My-HiME Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Beez
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: My-Hime

My-HiME Vol. #5

By Bryan Morton     January 28, 2008
Release Date: July 30, 2007


My-HiME Vol. #5
© Beez


What They Say
Mai, Mikoto and Natsuki are still in shock from discovering that the Orphans' attacks on the campus were orchestrated from inside their own school. Meanwhile, love is in the air during the Tamayura Festival, but all thoughts of romance are snuffed out when a pillar of light destroys the bridge over the bay. The following day, the school is invaded by armed soldiers sent by the mysterious Searrs Foundation, it seems that Alyssa and Miyu are back and stronger than ever! With the entire school held hostage, the HiME will have to team up to defeat Alyssa and Miyu... but can they put aside their differences and overcome this impossible situation?

Episodes Comprise
17 – Deceitful Lips
18 – The Beginning
19 – Labyrinth of the Heart
20 – Dance of Flames / Tears of Destiny
21 – The Obsidian Prince Awakens

The Review!
The end of the world is upon us, and only the HiME can save us – but in a leaf from the Highlander book of plot devices, there can be only one to finish the job. Will the girls fight against their pre-ordained destiny, or just fight against each other? And who of those near and dear to them will be lost in the process..?

Audio:
Plenty of language options here, as usual for a Beez release, with Japanese, English and French 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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
My-HiME continues its run of decent cover images, with Shizuru and Natsuki taking the lead role this time, with the wreckage of part of the school behind them. The rear cover has the usual promotional paragraph, along with some images from the show and the disc's technical information.

Menu:
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 Shizuru, as used on the front cover (just minus Natsuki this time), with a series of clips from the show running alongside. An instrumental version of the opening theme plays throughout. Submenus are provided for episode selection, language setup and extras – there's a rather long transition animation whenever you select a main menu option which soon gets annoying, but apart from that it all works as you'd expect.

Extras:
Following the trend set by the previous volumes, there are four more mini-episodes (featuring Midori, Fumi & Mashiro, Akari, Takumi and Kanzaki) – these turn more towards the serious here and away from the fanservice, reflecting the show's change in tone. There's also a production art slideshow, and creditless versions of the show's opening and closing credits.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
While Nagi announces to the HiME that they'll have to fight each other, a group of mysterious old women explain to Mashiro that the Obsidian Prince will soon awaken - and that the more tears are shed by the HiME, the more powerful he will be. Suddenly the pieces of the overall plan are beginning to slot into place. The problem is, most of the HiME have no desire to fight amongst themselves, especially after learning from Akane about the price of defeat. But the approaching HiME Star may be the one thing that could force the girls to do what they really don't want to do..

Later, in return for the remains of Miyu, the Searrs Foundation offers Natsuki information about the death of her mother. It's the information Natsuki's been trying to uncover all along, but it turns out to be far from what she wants to hear - and when she rides off in shock after hearing the truth, Nao's waiting to take advantage of her frail state of mind. Meanwhile, Mai takes time out to recover from her own personal losses, but the person who she turns to soon turns out to be the last person she should be trusting…

Hoo boy. As with most shows of this sort, the comedy in My-HiME has given way to darker storylines – but I have to say that in this case, it's unusually dark, in that we're already at the stage where every decision the girls make can have immediate consequences, and where disasters can happen that they have no control over. Destiny is a tricky thing – some of the HiME don't believe in such things and are willing to try and wave two fingers at it, but the more you get into these episodes, the more you realise that destiny may just have the last laugh.

At the start, all of the known HiME are prepared to just sit back and see what happens – they don't want to fight, so they're not going to be forced to. But as time passes, circumstances (and some well-applied psychological pressure, in some cases) conspire to make sure that the HiME Festival begins, and it's not long before the first victim falls. This is where the series takes on slightly Highlander-style tones – only one HiME can defeat the Star, and to gain the power to do that they have to be the last one standing. Does that sound just a little bit familiar? Fortunately, I'm a fan of the original Highlander movie, so to me that's a good comparison.

In situations like this, sides must be chosen and difficult decisions made, and there's a fair amount of on-screen angst as the girls figure out what they're going to do. In places it maybe gets a bit over-emotional – but the most heart-rending scenes of the volume belong to Mai and Akira, and in their cases it's completely justified. While Mai remains undefeated through these episodes – and that's not from lack of people trying – come the end of the disc, she's in the unenviable position where she can no longer trust her HiME friends, and the rest of her support network has been neatly cut out from underneath her, leaving her very much alone in the world. Here's a heroine you really do feel for – and her actions to try and heal or bury the pain she's feeling only look like leading her into even more trouble.

To round things off, there's a series of revelations about various characters as true natures are revealed and sides a switched. I'm always a bit wary about this sort of plot-twist – it always feels like cheating to me, especially when you're not given any hints or clues in advance so that you can say you saw it coming. In most of the cases here, it's completely out of the blue, which spoiled some of the impact for me.

In summary:
While this volume of My-HiME has its flaws, overall it's hugely impressive and entertaining, with the missing comedy easily compensated for by some great action and some truly heart-wrenching moments. With Mai now largely on her own and the loyalties of some of the characters no longer what they were, the show is set up for a very good conclusion. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Mini-episodes 17-21,Production Sketches,Textless Opening & Closing Sequences

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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