OK, while I am a big fan of the Gundam SEED universe and I really enjoyed Mai-HiME, Sunrise obviously thought that those two deserved different feelings and went for second seasons of both series, successfully ruining my impressions. I’d admit however, that GSD didn’t manage to get me so pissed off as Otome does. For some reason I watched the series and continuously hoped that Shinn would get some character development, that Athrun would find his character while looking for his underwear in some closet (with so many women to handle, he was bound to spend a lot of time looking for clean underwear, with that much teasing and no action, it must have been hard on the poor boy) and that Cagalli will stop utilizing the tissue reserves of all people around her, and surprise, I got a little of all that.

Still, I thought of that as Sunrise’s great letdown and hoped they’ll learn their lesson and make Mai-Otome a decent if not good series. However, I’d say that Sunrise actually succeeded in making the impossible possible (Mwu, please forgive me for using that one :)) and went even deeper into ruining their creations. I’ll explain what I mean.

While Gundam SEED Destiny went from bad to worse throughout the course of the series, there was one little comfort for the fans of the original SEED series, and that was the presence of the 4 of leading cast, that survived the previous war – Kira-lovers had their Ultimate God, Athrun-fangirls had a boy to drool over (who cares that his character was butchered to that of a crying and indecisive spineless idiot, his design was perfect), and there were the pink-haired ‘I am always right, dare to cross me’ Goddess and the absolutely and utterly capable to always be wrong Cagalli. Plus, we had an endless amount of soap foam for all housewives to wash their laundry for the next decade and enough cheesiness to feed a whole kingdom of mice 🙂.

In Mai-Otome however, the only thing that would have made the series more bearable for a lot of the audience, namely Mai (it is Mai-Otome for shoujo-ai loli’s sake), is still missing form the grand picture. We have instead most of the other characters from the previous series in a screwed up fashion (someone see the resemblance with GSD?) and of course the ultimate yuri power in Shizuru and Natsuki. I won’t go there, ‘cause I hate that pairing. Then, as if the writers had to make things even ‘better’, they put in:
Mashiro – loli Maria-Antoinette – the princess that might not be a princess, but to compensate, she is a full blown brat;
Nina – I never thought I’d be presented with a complex to match Shinn‘s siscon, but Sunrise proved me wrong (yet again), Nina’s dadcon pulls it almost as well, and let’s face it we have 8 more eps that can prove her to be even worse than dear Shinn-chan;
And, of course, Moses, oh hell, I mean Arika, who is so annoying that one can die on the spot. She is an embodiment of every cliché possible and if that’s not enough she was also annoying to being with. Her voice should be arrested for repeated attempts of assault on the viewers mental health.

Wow, one starts to wonder if things can get any worse, but rest assured, this is Sunrise, we are talking about, of course they can. In the span of 16 eps (60% of the series) we’ve had some gradual character development for the new cast (there’s a surprise – in GSD, the new cast got close to none, which means the series served some purpose), though this time they went over board (and again are close to drowning, but there’s no Mai to save the day) and forgot the action. So we were left with the complete opposite of GSD till ep 36 (the approximate 70% line) – a lot of character development (for characters I don’t care at all about, mind you) and close to no action. Ok, we did get some comedy, so what?, it was not the comedy that made Mai-HiME the success it was, though it was a bonus.

I might end up looking like an idiot here but I would have rather preferred no character development (GSD style) in Otome than what we got so far. That’s not development, it’s just wasting two or three episodes for something that can be achieved in 10 minutes screen time (when you can write scripts well, that is) and doesn’t interest me at all anyway. Furthermore, the idea of subtlety is totally lost on the scriptwriters – if I count the times they tried to emphasize the conflict between love and duty I would probably lose count somewhere around episode 10. We had three annoying main characters in the start and by now the only result of their development is that they are even more annoying and not much different than what they used to be. Well done, Sunrise. And all that at the cost of making some of the HiME cast look like morons whenever they get one or two minutes of screen time – Midori and Haruka for instance. Well, that certainly reminds of the Cagalli syndrome in Otome (if we remove the limited screen time from the equation). You just cannot afford to waste so many episodes on the development of so few new characters, considering that the cast is huge, there are many events which have been set up to happen and I just don’t see how that will be achieved in the remaining eight episodes. Unless they kill half of the characters which would be great if they don’t resurrect them in the end yet again.

And I just have to bring up the topic of the God-awful robes of the Otomes. They were ridiculous in their maid outfits that made me think of old perverts with a kink for aprons, but the new robes, especially the eye-hurting pink of Arika’s new robe (now how that links up to the Sky Blue Sapphire would forever remain a mystery for me). Then there’s the almost as awful green dress that Nina wears and that is just as colourly connected to the Ultimate Black Diamond as is Arika’s to the Sky Blue Sapphire.

That is the part that is easier on the eyes, as one realizes once one notices the outfits of the Pillars. There we have – Spidergirl (Nao), Batgirl (yet to be seen), Storm (from X-men – also yet to be seen), the nice antenna that adorns Natsuki’s head (I’d bet she gets all satellite stations, both radio and TV, and thus can keep in touch with the latest news, no matter where she is – useful, huh?).

* Dante Alighieri – “Inferno”

The text in italics is by Matrim