Arika Yumemiya, after travelling across the sea of sands, is accepted in the ... *cough* ... prestigious Gualderobe academy, where she will train to become an Otome. Of course, there's quite a lot of people who wants to see her fail, and the school itself seems to be under attack from unknown and secretive forces.
A couple of years ago, I watched a decent show called Mai Hime. Mai Hime was, in short, a show about a group of girls who was called to attend a school because they was born with a mark that granted them special abilities. It was a good show, featuring a nice cast of well-rounded characters (barring a few of them) and had an interesting story with intriguing moments and nice action sequences. And while I didn't appreciate the show falling into angsty haven in its second story arch, I generally liked the overall well thought out plot even though the ending challenged my levels of cheese-absorption.
Mai Hime must have been a popular show, because it eventually spawned an offshoot named Mai Otome. However, Mai Otome took everything that was good about Mai Hime and threw it to the winds. What we're left with is a rather irksome show that challenges my patience for each new episode, and for those of you who read my first incarnation of this review, make no mistake about it. I still hate this show with a passion and ask myself why I would be wasting my time with this when I could be watching Mai Hime instead.
I sort of overslept the first episode of the synchro of this show, so I'm sorta vaguely remembering what happened in the beginning. Still, I remember enough of it to picture Arika's arrival at Gualderobe -- ("Gualderobe" is another word for "toilet", isn't it?) -- where she immediately witnessed an attack by some kind of monster that was eventually defeated by one of the cast I remember from Mai Hime. It was there I learned more about the school I will refer to as "Toilet academy", where young girls are trained in the arts of battle and.... well, being maids? This brings me to the first point in my whole "explaining why I loathe Mai Otome" agenda.
The whole deal with the Otome being maids strikes me as nothing more than fanboy fodder for maid fetishists. And Mai Otome isn't exactly doing anything to hide this, what with the episode dedicated in its entirety to the mystery of "who sold Arika's maid costume to a COSPLAY SHOP". But that's not the end of it. Later episodes feature exams that consists of orientation through dangerous areas, including preparing elegant dinners in the middle of said nowhere. And classes seems to include makeup appliances and general chores to go with the battle training. In short, the whole maid element is completely redundant, as it has no bearing on the main story -- or whatever it tries to pass off as a main story -- and only leaves me asking myself why I would be wasting my time with this when I could be watching Victorian Romance Emma instead. And don't get me started on the issues where the otome is dependant on her "master" for activation of her battle capabilities, coupled with the fact that the whole master/otome initiation ceremony looks disturbingly similar to a marriage.
The concept of nano-machines granting the otome their powers is kinda neat, I'd have to admit. However, for some peculiar reason, Mai Otome thought it would be a good idea to have the nano-machines being intolerant to Y-chromosomes (biologists and scientists, you may slap your foreheads now), which introcudes us to the concept of the Otome left with the choices of being celibate or looking for... *cough* ... ALTERNATE sources for stress relief. This is another thing Mai Otome flat out states in one of the episodes, just in case you thought I was joking or being overly sarcastic. Now, if the show had only kept this as light and unintentional innuendo, I probably wouldn't have mentioned it, but the show then proceeds to subject us to breast grabs, some semi-nude scenes with our underage protagonist and, I swear I'm not making this up, the summoning of a tentacle monster, where the tool of summoning looks like a rotating sex toy. Oh, and when Arika initiates a ticklefest on one of her roomies, she reacts like this.
And I keep wondering why I waste my time watching this when I could be watching.... oh, maybe Maria-sama ga Miteru instead. (From what I understand, it features girls in... well, close relationships, but handled realistically and tastefully.)
But the concept of Mai Otome shouldn't take full blame of why I think it's a pile of steaming crap. The characters deserve some of the blame too. Arika, for instance, is an irritating loudmouth who seems to be just too damn lucky for her own good. She IS fairly able in battle, as she's a student of Akane Tendou's school of applied brute strenght (which, admittedly, I also find amusing.) Still, she's loud, doesn't know when to shut up and seems to be there generally to get herself or others into trouble. But oh, she IS the self-proclaimed one who will stop all wars and such, which would have netted her the title of "loudest and most obnoxious Mary Sue ever" if not for the fact that she isn't the center of this show by far. Which is a small blessing, considering the fact that the rest of the cast isn't anything to be excited over either, INCLUDING the ones that I remember from Mai Hime. The princess herself is maybe one of the biggest spoiled brats I have ever seen, and her cluelessness about her own kingdom is astounding to put it mildly. I know she's young, but she IS the active ruler, so I'd expect something more out of her role. Nina's an angry brat for the better part of the show, and the rest of the new cast seems to consist of nothing more than Otome doormat students and generic NPC characters.
Of the characters loaned from Mai Hime, however, the show generally fares a little better. All the same, I can't help but feel that Mai Otome just assumes that we've seen Mai Hime and should therefor just apply the character growth from Mai Hime onto Mai Otome. Granted, there are a few personality changes done, but they generally act the same between the two shows. Shiho fans may rejoice, though, for she IS one of the loanover characters. And man, is she ever more of a complete fruitcake than she ever was in Mai Hime. I'm not going into detail how, but I will mention that she's the one who introduced us to all the fun of tentacle molestation in the sixth episode. Which makes me wonder why I'm wasting my time on this when I could be watching La Blue Girl instead.
I was just joking. I wouldn't go quite THAT far.
Anyway, I'm finally at the last part of this review; describing the overall story. And Mai Otome DOES actually have a story to its name, though I can't say that I'm overly impressed with THAT aspect of it either. First, the story of Mai Otome is, at this point, rather simple. Now, "simple" doesn't necessarily have to mean "bad", but Mai Otome unfortunately have the tendency to be overly blatant about it. The foreshadowing of Mai Otome is almost as heavily armed as the Otome themselves, and WILL slap you in the face often and repeatedly. See, when there's an entire episode dedicated to the rumor that queen Mashiro's not the REAL queen, later coupled with the story about how the princess was "almost" lost, but then found again. This, when you add that the portrait of the king and queen of old showing that none of them had blue hair, it all becomes very self-explanatory and is not to be rewarded with pats on the back for figuring it out. This is also where the character loanover element comes into play. So Nagi's got nefarious plans cooking. Yeah. And the leader of one of the antagonist teams seems to be Midori, one of the protagonists from Mai Hime, which makes me suspect a forthcoming plot twist. And lastly, a message to the blue-haired girl who'se name I forgot. You can stop smirking in secret now. You're evil. We get it.
So, as you can see, lots of things happens, except it doesn't. Not really. Thirteen episodes in, and we still don't really know much outside of the stance of most of the characters that isn't there to serve some one-episode purpose. Undoubtly, there will be ancient war machinery dug up for the final confrontation, where Arika will be revealed as the true queen. (As blatantly stated by the show at the last episode I watched.) Again, the show deserves a little bit of kudos for portraying war between countries and how it affects students who are from said respective countries as well as in the same class, but those are pretty small blessings all things considered.
What I've been subjected to in half of the show, though, is creepy innuendo, lame komedy and an ill-paced story that may or may not get up on its own feet in the near future. As for now, all I wonder is why we keep on watching this when we could be watching something else instead.
Stop the loli train. I want off! — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Aaahahahaha. "Appropriateness", eh? That's funny, because the show doesn't know the MEANING of appropriateness (if I may reuse this comment).
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Partial (13/26)
My-Otome © 2005 Sunrise
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