Mai-Otome

Mai-OtomeType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Fantasy / Drama
Vintage: 2005

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 22 Jan 2010

Grade: B

Part sequel to and part alternate universe story for Mai-HiME.

Plot Summary
Arika Yumemiya has decided to make her way to Garderobe Academy in the kingdom of Windbloom to fulfill her dream of becoming an Otome, following in her mother’s footsteps. Otomes are girls who possess great power and use it to protect their nobility and nation. On her way to the academy, she meets another prospective student by the name of Nina Wang. As they make their way towards the school, they run quite literally into the apparent queen, Mashiro, who is trying her best to avoid her own coronation ceremony. When Arika finally arrives at Garderobe, she learns that she must win an Otome “dance battle” in order to be accepted. Considering that she’s never been an Otome before, it’s not going to be easy.

The Review
Mai-Otome was a series that I’d heard mixed reactions to before I finally saw it for myself. I was advised to both steer clear of and definitely check out Mai-Otome. With such divided advice, what was I to do? I liked Mai-HiME quite a bit, and since this was a related series, I did want to check it out to see for myself if it was as good or as bad as I’d heard. When I found the DVDs for the entire series at dirt-cheap prices, that made the decision easy. I was going to give Mai-Otome a try.

I am glad that I did. While it does lack the grandness that Mai-HiME possesses, it’s still a very enjoyable series. It’s also unique in that while it’s not exactly a sequel, it’s also not exactly an alternate universe story either. It’s a little bit of both at the same time. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? The entire primary cast of Mai-HiME is in Mai-Otome… sort of. Characters and roles have been shuffled around,  Mai-Otome has a new lead in Arika, and new characters have been added to the mix as well. One of the elements of this series that made it fun to watch was seeing how the Mai-HiME cast was reinterpreted in this new story and setting. This was one of the major points in Mai-Otome‘s favor, and was one of the positive pieces of feedback offered to me which finally helped me reach the decision to check it out. There are very definite and clever references to Mai-HiME throughout Mai-Otome, and spotting them all is indeed fun.

The setting for Mai-Otome is a bit unexpected. Garderobe’s school uniform looks suspiciously like a maid’s outfit, and the girls are taught to be polite and obedient Otomes for their patrons. This is a bit ironic considering that Otomes have great powers that can rival any mechanical instrument of war.

Like its predecessor, Mai-Otome is a series about cute girls with special powers. There’s no need to pretend that it is anything else. Most of the first half of the story is spent filling out the characters, from the earnest and somewhat naïve Arika, to the cold and detached Nina, and the spoiled would-be Queen Mashiro. The series is very lighthearted at first, focusing on activities at Garderobe. Around halfway the major story arc begins, which introduces the main conflict. I found the series to get noticeably better at this point, as if it were introducing some more depth.

Who should check out Mai-Otome? Fans of Mai-HiME who want to see a new twist on the characters from that series, and fans of pretty girls with super powers. Mai-Otome is a good series that isn’t significantly deep, but is still more than mere fluff. It’s an enjoyable show with a likeable lead, good characters, and an entertaining story. You don’t have to have watched Mai-HiME before Mai-Otome to enjoy it, but if you have, it’ll add an extra level of fun to the series.

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