and while the background is minimal it's at least something that's there and helps keep the focus on the characters themselves. 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.

In addition to the disc release, a disc + box release was done. In looking at it, it appears that this "+box" was designed more to just hold the t-shirt than to be a quality box like most of Bandai's other boxes. We haven't had one of this thin nature from Bandai since Argentosoma I believe. The box looks decent overall with its orange nature from the school uniform color design but you can tell that not much was put into it since both of the main panels feature the same character artwork. The outside panel looks good though as it has just the shows logo as well as the symbol that designates a HiME. The t-shirt, a large, is also nicely done as it's a fun in-theme piece that mimics a lot of other school shirts but has the Fuka Academy name on it.

Menu:
The menu for the show is fairly simple but nicely done in a relaxing way as it has one of the character artwork pieces from the ending which are beautifully illustrated of the three leads sitting sort of back to back in the grass 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 left side which is partially whited out and access times are nice and fast. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The only included extra in the release is a promotional clip for the show which is unfortunately not subtitled. Considering it runs under a minute you'd think they'd be able to do that much.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When My-HiME was originally airing, it built up quite a bit of an audience around it that has been eagerly anticipating the eventual North American release of the show. The first of seven volumes, the show manages to really do a solid job of taking what's a fairly standard set of ideas for an opening of a series and makes it engaging and interesting to watch.

The series initially keeps its focus around one or two central characters as we're introduced to Mai and Takumi, a brother and sister who have been given scholarships to Fuka Academy. The Academy is a well known private school that's got a heavy focus on the students being involved in doing the governance of the student body. It's not hands off for the teachers but those on the student and executive councils tend to be more hands on about the problems that crop up. For Mai and Takumi, they're excited about being someplace new and Mai is in general glad that she's able to bring Takumi along as well since she's responsible for him. Little is said of their parentage in these episodes but you can tell easily enough that there's some issues going on here.

The trip to the Academy is done a bit different than the norm as the pair are traveling there via a ferry. The trip was meant to be something of a weekend excursion before the start of school and to simply do something new but it turns into a lot more when the body of a middle grade school girl is found floating out there. She's rescued, along with a long dark sword that quickly disappears, but the arrival of the girl sets the stage for an opening battle. Another young woman in very tight biker gear makes her way on board the ship in an effort to kill the other girl who has woken up just in time. The results are disastrous on an major scale but what becomes apparent is that strange powers are afoot. The mysterious woman is willing to kill Mai to get to her target but Mai apparently has some innate flame powers that builds a shield around her.

Of course, school starts up with no real problems though some on the council now have a big issue with Mai but between her, the new girl and the mysterious crop circles that got created on the school grounds there's a lot to cover. Mai tries to get into the normal swing of things but eventually she learns that she and her brother have been brought to the school under less than honest circumstances. Mai is one of twelve HiME's, or "highly advanced materializing equipment". The woman who was trying to stop them is a student at the academy as well, named Natsuki, and she's been trying to stop the arrival of any new HiME's as well as learning who is already there so she can stop them. There is a group within the school that is bringing these people to the Academy in order to fight off a demonic looking race of creatures called Orphan's as well as the less threatening "Childs" that are floating about. Mai's given the choice of accepting to do this as she learns about her powers as one of these HiME while also having the issue of Natsuki and others trying to stop it all from happening.

My-Hime really surprised me. I'd thankfully been able to go into the show knowing absolutely nothing about it and come away very much entertained and wanting more as quickly as possible. The opening episodes are of course all about the initial setup and bringing in the main characters. Like a lot of Sunrise shows, the cast is pretty large and we get hints of many of those who will grow into it over the next several episodes through the opening sequence as well as brief cameos here and there. The general plot that we get at this point is fairly entertaining but it is also fairly clichéd. What it is here is that the execution is simply so smooth and well done that it manages to engage very well. After all, how many times have these kinds of episodes been done? The Sunrise crew here takes advantage of a slightly different sense of pacing as it's expanded out a bit so that we get a better idea of the characters. And even as many characters as they introduce here, you really get a good feel for the key members you have to know right now while being tantalized about the others.

Even areas where you know exactly how it will play out, such as Mai's awakening sequence with her powers, just clicks well. With what we know of her history so far and her protective nature of her brother you know that she's going to do what has to be done, but she's also the type that won't flinch when she really has to get involved. The character that completely won me over though which surprised me was Natsuki. Her nature in trying to stop more HiME from showing up gives her a different perspective at first but she is playing up the role of the outsider who realizes she'll get further if she actually works with some other people. Not that it's something she comes up with quickly though because the sense of being adversaries between her and Mikoto early on is just right. Mai is definitely the character that can draw other people together and it's meant to be her role here as she's able to change the dynamic due to her arrival.

Design wise, I have to adore the show. The school uniforms, which are nicely varied due to having both middle and high school together, are very attractive. While the skirts are higher than reality will allow, they look great and have layers to them which allow for personalization. The cast also tends to shift into other outfits as well at times, notably the scrumptious biker outfit Natsuki wears for a good part of her battle sequences. The school has a great private academy layout to it with its richness in flowers and architecture as well. I also liked how they manage to provide more unique uniforms for those on the councils which helps separate them right down to the armbands some wear. But what manages to make the designs work so nicely is just how fluidly animated the show is. This is a great looking piece with some really beautiful movements to it. It covers so much ground and handles it all with smooth and fluid pieces that just wrap you up into it even more. I particularly adore the end sequence with the illustrations at the start for the main characters. Especially for Natsuki. Can you tell I'm hooked?

In Summary:
My-HiME covers a lot of ground in the first three episodes where the situation is revealed, the main characters put into place and the setting established. It's given enough time to work through the large amount of information without making it all feel frenetic or too fast paced. The main cast of characters and most of the secondary characters have already grown quickly on me to the point where I've watched it three times now because it's been so much fun. It even gives a big fanservice episode early on here to calm things down a bit that's focused around a lingerie thief. My-HiME just seems to hit all the right marks with me in just about every department when it comes to the actual show itself that I wish this was the kind of show they'd release in full season sets because I simply must have more now.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Featurettes,Promo Clip,LE Edition: T-shirt

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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